Rise early. The early morning is an auspicious time, perfect for cleansing, contemplation and setting intentions. Furthermore, according to Ayurveda, each dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) governs a certain time of day ( and season and stage of life etc.) Vata, the energy of transformation, governs between 2am and 6am. From 6am to 10am Kapha, the energy of stability, takes over. Rising early (before 6am) allows you to take advantage of the light, mobile, energy of Vata as you begin your day instead of battling the heaviness and lethargy of Kapha. Obviously, abiding by this practice doesn’t make sense all of the time but we can still aspire to it…
Cleanse. These practices are designed to stimulate metabolism, remove toxins that have accumulated overnight, and cleanse the sense organs. It may seem like a lot to incorporate at first, but if you start with one thing and then continue adding things gradually, it becomes quite manageable.
- Oil pulling. Oil pulling improves dental health and gum health. Swish a tablespoon or so of untoasted sesame oil or liquefied coconut oil around your mouth for several minutes (ideally you should do this for 15-20 minutes, but I know that’s a lot to ask). Spit out the oil and rinse your mouth. I do this off and on, but haven’t established a consistent practice yet. I do it more often during the dry winter months when my mouth feels like it needs some extra love or when my teeth or gums feel sensitive.
- Scrape your tongue. This practice removes toxins that have accumulated on your tongue over night, kick-starts your metabolism and improves your sense of taste. Stick out your tongue. Using a tongue scraper, gently scrape from back to front 3-4 times.
- Brush your teeth.
- Neti. Neti is a great way to keep the sinuses clean and prevent colds. Place about ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt in your neti pot then fill the pot with hot water. You want the water to be hot enough to loosen any mucous in your sinuses, but not too hot otherwise it will burn. Getting the temperature and technique right sometimes takes some practice. When done correctly you shouldn’t experience any discomfort or stinging. Tip your head to one side over the sink, place the spout of the neti pot gently in one nostril and allow the water to flow through your sinuses and out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. Always follow with nasya.
- Nasya. Nasya is one of my favorite practices. The purpose of nasya is to keep the sinuses well lubricated. If your mucous membrane dries up your body will produce extra mucous to compensate. Tip your head back and, using a dropper or your pinky finger, apply a few drops of oil to each nostril. Close one nostril with your finger and inhale through the other, pulling the oil up into your sinuses. Repeat on the other side. I use untoasted sesame oil, but you can also use this herbal nasya oil which smells amazing and contains eucalyptus and other essential oils that fight bacteria and infection.
- Wash your eyes. This is a great practice for cleansing the eyes and is also extremely cooling if you tend to overheat in the summer or get heat induced headaches. Fill an eye cup with some of your neti water and let it cool to room temperature. Place the cup up against one eye, making a seal. Tip your head back and open your eye, looking from side to side and up to down. Repeat with the other eye. This is another one I’m a bit less regular about. I do love it during the summer when I need a little extra help cooling down.
- Abhyanga. This practice of oil massage is another one of my favorites and is a great way to pamper yourself and improve circulation, moisturize the skin and lubricate the tissues and joints. I like to do this in the shower but you can also do it before showering or in the bath. Liberally apply warm untoasted sesame oil, coconut oil (in the summer), or herbal massage oil all over your body. Spend 10-15 minutes massaging the oil into your skin. Use circular motions on the head, ears, joints, stomach and lower back and long strokes on the long bones. Make sure to spend plenty of time on your scalp, hands and feet. Allow the warm water of the shower or bath to drive the oil deeper into your skin before toweling off. You can also do abhyanga before bed if that makes more sense with your schedule. It’s a great way to wind down for the night. Make sure to wash your towels with baking soda and hot water and air dry them as oily towels can catch fire in the dryer.
- Uddiyana Kriya. This practice is designed to massage the organs of digestion and stimulate the metabolism. It is best learned in person from an experienced teacher. Contraindications: heart disease, hernia, hypertension, ulcers, pregnancy, menstruation.
Drink a cup of warm lemon water to stimulate digestion and encourage elimination.
Eliminate. Regular elimination in the morning before breakfast is crucial for maintaining healthy digestion and optimal overall health.
Meditate. A short 10 minute meditation practice in the morning does wonders for the soul. This is a great way to set the tone for the day before jumping into work and life.
Exercise. For me this is typically an hour of yoga, but whatever exercise routine you have is great.
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Beet and Strawberry Gazpacho
3 small beets, cubed (about 2 cups)
1 small shallot, peeled and quartered
4 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 sprig fresh tarragon, leaves removed (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
Coconut milk yogurt, poppy seeds, and chives or tarragon to garnish
Place the beets in a skillet with 1/2 inch water, cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until tender. Remove from the heat. Add the beets and their liquid to the container of a high speed blender. Add the shallot, strawberries, olive oil, vinegar, tarragon, salt and water. Puree on high until completely smooth. Refrigerate until chilled. Serve with a dollop of coconut milk yogurt, a sprinkle of poppy seeds, and chives or fresh tarragon leaves.