There is something magical about mornings. Before the kids wake up, before we start checking our email or dealing with our never-ending to-do list… there is quiet. There is calm. Taking time for yourself in the morning is one of the most powerful things you can do to cultivate wellness, ease, focus, and a sense of control in your busy day. By creating an intentional morning routine, you will find yourself making healthier choices for your body throughout the day, experiencing less stress, exhibiting more patience with your family, and getting more done in your work. Enter: your Morning Power Hour.
In Ayurveda, the daily self-care routine is called dinacharya, which is a customized set of practices (most of which take place in the morning) that drastically improve your health and mindset, balance your body, and set the tone for your entire day. Though the full, traditional dinacharya is rather extensive and can take multiple hours, I have had great success in creating a modified routine that takes no more than an hour (and can even be accomplished in less if need be), fits into our busy modern lives, and yields amazing results.
Below is a basic Morning Power Hour dinacharya that you can modify, add to or subtract from based on how much time you have to dedicate to self-care in the morning, and customize for your body/mind type (or dosha).
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Your Morning Power Hour
- Wake up early. You’ll want to give yourself enough time to enjoy some peaceful quiet and not feel rushed. For those of you with kids, that means before the kids wake up. For those of you with strict start times at work, that means leaving enough time to fit everything in and leave on time. Take into account how much sleep your body needs and go to bed accordingly. For example, I need to be in bed by 10:30pm to wake up rested at 6:30am. Your ideal wake time will also vary according to your dosha:
- For Vata types: this means waking before 7am for optimal balance and focus
- For Pitta types: this means waking before 6:30am for optimal calm and mood-balancing
- For Kapha types: this means waking before 6am for optimal energy and clarity
- Drink some lemon water. A tall glass of lemon water every morning hydrates, alkalizes, and energizes your body and will help wake up your gut and encourage a healthy morning BM. It also kickstarts your metabolism and helps to flush out accumulated toxins.
- For Vata and Kapha types: drink warm water with lemon
- For Pitta types: drink room temperature water with lime (as lemon is too acidic for high Pitta bodies)
- Have a good poop. Yes! This is a crucial part of a healthy morning routine, and ideally, you want it to happen right when you wake up (but up to 30 minutes after waking is still considered normal). Clearing out your intestines first thing in the morning helps you feel lighter, more energized, and is important to maintain healthy digestion and detoxification throughout the day. If you have trouble pooping every morning (and the warm water with lemon doesn’t do the trick), try taking Triphala before bed. This tridoshic (meaning, good for all types) Ayurvedic herb has a gentle, non-stimulating and non-habit forming laxative effect, and is a wonderful bowel toning and weight managing herb for all bodies. It’s also awesome for immunity and total body wellness. Start with 3 capsules before bed, and work your way up to your ideal dose to get a comfortable morning BM (this may be up to 10 capsules, which is perfectly fine!).
- Scrape your tongue and brush your teeth. You wake up with tons of bacteria and naturally accumulated toxins in your mouth. Getting these all cleansed out has all kinds of magical benefits, like improved immunity, decreased cravings, less headaches, and more. A copper tongue scraper works fine, or if you’re extra super fancy, Vatas can use gold and Pittas can use silver. Use a natural toothpaste — I recommend a fluoride and SLS-free formulation — my favorite lately has been Auromere Ayurvedic Toothpaste.
- Salute the sun. Starting your day with 10-12 sun salutations wakes up your system, clears your head, and promotes total mind-body wellness. And it just takes 10 minutes! Everyone has 10 minutes to move their bodies. If you’re feeling inspired and have more time, segway into a longer workout or asana practice after your initial sun salutes. And don’t be afraid to mix it up! For example, I do 5 Sun Salutation A’s and 5 Sun Salutation B’s, and throw a few twists into the mix.
- For Vata types: Focus on calming, steady, and fluid motions, with an emphasis on deep breathing and adding grounding poses like Tree Pose and Warrior 1/2. In the colder months, pick up the pace to warm up your body. Check out this video for more tips.
- For Pitta types: Focus on a graceful, calming, moderately paced practice, with an emphasis on forward folds and twists. Moon Salutations can be a lovely, cooling addition to your practice. Don’t overdo it, and avoid too many heating, fast paced movement like jumping to and from chaturanga. Check out this video for more tips.
- For Kapha types: Focus on a stimulating, faster paced practice. Generate heat with more emphasis on Sun Salutation B, and jumping to and from chaturanga. Check out this video for more tips.
- Meditate. Of all the morning practices, I would say lemon water and meditation are the two most important. A daily meditation practice (even for just 5-10 minutes!) is the solution to SO many of life’s stressors and challenges. It calms the mind, helps you focus, decreases stress and cortisol levels, increases patience, happiness, immunity. It’s AMAZING. I know it can be hard to start, but what helps so much is a guided meditation series that keeps you accountable, motivated, and supported along the way. My absolute favorite is the Deepak Chopra & Oprah 21 Day Meditation Series, which has so many beautiful themed series to choose from, each more illuminating than the last. My current favorite is Desire & Destiny. Every few months, they launch a new free meditation series, so get on their mailing list so you know ahead of time!
- Eat a healthy breakfast. I don’t necessarily believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (that would be lunch!), but fueling your body in the morning will give you energy and stave off cravings and blood sugar drops. The foods we choose for breakfast, however, can make or break our day, so it’s important to pick the right foods for your constitution.
- For Vata types: a warm, comforting option like oatmeal with some maple syrup, ghee, nuts and seeds, and fruit. AVOID anything cold (smoothie, yogurt) or dry (toast, cereal, granola), which will increase anxiety, constipation, and dryness.
- For Pitta types: a cooling and energizing option like oats or a green smoothie with plant protein, raw greens, coconut oil, and seasonal fruit is awesome. AVOID anything too heating or acidic like eggs (1-2 times a week can be ok), bacon/sausage, or fried foods, which can increase acidity, inflammation, stress response, and shorten your temper.
- For Kapha types: a lightweight option like a slice of Ezekiel toast or a rice cake with some hummus, a room temperature green smoothie (without the coconut oil), or just some seasonal fruit works great! AVOID anything too heavy like eggs, bacon, dairy, etc., which will increase heaviness, fatigue, and congestion.
Those are your basics. I get all this (minus breakfast) done in less than 30 minutes. If you’re running on a similar timeline, you may have room left in your Morning Power Hour for some optional add-on’s! If you’re craving more, add on from the list below or be creative and come up with some balancing, energizing habits of your own!
Your Morning Power Hour Optional Add-On’s
- Gratitude journaling or intention setting. These beautiful practices allow you to set the tone for your day from a place of intention and love. I love to use my Desire Map Planner to journal and set my intentions for the day and week; I also close out my meditation practice with a daily intention.
- An oil self-massage. This practice, called abhyanga, is one of the most effective tools in Ayurveda for anti-aging, anxiety, joint pain, skin issues, boosting immunity, and calming the nervous system. Although it’s traditionally performed using warm oil, standing on a towel before showering, I like to do a modified version in the shower (it’s faster and less messy). When I’m all done with all my shower stuff, and with the hot water still running, I take some oil and massage my body starting at my feet and moving up through all my limbs and torso, adding more oil as necessary. Then I get out and pat dry. My skin is hydrated and supple, no added moisturizer needed! And my mind is soothed throughout the whole day.
- For Vata types: use a Vata Massage Oil, or make your own using unrefined sesame oil (mixed with a little castor oil if you have extra dry skin). Great essential oils to add are geranium, myrrh, patchouli, and/or lavender.
- For Pitta types: use a Pitta Massage Oil, or make your own using organic sunflower and/or raw coconut oil. Great essential oils to add are gardenia, jasmine, lavender, lotus, rose, and sandalwood.
- For Kapha types: use a Kapha Massage Oil, or make your own using jojoba oil and essential oils like eucalyptus, frankincense, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and sage. Some particularly oily Kapha types feel better with dry brushing instead of an oil massage, so you can try both and see what works best for you!
- Breathing exercises. Different breathing exercises, or pranayama, are amazing for addressing what ails you. There are different exercises to calm you down, wake you up, focus your mind, and heat you up. I like to do a few minutes of pranayam before I meditate.
- For Vata types: calming pranayama like deep abdominal breaths, ujjayi breath. Breath of Fire is also awesome for heating up cold Vata.
- For Pitta types: cooling and balancing pranayama like alternate nostril breathing or sitali. If stressed out or distracted, deep abdominal breathing or ujjayi breath are great too.
- For Kapha types: heating and stimulating Breath of Fire is a win-win. It busts fatigue and boosts the immune system.. Plus it can help clear those sinuses!
- Reading. Taking some time to read in the morning slows everything down and tells your nervous system that everything is OK. Whether it’s reading a spiritual book (I’ve been loving Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening, which has a passage for every day), or flipping through your favorite magazine over your morning tea, this lovely bit of self-care is a wonderful addition to your morning. Just one rule: no news/email/work!
- Sip some tea. There is something so calming and nourishing about a cup of tea, which is so much better suited to a calm, collected day than coffee. I love to sit for a few minutes after breakfast and sip some tea while my kiddo plays. It’s such a lovely way to relax into the day and start things off with a bit more mindfulness. And depending on the tea you choose, you can get some immense health benefits as well!
- For Vata types: forgo caffeinated teas (and definitely no coffee) for a warming, soothing tea that will calm your mind, focus your energy, and enhance digestion. Best options are ginger tea (make with fresh ginger), 3 Seed Tea (1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds), or cinnamon and licorice. Or try this Vata Tea Blend!
- For Pitta types: skip super caffeinated options (which are heating and inflammatory) in favor of a cooling tea that will lower stress levels and cool your fiery side. Best options are jasmine green tea, mint, Brahmi, rose, or Golden Milk. Or try this Pitta Tea Blend!
- For Kapha types: a little caffeine can actually work quite well for Kapha to boost metabolism, especially when combined with a warming digestive aid that will keep things moving. Best options are black tea with ginger, ginger tea, or peppermint. Or try this Kapha Tea Blend!
Just an hour (or less) of balancing, mindful practices every morning will reverberate across every aspect of your mind and life.
What will your Morning Power Hour look like?
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