A new year brings with it renewed goals, renewed hope, and renewed vigor to actualize those goals. Whether your goals are weight related, beauty related or just plain health related, Ayurveda has answers for you and offers solutions that actually work!
But, if you are new to this vast, amazing, ancient science, you probably don’t know where to start. Fear not – here are 5 Ayurvedic daily practices that you can start incorporating – Meditation, Yoga, Tongue Scraping, Warm Water and Oil Massage (“MY TWO” – abbreviation that I have coined for you to remember these 5 practices easily) to have a healthy makeover inside-out this year! Combine these with a sensible diet and you’re well on your way to a healthier and happier you.
What is meditation? Put simply, meditation is “letting go“. Letting go of your thoughts, your roles, your to-do lists, your worries, your commitments – anything that your mind holds on to. Thoughts will come at first, just observe them and let go of them. It is similar to falling asleep – letting go of your thoughts, calming your breathing and your monkey mind are essential before falling asleep. The only difference is instead of falling asleep, you go into a state of heightened awareness, while still getting immense rest.The key to meditation is effortlessness. Give up all effort, stress, tension and expectations – then meditate.
Don’t have the time to meditate? Think about all the time we spend in a day doing activities that are extraneous and can be used more productively instead. Taking out even 5 minutes on a daily basis to meditate is a great start! Just be consistent with your practice. 20 minutes of meditation daily is even better and will show tremendous pay-offs in all facets of your life, slowly but surely! Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I am so busy today that I will meditate two hours instead of one.” The busier you are, the more you need to meditate!
Benefits of meditation are manifold – one experiences physical benefits such as increased immunity, higher energy levels, lower blood pressure, reduced stress-related pain symptoms etc, mental benefits like increased focus, creativity, clarity, intuition, emotional stability etc. and personal transformation in general!
Yoga is not just a series of exercises or poses that one mechanically does to achieve physical fitness. It is a holistic method to achieve mind-body wellness, with centuries of wisdom and experience backing it. There are no prerequisites for practicing yoga – people of all ages, and fitness levels can safely do some form of yoga and see huge benefits from it. But yoga has to be tailored to suit one’s age, fitness level, and health condition.
Here are some benefits of yoga and breathing techniques (pranayama):
- Practicing yoga poses (asanas) correctly and on a regular basis helps increase body strength, flexibility, balance, co-ordination, toning.
- Regular practice of yoga and pranayama uplifts one’s general mental health – increased calmness, ability to handle stress, focus, concentration, lowers anger and temper problems, lowers anxiety.
- Other benefits include better immunity, controls food cravings, controls blood sugar, combats obesity, reduces blood cholesterol levels.
Commit to practicing yoga every day for at least 15 minutes and witness your personal transformation! If you can’t commit to a daily practice, aim at doing yoga for at least 15 minutes each time thrice per week. If you are a beginner, find a good class nearby to learn the basics. If you are familiar with yoga, make sure that you have a balanced session that includes asanas and breathing techniques that suit your constitution, current health, season, time of day etc.
3. Tongue Scraping
Scraping the coating on the tongue every morning using a stainless steel tongue scraper is a great way to start the day! Undigested food and other toxins that we ingest on a daily basis get stored as ama or toxic build-up in the body. A thick, excessive, unpleasant tasting coating on the tongue is usually a good indication of a weakened digestion leading to buildup of toxins in the body. Ayurveda considers ama to be the beginning of disease. A thin, slightly white and moist coating is normal and indicates good digestion. Whether your tongue coating is normal or excessive, you should scrape off the toxins that normally accumulate after a night of sleep.
A simple act of removing this coating from the tongue every day has numerous benefits like improving one’s sense of taste, stimulating digestion by activating the salivary glands, improving breath and detoxifying the body within a few seconds.
4. Warm Water
Start your day with a tall glass of warm water. This simple habit has numerous health benefits. It stimulates digestion, improves bowel movements, alleviates pain, increases metabolic rate and helps lose weight, improves circulation, and halts premature aging.
5. Oil Massage
Before you shower, apply warm oil on your body and head and leave it on for at least 10 minutes before washing it off. Abhyanga is the Sanskrit name for an oil massage in Ayurveda and is highly recommended as part of a daily morning routine (click here for more details on an Ayurvedic daily routine or dinacharya). Sesame oil (best for vatas and in fall or early winter), coconut oil (best for pittas and in summer), mustard oil (best for kaphas and in spring), or a herbal oil of your choice may be used.
These oil massages are highly energizing for the body and mind, while also being deeply relaxing and comforting. Oil massages are also a way of detoxing the body at a tissue level on a daily basis. If not daily, aim to give yourself an oil massage 2-3 times per week or at least once per week at a very minimum. If not a full body massage, aim at massaging the following parts daily: scalp, ears, palms and soles of feet, since these are the places with a lot of nerve endings and benefit the most from an oil massage. Other benefits are soft, luxuriant, glowing skin, better sleep, increased stamina, joint lubrication, muscle toning and enhanced blood circulation.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year! Choose wisely and live well.