When I first thought about The Tonic, there was this phrase that kept knocking about my head: “finding balance.” I really, really (really, really) wanted to it make the site’s tagline. Polite friends “mm uhmm”-ed it. Less polite friends said, “let’s keep thinking?” Gaurav said, “Don’t be dumb.” It never made it to tagline, but there’s something there (I said, plaintively and often), and it is at the core of what this site aims to be.
In Ayurveda, health is synonymous with balance. Ayur means ‘life’ and veda means ‘knowledge’, and Ayurveda’s life knowledge is that to build immunity, vitality, and strength, the body and mind must be in balance with each other, as well as with nature, and the world around. The idea, for those grappling with the scope of teachings that include the trees as much as their teeth, is that in every day, and in every moment, your mind and body are in constant interaction and conversation with each other, and with everything else that is around you, and all of these interactions serve (or should serve) in maintaining that balance.
One of the easiest ways to practice this is to follow the cycles of nature, and to adopt those natural rhythms in your own daily routines, a practice that’s referred to as dinacharya (in Sanskrit, din is ‘day’ and acharya is ‘to follow’). It’s all fairly obvious, really. In the evening one’s focus is on winding down and prepping for sleep, so that whenever you do hop into bed you drift off into dreamland with ease. And while you sleep, your body sifts through ‘ama’, the waste products of digestion and metabolism, which only means that in the morning one’s focus is on expelling all that gunk while energising for the day ahead. So simple. But it’s the simplest things that are so often overlooked, to the detriment of your wellbeing.
I find a great deal of solace in a routine, and in having a daily practice that supports me in whatever way I need, no matter what’s unfolding around me. But those same daily practices can be a double edged sword. While the practices I choose become more and more supportive the longer I practice them, they also require sacrifice, of time, of lazy mornings spent in bed (although these never really appealed to me), or just of energy that could potentially have been directed elsewhere. Still, assuming that you find things that work for you, it is likely worth the sacrifice. Do I practice all the things that are recommended? Oh god no, but I do a pick-and-mix based on the day. If I’m hungover, I will likely skip a few. If I have a late start, I might chuck in a few more. Do what feels right, do what feels good, and you will start to feel good as well.
In the morning
Wake early. The ancient practices recommend a pre-sunrise start, but I like to be up by 7, when it’s still relatively quiet, both outside and inside, and my mind is similarly schtum. Choose an alarm that isn’t abrasive. There is nothing worse than waking with a jolt. If I pick one that is frou-frou enough, it even makes me giggle, which is a fairly nice way to kick off a day.
While still in bed Take a few deep breaths before you even open your eyes. Don’t look at your phone right now. That shit will wait. Rise, shine.
Use a tongue scraper Seriously, if you don’t, do. It is the best, and once you use one, you will never be without yours. I will occasionally try a round of oil pulling (swishing coconut oil around one’s mouth for a few minutes, although you’re meant to hit 10 or 15 minutes), and I can’t vouch for its efficacy, but as a child of India, I’m a fan of oil for everything. I have a cup of hot water with lemon, honey and a splash of apple cider vinegar before I do anything else. Sometimes, if it’s cold enough, I’ll have two.
My body brush has become indispensable. I’ll take a minute (or less) to rub coconut oil all over myself before going to town on myself with that brush. Really, it makes me feel like a show pony being brushed, because you go all pink and sort of livid looking, before your skin turns to S I L K. By now you should know that your skin is your largest organ of detoxification, so taking some time to help it do its business is an investment worth making. The morning’s a lovely time to get that circulation going, plus you will feel energized and de-puffed. They say you should start at your feet and work your way up, in long strokes pointing toward your heart but I like to start at my shoulders and then just… go where I feel like. And shower.
I try to meditate daily. Sometimes it’s a kundalini yoga kriya, sometimes it’s two minutes spent breathing quietly, but when I’m consistent with this, I’m better. My head is clearer, my thoughts are less all over the place, and my days are just nicer. Like everything else, you need to find what works for you. I found it hard, in the beginning, to even sit with myself for two minutes, which is why the kundalini yoga sets suited me, where there was an activity and a mantra to follow.
Fresh fruit and veg, everyday. I start each day with a smoothie, made in my beloved Nutribullet. Usually it’s one cucumber, a handful of celery, one big chunk of ginger, a lime, and a couple of grapes or strawberries to cut the tartness. Full of enzymes, fibre, easy to digest, and a nice big hydrating boost in the morning. Don’t: juice your veggies (you lose all the fibre) and don’t do all-fruit smoothies (too sugary).
I’ve always been an early bird, and my natural rhythm dictates that I get sleepy earlier than almost everyone I know. First to fall asleep at slumber parties, first to fall asleep before the hallowed Blyton-endorsed midnight feast… that’s always been me. I was sort of embarrassed by it for a bit, but this is now something I’m thankful for. For most of us in cities, we’re so out of sync with the day’s natural cycles that being up late, later, latest is worn like a badge of honour. Except, yuck. It’s like swimming upstream, against some finish line of our own creation, resulting only in an army of wired-tired people burnt out from long days at work, and long nights at play, or worse, sitting glassy-eyed online.
Winding down begins on my drive home, when I pick music that’s chill, or a podcast that’s entertaining. It’s nice to have a laugh on my evening commute.
Cooking is ideal, but I don’t, most days. We’re lucky to have someone who will do this for us, but I’d encourage choosing great ingredients, and going easier at dinner than at lunch.
Quiet I’d love to say that the evenings are screen-free, but reruns are real, as is the bedtime Instagram scroll. Ideally, turn off your televisions, your phones, your iPads. I’ll get there, one day. When I read instead, I sleep so much better. Keep your bedroom tidy. A cluttered room = an unsettled mind.
Bathe I like a warm shower, a rich body butter, and essential oils in a diffuser. I have the driest skin this side of the sun, so before I settle in to sleep I rub a butter into my feet. Apparently this activates your ‘marma’ points (an Ayurvedic pressure point system) but I just do it to keep my hooves in order, and because it feels good.
When it’s cold I’ll drink an ashwagandha tea (No. 3 Clive road do a great one) or just warm water with honey, lime, and a splash of apple cider vinegar.