Investing in a Long and Blissful Life

Originally published in BRANCHES Magazine

Many seekers have accumulated a large theoretical knowledge base about health and consciousness, but the foundation of a healthy life is having a good daily routine that integrates body, mind and spirit. Such a routine strengthens the physiology by bringing it into with biological rhythms, and allowing it to cleanse itself by getting rid of accumulated impurities (called ama in Sanskrit). A good routine supports effective and successful daily activies.

Here's how your day would progress if you followed a good Ayurvedic routine, time-tested for thousands of years:

  • Early to bed and early to rise: Benjamin Franklin had it down. This along makes a huge difference for most people. Have you ever noticed that you get the munchies if you stay up past 10 p.m.? Going to be before 10 p.m. allows us to have the best quality of sleep and gives the body a chance to use the increased metabolism of the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Pitta) time of the night to digest impurities instead of the pizza we might have eaten at midnight. Waking up before 6 a.m., we catch the fresh energy of Nature's morning and are lighter and more flexible and energetic than if we sleep in. Studies show that early rising helps people with depression have more energy.

  • When you first get up drink a large glass of warm water with a squirt of fresh lemon and spoonful of raw honey to help eliminate toxins from the night's metabolism and stimulate a morning bowl movement.

  • Evacuate your bowels and bladder. If your bowels are irregular, try to train them to move by just sitting on the toilet five minutes every morning.

  • Clean your teeth, and then scrape your tongue with a silver or stainless steels tongue-scraper. (You can use a silver spoon until you get a tongue-scraper.) This helps reduce ama and gives a reflexive cleaning of the digestive tract.

  • Enjoy a head and body massage (abhyanga) with cured sesame seed oil. Emphasize the ears and the soles of your feet, which contain reflex point for the whole body. Self-massage increased the coordination of mind and body, stimulates the muscles, loosens impurities, pacifies the nervous system and lubricates and protects the skin. It has also been found to decrease the incidence of some skin cancer.

  • Sniff sesame oil (nasya) to lubricate and protect your nose and sinuses, which are the ventilation system for your brain. The oil helps clear mucous out of the sinuses. Just dip your little finger in the sesame oil you use for your massage and rub the oil inside of each nostril. Then pinch and release your nostrils rapidly while inhaling sharply.

  • Gargle sesame oil for two minutes. It's not as bad as it sounds! Swish a mouthful of it, then spit into the toilet and rinse your mouth out with warm water. It feel greats, draws out mucous and has been shown to reduce gum disease.

  • Bathe or shower with warm water to wash off impurities that have been released through the skin. (If you have time, a hot tub bath increases circulation and is a means of further purification.)

  • Stretch. Sun Salutations and yoga asanas, done slowly and with your attention on the body, stimulate the marma points and infuse consciousness into the physiology. The classic texts describe marma points (from which acupuncture points are derived) as ares through which bliss infuses the body.

  • Practice Pranayama. Simple breathing exercises settle the nervous system and clear the mind.

  • Meditate. Vedic meditation allows the mind to settle effortlessly into its simplest form and pure awareness, eliminating "kinks" in the nervous system.

  • Exercise according to individual preference -- easy walking, biking or swimming -- and keep your mind on the physical activity, not distracted by TV or music. Exercise to only 50 percent capacity.

  • Wear clean and comfortable clothes suitable to the season and your activity level.

  • A light breakfast (optional) is easily digested. Digestive power is not very strong in the morning.

  • Work or study according to your dharma, meaning activity which is enjoyable and life-supporting for you.

  • Lunch should be the biggest meal of the day because your digestion is strongest then. (Daytime Pitta is when the sun is overhead from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.) Diet should be balanced according to your constitutional type. It's important to eat sitting down and pay attention to the food with all of your senses, because this helps the body know how to process it most efficiently. Pleasant conversation is fine, but eating when you are watching TV, reading, upset, angry or trying forge a business deal keeps your body's energy divided and disturbs digestion. It is good to have a moment of quiet contemplation before eating and to sit for 10 minutes or so after lunch, enjoying pleasant conversation.

  • A brief rest after lunch gives you a good start on digestion. If you want, lie down on your left side, which gives the stomach more room to work.

  • Work or study according to your dharma.

  • Practice yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation before the evening meal.

  • Supper should be lighter than lunch so that your body can digest it completely before you go to bed. Then your body can use its night-time digestive power to get rid of impurities while you sleep.

  • Enjoy some pleasant relaxing activity, and then go to bed early -- no later than 10 p.m.

Patients ask me how they can possibly do all of that when they are so busy with their families and work. How can you not take the time? A balanced life is a happy life. Without health and happiness, life is just a dull grind that makes us sick. With too many outward activities - work, family, sports, entertainment, etc. -- the nervous system tends to go into overdrive and create stress-related health problems. This is good for the disease-care industry but not for our souls.

A balanced life includes both outer activities and inward nourishing. The process of self-referral in the inward stroke allows you to be healthy, happy, effective person in your outer life. A daily routine creates equanimity and ease in life. You are worth it!

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