Dinacharya - living in harmony with nature’s rhythms
Dinacharya, the Sanskrit word for daily routine, is a simple and effective way to balance the body. Our daily activities have a profound effect on our health and a routine, practiced daily, is stronger medicine than an occasional remedy. Dinacharya establishes healthful habits through attunement of the body to the natural cycles of the day. The three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha, each have their own periods of time within a twenty-four hour day in which their energies predominate. By establishing a routine that “goes with the flow ” of these elemental energies, we are able to more easily support the body’s natural rhythms and healing potential.
The first Vata period of the day ends around dawn with the first rays of sunlight. At this time of day Vata qualities are at their strongest and if we arise between 4–6am we will imbibe the positive qualities of alertness, vibrancy, enthusiasm, energy, clarity, strengthened intuition and motivation. It is the most sattvic, peaceful, and still time of day and is an ideal time for spiritual practice. If there are time constraints we can simply take a few deep breaths and adopt an attitude of gratitude for waking up to an exciting new day.
Our bladder and colon should be emptied upon rising. To facilitate this practice we can drink a glass or two of warm water with a slice of lemon added. This helps rehydrate the tissues, flush toxins that have accumulated overnight, enkindles agni or digestive fire and stimulates peristalsis.
Cleansing the senses
Ayurveda recommends purifying the senses each day in preparation for taking in all the rich, new experiences that life has to offer. Refresh and energise the mind by splashing the face and eyes with cool or luke-warm water. Gently wash the ears and apply a thin coat of sesame oil to the inside of the ear with your little finger. Use a neti pot with saline solution to cleanse the nasal passages. Brush the teeth. Scrape the tongue using a tongue cleaner to remove any coating. Notice your tongue each morning. A thick coating is indicative of ama, or toxins in the digestive tract. Scraping the tongue helps to purify your sense of taste and benefits the internal organs. Finally, gargle with warm water, or salt water and turmeric to help purify and strengthen the voice and keep the gums, mouth and throat healthy.
According to Ayurveda, abhyanga, or oil massage is an essential component of dinacharya. This practice nourishes and strengthens the body, encourages regular sleep patterns, stimulates internal organs, enhances blood circulation and can significantly reduce vata.
After you have massaged your entire body, enjoy a warm bath or shower using a minimal amount of mild soap. Towel dry with a towel you do not mind collecting oil with.
Daily exercise increases circulation and oxygenation of the tissues, strengthens agni, tones the body, reduces fat and enhances vitality. Determine the best time to exercise and what form of exercise to practice with consideration to your prakriti (constitutional type) and the effects of the seasons. For example, in the fall, a vata person should exercise during the kapha time of day, to take advantage of kapha’s grounding and stable qualities. Choose an activity that is soothing to the nervous system like yoga or tai chi.
Just as we cleanse our bodies each day, we must also cleanse our minds of accumulated thoughts that no longer serve us. Be still. Direct your attention inward. Notice your breath. Practice pranayama. Meditate for twenty minutes or simply invite calm and relaxation into the body if time is limited. This practice acts as a protective shield to the destabilizing influences of the external environment.
The next morning period is Kapha which has the qualities of heaviness, slowness and stability – the later a person awakes after dawn the more of these qualities he imbibes within his physiology and carries with him for the rest of the day. Kapha time (especially between 7am and 10am) is the best time for more physical exercise, such as jogging, swimming or cycling.