Gentle Ayurvedic practices to start your day
Feel balanced and energised with these simple - but ancient - lifestyle tips, writes Liz Connor
Mornings can be one of the most stressful times of the day. Between jumping into the shower, attempting to whip up a healthy breakfast and rummaging around for a vaguely-put-together outfit, most of us rarely get a moment to get a good look at ourselves in the mirror before charging out of the door - let alone breathe and relax.
But according to Ayurveda, an ancient healing system that developed some 5,000 years ago in India, your hectic morning ritual could be the reason why you feel groggy, irritable, bloated and anxious for the rest of the day.
The eastern practice, which translates from Sanskrit to mean 'knowledge of life', is rooted in the belief that mental and physical health depend on a fragile balance between the mind, body and spirit - no surprises then that it's having a moment with wellness-smart millennials.
Ayurveda has a personalised approach to health, and knowing your mind-body type (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) allows you to make the best diet and exercise choices to suit your personality. Converts say it can sort out skin issues, banish gut woes and help alleviate mental health problems. Apparently Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow are huge fans.
While we can't promise it will fix all of your health ailments in one fell swoop, there's no denying we could all benefit from some of the daily practices that are part of the Ayurvedic way of life.
That includes slowing down, taking time to enjoy waking up and not leaving the house with toothpaste smeared on your chin. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
Here we break down just a few you should start practising today:
1. Use a tongue scraper
In Ayurveda, your mouth is one of the main gateways between your mind and the outside world, so maintaining good oral health is pretty important. Using a tongue scraper first thing in the morning is considered one of the best ways to remove the bacteria (aka that fuzzy tongue feeling) that builds up overnight.
As well as working wonders for your grisly morning breath, Ayurvedic experts say tongue scraping can actually enhance your sense of taste, removing toxins that may obstruct digestive functioning, while activating what's know as 'agni' or 'the body's digestive fire'.
2. Try oil pulling
Instead of using shop-bought mouthwash, why not try oil pulling - the act of swishing coconut oil round your mouth for five to 20 minutes. In Ayurveda, the process is believed to attract and remove bacteria, toxins and parasites from the mouth, while loosening up your sinuses and ridding your throat of mucus build up.
If nothing else, it will give you fresh tropical breath and, when done regularly, it's a brilliant way to wake up the senses.
3. Drink warm water and lemon
Ayurvedic doctors believe what you consume in the morning can dictate your mood for the day. Try swapping your coffee for a warm glass of water with a slice of lemon instead.
The warm water is said to help to flush the digestive system and rehydrate the body, while the bitter lemon loosens 'ama', or the toxins in your digestive tract that build due to an improper diet, unhealthy habits or pollution.
4. Wake up with the sunrise
It's easier said than done, but getting to bed early and waking up when the sun rises (that means before 6am) is a basic Ayurvedic practice that can help you feel more productive and energetic. During these hours, the Vata element is dominant, which is said to govern movement in the body and the nervous system.
Not only is waking up with the sun a gentle way to rouse you out of deep REM sleep, but many believe living in tune with the sun's cycles can help to enhance brain function and improve feelings of positivity. Oh, and you'll have extra time in the morning to peacefully go about your routine.