Ayurveda recommends a daily ritual or dinacharya to strengthen our immunity and increase our vital energy. The morning routine is especially important because it conditions the rest of the day.
There are of course variations depending on the dosha, the seasons or the general condition, and it is always preferable to seek advice from a practitioner. Without going into this level of detail, in this article we describe 5 simple steps to practice before breakfast.
At what time? It is advisable to get up in Brahma Muhurta, 1h30 to 50mn before sunrise, a recommendation which is also common to most spiritual traditions. It is an auspicious time for spiritual practices, where the Prana is the strongest.
More commonly, it is advisable to wake up between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. (kapha hour), preferably spontaneously and without an alarm. There are some variations depending on the doshic type, the kapha types better get up before 6 a.m. in vata hour, to balance themselves with the energy of vata, predominantly vata types can benefit from additional sleep time in kapha hours to gain in stability and anchoring.
Self-consciousness: before even opening your eyes, connect with the energy of the heart and observe the process of awakening. Listen to yourself and your conscience, in peace and without judgment.
Sankalpa: it is then possible to focus on positive thoughts and have a sankalpa or an intention for the day.
Mantra Sadhana: another possibility (according to the teaching of the Bihar School) is to practice mantra and sankalpa just when you wake up. We start with a sankalpa for health and well-being followed by 11 Mahamrityunjaya, then a sankalpa to acquire wisdom and knowledge followed by 11 Gayatri mantra and finally a sankalpa to overcome physical and mental difficulties followed by 3 recitations of the thirty-two names of Durga.
Drinking a glass of water or ingesting the sun nectar
This practice is traditionally called Upa shan (ingest solar nectar), and consists of drinking water that has spent the night in a good quality copper container. If you do not have such a container, you can just drink lukewarm water or at room temperature to which you can add a little lime. This water will gently wake up the body and facilitate the expulsion of stool and urine.
Cleansing of the five sense organs
It is pancha indriya snana, cleaning of the tongue, nose, ears, eyes and skin to improve the capacities of perception and discernment of sense organs.
We start with jihva dhauti to clean the tongue with a copper tongue scraper (or for imbalances pitta, in silver or steel). If you don’t have a tongue scraper, you can do this with a teaspoon. Scrape from the inside out to remove the white coating.
We can then make a mouthwash with sesame oil: we swirl a small amount of oil in the mouth, teeth and on the tongue. Be careful not to spit in the sink as this may clog the pipes, do it in a tissue or in the toilet. You can then scratch your tongue a second time and then brush your teeth.
Rinse your eyes with clean, ambient water, taking the water in your hands. You can also soak the eyes in water, poured into the palm of a hand, a bowl or a cup and blink several times, for about 30 seconds. Ideally it is recommended to use rose water.
Jala neti is practiced using a Neti pot which has the shape of a teapot, ideally in copper, filled with slightly salted lukewarm water (preferably with Himalayan salt). The tip of the pot is inserted into the most open nostril, and the head is tilted to the side to let the water flow from one nostril to another. The same process is followed on the other side. Once the nasal passages have been cleaned, it is very important to dry the nose and sinuses well. This is achieved by exhaling energetically through each nostril and then through both with a Kapalabhati breath. For more details on jala neti and the shatkriya refer to our article Kriya and Hatha Yoga . Jala neti is to be done 2 or 3 times a week and not every day.
Put a drop of sesame oil pn each ring finger and massage the inside of the ears. Then massage the front and back of the ears. This practice is particularly interesting for pacifying vata.
If we have time, we can practice the abyhanga self-massage to wake up the skin and activate energy using sesame oil or another oil suitable for your constitution. The massage is to be performed from the bottom up. Then take your shower and cleanse the entire body with powder or natural soap.
If you don’t have time for the massage, just clean the skin, and after the shower apply some oil to the still damp skin.
Elements of Morning Yoga Practice
Morning practice can vary depending on the time you have and your physical condition. An important point is that it strengthens the digestive fire, awakens the Prana and eliminates excess toxins accumulated overnight.
To purify and strengthen the digestive fire and help cleanse the nadi, several shatkriya are particularly important.
Agni Sara and/or nauli can be done in sets of three. We can also do kapalabathi followed by nadi shodana (without breath retention). The shatkriya are detailed in our article Kriya and Hatha yoga. In case of contraindication (ulcer, hernia, menstruation, pregnancy, heart problems) simply practice nadi shodana for five to ten minutes. In general, trust your intuition and your conscience to know which kriya is most suitable for you at any given time.
To eliminate toxins, strengthen the body and release the Prana, you can perform multiple Sun Salutations. You can also do joint exercises to eliminate excess vata, in the toes, ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, head and neck.
We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the series of pavanamuktasana of Swami Satyananda, especially the first series (see his book “Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha”).
It is also important to perform the 4 movements of the spine: flexion, extension (both included in the sun salutation), lateral flexions and twists.
For my personal practice, I perform all or part of the “Yogic Sukshma Vyayama” series by Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari, followed by several Sun salutations.
We will devote several articles of this “Daily Yoga” series to morning practice.
Tune your energy in the morning by practicing or listening to mantras. You can practice a personal mantra, the gayatri mantra or any other mantra that seems auspicious to you. Trust your intuition.
To learn more about mantras, in our dedicated series of articles on the subject.
If you want and have the time, you can finish this routine with a meditation. If you woke up in the hour of Brahma Muhurta, you can meditate just before sunrise and tune your nostrils just after sunrise according to the precepts of Svara Yoga. This is to ensure that the dominant nostril and therefore the dominant brain hemisphere are in tune with cosmic energy. To identify the dominant side of each morning, you can consult the calendar of the Prana provided free of charge by the Chakra Institute. If you want to know more about this wonderful science of Svara Yoga, you can consult the dedicated article on the subject.