Take A Deep Breath
Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the ‘rest and restore’ part of your body, which makes it a powerful tool to help with anxiety and pain. In Ayurveda, the main breathing techniques to try are the ‘ujjayi breath’ (often referred to as yogic breath), which involves breathing through the nasal passages, making a wave-like sound; the ‘kapal bhatti’, or cleansing breath, which involves focusing on the out breath and forcefully expelling your exhale; and alternate nostril breathing, which stimulates both sides of the brain and balances the body’s energy. This is done by closing one nostril with the thumb and breathing in through the other nostril, then closing both nostrils as you hold the breath for five seconds, before opening the other nostril as you exhale – repeat on both sides ten times.
Up Your Hot Drinks
Drinking enough water throughout the day is vital to keep you mentally alert, but the ritual of brewing a warm drink will bring comfort and health benefits. Try boiling chai with fresh ginger, cardamom pods, chai spice mix and a tiny pinch of saffron, a spice believed to uplift and elevate the mind. Adding turmeric to warm milk is also an easy way to reduce inflammation, preventing colds and healing injuries and illness.
Cooking with spices is an easy way to bring a little Ayurvedic wisdom into your life. Whether it’s stir-frying vegetables with cumin seeds and turmeric or adding extra ginger to your soup, spices are a great way to aid digestion and make food more interesting. Other Ayurvedic staples include mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin and coriander powder and turmeric. You can also try making your own digestive water – simply boil water with a few cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds; leave this to cool and sip slowly throughout the day.
Create An Evening Routine
According to Ayurveda, sleep is just as important as diet. Try to follow your body’s natural rhythm, ideally heading to bed around 10pm and waking up around 6am – Ayurveda dictates that the more hours of sleep you get on the early side of midnight, the more restorative it will be. Creating an environment, which sinks you into a relaxed, evening mood is crucial to let your mind and body switch off after a busy day. Even simple things like dimming your lights, playing calming music, and practicing some yoga can make a huge difference. Also, consider brewing a bedtime elixir – a pinch of both saffron and nutmeg in warm milk acts as a natural sedative and supports elevation of serotonin, the happy hormone.
Stave Off The Sniffles
If you are feeling run down, one of the most powerful things you can do is make your own vitamin C concoction and drink this several times per day – mix the juice of one lemon or lime with a small pinch of cinnamon and turmeric, one teaspoon of grated ginger, a pinch of black pepper and two teaspoons of honey. If you are suffering from a sore throat, try gargling salt water twice per day, and consider taking a zinc and Echinacea supplement, both of which will support your immune system. Ayurvedic herbs for immunity include tulsi, neem and triphala – a great brand is Ayurveda Pura. Also, keep an eye out for chyawanprash, an Indian sweet paste (like a jam) that is packed with over 30 herbs – it’s a powerful immune booster and has been shown to protect the body from infections, cold and flu.
Do More Yoga
Ayurveda goes hand in hand with yoga – both are based upon individuals being in tune with their bodies and using natural methods to promote wellbeing. Yin yoga is particularly powerful when it comes to soothing tension, both physical and emotional. Yin yoga is like deep breathing for the body – holding poses for several minutes with a gentle pressure works the connective tissues, releasing tension and tightness. Yin yoga is a great way to end the day, but a faster-paced vinyasa or kundalini flow can be a good way to start the day, boosting energy levels and releasing serotonin.
Stock Up on Cinnamon
Ground cinnamon is a warming and natural sweet spice that not only adds flavour to any food and drink, but also helps to relieve stomach cramps and help digestion – ideal if you are prone to suffer from stress-related tummy woes. Simply stir cinnamon into hot water, with a spoon of good-quality honey. Cinnamon also helps to lower blood sugar levels and is anti-inflammatory, which can ease menstrual pain and muscle soreness.
Massage Your Marma Points
In Ayurveda, there are believed to be 108 marma points on the body. Getting into the habit of massaging marma points on the face can be a relaxing and rejuvenating practice for daily life. The focus of marma-point massage is to manipulate prana (energy) and on a physical level, alleviate stiff muscles and boost circulation. If you are struggling with eye strain and headaches from looking at your laptop all day, consider massaging your ‘apanga’ marma point – this lies in the outer corner of each eye; press away from the eye to relieve pressure. The ‘karnamula’, which lies behind the ear lobe where the ear meets the jaw, is also good for jaw tension and anxiety.
During this uncertainty, taking the time to look after yourself is vital. Try to keep a journal by your bed, writing down anything that comes to mind when you wake up – perhaps something you are grateful for or what you dreamt about. Starting your day with these small meditative moments can make all the difference when it comes to a clearer, more positive mind.
Mira Manek is the author of bestselling cookbook Saffron Soul and recently published Prajna – Ayurvedic Rituals for Happiness. She has her own café in Kingly Court Soho called Chai by Mira, located inside Triyoga Soho, and she runs wellness retreats and workshops.