If we want to feel differently, we have to make different choices. It’s as simple and as complicated as that! When we truly understand that our wellbeing is in the small decisions we make every day, we begin to feel empowered to make genuine and lasting change in our lives.
Good health takes daily effort, but it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Small, consistent steps will take you further than a few giant leaps. The ancient science of Ayurveda teaches us how to experience true health and wellbeing by taking small steps. We put together 10 Ayurveda inspired habits that you can start building into your life today.
1. Listen to your body and understand your dosha.
The easiest way to listen to your body is to first understand your dosha constitution and if/where you’re out of balance.
Ayurveda believes that like everything else in nature, we’re each composed of a combination of Earth’s five elements: air, water, fire, earth, and space. These elements are split into three primary energies called doshas, and Ayurveda states that our health and wellbeing depends upon our unique combination and balance between these three energies.
The more you know, the more empowered you are to make different choices. Our bodies are always communicating to us and giving feedback based on the decisions we make, but we can only respond thoughtfully if 1. We’re listening and 2. We understand the language the body speaks.
2. Follow a daily routine.
Nature moves in cycles (day to night, winter through spring) and all plants and animals follow this cycle through the span of their lives. We’re no different, and we greatly stand to benefit from establishing a daily routine. The technology, materialism, and artificial lights of modern culture can make us forget our connection to nature and lose touch of our circadian rhythms.
By following a daily routine, or dinacharya, we can reconnect with nature and do wonders for our health. The stability of a daily routine can reduce stress, improve sleep, make it easier to commit to other habits like exercise, and improve your health overall.
The remaining habits in this article are all ideas that can be built into your daily routine in whatever way works best for you.
3. Start the day right.
Since the morning can set the tone for the rest of the day, following a daily routine is easier when you start the day right. First and foremost, Ayurvedic texts suggest rising early–ideally by 6:00 am or before the sun rises.
Then, before you get pulled into work and other responsibilities, practice a few habits that feel best for you. They’ll help you move through the day feeling more balanced, grounded, and energized.
Here are a few morning routine ideas:
- Drink a glass of warm to hot water. Add a lemon to warm vata and reduce excess kapha, lime to cool elevated pitta, or honey to get rid of excess kapha.
- Spend 10-20 minutes meditating or practicing pranayama.
- Find movement in your body, whether it be in your yoga practice, dancing, or another form of exercise. Yin yoga is a very grounding practice to start the day.
- Urinate and poop. (Yes, having a bowel movement in the morning is ideal and is a sign of healthy digestion. Here’s why.)
- Practice oral health with tongue scraping and oil pulling (more info below).
- Practice abhyanga, or self massage.
- Journal positive affirmations, gratitude, and your vision for the day to come.
- Eat a nourishing and fresh breakfast, like oatmeal or stewed apples.
4. Lean on herbs for support.
Ayurvedic herbs are an important part of practicing Ayurveda. Building upon the belief that we’re healthiest when we live in harmony with nature, Ayurveda uses nature’s herbal medicine to support the body’s natural functions and build strength.
Herbs can be consumed in many different ways including swallowing herbal tablets, taking liquid extracts, applying them topically, making herbal tea, and more. Always remember that it’s important to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before using herbs.
Here are some of the most supportive herbs for each dosha:
Herbs for vata dosha – lemon balm, ginger root, chamomile, ashwagandha, triphala, fennel, and other warming, grounding, and nourishing herbs
Herbs for pitta dosha – mint, rose petals, lemongrass, gotu kola, bacopa, dandelion root, coriander, shatavari, and other cooling, soothing, and calming herbs
Herbs for kapha dosha – sage, holy basil, thyme, turmeric, ginseng, triphala, black pepper, and other light, warming, and aromatic herbs
5. Eat healthy and in harmony with the seasons and your dosha.
Ayurveda teaches that if we eat in harmony with the seasons–meaning, eat the foods that grow locally in each season–the doshas will remain in balance. Each season has a different effect on our bodies, and during each season the earth produces whatever foods we need to balance those effects. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s also important to eat plant-based, organic foods that nourish the body without additives and chemicals. Eating healthy as well as eating only when hungry, reducing or avoiding snacks, and eating according to your dosha will support the body in exceptional ways.
Best Foods to Balance Vata:
- Fruits: Banana, avocado, dates, oranges, berries, coconut, peaches, stewed fruits like apples, apricots, figs
- Vegetables (best cooked with oil or butter): Butternut squash, asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, garlic, green beans, onions, sweet potatoes, radishes, zucchini, turnips
- Dairy, fats, and oils: Yogurt, whole milk, ghee, olive oil, sesame oil
- Sweet foods: Maple syrup, honey, rice syrup
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: All nuts, sunflower seeds, mung beans, chickpeas
- Grains: Cooked oats, cooked rice, quinoa
Best Foods to Balance Pitta:
- Fruits: Sweet fruits like bananas, grapes, melons, cherries, coconuts, avocados, mangoes, oranges, plums, pineapple (fully ripe)
- Vegetables: Cucumbers, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, sprouts, zucchini, celery, cauliflower, okra, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes
- Dairy, fats, and oils: Ghee and milk (dairy is good for pitta, as long as it’s not fermented like yogurt, sour cream, and cheese); olive, sunflower, and coconut oils
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds
- Grains: Wheat, rice, barley, oats
- Protein: Chicken and turkey
- Spices: Coriander, cilantro, fennel, cardamom
Best Foods to Balance Kapha:
- Fruits: Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, papaya, pears, prunes, pomegranates, and grapefruit
- Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, garlic, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas peppers, potatoes, radishes, spinach, and sprouts
- Dairy, fats, and oils: Warm skim milk, small amounts of whole milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, and camel milk
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
- Grains: Barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rye, and basmati rice
- Protein: Chicken, turkey, and lean fish
- Spices: Cumin, fenugreek, sesame, and ginger
6. Make relaxation a part of each day.
What makes you feel relaxed? Maybe it’s meditation, chanting, pranayama, exercise, or something else. Whatever it is, make it a priority in your day. Modern society and its fast-paced culture make stress and anxiety a daily experience for many. That’s why it’s so important to make relaxation a daily habit.
All the habits listed in this article will help you reduce stress, but find one or two that especially resonate with you and practice them daily. To make it easier, put the habit somewhere in your day where it will be easiest to practice. For example, if meditation is your go-to relaxation habit, maybe doing it right after you wake up will be easiest for you. Or maybe meditating before you go to bed will be most supportive. Whatever it is, make it a priority. Your mental, physical, and spiritual health will thank you for it.
7. Move your body.
Exercise is so important for health that it’s included in ancient Ayurvedic texts as an essential daily habit. The benefits of regular exercise are numerous, including more energy, improved digestion, increased muscle mass, improved mental health, a greater ability for the body to remove toxins, and so many more.
Your exercise routine doesn’t need to be vigorous for it to be effective. In fact, sometimes a simple walk can be more supportive to the body than a more strenuous workout. Whatever it is, it’s important to simply move the body. The human body was designed for movement, afterall!
Each dosha has its own needs when it comes to exercise. Ayurveda also suggests different types of exercise depending on the season. Learn more about the specifics of Ayurveda and exercise.
8. Uplevel your oral health routine.
Many of us already brush and floss our teeth on a regular basis, and we can support our oral health even more with tongue scraping and oil pulling.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing sesame oil in your mouth for 1-20 minutes. The swishing motion helps to remove bacteria and promote oral hygiene by moisturizing your mouth.
Tongue scraping–the practice of using a tongue scraper to remove waste from the surface of the tongue–clears toxins and bacteria from the mouth, prevents bad breath, and stimulates the internal organs.
It’s best to scrape your tongue first, then swish oil in your mouth, and then finish it all off with a good brush.
Try using our zWISH Full Spectrum CBD mouth pulling oil for a refreshing oil pulling experience.
8. Breathe with intention.
The breath is the one thing that begins and ends our earthly experience with us. It is our number one sidekick. Without conscious awareness of the breath, we quickly forget the power that it has in every aspect of our lives.
Whether it be meditation (observation of breath) or pranayama (breathing techniques), the body and mind greatly benefit when we take time out of the day to stop everything and tune into the breath.
Let the breath be your anchor in the new year. It is one of the most effective tools we have to help us get through uncertainty and stress.
10. Prioritize sleep. Get more of it.
Ayurveda considers sleep habits to be just as important to overall health as diet. We need sleep for rest, but also for the body to properly take in and metabolize everything we experienced and consumed in the day. Without enough sleep (7-8 hours per night), the immune system weakens and the body becomes more vulnerable to illness and disease, among other concerning effects.
All of the habits above will support you in getting better rest, especially following a daily routine and waking around the same time each day. Challenges falling asleep or waking through the night are often signs of a vata or pitta imbalance. Learn more about how to balance the doshas to support your sleep habits.
Changes to our health–be it emotional, spiritual, or physical wellbeing–don’t happen overnight. New year’s resolutions are often ineffective because they focus on big, lofty goals that can feel too difficult. Instead, focus on making small, everyday changes. Just as a house is built by laying brick after brick, true change comes one small step at a time. If you want a healthier life, ask yourself what the smallest step is that you can take now. Then, start there.
Happy New Year!