Recently I got asked about Kriyas (yogic cleansing techniques and practices), which one of them to do on a daily basis and how to easily incorporate them into daily life. So here’s how I typically like to start my day, and a suggestion for you of how to create a healthy, cleansing morning routine.
First thing I usually do upon waking is drinking a glass of lemon water (or alternatively just plain water if I happen to have no lemons at home). This will not only flush and detox your entire digestive system and make sure you are on a good alkaline level, it will also hydrate your body for the asana practice and the day to come. Don‘t underestimate the cleansing and healing power of water, especially first thing in the morning.
2. Uddhiyana Bandha and Kapalabhati
Right there in the kitchen or living room I’ll quickly do my two favorite pranayama kriyas (pranayama= breathing exercises) for the morning. They do an amazing job in waking me up by building up heat in the body, and also in turning on the digestive fire of the body by massaging the inner organs
The first pranayama is called Uddhiyana Bandha: Take one deep inhale, and then exhale completely. Hold your breath and suck your belly as much as you can in and up underneath your ribcage. Hold for a few seconds. Then release your belly and and take a deep inhale. Repeat for 3-5 times.
Second one is called Kapalabhati (the fire breath): Take one deep inhale and then exhale half way. From there, start to contract and release the belly in a rythmic way about 20-30 times. Try to stay with a consistent rythm. Start slowly (about one contraction a second), but after some practice you will be able to cope with a much faster pace. Basically what you do is pushing your lower belly in by contracting your abs. This automatically leads to an exhalation. Then again release your muscles to neutral, which will automatically result in an inhalation. That way you rythmically push out the air and let it in again leading from your lower belly and abs rather than from your lungs. Do this about 20-30 times. After the last one, exhale completely, then slowly and deeply inhale again and exhale as long as you can. Afterwards start your second round. Do about 3 rounds, then enjoy some moments in silence and feel the heat rising in your body.
3. Jala neti
After that (which was about 5 minutes in total …in case it sounded longer ;-)) I’ll head over to the bathroom, brush my teeth and do my jala neti with the neti pot. You can buy those pots in different shapes and sizes online or in most ayurvedic shops (like my favorite one in Vienna: www.keralaayurvedashop.com). You simply mix warm water (about body temperature) with salt in a ratio of about one teaspoon of salt with one litre of water . Then you put the opening of the pot in one nostril and let the water run through and out oft he other nostril. As unusual as this may sound, it really is not a big deal, doesn’t hurt at all, is quick and easy and leaves you with a fresh feeling afterwards. I would say, its a similar feeling to the freshness you feel in your mouth after brushing your teeth, just with your nose. Once you’re used to it, I tell you you won’t want to miss it again.
4. Asana Practice
After those 5-10 minutes in the bathroom I’m ready for my asana practice. Even though this is not regarded as a traditional kriya technique in the strict sense of the word, it absolutely does cleanse and detox the body. A strong, sweaty ashtanga practice builds up heat in the body and cultivates agni, the inner fire of purification, detoxification and healing, not only on a physical, but also on a mental and emotional level.
5. Fresh and ready to go
After shower and breaktfast, I’m ready to go. The length of my daily asana practice varies from day to day depending on how much time I have, but all the other just mentioned morning routines and kriyas take me no more than 15 minutes in total. They set a good frame for the yoga practice and a healthy start of the day. If you do them regularly over a period of time, you will notice a difference in your digestive as well as immune system and an improvement in your overall health and well being. They are quick, easy and for free. So give them a try!