I've been back in the gym for a few weeks, and I've been trying to be kind to myself. I am not pushing myself to the limit to get back to the level of fitness I had before all this started. Interestingly, I've been learning that women often over-exercise, and to work with our hormones and our cycles more effectively will reap better results with less time and less effort.
Morning exercise is my little bit of daily self-care. I choose the morning as this is the best time for me to be consistent, plus it wakes me up, loosens and warms the body, especially if I have a full day of treatments ahead of me.
Self-care has possibly been the biggest buzzword in health and wellbeing recently. Following the stress of lockdowns, we have learned how to calm our minds, soothe our bodies and tame our frazzled spirits.
Self-care is an essential part of becoming your best self. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda teaches us that nourishing our unique pattern of energies is the key to a balanced life.
You may not know that ancient ayurvedic self-care rituals extend much further than a Sunday night face mask. They document daily routines for how to prepare our bodies and minds at the start of each day.
These rituals bring radical change in body, mind, and spirit. Routine helps to establish balance. It also regularises your biological clock, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.
It is actually quite relaxing reading about the 'morning rituals'. Because there is no one size fits all, they consider seasons, age, illness and body type. But generally, it begins by advising the best time to wake up and contemplate the condition of our body. A bit like a modern-day body scan, you are encouraged to ask yourself questions like how did I sleep? Do I have any pain or discomfort anywhere? Do I feel anxious or peaceful? Am I hungry or thirsty?
After contemplating, we should use the toilet and brush our teeth. The most beautiful detail on how to brush our teeth is included, with alterations to aid mouth ulcers or a cough. Next, we bathe the eyes, apply nasal drops and gargle or chew herbs (this is where the modern practice of oil pulling comes from).
Then comes the real treat: anointing our bodies with warm oil and performing a whole-body massage (known as Abhyanga massage) from head-to-toe. The idea of performing this massage daily is to ward off any old age and exertion and bless our bodies with "good vision, nourishment, long life, good sleep, and strong, healthy skin".
Next comes the exercise. Although after giving myself a lovely massage, I'm not sure I'd feel like exercise! However, I was certainly happy to learn that exercising to excess should be avoided. Indeed ayurvedic guidelines consider the seasons and your body type.
The general rule of thumb is to go easy with exercise. We are warned that engaging in too much strenuous activity will cause us to perish "just as the lion, after vanquishing an elephant". No need to be a hero; just take it at a leisurely pace. Yoga it is then!
Finally, the body is massaged with soft, fragrant powders and warm water is again poured over before a wholesome breakfast.
These lovely acts alone will not cure any disease or disorder, but that is missing the point. These rituals are described in the texts in such detail because of the gentle grounding they provide at the start of each day. When life is upside down and chaotic, having a ritual system to bring a sense of balance, calm and order to your morning is priceless.
They teach us self-discipline, of taking our well being seriously, making time for it, and allowing ourselves the time without feeling guilty. This is both comforting and validating. It is an act of love for yourself - showing respect for your body and all it does for you.
According to rituals.com, here are some ayurvedic self-care practices you can add to your daily routine.
1. Early to rise
Ayurvedic philosophy says that waking up an hour and a half before sunrise helps you synchronise with the rhythm of the sun, which is a time of pure consciousness.
2. Morning Meditation
Because of this state of pure consciousness, Ayurveda teaches us that the morning is the best time to meditate. Meditation is beneficial no matter when you do it, but many say morning practice is particularly fruitful. After a night of rest, your mind is clear and ready for a new day to come.
3. Start your day sweetly
According to Ayurveda, drinking hot water, ginger and honey first thing in the morning cleanses you from the inside by aiding digestion. Rituals' Rose Wisdom tea with a dash of honey is a delicious cup of self-care.
4. Connect to nature
Feeling the natural ground beneath you—be it dirt, sand or sea—connects us to our essentials selves in a way that staring at computer screens and smartphones never can.
5. Discover Abhyanga
It boasts a variety of benefits, including increasing circulation and lubricating joints. Make sure you use the right kind of oil to ensure you get the most out of your massage.
6. Treat yourself to extra ZZZ's
We spend roughly 1/3 of our lives asleep, and Ayurveda recognises this as a perfect opportunity to restore your balance. Sleep is the time when your body can repair and heal itself. Your mind also becomes balanced through sleep.
7. Bathing for balance
A morning bath is part of the Ayurvedic dinacharya or daily routine. Ayurveda experts claim that bathing heals you by relaxing the muscles, unclogging the pores and restoring moisture to tissue. The Ritual of Ayurveda collection was designed with this wisdom in mind.
The type of exercise you should do depends on your dosha type, but according to Ayurveda, all movement brings balance to the body and mind. I particularly like yoga as a way to keep our body and mind balanced.
When you care for yourself, a balanced life awaits you. These simple Ayurvedic self-care practices can make all the difference in your quest for inner harmony. So however you choose to start your day, do it mindfully and make it a non-negotiable daily habit to make that time for yourself. We can learn a lot from incorporating this ancient appreciation for self-care into our modern lives, and let's face it - you're worth it!
"A daily ritual is a way of saying I'm voting for myself; I'm taking care of myself" - Martel Hemingway.