Living Well Favorites: 7 Easy Ayurveda Tips to Incorporate Right Now
With Living Well Favorites, I explore a few of my favorite things for high-grade living, embracing health, wellness, slowing down, healing, and living an all-around higher quality of life. I firmly believe wellness isn’t just a “trend,” but that we’re in the stages of a collective upgrade of sorts, a paradigm shift in how we live and work — one that is more spiritual, more integrated (integrating all parts of our lives, rather than segmenting them to live separately and hoping they all stay more or less balanced), more connected rather than separate, and more about receiving with a sense of flow, rather than pushing from a place of hustle.
Ayurveda has become almost a buzzword now, which is funny, because it was just straight-up weird when I began learning about it over two decades ago. (As a painfully shy teenager lacking confidence, I definitely kept my “weird” Ayurvedic practices to myself.) But what IS Ayurveda, exactly? And if you’re living a typical, in-the-real-world life juggling stress and work and family and friends, how can you “be more Ayurvedic” in a way that’s relatively simple to incorporate?
Ayurveda translates to “the science of life” in Sanskrit. It’s an ancient body of knowledge from the Vedas about how to live, eat, sleep, exercise, etc. in balance, rather than perpetuating imbalances in the body, which eventually leads to disease.
If you’ve heard the buzzword, but are still like, “What is this vata-pitta-kapha business??” … or, maybe you are familiar with some elements of Ayurveda but are feeling overwhelmed with how much there is… I’m here to break down a few key Ayurvedic concepts, with seven easy tips that are simple to incorporate.
One beautiful thing of note about Ayurveda is that it understands that everyone is unique and different, and there is no “one size fits all” to balance everyone. We are all made up of a different blend of doshas, or mind-body types (vata, pitta, and kapha), and recommendations and remedies for balance are dependent on personal dosha as well as the nature of the imbalance, the environment, time of year, etc. But here are seven universal and easy recommendations for all doshas.
1. & 2. When you wake up in the morning, do you hit your system with a slug of caffeine first thing? Regardless of your caffeine intake later, try these two tips upon wake-up: scrape your tongue with a stainless or copper tongue scraper, followed by a cup of warm water. This removes the toxins (ama) that gather on your tongue overnight as part of the body’s purification process. Second, sip a small cup of warm or hot water (you can add lemon if you like). My favorite thing is using a stainless electric kettle to make this happen in seconds, rather than having to wait for water to boil on the stove. This is excellent for digestion first thing in the morning.
3. In Ayurveda, oil on the body is highly recommend, not just for its moisturizing properties, but also to balance the doshas. If you’ve ever done panchakarma, an Ayurvedic retreat with divine spa treatments, you’ll know how amazing you can feel after a full hour+ session with skilled technicians and herbed massage oils. In lieu of that, do a mini abhyanga (self oil massage) at home before you shower, or, for the simplest and fastest “cheater” version, just get an Ayurvedic massage oil (usually sesame oil treated with herbs for balancing different mind-body types) and use it just out of the shower as a body moisturizer. Read up on how to do the full abhyanga here, or just stock up on a massage-oil-as-moisturizer for vata, pitta, or kapha.
4. Good oils are also highly recommended for cooking and with food, and the queen of all these in Ayurveda is ghee. Ghee is clarified butter, with the milk solids removed. It’s a delicious and healthy oil for cooking with (use in lieu of olive oil for your sauteés) or for adding to warm, cooked food before eating. The ghee from Spring Sunrise is made from milk from cows on the most blissful farm in Fairfield, IA. Having been there to visit, I can tell you these are perhaps the happiest cows in the country (no evil livestock industry here… the cows even get Gandharva Veda music played for them). But - cool thing - you can also get ghee at many grocery stores these days, and it doesn’t need refrigeration.
5. Another easy Ayurvedic tip to include is to sip hot water or hot tea throughout the day. Ice-cold drinks aren’t recommended in Ayurveda (think of the ice as a big douse that kills the flame of your agni, or digestive fire), but hot water and hot tea is excellent for aiding digestion. This is one of my go-to strategies to make sure I drink enough liquids during the day, because I tend to forget and realize I haven’t had water in, say, six hours. When I make my breakfast, I make a thermos of tea (this one’s my favorite because it has a pop top that makes pouring fast and easy) and then just have it with me throughout the day. If I keep it nearby, it ensures I drink liquids throughout the day, and the small sips of hot water are great for tummies.
6. We’re in the thick of summer as I write this, so it’s great to incorporate some Ayurvedic tips to beat the heat. Summer in Ayurveda (in the northern hemisphere) has the qualities of the pitta dosha (heat), winter vata (cold and dry), and kapha spring and fall (warm/cool and wet). In summer, one easy thing to do to counter high pitta heat is to keep a spray bottle of rose water on hand and spritz when you feel overheated (especially beneficial for pitta body types, in pitta season). Rose is cooling, and you’ll feel an immediate cool, calm hit when you do this. Keep one in your bag or at your desk. If you’re a rose fan, find more rose tips here.
7. Ayurveda also talks about the cycles of the day, and in general recommends getting to bed by 10pm (heavier and sluggish kapha rules the evening time, before the daily cycle kicks into pitta around 10p, which governs activity and productivity — that would be your “second wind” if you stay up late). I’ll admit, I often miss this by 30-60 minutes (but I definitely notice this changes for me with the sun and seasons too), but one of my bedtime rituals I am never without is this Ayurvedic essential oil blend to aid sleep. My boyfriend refers to it as “chloroform,” as he finds it immediately calming! I drop a few drops on a tissue and slip it in my pillowcase.
Ayurveda is so deeply rich as a tradition, and I always love learning more. But we also have to find a way to bring it into our modern world and lives, and (as Ayurveda always espouses) that is about balance.
What dosha are you, and what are your favorite simple Ayurvedic tips? Join the conversation here.
Image: Yours truly with her beloved rose water spray, summer in British Columbia.
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