The practical reality of a great steady early-morning routine aligned with Ayurvedic principles requires that you first assess where you are. Do you already do five or six of the 15 rituals? Or are you woefully disorganized in the morning?
The way to start is with a sense of the timings of your morning ablutions, as going to the bathroom is usually an act of nature around which all your other activities are altered.
After assessing your current way of starting the morning, adopt one ritual you understand that appeals to you from a good book on dinacharya. Usually our choices have little to do with science. Scolding by parents or authorities only sometimes convinces us. Our choices have mostly to do with our beliefs, as evidenced by the current pandemic. If you tend toward health priorities, you may adopt those things that you feel will improve your tenacity and power. If you tend toward cultural samskaras (routines), you may be fascinated with the way your ancestors started their day and want to do something similar. If you tend toward efficiency and the need to save time, you may prioritize those rituals that take care of your body so that your workday runs smoothly.
As you adopt this ritual, notice every factor in your decisions, where you have tools set up, such as bed items and bathroom items, clothes for exercising, bathing or any other early morning ritual. Observe your reactions and the reactions of your body. What feels better, and what feels worse but later better? Which emotions kick in? Where does the monster of laziness bite you?
Then add another ritual, doing it as correctly as you can understand. Make adjustments. Read. Discuss with a wise friend. Alter your bathroom setup, your closet or night table.
Once you have adopted most of the early morning rituals, you will find yourself changing. Most are not yet sure how this happens biochemically, or when the neurobiology behind it will be revealed. But hundreds of patients become happier and notice creaks in the body-mind disappear. They become healthier. They avert disease, and they cure small health problems that were recurrent. Some cure their big health issues. There is something about the early-morning routine that cleans the senses, aligns the body with the forces of nature and realigns it with health.
When the rituals have been adopted, they take about eleven minutes to do at a normal pace. If one rises around an hour-and-a-half before dawn (1) and lies still, one will hear one’s belly (2) conveying how it is, what it wants and some other unexpected information from the gut instinct that is inside each of us. Then bend fully down, touch maa-prithivi, the ground (3) with the hands and say a prayer before stepping onto the earth. Take a small sip of water (4) from a cup made with the right palm in the practice of acamana before cleaning the mouth. Why? The information from the bacteria in your mouth is conveyed to your belly, and micro calculations are done to change the saliva and antimicrobials that your inner pharmacy oozes into your mouth. These include antibodies known as IgA and enzymes to digest food from your four types of salivary glands. Then head towards the toilet (5), perhaps putting water on to boil if there is time. If you are not feeling the urge to go, do some exercise to contract your abdominal muscles. Make your bed. Sweep your floor. Clean the bedroom area.
After clearing the bladder and bowels, wash the hands (6) well. Then wash the face, splash cold water on the eyes, inhale a bit of water into each nostril and expel it completely, and swish some water in the mouth (7). Clean the teeth (8) next, using an appropriate brush or stick and appropriate herbs, powders or dentifrice. Begin with the bottom teeth first; brush behind the teeth on top, and in the front, as well as along the gum line in front and the back. Rinse the mouth, then scrape the tongue (9) using 3-4 long movements from the back of the tongue towards the front and then rinse the mouth again. In the fall and winter, when the air is dry, swish the mouth with sesame oil (10), which lubricates the maxillary and trigeminal nerves and its branches, and keeps your face symmetric and functioning properly.
As you walk out of the washing area, fill your 5 senses with beauty and heart connection (11). Look at an auspicious object and some photos of loved ones that make your heart warm. Light a candle or look at the sun safely if it has come up and still touches the horizon. Light some incense or smell something pleasant. Say an inspiring prayer. Hum a mantra or tune. Touch a flower or soft cloth. Put a fresh leaf of tulsi on your tongue without chomping on it, letting its minerals absorb into your saliva and under your tongue for “sublingual” absorption. Look in the mirror (12) and head for the kitchen to sip your first beverage of warm or hot water as you begin your day.
The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.