Living the yogic life: Taking yoga off the mat

March 15, 2014

Health, Meditation, Yoga

by Kathleen Bryant — 

According to the yoga sutras, purifying the body is the first step in preparing for higher consciousness.

According to the yoga sutras, purifying the body is the first step in preparing for higher consciousness.

The body is our physical vehicle, the means by which we move through life. According to the yoga sutras, purifying the body is the first step in preparing for higher consciousness. That is why it is so important to establish a daily routine that combines yoga and Ayurveda, a pairing that offers practical yet powerful tools for detoxifying, nourishing and balancing the body. Known as dinacharya, this routine can easily be adapted by anyone seeking to expand the experience of yoga from the mat to the rest of daily life.

Start in the morning by cleaning the tongue of ama or toxins that have accumulated overnight. The best tool is a tongue scraper, though a spoon can be used. (Brushing the tongue with a toothbrush isn’t a good idea, as the brush can become a breeding ground for bacteria.) After brushing the teeth, drink a cup of warm water to encourage elimination.

The pre-dawn hours are the most auspicious for meditation. This is the best time for vata (one of the three metabolic body types, which include the Sanskrit vata, pitta and kapha), which is the dosha (constitution) associated with light, movement and subtlety.

After meditation, cleansing continues with jala neti, or nasal wash, using a lukewarm saline solution and a neti pot to clear the nasal passages. Like most yoga practices, cleanses have both a physical and a psychospiritual purpose. Jala neti, for example, removes debris and pollutants and stimulates the sinus cavities, but it also opens the third eye, ajna chakra, the seat of inner knowing.

Other simple cleanses include washing the eyes using an eyecup and purified water, and cleaning and massaging the gums with a paste of sesame oil and salt. Altogether, these cleanses take about 15 minutes.

Abhyanga, or self-massage, stimulates circulation and sloughs off dead skin cells. Use a dry washcloth, loofah or soft brush, and lightly massage the skin, circling at the joints, stroking toward the heart. Next, massage the skin with oil selected to balance and nourish your dosha, such as sesame, sunflower or coconut. Start your shower with hot water to open the pores, then finish with cold water to seal in moisture, using soap sparingly, if at all. Leaving a thin film of oil on the skin, a wonderful practice in Arizona’s climate, helps counter dryness and aging.

The morning practice continues with asana — the physical postures most people think of when they think of yoga. This series of postures, including surya namaskara (sun salutations), stretches and flexes the entire body and stimulates the endocrine system. Surya namaskara is prayer in motion, honoring the sun as the source of light and life.

It’s here, on the mat, where you can experience epiphanies about how diet, dedicated practice and detoxification work together to create deeper openings and heightened awareness. The asana practice is usually followed by a simple, nourishing breakfast.

Throughout the day, honor the natural cycle. Eat a hearty tridoshic lunch at noon, the peak of the day’s pitta phase, when agni agni (digestive fire) is strong. Mental work is best done in the afternoon, when the daily natural rhythm again shifts to vata. Working with, rather than against, the day’s natural cycles, we find ourselves becoming more effective in all we undertake.

These powerful exercises can empower you to take charge of your physical and spiritual well-being. A yogic lifestyle leads to better health, peaceful self-awareness and harmony with nature.

 

Kathleen Bryant teaches postnatal and restorative yoga classes and assists with teacher training at 7 Centers Yoga Arts, also the home of the International Yoga College, in Sedona, Ariz. 928-203-4400 or www.7centers.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 3, June/July 2005.

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