Bad morning habits
My morning routine used to be getting up 15 minutes before I had to take the bus. A splash of water in my face, getting dressed and while running to the bus stop I would stuff an apple in my face. That was it. I also knew exactly how much time was needed to get to the station (14 minute bike ride at top speed on my wonky bike) and I always left it to the very last minute to leave the house.
I looooved the snooze button but since studying yoga and ayurveda I changed my daily morning ritual completely. When you start the day stressed out, the rest of the day is going to be pretty much the same. And personally, after more than 10 years I had had more than enough of that stress, leading to multiple burn-outs and chronic fatigue. Here’s how creating a strong morning routine can help you.
Why you should have a daily morning routine
Here’s a thought: the hours (minutes) before you have to go to work matter as much as the hours spent at or after work. Maybe even more, as it’s a well known fact that a lot of successful people swear by a productive morning routine. Books like ‘The Miracle Morning’ teach you how to make the most of those early hours.
But the purpose of creating a perfect morning routine is NOT to add more to your to-do list. We all have enough to do, so your morning routine should be about the things you want to get done before anything else. Ayurveda realises the importance of self care and that’s why there is an ayurvedic morning routine that prioritises taking care of your body.
Do you need to become a morning person?
Does implementing an ayurvedic morning ritual really mean getting up at 5 am? In yogic circles 5 am is the ‘magic hour’, where the energy of the day is fresh, the world (and the dogs/kids) are silent and the environment is conducive to a yoga or meditation practice. So do you need to become a morning person? No. You can do all these ayurvedic morning habits at any time and they will still be beneficial.
Your morning is part of your life and how you choose to live it. If you take time for yourself in the morning the rest of your day will be so much better. (You know it’s true…). It’s a case of prioritising yourself and taking care of yourself before you can take care of anyone or anything else. If you can do that in the early morning, even better. But if you’re going to be in a bad mood because you didn’t sleep enough, that’s not going to help anybody. (leas of all yourself).
How to create a morning routine according to ayurveda
Ayurveda can help you kickstart your day with a healthy wake up ritual. The Sanskrit term we use for this is ‘dinacharya’. These are the self care practices you can start adding to your morning to start your day positive and energised!
Wake up early
Wake up early morning. It doesn’t have to be 5am but ideally wake up before the sun rises. At 6 am Kapha time starts, and it will be much harder to get going if you have to wrestle yourself out of that slow Kapha energy.
Jump out of bed when you wake up. Don’t snooze. (Ummm yes I heard that sigh!). If it is really, really hard to get up early you need to go to bed earlier. Be honest!
You can’t become a morning person overnight, full stop. Waking up early may be the hardest thing to do, so don’t feel ashamed to implement this last! But try waking up a little bit earlier every week, and going to bed a bit earlier too.
Cleanse your mouth
Scrape your tongue gently with a tongue scraper (or table spoon) and brush your teeth. Now you can also add oil pulling for a deep cleanse of your mouth. Take a teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth and move the liquid around. Gargle with the oil in your throat too. After a few minutes spit the coconut oil in the bin. This is really important. When you spit it in the sink and you run cold water over it, the coconut oil gets solid and it can block your drain. I usually do oil pulling just once or twice a week.
Drink either a large glass of water (preferably lukewarm), ginger tea, lemon water or turmeric tea. During the night you sweat a lot. These are the benefits of drinking a large glass of water after waking up:
- replenish your liquid levels
- help rinse your kidneys and GI tract
- to get your digestion (Agni) going
- induce a bowel movement
Well, drinking water will always do that but it is especially beneficial first thing in the morning :)
Dry brush your body
Dry brushing enhances blood circulation and gets the lymph fluid moving so toxins are removed more easily from the body. It also removes dead skin cells and leaves your skin taut and lustrous.
Get a brush with soft natural bristles. Don’t use too much pressure while dry brushing (you’ll scratch your skin). Use long circular strokes. Start from your feet, work your way up and always brush in the direction of your heart.
To me dry brushing has the effect of a cup of coffee (which by no means I am skipping later…).
Self massage or abhyanga is an ancient self care practice you can do yourself! Pour some oil in your hand (coconut, sesame, almond, jojoba…) and gently rub it into your skin. At least put some oil on your hands, feet and face and any dry skin patches you have. Self massage with oil is especially important for Vatas as they are prone to dry skin.
Let the oil sink in for a while (during which you can exercise or meditate) and then remove the excess oil in the shower or with a towel.
Pro tip: doing abhyanga with warm oil is best. You can use an essential oil burner and a tea wax light to heat the oil BUT be careful not to burn yourself! Do not leave the wax light burning for too long as the oil will get too hot very fast!
Meditation and/or breathing exercises
Just 10 minutes will set you up right for the day. Heck, even 5 minutes will gain you more clarity and peace of mind. If you sit in meditation in the morning, chances are you will make better choices during the rest of the day. And maybe even squeeze in another 10 minute session before bed!
If meditation is not for you, maybe a journalling practice is, or colouring mandalas, or drawing.
Yoga or exercise
You don’t have to get up an hour earlier to complete an hour-long vigorous yoga class or workout! Walking your dog also counts or just a couple of rounds of sun salutations. Get those muscles warmed up, your blood flowing and your joints moving.
It’s really important that this happens before breakfast (especially if you have problems with adrenal fatigue). Fasted exercise teaches your body to use the glucose that’s in your blood and organs, and to use fat cells for fuel, increasing your metabolic flexibility.
(Metabolic flexibility is when your body can switch between glucose and fat as fuel sources efficiently. When you have adrenal fatigue, chances are you probably need food for fuel constantly, leading to weight gain).
Ayurveda recommends working up a mild sweat on your brow. So if you are streaming down with sweat you might be overdoing it – I’m looking at you, Pitta!
Have a shower
OK, so now’s the time to have a short shower. Rinse off with water that’s not too hot. Water that’s too hot will dry out your skin. Staying too long in the shower also dries out your skin (I’m sorry, Vata). Also don’t use too much soap.
Remember, you already dry body brushed so all you need is some soap to wash your armpits, hands, feet and genitals: the places where smelly bacteria gather. We want the oil from the self massage washed off but leaving a healthy barrier to protect the skin (without staining our clothes).
For the brave ones: you can end with a cold shower for an extra kick (start at your feet and work your way up to your heart). Summer is the best time to start taking cold showers, as the water is not so eye-wateringly cold as in winter (but still, for the brave ones).
Yesss, breakfast time! Choose something that is nourishing (plus coffee – kidding ;-). Having a healthy breakfast will make it easier to make healthier choices all day. So ditch the sugary cereal or white bread. Ideally your breakfast contains some protein to keep you filled up. Have a piece of fruit (for Kapha) or porridge (for Pitta and Vata). A smoothie will work fine too but don’t take it ice cold and don’t mix fruit and dairy…
Related: read more on Ayurveda and smoothies
Now you’re ready to start the rest of your day!
Implementing your daily routine
It may sound like it’s a lot to do in the morning but you can do all this in just 30 minutes! When you feel comfortable with this morning routine you can always extend the exercise or meditation part.
Start with implementing small changes in your morning routine a couple of times a week and see you how roll with it. Some things will be easier to add than others. There is no one pointing their fingers because you haven’t done something. I’m sure you will feel the difference and that in itself is the biggest motivation to keep doing it!
Here are a few journalling prompts that might help you create your ideal morning routine:
- How does your morning look like on holiday?
- What would you like to accomplish every day and when is the best time for your to do it?
- What do you need to let go of to create a magical morning routine?