Sow an action, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character reap a destiny.
In Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, dina means -day, and it also means -sun (whose appearance constitutes the day). Charya refers to a routine (which has in it the word -route) and also means a path. So together dinacharya means the routine, route, or path that follows the sun. Or one’s daily routine that is in synch with nature’s rhythms which are put into motion by the earth’s relationship with the sun. A haphazard routine, done daily, can still be a routine, but a dinacharya is a routine that connects us to our true nature, to mother nature and to the cosmos. Dinacharya are one of the single most powerful Ayurvedic tools for improving overall health and wellbeing.
As a system of medicine, Ayurveda dates back literally thousands of years. For thousands of those years there were no MRIs, powerful pharmaceutical drugs, or highly complicated surgical procedures. This meant that your best shot at health was to not go out of balance in the first place. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Thus, a most important branch of Ayurvedic preventative medicine was developed called Swasthavritta. The Ayurvedic dinacharya is a major component of Swasthavritta as a life lived in balance with nature is preventative medicine. An ideal dinacharya takes advantage of the shifting qualities in each day, in each season, and in each environment to maximize the benefits of the activities we engage in.
So how do we know what is the optimal time for our activities? The ancient rishis (sages) who gave us Ayurveda laid it all out for us. They were deeply in touch with nature and her cycles. These visionary wise ones lived outside in nature and without any technological distractions. They observed how energy naturally fluctuates in the environment throughout the day and how it also fluctuates in our bodies throughout the day. With keen observation they noticed that living in synch with these rhythms helped maintain health with ease and that going against this natural flow was not only difficult and energy consuming but that it lead to ill health. Today scientists call these fluctuations circadian rhythms and are receiving honors for their insights into the way these rhythms effect our health. Below is outlined a rather basic dinacharya. These routines include many self care practices you likely already do, such as brushing the teeth and exercise as well as some lesser know practices like Nasya- nasal oil and Abyangha- self massage with oil. You will see there is great emphasis on health promoting activities in the morning to start the day off right and restful activities in the evening to help us wind down. You are welcome to print out the dinacharya below to use as a guide until the practices become second nature for you.
Listen to relaxing yet uplifting music, mantras, bajans, kirtan or native flute music are examples
Drink 8-10 oz of warm/hot water (with lemon optional)
Exercise, brisk walk or bike ride in nature, or yoga or tai chi at sunrise are ideal
Abyangha– self oil massage with a healing Body Oil
Oil pulling (medicated ideal)
Breakfast (at a specific time each day) say 8:00
Work or school or training (for athletes) generally starts around 9:00. If possible spend the first hour of the work day getting everything prepped for the power hours.
From 10:00 am- 2:00 pm fiery pitta dosha increases as does the intensity of the sun, bringing all diurnal creatures to full wakefulness. These are the power hours, a time of increased intellect, enthusiasm, digestion and assimilation (of complex information and food). It is ideal to take advantage of this time to hold meetings, make decisions, make plans and to get tasks done that require focus. This is a highly productive time ideal for more left brain activities. At around 12:30 our digestive fire is the strongest, correlating with the sun at its peak. Eat your main meal at this time, utilizing your strong digestive fire. This should be done away from the computer, the office, the desk. These will take the energy away from the digestive fire. Pitta types will find it easier to stay balanced if they avoid physical exercise at this time especially in hot climates and in summer.
From 2:00 pm- 6:00 pm vata dosha increases making this time ideal for creative mental efforts, more right brain activities. From 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm vata is the highest. At this time we start to lose focus, daydream, space out. This is a nice time for an after work yoga practice. Stress relieving types like restorative, yin, or gentle flow are the best if Vata is high. Limit stress as much as possible here.
Between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm kapha dosha increases. A lighter dinner should be taken first and then utilize this time to slow down and relax. Preferably do tasks that don't require a lot of mental focus such as watering plants, light clean up and organization, laundry, light reading, stretching, crafting or connecting and preparing for the next day. It is not ideal to work-out past 7:00 pm especially for vata types as that will be overly stimulating. Really wind down by 9:00, turn off all screens, LED lights and other sources of blue light. Have a drink to facilitate relaxation such as warm milk with Ojas Rasayana or Ashwagandha. A foot massage with Arnica Oil in combination with relaxing essential oils supports wind down too. Be in bed no later than 10:00
Between 10:00 pm and 2:00 pm pitta dosha increases for the second time. This is a time of digestion, detoxification, restoration and renewal. It is important to go to bed before pitta gets activated again and you get a second wind. Just because pitta revs you up and you think you're a night owl this is not ideal. This time is needed to transform, detox, digest dinner and the days experiences and for restoration. Using this energy for work hinders rejuvenation and the next day you will feel tired. The liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas and small intestine are all organs associated with pitta. They are in full swing from 1:00-3:00 wanting to do restoration. If we are not asleep at this time we are missing out on that cycle of restoration and won't get the opportunity again until the next night.
Left to its own devices the body wants to live in sync with nature, and will naturally. However, modern life, our personal desires, electricity and work demands cause us to ignore natures rhythms. Too often, people allow their days to be defined by external factors and miss the opportunity to define and direct life for themselves. If you have a goal, schedule specific practices in to your dinacharya that will help you attain the goal. Plus scheduling in specific good habits or practices removes a great deal of the burden of decision fatigue. With more time on autopilot we can save some mental bandwidth for bigger and more important decisions and in general are less scattered.
Recap- Benefits of an Ayurvedic Dinacharya:
- Makes sure that each day starts out in a sattvic health promoting way.
- Assures that beneficial activities have the maximum benefit by doing them at the proper time.
- Synchs-up your body and mind with natures biorhythms making activities easier.
- Helps you obtain important goals and take action steps to materialize dreams by scheduling in the activities that will lead you to achieve the goals.
- Frees you from decision fatigue by giving you a schedule to follow. The routine gets easier and easier to follow.
- Slowly, slowly replaces nonproductive unwise habits with productive, healthy, beneficial ones until eventually each day is designer.
- Brings balance to aggravated doshas, especially vata dosha.
- Improves digestion as agni begins to anticipate exact meal times and is strong and ready to receive the meal and assimilate it. This promotes more stable energy levels.