my ayurveda routine

My Ayurveda Morning Routine… Then & Now

Back in February I had this idea: Start a new ayurveda morning routine (or, at least, ayurvedic-based). Blog about it.

The routine included activities I was already doing, such as yoga and meditation, so I was building on it. It also incorporated habits that I used to have but had stopped.

I started strong. Then a few weeks in I started a new corporate day job and my schedule changed both in terms of how long I had for said routine, and my blogging schedule. Honestly, for the first month of my employment I had little energy to do anything outside of work. (Working to make money vs. working on my passion is a topic I'm putting some notes together on, potentially to create an article on LinkedIn.)

What's in an ayurveda morning routine?

When I started my routine, based on some googling and what I'd seen in an Instagram account I follow, it looked like this – though the order would sometimes change:

  1. Meditate (20 minutes) – I still use the Insight Timer app.
  2. Journal (15 minutes)
  3. Scrape tongue with a plastic tongue scraper (30 seconds or so)
    • Ayurveda recommends scraping away white coating that accumulates on the tongue overnight. This coating is perceived as accumulated undigested toxins sitting in the digestive tract. Those toxins can cause illness.
  4. Splashing cool water on my face/in my eyes, 7 times.
    • Ayurveda recommends splashing your face and eyes with water as soon as you wake up, seven times. Seven represents the body’s chakras, or energy centers.
  5. Drink a half liter or full liter of warm water.
    • Some practitioners recommend lemon, some recommend lime. Morning lemon water has long been part of my routine. Sometimes I juice of lemons or limes. Other times I use lemon or lime essential oil from Young Living, or their Citrus Fresh essential oil blend, which contains orange, grapefruit, mandarin, tangerine, lemon, and spearmint. Some days I get my magnesium in, with Natural Calm lemon flavoured powder.
  6. Give myself a body massage with coconut oil or sesame oil (washed off in the shower).
  7. Oil pulling with coconut oil and a couple of drops of Living Libations Healthy Gum Drops, done for 10-20 minutes.
    • Oil pulling is where you swish oil around on your mouth.  I scoop up some oil with a spoon, add the gum drops, and pop it in my mouth. It's part of the oral hygiene routine, though NOT a replacement for brushing teeth. When you spit, always do it into a garbage can, as it can clog pipes.
  8. Skin brushing with a dry skin brush before showering.
    • Skin brushing, allegedly, helps encourages lymphatic drainage, improves blood flow, and rejuvenates the nervous system by stimulating nerve endings in the skin. It improves circulation and helps rid toxins from the body.

So many steps!

That's a LOT of steps. I also walk my dog in the morning, and like to do morning yoga. It's time consuming, and I was keeping it up at least 6 days a week. I tried including pranayama (breathing) exercises but I kept forgetting to do them.

Sometimes I multi-tasked with other activities on the list, or with other activities. For example, I'd oil up and then sit at my computer, or oil up and then empty the dishwasher. Or sit with oil on my body and in my mouth at the same time.

Oil pulling is one of the activities that I've been doing on and off for years, and I usually do it in the shower (again, spitting into a garbage can). Once, I sat down on the couch with my body oiled and coconut oil in my mouth while my man told me stories. For 10 minutes, I nodded and “mmmhmmm”ed , amused by it.

From this morning: Preparing for morning oil pulling with @nutiva coconut oil with 2 drops of @livinglibations Happy Gum Drops. 20 minutes of swishing later, my mouth feels fresh and clean. Next step: Brushing with Living Libations Tooth Truth Powder Polish and Neem Enamelizer liquid and my @drtungs ionic toothbrush – all part of the Living Libations Successful Self Dentistry Kit. My mouth always feels extra clean when I use these products. I'm almost out of the enamelizer. I've been making it last by not using it every time I brush, instead alternating with an all-natural toothpaste. Living Libations also makes an oil swishing serum that's on my wishlist for the future. . . . #ayurveda #ayurvedicremedies #morningslikethese #healthyliving #wellness #oralhealth #findinghealthwellness

A post shared by Andrea Toole (@findinghealthwellness) on

(My sister commented that she has a similar routine. Of course she does!)

My Ayurveda morning routine now…

When I stared my new job I couldn't sustain that time-consuming ayurveda morning routine. Some experts say that you should wake up at 6 am, or before the sun. By the end of March, the sun is rising around 7 a.m. My optimal sleep cycle is 11 p.m. -7 a.m., though 10:30-6:30 is do-able and 6:30 wake up is necessary now. I still need 2 hours before I leave for work in the morning!

I need 8 hours of sleep, though can get by on 7.5 without feeling too bad. When my dog was a puppy I DID get up before 6 a.m. to walk her before work but she's older now and her morning needs have changed.

So here's what I say to 6 a.m. wake up – and especially any time earlier: Screw it. If you can do it, that's great! We all have different needs and rhythms. I'm a little envious, but I'm satisfied where I'm at, I'd just like to get up a little earlier. Last week I made myself 3 versions of a morning schedule. One does have a 6 a.m. wake up. I eye it in the way that one looks at something unappealing. Then I sleep later. Maybe if I start with 15-minute increments…

Do what's right for you (find YOUR health and wellness)

In an article on Chopra.com, provides the following note before its ayurvedic-inspired morning routine:

These suggestions for morning habits are inspired by traditions in Ayurveda; however, the invitation is to try them out, do what feels right, skip the ones that don’t, add ones that balance you best. They can be done in any order. Whether you’re already an early riser or more of a drag-myself-out-of-bed, stumble-to-the-coffeemaker, why-is-it-so-bright, kind of person—these tips will help you get a jump on your day.

Indeed. And I did.

The activities I kept were those that were already part of my life:

  • Meditation (20 minutes tops these days, though I'm striving for earlier wake up and longer sessions)
  • Journal
  • Yoga
  • Tongue scrape
  • Skin brush
  • Oil pull in the shower. Above, I said that I take a spoonful of the oil. In past warmer months when the oil was melted, I swigged straight from the container.  My Happy Gum Drops are a new addition – maybe I'll drop them straight into my mouth.
  • Drink warm water. I've been saying for years that even if I neglect to drink water throughout the day, at least I know I've had my morning water.

After 100 days of meditation I missed a day. And then went back to it. I'm doing yoga most days but I occasionally do skip. I loved challenging myself and feeling really good about streaks but I eventually decided to go easy on my self if I miss a day.

Sometimes I forget to skin brush as part of this ayurveda morning routine. I often forget to splash water on my face. Most mornings I go from bedroom to living room for yoga/meditate/journal. The massage would be nice, but it's more of a treat now. I remember one evening after I'd done it in the morning, when suddenly felt my neck release nicely and knew it was a result. The timing just doesn't work right now.

How do I feel from all this ayurveda morning routine stuff?

I honestly don't know if the skin brushing is benefiting me, but often times we don't see or feel health benefits. Not seeing or feeling doesn't mean it's not working, nor does it mean that it is.

My tongue always feels cleaner with a good tongue scrape. I use the small plastic scraper that came with the Living Libations Successful Self-Dentistry Kit that I won last year. Some people swear by stainless steel or copper. You could use the back of a spoon. I used to sometimes do that.

My teeth always feel cleaner with I oil pull before brushing. It amazes me that oil pulling will loosen debris from the day before that evening flossing did not.

I was sick with colds in both March and April, even though I usually only get sick twice a year, in fall and spring. However, both times the cold lasted less than a week. The first one stayed mostly in my chest. I didn't even go through an entire box of Kleenex. The second one was more intense and in my nose, but brief. It could be the ayurveda morning routine, the turmeric consumption, or the Genuine Health probiotics I've been taking.

All I know is that I'm trying, and being as consistent as possible without being extreme about it.

We try our best and be gentle on ourselves. That's the way to live.

I'm glad it took me a couple of months to get around to blogging this because it provided the opportunity for a “then and now” post, which I think is more interesting and relatable.

Schizandra
St. John's Wort

Feeling SAD?

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Winter Blues.

Winter Blahs

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD.

It's February. Are you feeling it?

Last week I talked about self-care and the routines that help keep me mentally healthy. Let's call today Mental Health Monday.

I've been keenly aware of mental health for a long time and in addition to the routines, the yoga, the meditation etc. that I discussed last week, there are some other key elements to mental health. I'll discuss some of them briefly, departing from my usual verbose style. Note, none of this is a replacement for advice from a healthcare practitioner:

Light Therapy

Light Therapy consists of exposure to daylight or to specific wavelengths of light. Basically, it simulates day light. Some studies show that it's as effective as antidepressants at treating SAD. Light therapy makes up for lost sunlight exposure and resets the body's internal clock. Also, sunlight generally improves mood.

English: Light therapie lamp Philips HF3319/01...
Light therapy lamp Philips HF3319/01 Energy Light. Light intensity compared to daylight (circa 11.00 a.m.). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vitamin D

Here's some information that might be new to you: Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D isn't really a vitamin, it's a hormone. It's made on the skin when UVB from sunshine hits the skin. Only the UVB wavelength of light makes vitamin D. So now it will make sense when I tell you that pork from pastured pigs – pigs that spend a lot of time outside in the sunshine – has the highest amount of Vitamin D of any land animal. If you're a pork eater, eat lots of pastured pork in the winter.

Exercise

Staying active increases the production of feel-good chemicals. Even a walk outside. Try a walk around the block, then see if you can keep going. Or walk to where you need to run errands, because you have to go anyway (unless you have a lot to carry or the errand is filling the gas tank). A walk to pick up a few groceries or to the laundromat is a good kind of multitasking.

Borrow a dog if you don't have one

This one is part exercise (dog walk), part pet therapy. My dog sometimes gets borrowed. Cuddling and playing with a dog is highly therapeutic.

Borrow a baby or child if you don't have one.

Same idea. One of my favourite things about babies: When you smile at them, they smile back. It's hard not to feel something. Also, children are inspiring. They're full of wonder and innocence.

Herbal Supplements

St. John's Wort

According to this book, it's Nature's Blues Buster. The fact that the author is one of my family members is tremendously helpful. St. John's Wort is one of those subjects with conflicting study results – some studies say it doesn't work at all, that it's a placebo, some say that it works on mild-to-moderate depression. It works on mine, so whenever people claim that it, or anything else, is a placebo I say, “That's fine with me!” I'm all for a placebo that will keep me from feeling like shit.

English: St John's wort in Bahrenfeld, Hamburg...
St John's Wort

Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Rhodiola, Schisandra

I'm lumping these together because they're part of a class of herbs called “adaptogens”. Adaptogens help balance, restore and protect the body and modulate your response to stress. They go to work where you need it. Dr. Frank Lipman provide one of the best descriptions I've ever read:

Adaptogens work a bit like a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room temperature is too high it brings it down; when the temperature is too low it brings it up. Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without over stimulating. They can normalize body imbalances. By supporting adrenal function, they counteract the adverse effects of stress.  They enable the body’s cells to access more energy; help cells eliminate toxic byproducts of the metabolic process and help the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently.

I use them when I'm starting to feel symptoms of adrenal fatigue. One of the symptoms that I tend to notice most (as opposed to those I don't notice) is physical anxiety without mental stress. Not all adaptogens are listed here, only a few.

Ashwaganda

Even the word makes me feel better. I really enjoy saying “ashwaganda”. To me, it sounds like the name of a place inhabited by natives, referred to as “ashwagandans”. Ashwaganda is considered one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing. As an adaptogen, it helps the body adapt to stress. Furthermore, ashwaganda is anti-inflammatory, it protects the immune system and the brain and nervous system, and it improves learning, memory, and reaction time.

Say it: Ashwaganda.

Astragalus root

Astragalus, also fun to say, is used in Chinese medicine to boost immunity. It helps reduce stress and aging by protecting cells and DNA. Astragalus is found in some adrenal support formulas.

Rhodiola

Also known as roseroot, Arctic root or golden root. It's long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, in Scandinavia and in Russia. Like the others, it enhances the immune system. A study published in 2007 in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, showed that patients with mild-to-moderate depression who took rhodiola extract reported fewer symptoms of depression than those who took a placebo. It's long been used to treat anxiety. A small human trial of rhodiola at UCLA published in 2008, reported significant improvement in 10 people with generalized anxiety who took the herb for 10 weeks. Rhodiola appears to work faster than conventional antidepressants. (Source: Dr. Weil) Some studies have concluded that rhodiola is neuroprotective against toxins. It's also used to reduce the effects of prolonged and physical exhaustion that leads to fatigue.

Schisandra

Schisandra is a berry used in Traditional Chinese medicine. It helps balance hormones and improves the ability to deal with physical and psychological stress. It also reduces inflammation, improves cognitive function and is neuroprotective.

Schizandra

There are 2 adrenal formulas that I've used and like:

  1. AdrenaSense by Preferred Nutrition
  2. Adrenal-Pro by Can Prev

Finally, Take advantage of the sunny days! Don't let yourself stay inside because it's cold, bundle up and go get your face in the sun. Take a brisk walk, maybe with a borrowed dog. Go sledding or skating, and follow that up with a hot beverage of your choice such as a hot chocolate with milk or golden milk. You might feel better.

golden milk ingredients
golden-milk-mise

My current “thing”: Golden Milk

Just as I recently jumped on the smoothie bowl (with gelatin to make it mousse-like) train, I've also recently jumped on the Golden Milk train. As a wellness nerd, I've been a dabbler in Ayurvedic medicine for years. I can't spell “Ayurvedic” and “Ayurveda” (I always want to swap the first y & u) but I have a good foundation of knowledge in it. I took my first workshop in Ayurveda about a decade ago, and 3 or so years ago I treated myself to a day at a Ayurvedic spa for my birthday. So, Golden Milk fascinates me and I feel like I should drink more of it because it's good for me.

What is Golden Milk?

It's milk with turmeric and other spices. Turmeric makes it golden color.

Why Golden Milk?

Golden Milk has been used in India and China for centuries. It's a staple in Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine for its health benefits.

Curcumin, one of the bio-active ingredients in turmeric, has over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, as shown by research studies. Some studies have concluded that curcumin is effective in treating arthritis.  Turmeric can be used to treat wounds, cuts, rashes, bruises, insect bites, and swelling. One study shows that it helps wounds heal faster.

Golden milk has lots of fantastic ingredients. Here's a basic recipe that I recently posted to Instagram:

I've since changed the recipe a bit, adding a few more ingredients. I've made Golden Milk with almond milk, coconut milk and dairy (cow) milk. I didn't like it with almond milk at all. Coconut was my favourite. I made one cup with my favourite greens powder, but it tasted so bad that I threw it out. I've made it with cardamom, even though I'm not a fan of cardamon.

More information about health benefits follows the recipe:

So, this is my basic recipe for Golden Milk

Golden Milk
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 2 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 2 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Golden Milk
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 2 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 cup 2 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cup
Instructions
  1. Simmer it all together, then blend in a blender.
Share this Recipe
 

Serve in your favorite mug, like I do.

My favourite mug is a Peet's coffee mug that my aunt bought me when I was visiting her in Berkeley a few years ago.

golden milk ingredients

Other Golden Milk ingredient benefits

I was hesitant to add pepper for awhile because I didn't want my golden milk too “spicy”, but now I add a few grinds because I was reminded that piperine, the alkaloid compound responsible for the pungency of black pepper, increases the bio-availability of curcumin. This means that it maximizes the benefits of curcumin. With a recent review of the scientific research showing that turmeric and curcumin might NOT be as beneficial as several studies suggest, I especially want it to be as bio-available as possible.

Coconut oil: This is one of my favourite ingredients ever. Coconut oil is one of my “deserted island” items. It's anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, and anti-inflammatory. If you want to learn more about coconut oil from me, you can subscribe to my newsletter and get my “5 superfoods” e-course. Or, you can buy the full e-book for $9.

Cinnamon: It's heavy in polyphenols (anti-oxidants). It's anti-inflammatory. It helps lower blood sugar levels. Like coconut oil, it's anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. There's been some research done that shows that cinnamon can prevent and treat cancer. It's got vitamins, minerals and amino acids. A half teaspoon can have positive health affects.

Ginger: Ginger is part of the same plant family as turmeric. According to Ayurvedic medicine, it's an immune-booster. It's good for digestion and can help nutrients absorb better. It's anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal.

Honey: Honey has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial and antioxidants properties and high nutrient value. It's another one you can read about in “5 superfoods”. (I've just given you 2 of 5.)

So there you go. Golden Milk. I've been adding turmeric to other things too, such as rice and oatmeal. I'm on a turmeric kick. It might be helping me recover from soreness from daily yoga sessions and when I work on my feet for several hours.

Enjoy.

Further Ayurveda resources:

To avoid overwhelming you, here are just a few that I reference most often:

-Yogahealer.com/Cate Stillman: I enjoy the website, the mailing list and the podcast. You can listen straight from the website. I listen to the podcast while walking the dog but then read the show notes on my computer. Look for it in iTunes, Stitcher or whatever other podcast app your phone uses. (I use Stitcher for Android.)

The Chopra Center

Everyday Ayurveda