As the pandemic surges and ebbs, the crisis continues to impact our mental health. It’s the intermittency, the inconsistency and the instability of the pandemic that may do the most harm. According to survey data, as the pandemic blew up last March, the percentage of people reporting they felt anxious or depressed spiked and has remained elevated since. In other words, there’s never been a better time for self-care. Ayurveda draws on a rich tradition of time-tested self-care practices designed to bring you into harmony with your spirit.
Ayurvedic Practice Ideas
1. Claim the early morning as yours alone
According to the Ayurvedic clock, it’s best to wake up before sunrise and sleep before 10 p.m. This aligns you with the powerful and an active dosha of Vata, an energy which governs body movement, flexibility, mental activities and alertness. Although it may seem counterintuitive, rising between 4:00-6:00 a.m., when lightness and clarity dominate, can dispel sluggishness. In Hinduism, this time of day is regarded as being the most conducive for contacting your deepest inner nature and creativity.
2. Start from the ground up
Begin with your base, as in your feet, to bring calm into your entire nervous system. Foot massage can relieve eye strain, relax the face and release tension. The classical Ayurvedic text, the Ashtanga Hridaya, which identifies four major nerves in the feet that connect to the eyes. Holding and massaging your feet with your own hands can help reintegrate the subtle energy pathways flowing between the upper and lower body. Massage wakes up your feet, allowing you to connect more completely with the earth whether standing or sitting with feet on the ground. Your whole being becomes more stable and relaxed foundation.
Bonus points if you use a massage oil or cream for the massage, as well-moisturized feet are more protected from cracking and peeling, reducing chances for fungal and bacterial infections.
3. Pack on the prana
When applied topically, flaxseed is a skin savior. The seeds, packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, are excellent for skin hydration and flax hulls stimulate circulation and slough away old skin cells. The natural oils in flaxseed help balance your skin’s natural oil production while the antioxidants protect the skin from free radicals and sun damage. Additionally, the flaxseed—like the way of all seeds—packs prana, or life force energy. Releasing prana to your skin energizes and tones.
Simple to make, just grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder, or buy a preground flaxseed meal. Add water and scrub with a light hand. Suitable for every skin type, a flaxseed-based facial scrub is the perfect addition to your skin-care routine to get your glow on.
4. Come up smelling like a rose
A quick way to reset is to keep a facial spray in your purse or in your fridge. The aromatic effect of rose water has a direct impact on the sensory nervous system and pituitary gland secretions, which control stress. In Ayurveda, rose is especially useful during the summer months because of its cooling properties. Cools the heat in the skin and blood. Soothes redness in skin, skin irritations and burns. Spritz on any time you feel like you need to tune up.
5. Slow it down with asana
Let a few simple, grounding yoga postures be your secret weapon to combat stress. Forward bends, twists and child’s pose are all accessible poses that help you get in touch with your breath, which has an immediately calming effect.
6. Adhere to ayurvedic eating principles
The granular details of an Ayurveda eating program, designed for specific constitutions, can be overwhelming. This simplified list of the most important things to remember, courtesy of Soma Mountain Rejuvenation, a Boulder-based Ayurvedic clinic, makes it way less daunting.
- Eat 2 or 3 meals a day with no snacking.
- Make lunch your biggest meal.
- Eat until satisfied but not to fullness. In general, eat food that fills half your stomach’s capacity, and save a quarter for liquid and a quarter for space. If overeating is an issue, use smaller bowls and plates that suit your appropriate portion size.
- Eat local foods in season.
- Eat whole foods and cook your own food as much as possible.
- Sit down to eat, give thanks, and enjoy your food slowly and with attention.
- Notice how your body and mind receive and digest your meal.
- Take a short walk after you eat.
- Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime.
- Shop at your farmer’s market.
7. Scrape away the old
Tongue scraping, a simple Ayurvedic practice, removes any bacteria and toxins that can accumulate on the tongue overnight. Removing this white coating, according to Ayurveda, makes you able to taste food better. A simple U-shaped tongue scraper removes bacteria from the tongue and can even improve bad breath. Not only does tongue scraping invigorate and cleanse, it supports the body’s overall detoxification.