Here is one small practice that can make a world of difference to your day... without the use of heavily caffeinated beverages!
By guest blogger Melissa Spamer*
Ayurveda encourages daily practices that support a person's balanced state of health and wholeness, based on their unique constitution. Here is one small practice that can make a world of difference to your day, from balancing digestion and elimination, to cleansing the blood, liver, and colon, to clarifying and stimulating the mind–without the use of heavily caffeinated beverages!
We all know the experience of waking up feeling a bit groggy, maybe still tired, slow to move, with a stale taste in the mouth, and a few dull aches in the body. Ayurveda has long recognized the difficulties a person may face upon waking, which is why a morning routine to care for the body, mind, and senses (the doorways to consciousness) is so important to prepare for your day. As we begin our day, we are setting ourselves up for balancing our energy, improving our digestion and elimination, and stabilizing our overall mood. Instead of, or at least before, reaching for a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea, start with a gentle cleansing drink to support your body and mind. Over time, as a cleansing drink is incorporated daily (along with a few other dietary or lifestyle changes), one's waking state can change significantly–from sleepy eyed and heavy minded, to 'bright eyed and bushy tailed'–eager to move into the day. Before long, you can wake up with a graceful ease and enthusiasm to enjoy the gift of another day.
Even if one has optimal health, my teacher of Ayurveda, Dr. Vasant Lad says, “We must detoxify our body everyday.” This is true when we consider that every day our body is accumulating toxins–from meals that are hard to digest, and substances within our food such as preservatives, sugars, and synthetic coloring agents to the ever present daily pollution in the air, water, and environment that surround us. We may even have ‘unprocessed emotions’ which can be accumulating ill effects in our bodies. Add to this the cumulative effect of stress in our lives, and the ways that stress can impair just about any bodily function–good digestion, clear and balanced thinking, and the ability to have restful, restorative sleep.
Upon waking, take a few moments to breathe more intentionally, stretch a little in bed, and consider the blessings that are yet to come in the day. My teacher recommends saying a prayer, reciting a poem, or chanting a mantra to begin your day in a sacred way.
Upon rising, one of the first things you (or someone else nearby) may notice is the staleness in the mouth–bad breath, bad taste, dryness, or even a fuzzy feeling on the teeth. In Ayurveda, the mouth is considered one of the places of detoxification: the state of the tongue is said to reflect the entire body. There is often a natural impulse to drink water or rinse the mouth. Follow that instinct! Upon waking rinse your mouth with water, then go into your kitchen to prepare a cleansing drink that is most suited for you.
One of the simplest recommendations is a glass of plain, warm water. Make sure this water is filtered and not chlorinated. When we wake up the body can use our support to aid in elimination so that it is then ready for the meals it will have to assimilate, digest, and integrate in the new day. After fasting for 8-12 hours since dinner the night before, the body needs a little time to enkindle its digestion. It is helped and supported by putting something warm into the stomach. Plain warm water is the most simple and effective, first drink of the morning to help flush the kidneys and stimulate the colon for elimination.
It can be even more helpful to have a drink that stimulates all of the digestive organs, providing a deeper level of detoxification. Here are two recipes for a morning cleansing drink.
The first is a warm ginger drink. Ginger is said to aid over 400 diseases in the Ayurvedic texts. It is well known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and immune boosting properties. It is also shown to help increase circulation, lower blood sugar, and improve heart function. The second is a warm turmeric drink. Turmeric has been used in Indian and Indonesian home remedies for as far back as we can see. It is also widely known for its medicinal compound curcumin–which is a strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and improves the brain derived neurotropic factor–helping to prevent diseases of the brain. It is known to balance blood sugar, act as an anti-microbial and anti-fungal agent and mood enhancer. It is also a wonderful blood cleanser, and works on removing an excess of toxins from the body.
Peel and grate your ginger and turmeric root into a cup or glass. Add the ground fennel. Then add the boiling water. Let steep for 10-15 minutes. Once lukewarm, add your lime or lemon juice, and stir in your honey.
Detoxifying Turmeric Drink
This drink has been used for many years in traditional Indonesian medicine, and often other medicinal herbs are added depending on the condition being treated. When I lived in Bali years ago, the Jamu women would walk through the villages with a large basket or plastic basin on their heads carrying a variety of herbal turmeric drinks: a kind of walking pharmacy. These drinks helped treat anything from painful menstrual cramps, to arthritis, colds and flus, digestive ailments, and also acted as a general analgesic.
This is the basic turmeric juice recipe I have learned over the years I have spent in Bali. Often in traditional turmeric drinks tamarind and palm sugar are added along with the medicinal herbs, but you can also substitute the sour taste with lemon or lime juice and the sweet taste with local honey. Taking turmeric with black pepper enhances its bioavailability.
Put the water in a small saucepan along with the grated or sliced turmeric root, optional ginger, and the pinch of black or long pepper. Once the water just begins to boil turn off the burner and let cool. Once it is lukewarm add the lemon or lime juice and the honey.
Stir and enjoy.
Turmeric will stain anything it comes into contact with. It is best to wash your knife, grater and cutting board immediately after use to help prevent the staining. If a turmeric drink becomes a regular practice you may choose to use the same utensils, pot, and cutting board just for that purpose.
Because citrus juice can erode the enamel of your teeth, it is best, after either cleansing drink to rinse the mouth with plain water several times. Then brush your teeth to help prevent any coloring of the teeth.
After your morning drink, you are ready to go, and you can feel good knowing you have also given back to your body, right from the start of the day.
*Guest blogger Melissa Spamer began the formal practice of Yoga twenty five years ago, and has been teaching Yoga professionally for twenty years. Her deep love of Yoga led her to study its sister science, Ayurveda. She began to incorporate the principals of Ayurveda into her daily life, and witnessed profound changes in her overall health and well-being. She entered a clinical practitioner program with the highly regarded Dr. Vasant Lad and spent two years studying intensively at the Ayurvedic Institute. During this time she also completed studies with Dr. Robert Svoboda, Swamini Mayatitananda, Dr. Claudia Welch, and Dr. David Frawley. During her years in clinical practice Melissa has worked with a wide variety of healthcare needs presented by her clients.
She has gone on to specialize in women’s heath, chronic pain and auto-immune disorders, as well as mental health and Ayurvedic nutrition. Melissa is also a licensed massage therapist, holds a graduate certificate in holistic healthcare, and has a master’s degree in Somatic Psychology.
While not traveling and teaching, she maintains a private Ayurveda and counseling practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2019, Melissa will be co-leading a Women’s Yoga & Ayurveda Retreat with Donna in Andalusia, Spain.
We chose the Suryalila Yoga Retreat center, not just because it is in beautiful Andalusia, Spain. The team at Suryalila source as many of their foods from local organic farms, or from their own permaculture garden. The food is not only wonderfully fresh, it glows with the love that prepared it.