(Originally published in “Popular Lately” on MindBodyGreen.com)
Beginning the day in an inspiring and invigorating way profoundly impacts your overall health. Ayurveda, the ancient art and science of life from India, recognizes the power and potential that early morning practices provide us to truly take our health and lives into our own hands.
Because Ayurveda has changed my life in countless ways, and made me into a passionate student, teacher, and practitioner of this great knowledge system, I am delighted to share my three favorite Ayurvedic morning rituals to truly rock your mornings.
1. Gaze at your hands.
The first thing I do when I wake up is cup my hands, as if I’m holding water in them, in front of my heart. I then affirm that the powers of abundance, wisdom, and personal power reside in the palms of my very own two hands.
This is an ancient self-affirmation ritual I learned from my Ayurveda teacher, Acharya Shunya (who grew up in a family of Vedic sages who have been practicing this sacred ritual for thousands of years), to connect with that great, indwelling soul power that resides in each and every one of us.
We use our hands to work, play, cook, eat, clean, type, hold, touch, and otherwise act and interact with the world in an infinite number of ways. When we mindfully gaze at our hands each morning, we’re empowered to bless our own hands to act in ways that can most optimally benefit ourselves and others.
By also affirming that there is an invisible, spiritual power that guides all beings and things, this practice has been instrumental in helping me overcome many of my own control issues, which led to eating disorders in the past. I now experience, instead, the sweetness of surrendering my ego to my own higher Self.
The first action we perform each morning has a profound way of defining the rest of our day. And the actions we take on a consistent basis become habits, which, in turn, form our character, and go on to ultimately inform our destiny. As the ancient Vedic text, the Upanishads, teach:
“Sow an action; reap a habit
Sow a habit; reap a character
Sow a character; reap a destiny.”
Your destiny lies in your own hands.
2. Drink warm water.
Our digestive ability is called agni in Ayurveda, and it’s considered the number one indicator of overall health, according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts. When our digestion is poor, very slow, or dull, our bodies will similarly feel sluggish, stressed, and often as if something is simply “stuck.” Because the mind is deeply interconnected with the body, we will also experience a great deal of mental fogginess and inertia when we are unable to digest and eliminate our food properly.
We have to be able to physically, as well as mentally and emotionally, let go of that which no longer serves us, in order to pave the way for abiding health in our minds and bodies.
The act of drinking warm water soon after waking up in the morning is an extremely helpful stimulant to allow us to eliminate early in the morning (the time Ayurveda recommends for ideal elimination). Doing so builds our digestive capacity, and improved digestive ability means a healthier body and mind. Chapter five of the Purvakhanda section of an ancient Ayurvedic text called Bhavaprakash informs us that this one morning ritual additionally benefits hemorrhoids, edema, chronic fever, indigestion, skin disease, earaches, headaches, sore throat, eye diseases and trauma-related diseases.
Drinking warm water first thing in the morning — and then throughout the day when I’m thirsty — has greatly contributed to positively transforming many years of digestive disturbances in my life. Start doing this on a daily basis, and you will also start to see a difference in your digestive ability over time.
3. Pour water to the sun.
The Ayurvedic and yogic traditions have been worshipping the Sun as the source of health, personal power, abundance, spiritual knowledge, wisdom and strength since time immemorial. The sun is present on dark and cloudy days, though we may not always be able to see it, just as our higher self is always there within to guide us, even though we may not always be able to recognize and hear its quiet whisperings.
I fill a small copper vessel (called a kalash) with water and love pouring it to the sun each morning to strengthen the qualities of the sun within myself. I find that this practice also helps me connect to my highest Self, filling me with the brightness of my own essence.
Try these rituals tomorrow morning, and you, too, can start to rock your mornings with Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom for healthy and happy living.
I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.