As the fast pace of modern life continues to accelerate, many people in the Western world have turned to yoga for their much-needed self-care. But the typical yoga practice in the West is often distilled down to only asana, the posture-focused yoga that you see in most classes. While asana practice is an essential part of the yogic tradition, yoga is a comprehensive spiritual path that contains a slew of practices to help cultivate a balanced life.
Lucky for us, some of these exercises are simple, much quicker than asana practice, and can easily be incorporated into your morning routine. Below are three ayurvedic cleansing exercises, called kriyas, to help start your morning in a mindful, healthy way.
Sinus Cleanse –
Cup purified mineral water into your hand(s) and sniff the water into your nose up to the brow. Be mindful not to sniff the water past the brow. Afterwards, blow your nose. Repeat this a few times. Make sure it does not come from the tap, even if you live in a Western country.
This removes the dust and pollution that blocks the breathing process and opens the air passageways to allow for stronger, fuller breathing. You can do this twice a day, especially if you are living in a polluted city, but once in the morning is enough. This cleanse is similar to using a neti pot except this cleanse can be done daily and does not require the water to flow through your full sinus cavity.
Tongue Scraping –
Moving from the back of your tongue to the front, use a tongue scraper to remove any bacteria from the surface of your tongue. Tongue scrapers can be found in pharmacies or are sometimes included on modern toothbrushes. A spoon will also suffice. Thoroughly rinse the scraper before and after each use.
If you look at your tongue in the mirror after waking up, you will see it has a whitish, yellowish tinge. In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing system, this coating on your tongue is called amma, and it is made up of toxins that prevent our digestion system from working at its optimal state. An excess of amma can cause bloating, irregular hunger, weight-gain, and reduced energy. The practice of tongue scraping has recently come more into vogue in the west, but it has been practiced for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic tradition. By removing the toxins from the tongue every day, we reduce the toxicity from the body and inhibit its ability to build up over time. This is one of many ways of reducing amma from the system, especially in the digestive tract.
Eye Wash –
Cup purified mineral water into your hand(s), bring your eyes down to your hands and blink into the pool of water. Repeat a few times.
Washing the eyes out with clean mineral water helps remove the accumulation of toxins and supports the moisture that is essential to the proper functioning of the eyes. Eye drops are commonly used as an antidote for dry eyes, but in excess they can be harmful. This practice supports the cleansing of the eyes, which will improve our vision and works on the ajna chakra, allowing us to see things more clearly. The sensation will awaken you and leave you feeling refreshed for the day.
Bonus Evening Kriya
How we end the day is another essential aspect of feeling balanced. What we do before sleep affects how well we sleep and, depending on our sleep quality, how we feel when we wake up the next day. In addition to the common, powerful suggestions to ease into a restful night’s sleep, such as avoid stimulation like the Internet and TV, below is one simple exercise taken from the yogic tradition to end your day in a calm and stress-free way.
Sesame Oil Massage –
Take sesame oil onto your hands and rub your temples, behind your ears, and the jaw. Do the same on the neck, shoulders, under the armpits, behind the knee (especially for those with joint pain), elbows, and ankles. The more of the body you can cover, the better. You will feel a warming sensation as you rub the oil into your skin. Focus on the sensation and try not to allow distracting thoughts that might hinder the calm of mind that leads to a proper night’s sleep. After five minutes, wash the oil away with a hot shower.
A sesame oil massage will contribute to a soothing deep sleep and can help counter the restlessness that affects many in our society. Those who suffer from insomnia, overactive dreams, and other similar ailments can gain particular benefit from this practice.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kobi Siman Tov, a yoga and meditation practitioner and teacher, a nutritional and holistic health counselor and life coach at Vagabond Temple in Cambodia.