Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga and one of the oldest existing systems of health. In Ayurveda, it's believed that all persons are made up of the same primary elements that exist in nature: fire, water, earth, air, and space. These are all present in each of us in different quantities, and this unique make-up—called our dosha or constitution—is what dictates our individual characteristics and experiences. Ayurveda teaches us how to make choices that are ideal for our body and mind, according to our dosha.
Still, even if you don't know much about Ayurveda and have no idea what your constitution is, there are simple ways that you can bring Ayurvedic lifestyle practices into your daily routine.
As a certified holistic health coach and an Ayurvedic practitioner, here are a few tips I recommend to get started:
1. Use a tongue scraper.
In Ayurveda, health is closely linked with the presence or absence of toxins in the body. Using a tongue scraper first thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth, is considered an excellent way to remove toxins and bacteria that accumulate in the mouth while you sleep.
It's used to improve not only your breath and overall oral health, but your digestion as well. That's because tongue scraping is said to enhance your sense of taste, and taste is actually the first step in the digestive process.
2. Try oil pulling.
Oil pulling is the practice of using sesame or coconut oil as a mouthwash, swishing it around in your mouth for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. This is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual that has become more popular in recent years as more people become aware of its many health advantages.
Oil pulling detoxifies the body by pulling toxins from the mouth. It's excellent for the teeth and gums and also has teeth-whitening and breath-freshening effects. When done regularly, oil pulling has a rejuvenating effect and helps to enhance the senses. Ayurveda gives a lot of importance to the tongue, which is believed to be intimately connected to various body organs. Purifying the tongue with oil therapy is thus believed to be beneficial for the whole body.
3. Practice self-massage with body oil.
Abhyanga is a luxurious Ayurvedic ritual that involves self-massage with warm oil all over the body. It feels just as amazing and relaxing as it sounds!
This wonderful practice has many benefits, other than the obvious: well-hydrated, baby-soft skin. When warm oil is absorbed into the skin it's believed to nourish all parts of the body, enhance circulation, and stimulate the lymphatic system. The act of self-massage itself is a nurturing ritual involving the sense of touch, an important healing tool in Ayurveda.
Traditionally, either coconut oil or sesame oil are used, depending on your particular dosha. The oil should be lightly heated for better absorption and then gently massaged into the skin from head to toe, going in circular motions and always moving toward the heart. You can relax for about 10 minutes afterward to allow the oil to absorb into the skin prior to taking a bath or shower. It's both purifying and invigorating!
4. Rise with the sun.
Ayurveda encourages us to rise early—ideally, before sunrise, or before 6 a.m. In Ayurveda, it's believed that we should live our lives in rhythm with the sun’s cycles as we are deeply connected to nature.
Vata, the dosha that is made up of the elements of air and space, is also dominant before 6 a.m. Vata is responsible for movement, and this is a time when our energy levels are optimal and our brain is active. In other words, it's an ideal time for spiritual practice or exercise. Performing sun salutations or other yoga asanas are a great way to start the day.
5. Eat mindfully.
Ayurveda teaches us that it's not just what we eat that is important but how we eat. Eating with mindfulness is vital for a balanced body and mind. Our culture and busy lifestyles may not always allow for this. We are so used to rushing from one activity to the next that often we find ourselves eating our meals at our desks at work, or scarfing down dinner while watching TV or answering emails.
In Ayurveda, food is considered sacred and should be honored and eaten with intention. Mindful eating requires us to slow down and honor the food we are putting into our body. This act of slowing down is similar to the pause between breaths, and the same intention that we practice when doing yoga.
Eating is such an essential part of our lives—we should be giving it the same time and consideration we give to other activities.