I will be turning the big 4-0 next year, and boy do I understand the importance of establishing an energising morning ritual is so important for your vitality as well as your longevity. Here are some things that I do, and hopefully you can adapt it into your busy urban day life. Nothing should ever feel like a chore. So only commit to what you can in small bit-sized chunks before it becomes second nature, and you can add more.
After a Good Night’s Sleep
We all know why we need a good night’s rest. Now, new research shows that the brain flushes out toxins that build up during waking hours when you’re in deep sleep. In fact, the lymphatic system opens up during sleeping hours, and allows the fluid to flow to the brain, and thereby flushing the brain of toxic molecules that have been associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Now, when you wake, and your body has gone through a kind of flushing, there are several practices you can do to help you continue to flush out the toxins. And we can say that the speed in which you can flush out toxins directly correlates to your energy levels as well as the speed in which you age.
Misting Your Face
As soon as I wake up and use the toilet, I spritz my face 4-5 times with my toner. (Sometimes, during an afternoon slump, I might mist again). There is a two in one benefit to doing this. Firstly, getting sprayed in the face with liquid wakes you up. Secondly, misting your face with botanical goodness helps to restore the pH balance of your skin. It also improves your skin’s hydration, absorption while reducing pigmentation and inflammation.
I make my own face mist because I had an aromatherapist friend back home New York who taught me well. Most companies add lots of chemical fillers and binders that weaken the potency of the solution, and also, don’t have any added benefits to you as they help to preserve the shelf life of the solution for retail. Plus, they are very costly.
If you source for wholesale organic essential oils (always use organic and not ‘pure’), you will have DIY natural skin care products for a long time. Plus, making your own face care with essential oils is quick and fun. Feel free to google and YouTube all the many different recipes, and see what works for you. And of course if you have specific skin conditions, you’ll have to consult a certified aromatherapist or skin specialist on what is suitable for you.
My all year round face toner: Simply fill a 125 mL glass spray bottle with witch hazel (essential oils corrode plastic, and you don’t want harmful chemicals on you). I then add 5 drops of organic lavender, 5 drops of frankincense, and 3 drops of rose geranium.
Lavender is great for rebalancing the dryness of the skin, and it also has a cooling benefit for inflammation for those who suffer from pigmentation.
Frankincense helps to tone the skin, reduces acne, scarring, cracked skin and stretch marks.
Rose geranium has powerful antioxidant properties that tighten the skins’ epidermis while reducing wrinkles and fine lines. It also gives you a wonderful glow by increasing the rate of cellular regeneration.
And by the way, all of these oils also have the added benefit of reducing stress and tension in the nervous system.
Other Essential Oils you might use in your face toner could be: Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Cedarwood, Palmarosa, Chamomile.
Note: Essential oils do not mix with water, hence you need to bind them in something like witch hazel or vodka,
In Ayurveda, the white coating on your tongue is a type of ama (toxins in the form of un-metabolised waste). This waste is caused from ingesting foods that are not fully absorbed. You might be overeating, or perhaps eating foods that are difficult to digest, or knowingly or unknowingly eating foods that cause gut inflammation. All this creates ama not only in the tongue, but in the mucus that congests the nasal passages, which is why tongue scraping, oil pulling and neti potting are the 3 essential to dos in a yogis morning detox ritual.
In Chinese Medicine, the white coating on the tongue gives information about the organs. Depending on where the buildup is concentrated, it may highlight chronic constipation, anxiety, insomnia, a bladder infection, etc. When there is a thick white coating, it can mean there is a back up of pathogens like candida yeast. Candida is a bad yeast that grows in the gut from eating gluten, refined sugar, taking alcohol and some dairy products. A yellow coating shows a build up of heat in the body that can be caused by liver disease and alcohol.
Essentially, ancient doctors used the tongue for internal diagnostics. And the yogis understood this too, making cleaning the tongue an important part of their daily detox rituals.
What causes Ama?
Ama forms when you eat heavy meals for dinner (as digestion is slowest at night). From an Ayurvedic perspective, lunch should be the biggest meal as your digestion is the most optimal in the middle of the day.
Food that has been cooked and then refrigerated is higher in toxins than freshly cooked foods, and as a result, creates Ama. Processed and refined foods in packaged, canned and frozen food that contains chemical binders that you cannot pronounce also create ama. Ingesting lots of cold food and drinks decrease the digest fire and increase the production of ama. Breathing polluted air, drinking unfiltered water, drinking coffee, taking pharmaceutical medication, poor sleep, stress and lack of exercise also leads to the accumulation of ama.
Ama can manifest as sluggish low energy, oedema of the legs and feet, a low digestive fire, bloating, constipation, an itchy anus, congested/runny nose, a thick tongue coating, a slow pulse and stagnation in the tissue.
Simply put, Ama is waste that needs to be taken out in the same way you need to take out the trash or it will overfill your bins. To be human means you will inevitably have waste to clean, and depending on your lifestyle choices, you may have more or less waste than others. But regardless of who you are, you will need to establish ama detoxing hygiene.
So, how do you get the Ama off of your tongue?
Stick your tongue out, and place your tongue scraper at the back of your tongue. Drag it from the back to the front 3-5 times each round. Wash the white coating off the scraper with warm water between each round. Repeat this down the middle and the sides of your tongue until you have removed the excess coating. Add enough pressure to remove the white coating, but not so much that you cut your tongue.
After scraping your tongue, I put one tablespoon of either organic cold pressed coconut or sesame oil in my mouth. I swish it around for 5 – 20 minutes. (This is very soothing for cold sores and ulcers by the way).
Sometimes, I’ll go as long as 20 minutes while doing some gardening. At the very least 5 minutes if I have to move it along because that is the minimum length of time for the magic to happen.
“Oil pulling is believed to help in the excretion of toxic heavy metals by saliva. Oil pulling activates salivary enzymes which absorb toxins such as chemical toxins, bacterial toxins and environmental toxins from the blood and removed from the body through the tongue.”
“Oil pulling generates antioxidants which damage the cell wall of microorganisms and kill them. These oils will attract the lipid layer of bacterial cell membranes, and cause it to stick or get attracted, and pulled to the oil. During oil pulling, the oil gets emulsified and surface area of the oil gets increased. The process of emulsification of oil begins upon 5 min of oil pulling.” (NIH)
Oil down the sink can clog it, so I usually spit the oil out on my plants as a natural fertiliser. Then, I’ll brush my teeth.
If you live in a city, you are inhaling pollutants in the air from the excess of cars, trains and planes. It is very important to take care of your nasal passages as they are the first line of defence against pollutants, allergens and other irritants. The neti pot is also helpful in reducing snoring, reducing dryness, easing sinus headaches, alleviating facial pain and pressure, guarding against upper respiratory infections and promotes deeper breathing. Plus, the ama (toxins) also build up over night as mucus in your nose.
I make my own saline solution over night. Boil 500 mL (roughly 2 cups) of filtered water. Add, 2-3 teaspoons of Himalayan or Sea salt without iodide or preservatives (extra salt stings more). Stir the solution until the salt completely dissolves. Squeeze 1-2 slices lime or lemon (antibacterial and antiviral properties for the mucus membranes). In the morning, you can heat the solution briefly so that it is warm when it enters your nose.
Put the saline solution in your neti pot. Check your nostrils for which one is clearest, and begin on that side. Place the tip of the neti pot up that nostril while tilting the head until the water irrigates all the way through to the opposite nostril. The water should flow fluidly from one side to the other. If that is not happening, you will have to blow your nose until there is an opening or do a few rounds of kappalabhati (skull shining) breathing to open your nasal passages. Repeat on the other side. While you are doing this, feel free to pause in between to blow out excess mucus.
Do not over irrigate the nose. Once a day is enough. Too much irrigation can cause irritation. And always be sure to thoroughly clean your neti pot by hand and soap so that bacteria doesn’t accumulate and you accidentally infect your sinuses.
Celery Juice with MCT Oil
If I’m going through a period of intermittent fasting from 7 pm – 11 am, I will have a celery juice (without other vegetables or fruit) in the morning as my breakfast replacement. I will add MCT oil into a cold-pressed celery juice. If you’re not familiar with Dr. Mark Hyman’s work on detoxification, you should most definitely google him.
Celery juice cleans the blood of toxins, aids digestion, reduces inflammation while calming the nervous system. Moreover, celery helps the gut restore its’ own stores of hydrochloric acid which improves gut health. Celery juice also detoxes bad bacteria, fungi, mould, viruses and other toxins from the liver.
According to Medical Medium, Anthony William, the mineral salts in celery also have the added benefit of cleansing the body of Epstein-Barr virus and boosting the production of healthy thyroid hormones. It also lowers blood pressure and reduces plaque in the arteries, which helps to prevent strokes.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat found in oils like coconut or palm oil. Contrary to popular belief, though MCTs contain saturated fats, it does not increase cholesterol, but rather offers protective effects on the cardiovascular system by improving the serum lipid profiles.
The body actually absorbs MCTs faster than LCTs (which comes from olive oils, avocados and nuts). On a keto diet, MCTs get converted into ketones in the liver, which then pass through the blood-brain barrier as a potent source of energy for the brain. It is much better for you than coffee first thing in the morning. Did you know coffee on an empty stomach wrecks havoc on your gut lining which can lead to leaky gut or autoimmune issues? And the gut lining is your first line of defence when it comes to immunity.
Studies show that taking MCT oil promotes weight loss as it reduces your appetite. If you follow a ketogenic diet (low carbs and high in fats), it can also keep your body in the fat-burning state of ketosis.
And the latest studies show that MCT oil and a keto diet can help manage epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and autism.
Note: I am a firm believer in moderation, and do not believe keto is appropriate for everyone. If you’re attempting a ketogenic diet, make sure you consult a professional, and do your research on it first. I myself do not do keto all year round. But when I do, celery juice and MCT oil is a great help.
Hot Water with Ginger and Lemon
Smooth and easy bowel movement first thing in the morning after hot water with ginger and lemon is very important. The acid of the lemon stimulates the liver while oxygenating the body and switching on the digestive enzymes. The ginger supports the metabolism and digestive fire.
And the water, which is the most important, hydrates your body. We all wake up severely dehydrated because your body had been fasting from water during sleep.
Simply squeeze 1 big slice of lemon and fresh peeled ginger into a cup of hot water. I like to eat the ginger afterwards. If this doesn’t help you with bowel movement, you will need to work with a specialist to see what is happening uniquely for you.
Pranayama and yoga postures in the morning should be done on an empty stomach after your bowels have finished its’ morning elimination.
Pranayama are breathwork techniques belonging to the yogic lineage that help to regulate the energy in the mind, body and emotions.
Here are my quick go-to pranayama practices to do in under 8 minutes either seated on the floor cross legged, or comfortably on a chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground in an upright position. Ideally, when you are practicing these breath practices, your eyes are closed. Feel free to light a candle or your favourite incense to set the mood.
Sun Piercing Breath (Surya Bhedana Pranayama) – Bring the right hand in front of the face. Place the index and middle finger on the brow. Exhale everything out. Cover the right nostril with the thumb, and inhale through the left nostril. Cover the left nostril with the ring finger, and exhale through the right nostril. Do 3 rounds slow, then pick up the speed. Create a piercing sound. Feel the solar energy rise from the left nostril (vitality of the sun), and dispel any damp lunar energy out the right nostril (sluggishness, imbalanced emotions). Practice for 60 – 90 secs. At the end, inhale left nostril, and hold the breath, and apply root lock & throat lock for 20 – 30 seconds, followed by an exhale through right nostril. Breathe 3 slow breaths through both nostrils and observe the spaciousness within.
Moon Piercing Breath (Chandra Bhedana Pranayama) – Bring the left hand in front of the face. Place the index and middle finger on the brow. Exhale everything out. Cover the left nostril with the thumb, and inhale through the right nostril. Cover the right nostril with the ring finger, and exhale through the left nostril. Do 3 rounds slow, then pick up the speed. Create a piercing sound. Feel the lunar energy rise from the right nostril (intuition of the moon), and dispel any imbalanced solar energy out the left nostril (hyperactivity and excess heat). Practice for 60 – 90 secs. At the end, inhale right nostril, and hold the breath, and apply root lock & throat lock for 20 – 30 seconds, followed by an exhale through left nostril. Breathe 3 slow breaths through both nostrils and observe the spaciousness within.
Skull Shining Breath (Kapal Bhati Pranayama) – Kapal means skull and Bhati is to shine. Exhale everything out. Inhale to a comfortable level. Then focus on percussive exhales, like you are trying to blow your nose. The sound of the exhale is reminiscent of sneezing. Do this quickly. The emphasis is on the exhale, and there is a small rebound on the inhalation before the next exhale begins. The abdominal muscles will contract. Practice for 60 – 90 secs. After
4 Part Breath (Samavritti Pranayama) – Sama means equal and vritti means the flux of thoughts that stream in and out of the mind. The 4 part breath is a simple slow breath practice that can help you reduce the monkey mind chatter and distractions that occur. Inhale for 4 slow counts, hold the breath for 4, exhale for 4, and stay empty for 4. These counts are at your own speed. If your breath is rather shallow, your counts may be a bit faster to begin. As you deepen your practice over time, your counts may slow down. This is a calming breath practice that helps to wipe the slate clean and get your mind ready for the day.
Note: If you are pregnant or have high blood pressure, lung, heart, eye or ear problems, do not do any sort of breath holding. This rule also applies if you get dizzy from the breath holds.
Sweat every day! Sweating helps to eliminate toxic trace metals like nickel, copper, zinc and lead. If you live in a cold climate, the importance of HIIT training and saunas will be important for your detox ritual. And of course it is common knowledge now that exercise improves muscular and cardiorespiratory health, strengthens bones, reduces risk of diabetes, while releasing the brains feel-good and stress-busting neurotransmitters called endorphins.
My personal preference of course is a hot sweaty yoga class because yoga moves through all the 6 directions that the spine needs to move in order to be healthy: flexion, extension, side flexion left, side flexion right, rotation left and rotation right.
Joseph Pilates and the yogis agreed that you could be 60 years of age, but if you had a health flexible spine of a 30 year old, your energy levels and vitality would reflect that. Pilates equipment training also moves in a functional way that develops strength through resistance training through resistance springs.
Calisthenics and weight training is also important to make sure that you develop the proper strength and tone around your shoulder, hip, knee and elbow joints. Some people over train strength, and some over train flexibility. There needs to be a balance of both.
I teach 3 mornings a week, so it’s not always possible to exercise first thing in the morning, so I make do and practice in the afternoons on those days. So, I invite you to explore how you can optimise your schedule so that you can make the most out of your day and to exponentially improve your energy levels.
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