Top 10 Ayurvedic Morning Routines that ACTUALLY Work!
Are your interested in increasing your Vitality, Clarity, Productivity and overall appetite for life? If so, you can make small adjustments to create the life you love one day at a time with Dinacharya, Ayurveda’s Daily Wellness Routines.
It’s no surprise that Nature moves in cycles, days turn into nights, Winters turn into Springs and the Sun will forever chase the Moon. The entire animal and plant kingdom also reflect these daily and seasonal rhythms. Since we are also Nature and made up of the five elements found in Nature we too can influence our experience with a few gradual changes.
There is no need to toss out your current routine out, instead take an honest inventory of what’s working for you and what’s not. By adopting even just a few of these simple morning recommendations you are guaranteed to feel more grounded, more lively and balanced in mind and body throughout your day.
First let’s take a look at the Ayurveda perspective on Time! Ayurveda acknowledges Time in relationship to the Doshas, which are the biological makeup of each individual, they are a unique combination of the five elements. The three main Doshas are Vata (Ether +Air), Pitta (Fire + Water) and Kapha (Water + Earth). We all contain all five elements with one typically expressing itself as dominant and another expressing itself as passive.
You can be one of seven Dosha combinations:
Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta-Vata, Pitta-Kapha, Kapha-Vata, Kapha-Pitta and Tridoshic, which is an equal balance of all three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, it is quite rare to come across these types.
Depending on your biological makeup your predominant Dosha type, your morning routine can vary slightly. Below is a layout of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Time of Day, Time of Season and Time of Life.
Times Of Day-
Vata: 2-6 AM/PM
AM: Natural time for spiritual practice in the form of contemplation, meditation, pranayama, self inquiry, affirmations, intention setting, gratitude list or listening to something inspiring and the like. It doesn’t matter what the form is but create a routine that calls you back to yourself daily!
PM: Good time to take a walk, nap, cup of tea, meditate, easy vibes.
Pitta: 10-2 AM/PM
AM: Good time to bang out a to do list, make decisions, return phone-calls, ride the energetic wave and get things done!
PM: Ease into restful practices or sleep. Wind down, create an evening routine that you look forward to! Maybe a bath with some calming essential oils etc.
Kapha: 6-10 AM/PM
AM: Ease into the day with movement! Yoga, Tai Chi, Swimming, Hiking, take your pick! Doshas typically benefit from different exercises, study yourself and create what works for you. Vatas love swimming, Pittas do well with Slow flow yoga and Kaphas need lots of movement, so HIIT or Vinyasa are a great match.
PM: Cook, Eat, Family, Evening walk, taper off with book or show (not a series;)
Times of Life-
Vata: Mid-late 50s and on. The contemplative years, where life slows down internally. Hobbies and special interests are at the forefront of daily life. Appreciation, simplicity and joy.
Pitta: 20ish through mid 40s-early 50s. Consider the building years, college, career, education, family and contribution in the world. Building and creating for future moments. High producing years, social years, in the world actively engaging with society.
Kapha: Birth into late teens/early 20s.
MASSIVE GROWTH! Gathering experience, learning about the uniqueness of the self and the world outside of the self – in reference to self. Emerging and leaning ones natural ways of being. Gaining confidence and understanding one’s gifts.
Seasons of Life-
Vata: Late Fall/ Winter (Ether-Air)
When the qualities of our external environment are unpredictable, subtle, mobile, cold and sometimes harsh. This is the time we start to naturally crave more earthy foods like root vegetables to ground us.
Pitta: Summer (Fire-Water)
When the qualities Hot and Wet often combine creating humidity. When we crave light, cool foods to counter the external heat.
Kapha: Spring (Earth-Water)
When the earth starts to melt the ice from winter and the rivers and oceans swell. The body mirrors the environment, as it thaws it produces mucus and excess Kapha buildup is most obvious. This is also a great time to cleanse.
I think the above is a helpful context for understanding some of the choices we can skillfully make in the examples below. Important to note that all Dosha types benefit from the daily routines listed below. Depending on the Time of Day, Time of Life and Season of Life, the predominant Dosha (Prakriti) and the current state (Vikriti) the routines may vary slightly.
Dinacharya- Is the Ayurvedic daily self care routines that support the cleansing of toxins that can typically build up in the body-mind. These routines are mostly centered around the five senses as they are the gateway between the inside world and the outside world. They are the cornerstone of Ayurveda and essential to feeling Clear, Grounded and Lively!
1. Rise Early!
It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a “morning person” or not you might just consider getting up before sunrise to sync up with your body’s circadian rhythm, which mirror nature’s rhythm. We have heard this before but here’s why…
The Ayurvedic texts (and there are many) recommend awakening before sunrise, ideally before 6:00AM, before Kapha time kicks in and heaviness can ensue. Don’t build a story if you are not there yet, just gradually make a commitment to wake up 15 min earlier than last week and each week dial back 15 minutes until you reach your goal. The mind- body is quite easy to adapt, and this process will naturally have you longing for bed earlier.
This awakening before the sun will leave you more grounded, more productive and clearer throughout your entire day. The main reason for this is before 6AM is Vata Time of day where the qualities of Ether + Air are dominant. The qualities of clear, spacious, mobile rule this time of day. In Ayurveda they call this time of day The Brahma Muhurta, it’s a wonderful time for spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, gratitude journaling, affirmations and the such.
Upon awakening we want to ideally elimination any waste accumulated in our channels during sleep. When we rest our body is actually at work cleansing our insides and carrying toxins into our elimination channels. We never want to withhold any natural tendency to excrete from the channels, like holding a sneeze in or ignoring your need for the bathroom. Urinating is not so difficult for most to adhere to but evacuating our bowels is typically different for each Dosha type. Ideally we would all have a bowel movement each morning, but Vatas struggle with constipation as their predominant makeup of Ether + Air leaves them prone to dryness. Pittas have a very fiery digestion and can often go to the bathroom throughout the day, it’s not uncommon for them to go a few hours after a meal. For Kaphas this comes fairly natural and very routine, once per day in the morning is considered regular for a balanced Kapha. If we don’t eliminate the previous day’s accumulation of waste and toxins, we will reabsorb then back into our system. This can compromising our energy levels, our immunity and leave us highly irritable.
There is a traditional herbal formula in Ayurvedic called Triphala that assists in this very gentle, elimination process that regulates and purifies the system. Triphala means three fruits and is a healing blend that possess elimination and rejuvenating qualities. When Triphala is used steady over long periods of time it allows the deepest layers of tissues to release toxins. It’s revered and very commonly used by all Dosha types.
2. The Mouth- Tongue Scraping
Have you noticed a milky film or coating over your tongue in the morning? This is called Ama and is essentially the byproduct of undigested food and experiences. It’s another way your digestive system eliminates toxins from the body. For Vata types this Ama is light and often minimal, for Pittas it is more present yet relatively clear as their digestion is quite active. Kaphas tend to have a lot of accumulation of Ama as a result of their Earth + Water makeup. Tongue scraping helps to clean the tongue of Ama, which can compromises our digestive health and immunity. So prior to it being reabsorbed into the system we, cleanse it off daily.
Before brushing your teeth, take a stainless steel or copper Tongue Scraper and place it on the back of your tongue, be firm yet gentle as you scrape the top layer of your tongue from the back to the front. Do this five to seven times and then rinse your tongue scraper with warm water, you will notice an immediate difference in the feeling of fresh and clean! Periodically boil the Tongue Scraper to rid it of residual bacteria.
Hot Water with Lemon – Cooked water naturally assists the digestion and elimination processes. Hot-warm water (after boiling) hydrates the cells and tissues, when we add lemon we get the astringent benefits. Lemon is PH balancing and furthers the process of scraping Ama from the system naturally. This is one of the single best things you can do for yourself and your digestion first thing in the morning and throughout the day.
Oil Pulling – Swish a tablespoon of sesame oil (great for Kapha and Vata Dosha) or coconut (great for Pitta) around in your mouth for 3-5 minutes. This leeches hidden bacteria from your mouth and gums and helps reduce tartar buildup. As you are complete you can spit the oil into the trash, as it can (and will) clog the pipes otherwise (unfortunately I know this from experience). Make sure it is organic oil, cold pressed, undefined and from a trusted brand.
3. The Eyes- Splash Water
Take some cool to warm water in your hands and gently splash it in your eyes, keeping your eyes open if possible. Do this five to seven time and notice the overall feeling you are left with after. This is a great way to cleanse the eyes which also accumulate toxins and stimulate the muscles of the eyes for sharp sight and longevity of vision. You can also use Rose Water spray which is naturally soothing for the eyes. Focus on things throughout the day that are pleasing to the eyes.
4. The Nose- Neti + Nasya
The Neti pot is a great way to cleanse the sinuses from accumulated build up which can affect the sense of smell, taste, immunity and more. The vessels differ in style but all serve the same purpose, just make sure if you are choosing plastic that it is free of toxins, I prefer the ceramic ones. You start by boiling some hot water, after it somewhat cools – leaving it warm you can fill your pot. Add a fourth to a half teaspoon of non iodized salt and stir until dissolved. Lean your head over a sink at an angle and gently pour half the mixture through your nostril until it comes out the other side. Repeat on the other side. This is especially good for Kapha Dosha who accumulate more mucus as a result of their Water + Earth makeup. When your done you can forward bend and allow any residual water stuck in the sinuses to make its way out. Follow up with Nasya Oil which is a traditional therapeutic herbal blend common in Ayurveda. You can tip your head back and take a few drops in each nostril or place some oil on your pinkeyes and lube up the insides of the nostrils. I absolutely love the smell of this, it’s also good for improving your sense of smell and taste.
5. The Ears- Oil the Ears
Oiling the ears is a nice way to keep a protective layer between you and the external environment. This is especially good if your traveling or are exposed to many environmental toxins. Sesamee, Coconut or Ghee are all great choices assuming they are from a trusted brand. Consciously choose to focus on sounds, perhaps music to soothe the ears and create a Sattvic inner environment. Really truly listen to your-inner experience and the people around you that you value. Likewise develop a sensitivity to what you’re taking in with your ears and make sure it is a match for your deeper commitment to living life fully alive!
6. The Skin- Self Love with Abhyanga
Abhyanga is Ayurvedic self-massage with therapeutic warm oils. This tones and nourishes the largest organ, our skin. It also tones the muscles and relaxes our nervous system by provoking the relaxed response. Massaging daily with warm Vata-pacifying Oils (this works for most as we live in a Vata predominant world) helps soothe the entire mind- body and promotes Sattva, peace and naturalness. Again a good quality Oil with full attention to the process of self care while administering the oil. 5-20 minutes daily is ideal and results in increased stimulation, circulation, and detoxification. AND, it’s just an awesome gesture of self care!
Here’s how! Place a small amount of oil in each palm and massage the face, nose and ears. Massage the long bones of the arms and legs using long strokes and a circular movement over the joints of the elbow, knees and ankles. Massage in a clockwise motion over the abdomen to support the natural flow of digestion. Make sure you massage the feet, they so deserve our love and attention and it’s particularly grounding as you can imagine. If you can let the oil soak in for a few minutes before you shower, that’s ideal. I actually prefer to oil after my shower but check it out for yourself and trust your experience.
7. Yoga and Pranayama
Asanas increases clarity and vitality! It provokes the relaxed response of the sympathetic nervous system and brings a quality of peace. AND, it’s great for all three Dosha types! Pranayama, in its many forms helps to narrow the minds focus, builds mental fortitude and prepares the mind-body for meditation. Alternate-nostril breathing is a great place to start if your new to breath work.
Any style will do, shop around and find the one that really suits you. Meditation gives us the upper hand when it comes to managing stress and creating clarity. Experts say that 20 minutes a day reduces the main stress hormone cortisol that is responsible for belly fat around the abdomen. A regular meditation practice can also increase serotonin, which is that “feel good” chemical the body naturally produces to counter depression and promote the feeling of all is well!
Ayurveda recommends warm, well spiced, cooked food for all Dosha Types. Consistent meal times is of tremendous value for regularity and digestive health. Kaphas can afford to eat lighter meals and even skip breakfast where Pitta and Vata types need morning nourishment. Lunch should be enjoyed as the biggest meal of the day and a light meal is proscribed in the evening. Try and eat at least three hours before rest as it is best for sound sleep and good to the digestive track cleared as the body prepares for slumber.
This morning routine might sound like a lot all at once, but maybe start with three, incorporate and see how you feel. Next week either add or swap out until you find your flow. Keep in mind that you want your daily routine to build up naturally and you want it to be delightful! Be gentle with yourself and do what you can. Make sure you make a plan for the morning according to your own personal needs and schedule.
My hope for you is that you your morning routine is a never-ending source of clarity, grounding and presence in preparing you for yet another clear and grounded day filled with vitality!