Dinacharya: The Traditional Ayurvedic Daily Routine
For a building to stand resilient, a strong foundation is very important. Similarly for a healthy life, an appropriate pattern or ritual in one’s day-to-day activity gives it a strong foundation. According to Ayurveda, or Dinacharya, (‘Din’ means ‘day’ and ‘acharya’ means ‘to follow’)is a guide to lead a healthy and disease-free life. Dinacharya promotes healthy organization of energy channels and flow of Prana. The ancient Rishis considered Dinacharya to be a stronger healing force than medication.
As we know, our doshas rule our bodies which lie in sync with nature and the universe. The three doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha, each have their own periods of time within the day in which their energies outweigh others. Planning our day in accordance to the doshas will allow our body to function at its best. Dinacharya guides the body depending on which energies (doshas) govern different times of the day or season and keeps it healthy. It is not just a series of activities but sets the tone for one’s entire day, bringing a sense of well-being. The practice of Dinacharya makes you happier and boosts your confidence about yourself and your body.
Let’s understand what doshas rule at various times of the day:
2 a.m. – 6 a.m. Vata time: Ideal time to wake up.
6 a.m. – 10 a.m. Kapha Time, when energy is slow and steady. Ideal for breakfast and planning the day
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Pitta Time, when agni is the strongest. Ideal time to strategize, make goals, organize and analyze. Plan lunch at noon and make it your biggest meal.
2 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Vata Time. Ideal time to create, innovate or even plan for the next day.
6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Kapha Time. Ideal time to relax and have a light dinner and winding down.
10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. Pitta Time, when the body begins its digestion process. If you stay awake past 10pm, going to sleep will be harder because the body and mind is a processing machine.
2:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. Vata Time, when the body must eliminates all the stuff that pitta digested and get ready to start a new day.
Wake Up: Dinacharya emphasizes on starting the day at the right hour. One should wake up during Brahmimuhurta – one and half hour before sunrise, after considering whether the previous meal is digested or not. Brahmimuhurta is the Vata kala hence waking up during this time makes you feel lighter and your mind sharper. This period is also predominant in satva qualities and the air is pure and rich in oxygen. Hence any work done during this period, specially studying, Pooja or other creative work is more productive than other times. Exceptions are for very young, old, parents with infants and those who are sick. Apart from them it is important that each one wakes up during this period.
Elimination: After waking up one should attend to the natural urges (facing north during day and south during night) in a closed area. A bowel movement shouldn’t be forcibly induced, so wait until the body is ready to eliminate spontaneously. A healthy bowel movement every morning is a sign of a healthy digestive system. If you are not eliminating daily, increase your intake of fluids and fiber in one’s diet.
Oil-Pulling: This is an age-old tradition Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing and gargling a tablespoon of warm sesame oil (or coconut oil) in your mouth on an empty stomach for around 15 minutes. This technique helps strengthen the teeth, gums, jaw, and voice, while improving the sense of taste.
Wash: A splash of cool water is soothing and rejuvenating to the face, mouth, and eyes and brings a sense of freshness to the body. This also removes the overnight accumulated toxins.
Brush: Danta Dhavana or brushing teeth is the next sequence of Dinacharya. Traditionally , our ancestors used sticks of herbs such as Vata, Asana, Khadira, Kharanja, Sarja, Arimedha, Apamarga, Malati, Kukubha plants to clean their teeth. Brushing should be done twice a day. Brush in a way to avoid injuries to your gums. Using herbal toothpastes containing Triphala/ Ttrikatu (made from black pepper, ginger and long pepper)/ Trijataka (made with cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaf) with honey is good as it keeps your mouth fresh and looks after caries.
Tongue Scraping: Use a tongue cleaner to scrape your tongue after brushing. Scraping tongue helps in removing the accumulated ama (toxin) on the tongue and stimulates the digestive system.
Drink Water in the Morning: Start your day with a glass of warm water, preferably from a copper cup filled the night before. This helps cleanse the digestive tract, hydrates the tissues, and encourages a bowel movement. Avoid starting the day with tea or coffee, as this drains kidney energy, stresses the adrenals and causes constipation.
Vyayama (Exercise): Physical exercise according to one’s body constitution must be practiced daily. It can be yoga, at the gymnasium or even walking is good. This improves flexibility of the body and improves mental capacity. Physical exercise brings about lightness, stability and stimulates the digestive fire. One should practice exercise till he sweats from his forehead, armpits and spine.
Abhyanga (Body massage): Abhyanga is a practice of rejuvenation or self-care that must be practiced by all. A vatahara scented oil depending on season has to be selected (Summer – Chandanadi Taila, Winter – Aragwadadi taila) for whole body massage. Daily Abhyanga reduces vata, inspires to work well, prevents burning sensation, fractures, abrasions, pain, and exhaustion, induces good sleep and delays aging. Warm oil massage should be done not only for the body but also for the head. Daily head massage or just application of warm oil to hair prevents early greying, dandruff, hairfall, baldness and keeps you relaxed and induces better sleep.
Nasya (Nasal Lubrication): Nasya, one of the Panchakarma procedures can be followed daily at home. Nasya lubricates and protects the nasal passages, helps relieve sinus congestion, improves skin complexion, prevents premature graying, hair fall, enriches the voice and strengthens vision, prevents dust allergies and skin wrinkles are prevented. This is done by administering herbal-infused oil into the nostrils. Daily nasal lubrication with Anu Taila followed by gargling (with salt water with a pinch of turmeric), helps to release tension in the head and avoids disease related to ENT. Nasya also helps balance the three doshas.
Anjana (Collyrium): Application of mediated Collyrium daily cleans the eyes, making them shine. It is known improves vision and cure any eye diseases.
Bath: A shower Bath should be taken with hot water below neck and cold/ warm water for head, eyes and hair. Hot water is injurious to hair and eyes. Bathing removes dirt, sweat, itching, exertion, exhaustion, drowsiness and sins. It promotes appetite, strength, aphrodisiac and longevity. Herbs such as sandalwood paste, rose petals, turmeric with milk and honey, Siddhartaka snana churna etc may be used for bathing.
Meditation: Take time out for yourself with at least 15 minutes of meditation or Pranayama that bring well-being to your spirit and mind. Praying is another good conduct mentioned in Dinacharya. Praying can be to the God, supreme power or to your elders. This increases positive energy.
Dressing: Wearing clean clothes every day adds beauty and virtue. Dress according to the season and stay comfortable.
Eating Right: Aahara (Food) has to be taken at regular interval. One should eat breakfast between 6 – 7 am, lunch 12 – 1 pm, dinner 6 – 7 pm. Try to include all six tastes in food, starting with madhura rasa (sweet taste), then amla (sour), lavana (salty), tikta (bitter), katu (pungent), kashayaa (astringent). Skipping breakfast may increase your stress levels and make you more emotionally volatile. Food must be warm, wholesome and nourishing. One should always wash hands before and after having food. Drinking water immediately after or just before food will hamper digestion, so consume water at least 15 – 30 minutes after food. Take time out to enjoy a meal without any distractions and do not eat in a hurry.
Sadvrit (Good conduct): Good social behavior is very important to spread happiness. Spending time with good company is equally necessary. Charity, respect to other living being, helping those in need, speaking after thinking twice, being polite, and determination to complete the duty assigned all these spread a positive energy. Self-respect is also equally important. Dishonoring oneself or self-damaging one’s own identity will put you in depression so be social and respectful in the society. Good behavior also includes cutting nails and hair at proper interval, covering mouth while sneezing, regurgitating, laughing or yawning.
Bed time: Schedule a bedtime and stick to it. This will train the body to wind-down slowly. Make sure to complete dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime. Washing and applying warm oil to the feet or consuming a glass help in getting a good night sleep.
Disconnect: It is recommenced to should stop reading, using mobile or watching the television at least an hour before going to bed. After a stressful day, a relaxed sleep will allow you to start the next day fresh.
Most of us follow everything everyday but in today’s modern life the way we follow it makes a difference. Starting the day with a frown makes the day very horrible. In the curiosity to finish the work assigned today’s population doesn’t give much concentration to his/ her personal health. Many a time skipping meals, not attending to nature calls in proper times, sedentary lifestyle, rushing to bed immediately after dinner, night shifts making them vigilant at night and less sleep hours, etc.
A lack of routine can cause many lifestyle disorders such as Obesity, Hypertension and stroke, Diabetes mellitus, Coronary heart disease, Dyslipidaemia, Cancer, various types of Arthritis, Anxiety, Insomnia, Constipation and incomplete evacuation of bowels, Indigestion, flatus and fullness of abdomen, Hyper acidity, Gastric and duodenal Ulcer, early manifestations of aging like graying of hair, wrinkles, depletion of energy levels, etc. Diseases caused due to unhygienic conditions are Infections of buccal mucosa, teeth, gingiva, Skin infections, infection of ear and nasal cavity, Eye infection, Urinary Tract Infection, Genital infections, Infection of scalp, etc.
Simple modification in one’s lifestyle can avoid many health hazards. Just as unhealthy lifestyles are the principal causes of modern-day illnesses, healthy life- styles can result in an improved feeling of wellness that is critical to optimal health. Health management is free and enjoyable but disease management is very costly and painful. Dinacharya should be utilized by every individual irrespective of their body-type, age and gender or health condition. Though our needs may be unique but everyone will definitely benefit from following a constructive life style.