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3 Ayurvedic practices I am making a habit of

Dinacharya – “Dina” meaning day and “Charya” meaning activity – refers to the Ayurvedic daily routine that is encouraged to reduce stress, improve digestion and prevent chronic disease. Many of the practices are applicable to the morning time to set up the day with balance, cleanliness of mind and body and ease.

There are some elements that I, and perhaps you, might already be performing… Early rising, engaging in exercise and/or meditation, brushing teeth, showering, warm lemon water, eating a healthy breakfast… So without necessarily being aware of it, you might already be partaking in Dinacharya! However strictly and traditionally, it is quite a process! Whilst I respect it, I definitely don’t stick to the letter of it.

After some recent reading, I have decided to make more of an effort to incorporate three aspects of Dinacharya into my already established routine. I feel these are easy to implement and believe they will boost my day and improve overall wellbeing. Join me!

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Tongue Scraping

This simple practice removes bacteria and toxins accumulated overnight, whilst also stimulating and cleansing the digestive tract and vital organs (different points of the tongue are said to relate to specific organs). From my research, this should be the first step in your oral hygiene routine. So whether you brush, gargle or floss, scrape your tongue first – 7-10 brisk strokes should do the trick, and wash off excess where necessary between scrapes. Don’t be too vigorous, it should not hurt. Once done, brush your teeth and then enjoy your warm lemon water.

Oil Swishing

This practice is believed to strengthen the teeth, gums and jaw. It also shows some promise in gingivitis and plaque build-up prevention and overall oral health. You may have heard of oil pulling. I originally shied away from this practice, placing it in the “too hard” basket…. The idea of swishing oil in my mouth for upward of 15 minutes seemed ludicrous to me! Who has that time? However, my reading has revealed that traditionally, this practice need not be so indulgent, 1-3 minutes will do the trick. Yay! Once you have had your warm lemon, place about 1 tbsp of oil (preferably warmed, unrefined, organic and cold-pressed sesame or coconut oil) into your mouth, swish for a minute or two, spit out (do not swallow!), and before rinsing use your finger to massage your gums softly to increase circulation. Tip: to warm the oil I recommend using a small container filled with 1 tbsp of the oil, secured tightly and placed in warm water for a minute, perhaps whilst you drink your lemon water. Confession: I only do this 3-5 times a week, do it when you remember/have time, I think this is good enough!

Abhyanga

This is an ancient practice of oily self-massage, said to nourish the skin, promote good circulation, lubricate tissues, optimise detoxification and soothe the nervous system. Before you shower, perhaps after exercise, warm about 1/4 cup unrefined organic sesame, almond or coconut oil, by placing it in a hot bowl (you can add essential oils to the base oil as well). Then, massage your entire body, starting from the head. Pay particular attention to the soles of your feet, your ears, nail beds and the scalp. If you don’t want to wash your hair, choose to forgo the oil here and use dry hands to give yourself a scalp massage (great for stimulating the hair follicles and promoting growth!). See a good tutorial here. If you don’t have time for the full body massage, at least massage your hands, feet, and neck, as these are said to be major stress points and benefit most from stimulation. Wait at least 10 minutes before washing off oil. You could oil swish whilst you wait, tidy up or prepare breakfast or dinner (being careful with your oily feet!), meditate… Then, enjoy a warm shower, the heat of which will allow the oil to penetrate the skin, nourishing and strengthening the connective tissue. Bonus points to turn the tap to cold for 10 seconds at the end of your shower, then hot, then cold! Always finish on cold. This is great for circulation. Morning is believed to be ideal for Abhyanga, but it can also be done in the evening, choose when suits you best. Tip: try using a dry brush on your body before Abhyanga!

Lemon Water Etiquette

When something becomes an everyday habit, it is important to ensure you are doing it right! By now, most of us are making warm lemon water an essential part of our morning, which is fantastic. However, over the years I have noticed people have a lot of questions about how to do it “properly”. Not to over-complicate it, because the very fact you are doing it regularly deserves applause, but here are the answers to some FAQs so that we can all get the most (beneficial) juice from each squeeze ;)…

1. Keep your lemons in the fridge!

To properly maintain their nutritional integrity. I understand it is nice to have a fruit bowl, but to be honest, with fruit and vegetables, water-soluble vitamins and antioxidants are depleted every hour they are exposed to even just room temperature! Best to keep them in the fridge, particularly vitamin C rich lemons.

2. Use cold water first.

When you squeeze your juice into your glass, don’t pour boiling hot water over the lemon juice. Instead, make sure you fill it up about half way with cold, filtered water first, then add the hot water. This will make warm lemon water, and will not destroy the heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C.

3. Boosters.

Do you ever vary your brew? Try it a little different week-to-week. You could grate some ginger, or sprinkle ground cayenne, turmeric or cinnamon in your warm water. These are stimulating spices that further assist digestive function and metabolism. This can also help if you are getting bored and need a flavour variation.

4. Use a little zest.

Did you know that much of the lemon’s nutrition, in fact most fruit/veg, is in the peel? There are over 60 different types of flavonoids (antioxidants) in citrus, most of which are highly concentrated in the outer peel. Make sure you save some zest for salads, dressings, sauces and marinades, or grate a little into your morning lemon water. If doing this, it is particularly important you are using organic lemons, as the outer skin of conventional lemons can contain concentrated pesticides and/or wax.

5. Consider a straw.

I must admit, I have only started being more conscious of this lately, however there are some that believe the acidic juice (which is alkalising once it enters our digestive system) can damage tooth enamel. To avoid this, don’t stop drinking lemon water! Rather, drink it through a straw. Personally, I’ve not experienced any damage and have been drinking without a straw for years, however if you are worried or have noticed a change, try using a straw to sip your morning warm lemon water.

6. Wait at least 15 minutes.

I try to stretch it out to 30 minutes, and sometimes leave it 1 hour if I sneak it in before my workout. This gives the body time to digest it, cleanse the system, fire up metabolism and prepare you for your first, delicious meal!

7. Rinse.

You may have heard not to brush your teeth straight away, again, in line with it stripping your teeth and causing damage. However you also don’t want to leave any excess juice sitting on top of your teeth all day. So, a swish of water around your mouth is the way to go to cleanse your pallet and rid the teeth/mouth of any excess.

 

That’s it! Now get squeezing and sipping 🙂

My Morning Routine & How Loosing The “All or Nothing” Mentality Improved My Health

I used to think of a day as a good day, or a bad day.

I had an all or nothing approach. Contrary to some people – if I went for a run or ate a healthy breakfast, I didn’t want to “sabotage” that day with a treat or a reward. Instead, I would be super “healthy” that day – which really wasn’t that healthy at all. I would over-exercise, under-eat and feed my ego with twisted compliments about my “dedication” to my health.

The truth is, I would be depriving myself and ignoring my bodies messages, purely to fit within the confines of what I believed would deem that day a “good” day.

On the flip side – if I ate too much at breakfast or slept in and didn’t go for that workout, you could pretty much guarantee that the rest of the day was going to be full of grazing, binging, and lethargy.

All or nothing.

Once I became aware of how damaging this was I educated myself on productive health-oriented ways to begin my day. There are a variety of options out there to start your day right, with everyone recommending different tips that work for them. I, the perfectionist I am, decided to combine ALL of the advice and recommendations I had ever heard of into the “perfect” morning routine, which looked a little something like this…

Wake up. 20 deep belly breaths. Drink a warm lemon water with turmeric. Journal – set intentions for the day, focus on a positive affirmation and write out several things I am grateful for. Complete 20 minutes of yoga followed by 10-15 minutes of meditation. 45 minutes of exercise. Drink around 1L water. Have chlorophyll in another glass of water with some aloe vera juice. Dry body brush and shower. Shot 1 tbsp ACV. Prepare and eat breakfast…

To say that it was difficult to complete this excessive list regularly would be an understatement. It was near impossible! And even if I did 9 out of those 15 things I would focus on the 6 I didn’t do. These were intended to be feel-good, relaxing ways to wake up and care for myself, yet here I was making them arduous tasks and chores. They had become a to-do list of how to cope with my to-do list! I was even more exhausted then I was not doing them, and I was no closer to feeling good about myself.

Now, I take a gentler approach. I make sure to start my day on a good note, but if I don’t, I don’t let it define and dictate my day. I do my very best, and acknowledge that that is enough.

Here is what my more relaxed morning routine looks like:

I get up after 8 hours sleep around 6:20am.

I center myself on my yoga mat or on the couch by taking 10-20 deep belly breaths (I find this particularly useful if I wake up anxious, but even if I don’t it just makes me pause before rushing to start my workout)

I then sip on warm lemon water, preferably outdoors for some fresh air. Here, I simply think of things I am grateful for or reiterate a positive thought for the day. If I want to, I will write this down, but 7/10 times I won’t.

Then, I move my body for 30-60 minutes – a strong walk, vinyasa yoga, HIIT, soft sands, or a big stretch using my foam roller.

At 8am I prepare a wholesome breakfast and eat it slowly and mindfully. If I take a snap of it, I will then put my phone away and enjoy my meal, BEFORE I upload to IG 😉

I’m usually at my desk by 9am sharp and the first thing I do is put pen to paper and write a list of “to-do’s”. From that list, I circle the 3 priorities for my day. I also write down one or two SFM’s – “Something For Me’s” – which might be practice yoga, meditation or a 20 minute relax, some reading, a catch up with a friend, a date night or something yummy.

If I didn’t get one or two of these things done, I just do them at 11am, or 4pm, or 8pm. Because I have learned that you can start fresh at any point in the day. And that the time is NOW to make today count- not tomorrow, not next week, not next month.

I hope this helps anyone struggling with waking up anxious or trying to find their own groove with a morning routine. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it might look different day-to-day. So long as you are enjoying it and are calm, you are doing something right.

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