We asked an ayurveda expert to recommend techniques that don’t require fancy equipment, ingredients, or a trip to the store.
On the supply side, things have been, shall we say… uneven. One week there’s no flour to be found, the next week there’s a run on bidets—wait, they’re back in stock. With supplies coming and going—and nerves frayed—it’s the perfect time to practice very simple self-care. We asked Monica Bloom, an ayurvedic practitioner/educator, author, and ambassador to ayurvedic brand Banyan Botanicals, for tips.
Here, she suggests 5 tips for getting back to basics in your ayurvedic practice.
1. Get up early.
Serious disciples of ayurveda wake up during vata time (2 to 6 a.m.) before heavier kapha time sets in (6 to 10 a.m.). “I get up before the sun and take my dog for a 20- to 25-minute run,” says Bloom. If you would prefer not to run, just talk a nice walk, journal, or meditate.
2. Sip hot water.
Before you head straight for the coffee pot or tea kettle, start with a cup of hot water. “No lemon, just plain hot water,” advises Bloom. “This helps build the agni, the digestive fire, to warm it back up after the night and get things moving, and hopefully you will poop after that. Then you can enjoy your coffee or tea.” If you have tummy troubles or a hard time with digestion overall, Bloom suggests having warm beverages with meals, such as warm tea or warm water, instead of cold, throughout the day.
3. Practice abhyanga.
Before you shower, give yourself an abhyanga massage, which means using warmed oil to support the body’s health—from the drainage of lymph to bowel function, muscle tone, and supple skin. In traditional ayurveda, vata doshas use sesame oil; pittas use coconut or almond; and kaphas should use sunflower. However, as Bloom laughs, “Let us not stress about the oil! If you can choose, almond oil is good for most people. If all you have is olive oil from the kitchen, that is fine. Just get a little oil and do some massage.”
Place the oil in a bowl of warm water for about five minutes and sit yourself on a towel. Start at the ankle or wrist with long strokes moving upward toward the heart; use circular strokes around the joints such as the elbows and knees. Banyan has a video here that explains the massage technique in detail. Then proceed with a shower.
4. Massage in the shower.
Many of us associate ayurveda with dry brushing, but for some vata types, such as pitta, this can be too agitating (pittas can be very sensitive and dry brushing can cause heat). Instead, go for a vigorous massage in the shower with a washcloth, Bloom suggests. “A washcloth is a happy medium for all doshas. Focus on shoulders, arms and legs—not on the body’s core.”
5. Make afternoons count.
Many of us meditate in the morning. Another good time, Bloom says, is in the afternoon, between 2 and 4 p.m. “That’s when you feel a little squirrelly and you lose your focus. It’s vata time,” she says. “It’s also a good time to do something with your hands, like paint, doodle, or garden, which helps your mind calm down, or enjoy a 20-minute yoga session or walk.” As the afternoon ends, Bloom says the best ayurvedic supper to prepare is a simple sattvic (seasonally appropriate) food. One of her go-tos is to prep basmati rice and veggies with ghee or olive oil, and add almonds or cashews, salt, and pepper.
Keeping It Simple
“What I love about ayurveda is it empowers people to take care of themselves,” says Bloom. “They have their intuition. They can look inward and think, what do I need? A vigorous kick in the pants and a dry brush? Or do I need a walk instead of sprinting up the hill? Being able to ask yourself these questions and have truthful answers is very powerful. We change every day.”
Monica Blooms’ book is In Your Elements: A Blooming A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life. Or check out her classes, resources, and podcast on her website, HeyMonicaB.
Want more? Try this ayurvedic recipe for summer weather.