Who knew that a $4 jar of coconut oil from Trader Joe’s could spark a personal revolution? For me, it did.
Let me rewind.
A few weeks ago a bunch of us settled in a classroom, ready to learn about Ayurveda, the “science of life” that originated in India. If I had to describe thousands of years worth of wisdom in one short sentence, I’d say Ayurveda teaches us how to balance the elements within the body so that our experience of life becomes physically, mentally, and spiritually harmonious.
I was there because I wanted to learn, but I also had a ton of resistance. Like many of us, I fell deeply into what one author calls The Busy Trap. Somewhere along the way I learned to place a high value on doing, perhaps a higher value on doing than on being. And the care of the vessel that does all of this doing? Duh, I do asana. Beyond that, I don’t have the time, I tell myself. I see my non-self care bretheren everywhere, from the yoga studio to the conference room.
The science of life shows me how important it is for me to make time. From our teacher, Kathryn Templeton, I came to understand that making time for a morning routine promotes health, and when she laid out exactly how a morning routine fosters a sense of internal balance, I could see how my lack of making time for myself is creating dis-ease, or at least the early warning signs of it.
A daily routine called dinacharya is one of the ways Ayurveda encourages us to adopt behaviors that promote health. This is just one step in a number of behaviors dedicated to improving health. The added benefit is that by committing to dinacharya, we learn to make time for ourselves. Some of the activities might already be a part of your life: Yoga postures. Meditation. Using a Neti pot. As my classmates and I read the list of activities, I thought, this isn’t so bad.
Then we got to abhyanga: Self-massage. A huge wall of resistance washed over me and I felt myself stiffen. As I drove home at the end of the weekend–notebook full of amazing information–I pondered my resistance. Where did I get the idea that self-care = self-indulgence? Why am I prioritizing my time in a way that doesn’t make room for self care?
The next morning I woke up. I used the tongue scraper for the first time. Not bad. I used the neti pot. Always nice. I added nasya oil to my nostrils. Smells delish. Some simple asanas. So far so good. I stared at the jar of coconut oil. I felt like I wanted to cry. I told myself I was worth taking the time to care for. I stopped fighting it and just surrendered. After dry brushing my body, I reached through the resistance and grabbed hold of the oil and started to rub it into my skin. I felt nurtured. My shoulders relaxed. My breath softened. In the presence of that voice telling me I didn’t have time, I allowed myself to make time. My skin felt warm buzzing and I my whole body was enlivened. My mind was slowing down and getting quiet. After I was covered with oil, I put on a comfy shirt and sat in front of my altar for meditation.
A month has gone by. Abhyanga was just the start of my personal revolution. There are ripple effects that come from treating yourself with more kindness, like learning to say no when you are overextended or an increased sense of well-being. Each time I’ve reach for the oil, there has been a little less resistance. On a good day, there is none. The word surrender still floats through my mind as I practice abhyanga. As I care for myself in this way, I have an exquisite experience of loving myself just because I’m me. In those quiet moments I experience my essence as love and light, having nothing to do with any sort of doing. Just being.
Are you interested in starting your own daily ritual? A sample is shown below. You can follow the steps in whatever order works for you, or you may want to have a different focus, in which case, here’s a comprehensive list of activities that make up a dinacharya. Start off slowly. If there is resistance to any of the steps, acknowledge it. Much like in a yoga pose, feel yourself relaxing around the resistance. Surrender. Where there is friction, there is an opportunity for growth.
Sample Daily Ritual
– Tongue scrape and brush teeth. Ama, or toxins collect on the tongue while we sleep. By using a tongue scraper we clean the mouth more deeply. Learn more about the benefits (and where to buy one) in this article.
– Use the bathroom. Proper elimination is key to optimal health. Sit there for 10 minutes (I know, TMI). Use a timer if you are impatient.
– Use the Neti pot and then nasya oil for the nostrils. This practice cleans the nose and reduces the build up of mucus. Watch this video to learn the technique.
– Practice abhyanga using either sesame oil or coconut oil (coconut has cooling effects for those of us who run hot). This article helpfully outlines the steps.
– Meditate. If you don’t have a practice, here is a wonderful article that outlines five steps to meditation.