“Wellness” has become a complex commodity. Feeling good can seem like more of an economical investment than a personal one. A spin membership, an ever-updating closet. We’ve been trained to experience the dopamine rush of “newness” as happiness. And while buying something awesome can feel pretty great, that good feeling suffers when you abuse it. True wellness comes treating ourselves with tenderness and respect, not a shopping spree.
Being tender and respectful of your body and mind is a learned practice. A particularly tricky one, as we are living through a conundrum of choice. With so many options available to us, how are we to choose? While it may seem that the options are limitless, they don’t provide an answer to the question of personal wellness. In our quest for optimum health, we can overlook the fact that balance is an ongoing conversation we must have with ourselves.
Ayurveda is a science of life that has been practiced by Indian people alongside yoga for centuries. The practice of ayurveda is an observant routine that has the practitioner checking in with themselves and their bodies as the seasons and contexts change. Ayurveda sees the body and mind as being inextricably linked: when one is healthy, the other has a chance at being healthy. A harmonized body and mind leads to better digestive function and less anxiety. Deeper sleep and more energized exercise. Ayurvedic experts study for years to perfect their understanding of doshas and the human body, but basic ayurvedic practices are all about learning how to listen to your body, and building a routine that your body feels supported by. We’ve put together 10 simple daily practices to help harmonize your body and mind, and set you up for better digestion, deeper sleep, and more mindful days.
1) Restful Sleep
Ayurveda sees sleep as the foundation of good health. Many people see sleep as a bank transaction: we can deposit sleep for later, or overdraw when we have a lot to do. Turns out that’s not quite the case. We might be able to repay a bit of our sleep debt with a good lay-in, there’s no substitute for the recommended eight hours a night. Additionally, a pharmaceutically enhanced sleep isn’t giving your body the same benefits as a natural one. Alcohol and pills suppress your natural REM cycle: your sleep is more like being unconscious than being in dreamland. Train your body by giving it a routine to expect each night. Stay away from bright screens, relax your body with warm drinks or a bath, and go to bed at the same time each night in a dark room. Most importantly: force yourself to do this every night for a month. Your body needs time to change its habits!
2) Rinse your (nasal) filter
If you find yourself congested in the winter, incorporating a neti-pot into your wake-up routine could support wellness by clearing your sinuses. Your nose filters eight litres of air every minute: a neti pot is simply a means of rinsing your filter. To use, fill your neti-pot with warm saline (using filtered water) and tip the tea-pot like vessel into your nostril. The solution will rinse your sinus and dribble out of your open nostril, cleaning your “filter” and dislodging any mucus or dust. Enjoy the best nose-blow of your life. Proceed with your day.
3) Jumpstart Your Digestion
Your stomach just woke up too. If your guts first interaction is something simple to process, it has a chance to warm itself up and prepare for more complex foods. Hot water and lemon’s atomic composition is similar to saliva and the hydrochloric acid of digestive juices. The water rehydrates your sleepy system, and the lemon is high in minerals and vitamins that help loosen toxins in your digestive tract. Lemon is also a diuretic, and promotes a healthy urinary tract by way of frequent elimination. High levels of vitamin C helps to detoxify your blood, improving your immunity, boosting your energy, and brightening your skin. Feeling chilly? Add some sliced fresh ginger and chili flakes to create some internal heat. Spring allergy season looming? A teaspoon of locally-sourced honey can build your immunity against pollen in your area!
Let’s get past the taboo. Pooping is a part of life, and we should practice being good at it. …How does one be good at it, you ask? Your bowel movements are indicative of what’s happening in your stomach. Straining can indicate that you’re dehydrated, or lacking something in your diet. Loose movements typically indicate inflammation or intolerance. Along with medical advice, listen to what your body is telling you and adjust your diet accordingly. To promote healthy elimination lifestyle, incorporate a stool into your bathroom and use it to raise your feet and help you assume a squatting position. The squat position straightens out your colon, and makes eliminating a lot easier. Along with a healthy diet (and maybe that regular lemon-water), sitting on the toilet at the same time every morning can signal to your body that it’s time to make way for the new. The new food.
5) A Healthy, Interesting Diet
The Ayurvedic diet suggests incorporating six different tastes into each meal: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent. The idea behind the different tastes is introducing a vibrant, variety of foods into your diet to promote real enjoyment of your food. The emphasis on enjoyment is paramount to the ayurvedic philosophy about food and eating. Food is meant to be a celebration of life – not a restriction or a law. Ayurveda celebrates food by encouraging its exploration, and promotes satisfaction through variety.
6) Listening to Your Body
You’re eating well, pooping well, and sleeping all night. How much could your body have to say at this point? Checking in with your body isn’t an ultimatum, it’s a sign of respect. By really listening to how your body reacts to certain foods, exercises, and activities, you’re getting to understand how to really protect your body and promote optimum health. Of course, we’re not suggesting that you ignore everything you don’t feel like doing. We’re just saying that your body gives you good signals. Listen to them.
7) Understanding Your Cravings
When your body and mind are in harmony, you’re more able to control the way you react to tempting stimuli. If you’ve ever been on a “clean eating” kick, you might have noticed that your body expressed its desires very differently. You might find yourself wishing for a giant bowl of kale instead of a king-size Oh Henry. Ayurvedics call this idea “being in balance with nature.” The idea being that when your body is in balance, your desires will match what you actually need.
8) Eating, Fast and Slow
Eating doesn’t just start when the food hits your mouth. It starts when you start to envision the meal. When your mouth starts to water, your body is actually preparing to start digesting a meal. When your body has time to utilize every aspect of your digestive system (from saliva in the mouth to nutrient absorption in the large intestine) your food is easier to digest, better absorbed, and better distributed to support your body. To help your digestive enjoy optimal function, eat slowly, and sitting down. Try to really recognize the scents and tastes of the food you put in your mouth. Focus only on eating – not a TV show, or your phone. Not only will your digestive system thank you, you’re probably find you are fuller much earlier.
9) Clean Your Mouth
Before you head out the door to your job or to see your friends, you want to tend to your mouth. Brushing is great, but your tongue is actually the gatekeeper of pleasant breath. In Ayurveda, health is closely linked with the presence or absence of toxins in the body. Using a tongue scraper is considered a great way to remove toxins and bacteria that accumulate in the mouth while you sleep. Tongue scrapers remove gunk and stimulate your tongue, enhancing your sense of taste.
10) Wrap it Up with Quiet Contemplation
You’ve probably noticed that ayurveda relies on a lot of self-reflection. When you’re wrapping up the day, take mental stock of what felt good and right for you over the course of the day. How did your lunch sit? If you scraped your tongue, what was that like? Did your afternoon tea energize you as you had hoped? This isn’t a test, it’s simply a reflection of what your body did and didn’t like as you wind down for the evening. Such notes will serve you well as you go to sleep, and prepare for another day.
Notice how we are back at the beginning? Back to our beds, the foundation. End up where you start, see what served you. That’s a true ayurvedic practice.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is looking for additional help with recovery please visit Oxford House, Inc. for additional resources. http://ctoxfordhouse.org
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