The Ayurveda Way (Storey Publishing) is a holistic health companion. A lot of us suffer from stress-related issues such as insomnia, anxiety, burnout, and digestive disturbances. Stress is what occurs whenever you fall out of sync with nature’s cycles. Stress management, then, is largely a matter of realigning yourself with nature and living in harmony with its daily rhythm. In Ayurveda, daily self-care practices are called dinacharya, which means “to follow the rhythm of the day.”
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On any given day, the three doshas each take predominance in the atmosphere during a set period. By aligning your behaviors with these forces, you can bring yourself into greater alignment with nature and improve your health.
Get going and get creative with vata.
Since time immemorial yogis and followers of Ayurveda have recommended awakening early because vata dosha, made of the air and space elements, predominates the atmosphere in the early morning, from 2 to 6 a.m. The basic nature of air is to move. This makes it easiest to wake up, eliminate, and get moving during the vata time of morning. We’re advised to do less physically strenuous work from 2 to 6 p.m., when this bioforce becomes activated again. When you feel spacey during this time in the afternoon, you are naturally feeling the presence of the air and space elements contained in vata dosha. Because creativity is an inherent quality of vata dosha, this can be a great time to write and do other creative activities.
Use your strength and rest with kapha.
The kapha dosha governs the time from 6 to 10 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. It is kapha’s presence that makes it hard to wake up past 6 a.m., because this dosha is made of the heavy earth and water elements. When you stay in bed past 6 a.m., the atmosphere takes on a heavy, inert quality, making it very difficult to get up and moving. The morning kapha period is actually a great time for strenuous exercise and other hard physical work, like moving boxes or lifting heavy objects. Your body is at its strongest during the kapha times of day. Due to kapha’s grounding, stabilizing qualities, Ayurveda recommends winding down your day and going to sleep before 10 p.m., when the other kapha period ends.
Digest with pitta.
Pitta dosha consists of fire encased in water. Just as fire has the power to convert whatever it touches to other forms, including ashes, pitta dosha accordingly governs the principle of transformation. Pitta dosha provides you with mental and physical fire. This bioforce rules the atmosphere from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, and from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. each night. Because of the strong connection between pitta dosha and digestive fire (agni), it’s important to eat lunch in the middle of the pitta time, around noon. This connection also explains why you may crave a midnight snack if you stay up during the pitta time of night.
Modern doctors say your lifestyle comprises 75 percent of why you get sick. The Ayurvedic sages discovered thousands of years ago that your daily routine can be a powerful source of health and wellness.
Opt for more natural toothpaste options for healthier teeth.
Ayurveda recommends you clean your teeth with bitter-tasting ingredients, since the bitter taste has a cleansing effect on your mouth. It clears out any previous tastes, wiping your mouth clean for new tastes. I love how much cleaner my mouth feels when I use bitter-tasting toothpastes than it did when I would use more mainstream toothpastes.
Neem powder or oil (from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree) are wonderful natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agents that purify your blood. Neem is an excellent ingredient to have in your toothpaste.
Turmeric powder mixed with water makes a refreshing mouthwash alternative. It’s a great pain-relieving spice, which also reduces inflammation.
Pomegranate fruit rind has been traditionally used in Ayurveda for dental disease prevention. It helps remove plaque from your teeth, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, benefits your heart and brain, and uplifts your spirits.
To make your own toothpaste, grind a pomegranate fruit peel into a powder and mix it with 1/4 part neem powder and 1/4 part turmeric powder. Add a little sesame oil to bind it together or simply sprinkle it onto your toothbrush.
Do oil pulling to strengthen your voice and boost your oral health.
When I started teaching, my throat and voice used to hurt after talking nonstop. I marveled at how my teacher managed to speak, teach, and counsel for up to 12 hours straight with the same strength, passion, and firmness of voice. What was her secret? It turned out it was oil pulling.
Ever since I started oil pulling, I’ve noticed a remarkable increase in the strength and power of my own voice. I recommend this practice to my clients who teach, speak, sing, and otherwise rely upon their voices, and many have been similarly amazed by the results. This ancient practice also prevents wrinkles, helps strengthen and stabilize your jaw and teeth, reduces gum inflammation, decreases nausea, prevents and counteracts tooth sensitivity, stimulates your taste buds, and prevents dryness of throat and lips (including cracking of lips).
Oil pulling has become a popular fad in modern times. As with any practice that has origins in ancient wisdom traditions, it’s important to get the prescription right before passing it along. Sesame oil is the preferred oil; many online sources recommend coconut oil, but its heaviness, sweetness, and cooling qualities make it difficult for your mouth to absorb the full benefits of this practice.
Oil Pulling Slows Aging
Oil pulling gives strength to your facial muscles and is one of the best anti-aging practices to prevent wrinkles.
How to Do Oil Pulling
The best time to do oil pulling is on an empty stomach, before breakfast. Professional singers, speakers, and teachers can do this again at night for extra voice protection.
1. Brush your teeth, ideally with a neem-based toothpaste.
2. Scrape your tongue with a copper, silver, or gold tongue scraper. This practice ensures your mouth remains toxin, odor, cavity, and infection-free.
3. Place 1 or 2 teaspoons of sesame oil into your mouth. Swish the oil around your teeth and mouth, ideally for up to 3 minutes, then spit it out.
4. Swish around a small amount of water, then spit it out.
When to Avoid Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is good for most people, though it’s not recommended for anyone experiencing:
- Alcoholism (it’s not appropriate to convert this into a hangover remedy, despite what many modern sources suggest)
- Any kind of infection
- Periods (women should stop during menstrual cycles)
- Eye inflammation
- Bleeding conditions (bleeding from anus, skin, nose, etc.)
Drink warm or room-temperature water soon after waking up to aid healthy digestion.
The downward-moving form of vata dosha predominates the atmosphere from 4 to 6 a.m. When you wake up during this time, or at least before sunrise, drinking warm water supports the downward-moving action of vata dosha, helping you eliminate your bowels.
Drinking a small glass of warm water upon waking up in the morning is so beneficial that the ancient Ayurvedic text Bhavaprakash proclaims: “He who drinks warm water upon awakening shall live for a hundred years and more, free from diseases and old age.” Because of its positive impact on digestion (the root of overall health in Ayurveda), drinking warm water before sunrise is said to help reduce hemorrhoids, edema, sprue syndrome, chronic fever, indigestion, and skin diseases.
Eat on time to maximally benefit from your food.
Ayurveda recommends eating breakfast sometime between 7 and 9 a.m., lunch between 12 and 1:30 p.m., and dinner between 5 and 7 p.m.
According to Ayurveda, lunch is the most important meal of the day. That’s because your digestive fire peaks between 12 and 1 p.m., the same time the sun is at its peak. All of Ayurveda’s daily routine practices are deeply synced with the sun’s cycle. We want to keep at least 3 hours between meals and between eating and sleeping, which is why breakfast and dinner should be timed accordingly.
Ayurveda teaches that you’re not only what you eat, but what you successfully digest. Because your health is so connected with your digestion, it’s crucial to eat when you have the greatest capacity to digest what you’ve eaten. Having grown up eating a heavier dinner, and having struggled with many digestive problems for years, the practice of making lunch my largest meal has greatly improved my digestion.
Exercise before breakfast or dinner for the best results.
Ayurveda recommends you exercise on an empty stomach, so in the morning before breakfast or in the late afternoon before dinner are the best times. You’re at risk for developing any of 80 vata-dosha-related diseases when you exercise right after eating.
Exercise helps provide stability to your body, rids you of excess fat, increases your ability to do hard work, and promotes healthy digestion — when done at the proper time, in the proper quantity, with respect to guidelines for overdoing it and seasonal considerations. You want to find a balance between exercising enough but not too much that it harms you. Signs of imbalance include cracking joints, pain anywhere in your body, and exhaustion from overexercising, so it’s important to follow Ayurveda’s exercise guidelines. My joint cracking, pain, and tiredness have dramatically reduced since I started exercising the right amount at the right time.
According to the Ayurvedic texts, the signs of over-exercising are:
- Having a really dry mouth
- Breathing from your mouth
- Sweating excessively
In addition to paying attention to when and how much you exercise, consider how much sound accompanies your workout. Too much sound aggravates the vata dosha, which is already increased through exercise. Silence is one of the best ways to balance vata. Ayurveda advises against talking while working out, so if you want some type of sound, try listening to relatively calm music (ideally a nature soundtrack).
Showering every day is considered extremely healthy. The Ayurvedic text Ashtanga Hrdayam reveals: “Improvement of appetite, sexual vigor, lifespan, enthusiasm, and strength are the advantages of bathing. Moreover, bathing eliminates itching, dirt, exhaustion, sweat, stupor, thirst, and burning sensations.” That’s right: you can start showering your way to more enthusiasm, better appetite, enhanced libido, and more strength, among other awesome benefits.
The most ideal time to shower is after you’ve eliminated in the morning. The next best time to shower is before eating dinner, if you’re unable to shower in the morning or feel the need for a second shower. Never shower right after eating because it disturbs digestion. This can eventually create digestive and other types of health challenges when done habitually.
The heart, head, and eyes are considered sensitive areas of the body, so use cool to lukewarm water on these parts. You can wash the rest of your body with warm to hot water.
Note: If you have hyperacidity or have vomited recently, don’t shower with hot water. Use lukewarm or cool water instead.
Use green mung dal flour, which won’t dry out your skin like regular soap. See the resources section for where you can find it and check out chapter 3 for body care recipes.
When Not to Shower:
Avoid showering if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Active Digestion
Excerpted from The Ayurveda Way, © by Ananta Ripa Ajmera, photography by © Liz Daly, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”