Every month, Dr. Sheila, Chopra’s Chief Medical Officer, will be answering questions from our followers. If you have a general question for her around health and wellness, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and your question may be the one she answers next month.
Thank you for your questions this month. Many people are beginning to learn about the wide variety of Ayurvedic self-care practices and are wondering how to bring them into your daily routine. This month, I’ll address creating an Ayurvedic routine and focus on a few practices that can be used for specific health challenges.
Question: How do I start a beginner self-care routine with all of the suggested Ayurvedic practices, but make it doable and easy?
Dr. Sheila: This is a great question, and one that I struggled with when I first learned about all of the beneficial Ayurvedic practices. What worked for me, and what I tell my patients, is to start with one or two practices that do not take a lot of time and build from there. Once you have established your first few practices, and they become habit, you can add new practices one-by-one. Here are a few practices that take little time, yet give you many benefits and are a good place to start:
- Add tongue cleaning to your regular toothbrushing routine. Chances are, you don’t think twice about brushing every morning. Well, tongue cleaning can be done in less than a minute and can be done immediately after brushing in the morning. You can buy a good quality stainless steel tongue cleaner and keep it right next to your toothbrush. This way it will become a routine. This practice not only takes harmful residue off of the tongue but can also stimulate the digestion for the rest of the day.
- Drink a cup of warm water with lemon every morning. This daily practice also takes no time (just keep fresh lemons or good quality lemon concentrate in the kitchen) and can be added to your routine. Chances are you drink some coffee, tea, or have breakfast in the morning, therefore adding in the warm lemon water is an easy habit to form. The lemon in the water stimulates digestion (stimulates salivary flow and provides natural citric acid to help digest your breakfast), it can help stimulate the bowels in the morning for good elimination and provides hydration for the body. In addition, as the citric acid is digested, it creates byproducts that alkalize the urine and can help reduce kidney stones.
- Massage warm oil into your scalp and the bottom of your feet before bed. If you have trouble sleeping, this is an effective practice for calming the body and mind (massage releases neurotransmitters via the skin that calm the mind) for more restful sleep. By using slow, gentle strokes, the nervous system calms and helps us release the stress of the day. You can often find massage oils that have calming aromatherapy scents as well, or you can use a good organic coconut, sesame, or castor oil. This practice takes only a few minutes yet has many benefits.
To perform your foot massage, warm the bottle of oil in a bowl of hot water:
- Wipe down your feet with a towel or washcloth.
- Massage warm oil onto the feet and ankle; massage in circular strokes around the joints and long strokes over the foot bones on the top of the foot.
- Massage the sole of the foot and heel, including the toes; start at the bottom of the foot at the heel and press your thumb up toward the top of each toe, one at a time.
There are several studies on using acupressure or foot reflexology points to improve sleep quality, so give them a try.
- Find a short-guided meditation and listen to it before bed each evening. Sometimes it’s challenging to start a new habit in the morning because we can wake up and get started with our day right away. However, as you are getting ready for bed, after your oil massage, you can listen to something calming and soothing.
These are just a few ways I guide patients toward creating a healthy Ayurvedic routine. Once these practices feel easy and natural, you can slowly add practices over time. Before long, you will find you have many healthy Ayurvedic practices in your routine. Remember that you will feel the benefits from even simple daily practices and the benefits will continue over time as you add new ones.