Choose Harmony Rituals to Begin Your Day and Counter Dry Stagnant Cold

Everyday Ayurveda column by Bhaswati Bhattacharya

To stay healthy over these next months of deep winter, rituals that work with the qualities of the environment will help you balance yourself. There are three main qualities in the late winter months: the wind and lack of sun which makes you cold, the lack of humidity and water in the air which makes you dry, and the tendency to get stagnant which can bring on depression or rancid feelings.

In addition, modern rituals fueled by clever marketing have trapped many people into foods and activities that seem “normal” but are not good for everybody. Morning coffee can dry the body further. Hot saunas or baths are indulgences, but  before applying oil to protect the skin, they can deplete your natural oils. Afterbath body oils can never replenish the same effect as the body’s own drops, and artificial body oils made with petroleum derivatives are not as non-toxic as the makers claim. Overheat in the home is also a trap and a recipe for all kinds of ailments.

To counter the cold, begin the day with a mug of boiled water. Add a half teaspoon of ghee to lubricate the gut. The dryness will diminish. Bowel movements will be softer. Use olive oil or mustard oil for a rubdown of at least your forearms and legs before your shower. Notice how supple and energized the body feels when oils hold in your moisture. Go for a walk or a good exercise regimen to get the body’s main 14 joints moving, 3 on each arm and leg, and 2 on the spine – at the neck and at the hips. Movement is a great ingredient for replenishing heat, oil, and mental strength.

Begin morning rituals to fill the senses (indriyas) with sweetness before the world takes over. A conscious act of allegiance to your mind at the beginning of the day will set the tone for what the universe will bring later and how you will receive it.

Sugandha (su = prefix in Sanskrit meaning harmonizing, excellent, virtuous and beautiful; gandha = smell) is a sweet, fragrant smell, in allegiance to the element of earth. In the morning, smell a flower, burn incense or take in sweet fresh air from the trees or mountains. In India, most homes either keep sticks of agarbatti / incense, perfume or flowers.

Surasa or sumukha (rasa = taste, mukh = mouth, opening) gives us something sweet to taste. Have a small piece of fruit, a piece of rock sugar or a sweet or fragrant leaf. Tulsi leaves are commonly put on the tongue first thing in the morning for sumukha, in allegiance to the element of water.

Sudriśti (driś = sight) is something pleasant to the eyes. It can be mountains outside your window, or a beautiful forest, or a baby sleeping next to you. It can be the people you love. Anything beautiful that pleases the eyes and inspires the mind is a tribute to the element of fire.

Susparsha (sparsha = touch) is the gentle touch of something that pleases the mind. It can be a soft cloth, the petal of a flower, or the skin of a loved one against your skin.

Sukatha (katha = utterance) gives the voice first use by passing wind through the vocal cords for speaking virtuous words, as an allegiance to the element of air. One can recite a poem, a verse or a sacred prayer. Mantras are commonly recited if they are sweet.

Sushabda (shabd = sound in Sanskrit) passes waves through the ethers to our ears, in allegiance to the element of space. People invoke early morning instrumental music, the shankh, a melodious voice or a gentle hum that pleases the ear.

If an attractive, beautiful-minded person greets you with fragrant flowers, singing in a melodious voice, and then speaks some beautiful words to you and offers you a bite of something clean, sweet and fresh, your day is set.

But for the hurried urban, westernized person on the go, who still wants to complete the rituals of the early morning dinacharya, for one-stop efficiency, keep rock sugar on the altar, next to incense, a beautiful picture of a deity, clean water and a book of mantras.

Many cultural rituals of early morning fulfill this routine of invoking the five senses without people being consciously aware of their origin. Ayurveda tells us we may look at our parents, elders or clean priests; we may find a cow or look at water. We may gaze at the sacred fire or look at gold, ghee or the sun as early morning starters. These are also considered auspicious, primarily because they fill the mind with peace and happiness.

The modern world has adapted these rituals with its own product version. In the urban modern world, we see heavy marketing to encourage people to begin the day with deodorant to feel smooth and smell fresh, then douse themselves with alcohol-based perfumes and fragrant hair sprays and gels. There is a strong preference for a morning cup of coffee. People gaze at beautiful paintings of nature on their walls, listen to music on their electronic digitized players and rush off into the world. But nature has better effects on the subtle energy levels than technology.

Ayurveda whispers for you to stop and become more aware of your senses, to consciously begin the day by choosing nature and sacred relationships to fill your indriyas, as you start your day.

  Bhaswati Bhattacharya, MPH, MD, PhD

Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY

Fulbright Specialist in Public Health/

Global Health-Integrative Medicine 2018-2022

Good Medicine Works.   …because GOOD medicine … works!
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