One of the enriching parts of the Axis Yoga Teacher Training program is the opportunity to study and apply Ayruveda. This student initially tried to choose a simple ayurvedic experiment, however, multiple daily changes became more challenging than first expected. But as with most challenges, this one came with due reward.
My experiment was to follow chapter five of The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad. This chapter outlines a variety of relatively simple daily routine Ayurvedic practices. I chose this because it seemed fairly easy to follow, and as I was wrapping up marathon training I wanted to remain consistent in my regular diet and exercise routines and not shake things up too drastically. While the daily routine seemed initially simple, I discovered how difficult it was to maintain it over the course of two weeks.
The first item suggested was to wake up early. I get up typically between 5:30-7:00 in the morning, so it didn’t seem like a stretch to get up at 5:30 as recommended, but I discovered after a few days that doing this daily without fail presented problems. After a week, life’s challenges kept me up late into the night, and consequently I found it quite hard to get up before dawn. I was very glad as I re-read this section that it just said “do the best you can,” which for better or worse meant that I could bail on this as needed, which I mostly did.
It recommended reciting a prayer after awakening, which I did and enjoyed. I felt a stronger connection to God and the world around me by doing this. It was also a nice way to embrace each new day with positive thoughts and wishes. I memorized the prayer in the book by the conclusion of the experiment which was satisfying as well.
I then went off to the bathroom to begin a series of strange activities that I initially found interesting, but gradually became disenchanted with. I got a kick out of washing my face with cold water then blinking seven times, and rolling my eyes in every direction until they felt strained. I found it funny, especially the mandate of blinking seven times. I enjoy numerology and while this activity seemed perhaps a little obsessive-compulsive, I understood the function this played in enlivening the body and mind. I then “evacuated” with a bowel movement and washed my anus with soapy warm water which was pleasant, albeit bizarre. Then I began what became a dreaded routine: scraping my tongue with a spoon and gargling with oil. I discovered I become somewhat nauseous by the feeling of a mouthful of oil, and scraping my tongue was indeed as disgusting a morning ritual as I can imagine. Not only did I not enjoy the occasionally triggered gag reflex, but even greater was my aversion to observing the film of slime I conjured forth on a spoon so soon after awakening. I then dumped a few drops of sesame oil in my nose for good measure, which was actually a welcome relief from the traumatic tongue-scraping. I then gave myself a full-body warm oil massage, which alleviated the psychosomatic chill left from the aforementioned activities. I actually found the oil massage very relaxing and enjoyable, and the most welcome part of the routine. I wondered if I would smell like a middle eastern restaurant since I was coating my whole body with toasted sesame oil, and later on my coworkers assured me that I did not.
I tried to then do the exercises as recommended, but found them very time consuming. Doing 16 moon salutations took about 20 minutes which was very hard to do daily. I think this is one of the best things to do as a daily routine, but I couldn’t keep it up consistently with the multiplicity of routine items needing attention.
I then did pranayama, fifteen shitali breaths, and then meditated for half an hour. This was fine and not a big change from my regular morning activities. I find morning meditation one of the most beneficial things I can do to start my day off right, and am completely in agreement that this is a wonderful routine practice. It allows me to reduce any residual stress and build a firm foundation of benevolent thoughts that often help guide me through my day, which is truly a blessing. Of all the suggested activities, I find this to be perhaps the most helpful, with exercise a close second.
I then gratefully had breakfast as suggested. Typically I eat after getting up, but I tried following the order the routine was presented in, and waiting two hours to eat made the food taste that much better. I also did not sit in front of the computer when I ate, but ate mindfully at the table, which allowed me to calmly focus and enjoy the food with greater awareness. I also tried to follow a handful of dietary suggestions mentioned for pitta dosha, which included only drinking warm water at work, which I found absurd, but followed diligently anyway. I also gave up chocolate and spicy food for two weeks, which, in all seriousness, I have questioned my addiction to. The dietary rules are the hardest parts of the Ayurveda for me to accept. I eat a vegan diet, and am very conscious of what I put into my body. Giving up staples that I couldn’t imagine would alter my dosha to begin with, like not eating any nuts, borders on madness to me. Especially as the book didn’t offer much by way of explaining the nuances of this wisdom. Giving up spicy foods and chocolate were interesting however. Strangely, while I was abstaining, people twice offered gifts of gourmet chocolate! The coincidence seemed suspicious and left me looking for the hidden camera near my cubicle.
One of the most important daily routines suggested I did not do at all. It recommended taking a walk alone in a beautiful place for twenty minutes a day to wind down after work. I know how important my connection to nature is, but somehow I neglected this completely. I read right over it several times without it making any impact. Had I done this, I’m sure each and every day would have been better. It’s hard to do particularly at this time of year when it is cold and dark, but I do find walking in nature a meditative practice that is well worth doing anytime, but particularly at the end of the day would be an excellent healthy activity.
It recommended eating dinner then singing songs while doing the dishes. I did this once and it was really fun. In fact, I remember reading this and thinking it was humorous naiveté, but it actually was the reason I chose this section of the book to experiment with, since I found the silly suggestion so entertaining.
To end the day I had a hot milk, ginger, cardamom and turmeric drink before bed. I did this every night and loved it. It was really soothing and I loved chewing the ginger and eating the pod to finish it off. This helped me wind down and was a nice finishing practice before sleep. It also made the whole experiment worthwhile for me as I definitely appreciate a novel and tasty new recipe.
It also had some suggestions about sex, but as I am unfortunately celibate at this time due to a gnarly bout of Singleitis, I didn’t have to stress over these points. I’m glad it mentioned these things though, and when I am well again I would definitely relish a normal schedule of love-making as suggested.
In summary, while I was not able to explore Ayurveda as deeply as I wanted to, I did find it worthwhile. Part of what makes it successful to me has less to do with Ayurveda and more to do with resolve and commitment. A major component in a successful experiment is simply sticking it out regardless of the results. This in itself offers ample lessons and rewards. By adopting new routines, and breaking one’s self of ingrained habits—whatever they might be—increased willpower, motivation, conscious awareness, and mindfulness are likely to follow. By it’s own volition this helps create a more fulfilling, engaging and meaningful life.
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