Ayurvedic cleansing - Self Care Morning Rituals
Why Self care is Self Love
This time last year I was feeling at an all time low. My body was still recovering from complete depletion. The relationship I was in had drained me of all of my strength, I had no job (The Light Collective didn’t exist then!) and no home of my own to live in. It was at this point that I put myself on a strict regime of self care- yogi style. And I did it because I knew it would work. The beauty of this system of ayurvedic routines is that the work begins at a physical level and it slowly and naturally seeps it’s way into every other aspect your life. Because the thing is, that the act of caring for yourself is one of self love. Loving yourself, truly, deeply and honestly, is for most people quite a challenge, especially when you are feeling depressed or anxious. Telling someone to use their mind to love themselves when they are at a low point doesn’t always work. But when you start from a physical perspective the changes are FELT. And once you start to feel it in your body, your whole energy shifts.
So these are the self care rituals I used that connected me to my body, my femininity and a deep love for my body temple and myself. Please note they are extensive and were possible because I don’t have children to look after and also I run my own work routine. However, they are possible!
1. Tongue Scraping
Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I scrape my tongue. It straight away makes my mouth feel fresh, and it’s pretty incredible how much gunk comes off your tongue! (Sorry gross...) When we scrape our tongue we are getting rid of all of the toxins that the body is expelling over night. With continued practise you will notice what foods create more toxins (like milk, coffee and alcohol.) I also find that it helps if I am starting to feel unwell, or have had a really late night out. You can find them on ebay- i love the hard core copper ones, but stainless steel are good and softer on the tongue.
Technique: In the shower or at the basin scrape your tongue from back to front around 20 times. Give the scraper a wash every few strokes when it needs it. Be gentle with your tongue, no need to go too hardcore, especially with the copper versions!
Added Joy: If you know someone going to India get them to pick a few up from the chemist for you- they cost about 50cents. And then you can give them to everyone you know. Because you will have become a tongue scraping evangelist like me.
2. Oil Pulling
After I scrape my tongue I oil pull. You want to do this for about 10-20 minutes, so I keep it in my mouth while I shower and am doing the rest of these rituals.
The technique: Put a small teaspoon of organic coconut oil in your mouth and start swishing.
The first time you do it, you might feel like gagging at the thought of putting that much oil in your mouth. But in a few seconds It emulsifies and becomes watery in your mouth. Swish for 10-20 minutes and spit it out into the bin, hardened coconut oil isn't good for your drains.
It is said to pull toxins from out of your mouth and gums and definitely makes your teeth whiter! My dentist was really excited by how great my teeth looked last time I saw him. When I told him it was coconut oil he thought I was a little crazy though.
Added Joy: There are people who add essential oils to this process (peppermint etc) for a really detailed look into alternative Oral Care head to Living Libations- Nadine Artemis is an expert and has totally changed my teeth routine!
3. Dry Body Brushing
Every morning before having my shower (with my coconut oil in my mouth) i dry body brush. I used to use two brushes (one in each hand for efficiency!) but I recently upgraded to the Rolls Royce of body brushes- by Stass and Co.
The technique: Starting at the feet I work the brushes always towards the heart, taking long strokes on the limbs and making circular motions around the joints and my belly. I spend a bit of extra time around my thighs and beautiful butt cheeks. I spend some time with each arm up in the air working the brush from my elbow, across my underarm to my breasts.
Dry body brushing is especially good for those (kapha ayurvedic body types) who hold on to weight. It helps with circulation and I have found that since I started doing it the cellulite patterns on the backs of my legs and butt pretty much disappeared- however this could have been a combination of things, including giving up sugar! It is such a physical way to shift energy and boost circulation.
You can buy dry brushes from most chemists, or order the worlds most beautiful dry brush from our friends at Stass & Co.
Added Joy: Taking five minutes to dry body brush in a meditative way using your breath can help you feel more grounded and connected. Re-establishing this connection with yourself daily can be extremely powerful. Check out Stass and their online blog on self care!
Copper tongue scraper, Stass&co Body Brush, not my Butt...
4. Abhayanga the massage of love
This is the highlight of my routine, massaging myself with warm oil! I warm up either raw sesame oil or a combination of coconut oil, coco butter and my friends olive oil. Each ayurvedic body type lends itself to using a specific type of oil and frequency.
Vata Dosha: 4-5 times a week using sesame, almond.
Pitta Dosha: 3-4 times a week using a coconut, sunflower
Kapha Dosha: 1-2 times a week using safflower
All Three Doshas: Jojoba oil
Technique: I warm up the oil in a pan and pour it into a beautiful ceramic bowl that I keep in my bathroom just for abhayanga. For this massage you start at the head (and hair if you are washing it) and work down your body. Long strokes down the limbs, circular strokes at the joints.
I pay special attention to the area of the lymph nodes- so around the breasts and the yoni. I work a lot around the underarms and give my breasts and pelvis so much love. The lymph nodes are the one part of the body that doesn’t circulate itself- it relies on massage and movement for detoxification- isn’t that a beautiful thing to consider- our body needs touch massage and movement to work properly. We are designed for self love!
They recommend you bask in the oily glow of abhayanga for 20 minutes, but i ended up getting oil everywhere and don’t really feel like standing still, oily and nude for 20 minutes each morning so I just spend a couple of extra minutes massaging and loving myself and then I hop straight into the shower. The idea is not to cover yourself in soap and wash off all the oils, rather use soap just on the bits you really need it and let the warmth of the water allow the oil to seep into your skin and it will naturally wash the excess off. Pat yourself dry to maintain some of the oil on your skin.
Added Joy: While you are massaging yourself send loving thoughts to your body and skin, be mindful of the sensations and enjoy the pleasure.
5. Neti Pot- salt water nasal wash
This is the one that I used to freak out at the thought of (and my students do too)- but once I was taught how to do it, it is the best thing ever! You can purchase neti pots from some yoga centres/ health food stores/ chemists or online.
Technique: Fill the neti pot with about 1/3 boiling water. Add about a 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and mix. Fill the rest of the pot with cold water. The temperature should be warm and feel good, as should the salt levels, like salty tears. Place the tip of the pot up one nostril and drop the head forward and to the side, breath through the mouth and let the water flow to the opposite nostril. Do this for half of the salt water. Blow the nose and repeat on the opposite side.
This is especially great to do if you are starting to feel congested, after a plane flight/ being around snotty kids/ etc. It is also a great way to clear out the sinuses before pranayama. It also helps to clear out the Third Eye Chakra - Ajna Chakra and energetically create a spacious quality in the mind.
Added Joy: Get your yoga teacher to show you this one especially if you are freaking out about the thought of it!
6. Get Moving
At my lowest point I had stopped doing yoga asana. So I got back on the mat. I also started running. This is not something I normally do. But I got up early every, single, day, and without even thinking about it put my runners on and got out of the house. Sometimes on my own for a quick jog. Sometimes I went to the Botanical Gardens and met friends. The thing about moving is you don’t have to want to do it, you just have to do it. I don’t run any more (I’m not crazy! lol) but I always get up and do my practise.
5. Ghee - clarified butter
In Ayurveda ghee is basically considered a cure all for everything from glaucoma to arthritis. For me I really found that a shot of warm ghee in the morning really helped to ground me. I think the heavy oiliness is really good for anxiety and flightiness.
Technique: For those who are hardcore and feeling very anxious warm up a small amount of ghee and shot it down!
Added Joy: If you're not that hardcore, you can use it instead of coconut oil or olive oil in cooking. I pretty much add it to everything I cook, even porridge in the morning starts with ghee! Then I add spices (turmeric cinnamon), nuts then oats.
Ayurveda- The Science of Life
I started doing these practises after reading the book Perfect Health by Deepak Choprah back when I was 19. In it you can get a great understanding of the different Dosha (Body/ Mind types). There are also loads of online quizzes including this one from the Choprah Centre.