Nearly every family struggles to meet the demands of work, school, domestic responsibilities, and extracurricular activities. Combined with the unpredictability of another pandemic-influenced school year, many families are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. While external factors and uncertainties cannot be changed, there are things that can be done to mitigate their influence.
Adding a few simple Ayurvedic-inspired practices to the morning and evening hours can bolster your family’s calmness, resilience, and joy. Try bookending the day with the following routines and notice how everything in between becomes more manageable.
The Morning Routines
1. Move for Ten Minutes
The slow, static energies of earth and water are dominant in the early morning hours. Energizing these elements through movement helps to shake off sleepiness, increase focus, and contribute to healthier food choices.
Morning exercise does not have to be a full-fledged workout. To get into the flow before you go, simply engage in ten minutes of stretching, rebounding, tai-chi, or dog walking. You might even decide to turn on uplifting music and get the whole family dancing. Whichever style of movement you choose, have fun with it and enjoy the process of vitalizing body and mind before taking on the day’s tasks.
2. Enjoy Morning Sunlight
Throughout all of human history, the body was awakened by the sun’s light. Human physiology is still programmed to rise in response to light. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a part of the brain that regulates nearly all circadian rhythm functions, is activated via special light-detecting cells at the back of the eye.
To take advantage of the benefits of morning light, Ayurveda suggests waking by 6 a.m. If you don’t live in a particularly sunny location or wake before the sun, try using a sunrise alarm clock that mimics the sun’s ascent. Encourage family members who need to sleep past 6 a.m. to spend a few minutes outdoors within the first hour of waking. This will activate the SCN and align their body to nature’s rhythms.
3. Meditate and Pray
Meditation is a central component of any Ayurvedic routine. While quiet contemplative spaces may seem decades away for families with young children, the day can still begin with a collective prayer for peace. If your children are old enough, the prayer can be followed with a few minutes of silence and concluded with affirmations for peace. Practicing prayer and meditation together acts as a powerful family anchor. Not only does it set a peaceful intention for the day ahead, it also reminds each family member that there are universal forces available to support each of us throughout the day.
The Evening Routines
1. Reduce Sensory Stimulation (Especially Lights)
If your evenings are full of bright lights, loud noises, and sensory stimulation you will likely miss the subtle “wind down’ indicators provided by the natural world: slowly fading sunlight, the chirp of crickets, and evening breezes. By purposefully lowering sensory input at the end of the day, you can attune yourself and your family to nature’s health-promoting cues.
Dimming indoor lighting, in particular, works wonders for calming the overstimulated nervous systems of parents and children. Low light signals the body to produce melatonin, which not only induces sound sleep but also enhances immune function.
Of particular importance is completely shutting down all blue light-emitting devices the hour before bed. Research has shown that cell phones, computers, LED televisions, and tablets emit energizing blue light waves which can disrupt one’s natural circadian rhythm. By turning off all electronics an hour before bedtime, everyone will sleep more soundly and likely wake with more positive dispositions.
2. Unwind Together with Restorative Yoga
Ten or more minutes of restorative yoga in the evening helps the family to release accumulated energies from the day. Restorative yoga doesn’t have to include candles, Zen music, and zoning out (though that is nice if you can work it in). Instead, it can be made into a family affair!
Even little ones enjoy the fun of propping themselves up on blocks and bolsters, creating the most relaxing yoga poses, playing the quiet game, and making silly faces while doing breathing exercises. Integrating calming yoga poses into the evening routine will ensure that everyone unwinds and is prepared for revitalizing rest.
3. Express Gratitude
Every human being has both joyful as well as demanding dimensions to their life. Vedanta describes these opposing forces as duality. It is said that everything in creation has a dual nature: life and death, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, health, and disease.
The beauty of duality is that we get to choose which side of the dual nature to focus upon. By practicing gratitude, we make a purposeful decision to place our attention on the positive aspects of life. This does not negate challenges; it simply shines light onto that which is good.
To make gratitude part of your family ritual, try sharing three things each at the end of each day for which you are grateful. Your gratitude list doesn’t have to be profound. A great cup of coffee, ten minutes of extra recess, or a lovable family pet are the small blessings that make life memorable.
As parents, it is surprisingly easy to underestimate the impact of small, seemingly insignificant daily routines repeated throughout the years. Yet, as routines morph into rituals, they form the foundation for personal peace, healthy relationships, and emotional resilience. Ayurvedic practices for busy families make self-care a realistic family priority and promote the formation of healthy habits that will support parents and children throughout the years.