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April 4, 2017

Six Simple Ayurvedic Practices that have Improved my Well-Being.

A few months ago, I could barely get through the day without taking a nap.

I was in a perpetual state of low energy. I knew that I needed to make some lifestyle changes in order to feel my best. However, being a creature of habit, I was anxious about having to make such changes.

Through a friend at work, I met a practitioner of ayurveda—an ancient Indian body of wisdom that views health and well-being as holistic. The practice of ayurveda emphasizes prevention and encourages us to live a balanced life in order to attain optimal health and well-being.

When I first met with my ayurveda practitioner, I expressed to her my anxiety about making significant lifestyle changes. We proceeded by introducing small, simple changes into my daily routine. Together, these small changes have gone a long way in improving my energy and overall well-being.

The simple practices listed below don’t take a lot of time, but they do make a great impact. If you are looking for some uncomplicated methods to feel less stressed and more energized, try one (or some, or all) of these.

1. Forced Exhalation Breathing. Forced exhalation breathing, known in Sanskrit as kapalabhati pranayama, is an energizing breath practice that we can do when we wake up. This type of breathing involves alternating between short, explosive exhales and longer, passive inhales. Exhale by contracting the lower belly, which pushes air out of the lungs. The passive inhale will follow naturally as a response to the release of this contraction, sucking air back into the lungs. Start by doing about 25-30 cycles, or as many as you are able.

2. Tongue Scraping. After brushing your teeth, use a tongue scraper to clean your tongue. Start by placing the tongue scraper toward the back of your tongue and move it forward toward the front of your tongue. Repeat one to two more times, then rinse your mouth and the tongue scraper. This will remove unwanted toxins from your tongue, which will not only improve your breath, but also your digestion.

3. Drink Hot Water. I used to relish ice-cold water until I learned that cold water extinguishes our digestive fire. I have since replaced my multiple glasses of cold water a day with hot water, which works wonders for our digestion. Even if you don’t want to completely switch over to hot water, having a glass of hot water first thing in the morning will help improve your digestion throughout the day.

4. Tratak. The word tratak means “to gaze” in Sanskrit. This practice is best done in the dark. Light a candle and place it on a table, so that the flame is eye level when you are sitting. Sit in a comfortable, seated position with your back straight and your head aligned with your spine. The candle should be about an arm’s length away from you. Stare at the flame for about a minute. Try to do this without blinking. When your eyes get tired or begin to water, gently close your eyes and stare at the after-image of the flame, which you should “see” in your third eye. When the flame’s after-image fades, open your eyes and repeat two more times. This practice cleanses the eyes. It relieves anxiety, depression, and insomnia—and it improves memory, concentration, and willpower.

5. Sesame Oil Foot Massage. About 30 minutes before bedtime, massage your feet with sesame oil. Start by rubbing the soles of your feet in a circular motion, starting from your heel and moving upwards. Do the same thing to the top of your foot. Make sure to massage your entire foot, including the sides, your ankles, your toes, and the spaces between the toes. Gently pull on each of your toes. This practice helps promote healthy sleep and relieves stress. If you like, after you’ve massaged both feet with sesame oil, you can soak your feet in a bucket filled halfway with warm salt water and a few drops of lavender oil for five minutes. This helps remove any toxins and stress from the day.

6. Alternate Nostril Breathing. Alternate nostril breathing, known in Sanskrit as nadi shodhana, is a calming breath practice that is great to do before bed. Start by taking a full breath in. Gently pinch the top right side of your nose and exhale through your left nostril. Then, inhale through your left nostril. Pinch the top left side of your nose and exhale through your right nostril. Then inhale through your right nostril. Repeat this process for about 30 cycles.

The thought of making significant lifestyle changes can be intimidating. Even the smallest and simplest of steps can make a huge difference in improving our overall health and well-being.

No matter how little time you think you have, there are always a couple of minutes to spare that will leave you feeling fantastic as you go about your day.

I am still a huge fan of naps, but it is comforting to know that I no longer have to rely on them in order to get through the day.

~

Relephant:

Quick Self-Care for Busy People—Ayurveda Style.

 

Author: Pavita Singh

Image: Flickr/eren {sea+prairie}

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Pavita Singh

Pavita Singh—like Audrey Hepburn—believes in pink, in laughing, in kissing (a lot), and in miracles. She is a recent graduate of Yale University, where she received her Master of Public Health. Her passions include mental health, youth development, education, empowerment of girls and women, reproductive health, and creative arts. Presently, she works at a startup called Konversai and a nonprofit called Girls Health Ed. She also has her own editing business called pavEDITa. Pavita has traveled in 29 countries and counting, and she is excited to continue her explorational journey. She enjoys yoga, puzzles, painting, reading and writing, cooking and baking, spending time with her family and friends, and telling funny stories. Connect with Pavita on Facebook!