The Benefits of Ayurvedic Daily Routine
How we begin our morning sets the tone for the rest of the day!
Have you ever felt tired from just planning your day? What time should you wake up? What to do when you wake up? What should you eat? Where do you fit in the workouts? What should you wear? What do you pack for your kid’s lunch? Think about it: How does mental rest find its place with so many questions looming in your mind?
After two years of pandemic disruptions, everyone is burned out. I know many who, for most of 2020, binge-watched through the night, passed out on their couch, and logged into work in their pajamas. No rhythm or routine to their mornings crept up as weight gain in some and depression or complete lack of motivation in others.
Ayurveda recommends an everyday self-care routine known as dinacharya for maintaining lifetime health. A lot of us may resist, “I don’t have time for this.” But understand: if you don’t have time for your well-being, you really need to rearrange your priorities. If you don’t believe in selflove, then self-care might seem luxurious to you. If we aren’t compassionate towards our own selves, we can’t be caring towards others.
The Overall Ayurvedic Morning Routine
Wake up before sunrise: Ayurveda is all about restoring your innate connection with the natural world. Waking up about an hour and a half before sunrise, the time that is called Brahma Muhurta, can increase mental clarity and positivity (increase sattva). This is the vata time of the day when we can find stillness, clarity, and quietude. This is also when the environment is pure and calm, and the mind is fresh after sleep. I often find answers to life’s big questions at this time of the day.
Body and mind scan: When you first wake up, spend a moment checking in with yourself—how you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally before doing anything else. Scan your body for any aches or areas of tension. What about fatigue and energy levels? Do you feel rested or tired when you wake up?
Go to the bathroom: When I went for my very first annual checkup in the U.S., I remember one of the doctors saying that pooping a few times a week is normal. Honestly, that makes no sense. If you eat three meals a day, how is it healthy to eliminate once every few days? In the mornings, go to the toilet. Make it a daily practice. Seems like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people in America don’t have a bowel movement daily. When we get into the habit of doing this each morning, it helps regulate our digestive system.
Scrape your tongue and brush your teeth: Bacteria and toxins accumulate on our tongue overnight. This simple hygiene practice of scraping the tongue removes ama, the toxins. Tongue scraping also detoxifies the body. In Ayurveda’s view, toothpaste should be astringent and bitter as it cleans the pockets between the teeth and makes the saliva thin. If sweet toothpaste is used, the saliva will become thick and rich in calcium, which may lead to the development of tartar on the teeth.
Drink a cup of warm water: When you wake up, drink a cup of warm (not hot) water before you put any caffeine in your body. This has been shown to impact digestion, improve skin health, and promote weight loss. A few glasses of warm water each day might enhance your blood circulation, which is important for proper muscle and nerve activity. It keeps your nervous system healthy by working on the adipose tissues around it. If you are prone to constipation or sluggish digestion, warm water can promote bowel movement.
Move your body: It’s very difficult (unless you are a sage who lives by himself inside a cave) to quieten your mind without moving your body. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs.” The postures practiced in yoga comprise the third of the eight limbs of yoga. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation. Asanas are used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being.
Meditate: Next, take at least 10 minutes to sit in meditation. Focus on your breath. Chant a mantra. Fix your gaze on an object. But sit in stillness even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Eat nourishing foods: Choose foods that support your mental and physical well-being. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. Eat local, seasonal, simple, well-cooked, fresh, and warm meals for your doshas.
Morning routine for each dosha type
The science of Ayurvedic healing is based entirely on the Panchamahabhuta theory. It states that the entire universe, including all life, is made up of five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements form the three biological doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha. We have all the three doshas but the proportion may vary from person-to-person. To attain good health, it’s important to keep the doshas balanced.
Dinacharya for balancing vata dosha: Vata dosha is made up of ether/space and air. Vata-dominant people love irregularity: Eat anytime, sleep anytime, move anytime, work anytime. The erratic nature of their existence throws the dosha out of balance. Because the primary qualities of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile, a daily routine that incorporates warmth, nourishment, and stability can help ground and balance this dosha. These people should wake up early in the morning and every day at the same time. They tend to be the first to get exhausted, so ample rest and period to recover are necessary to restore energy.
They are naturally intuitive, imaginative, and light sleepers. Vata-dominant people are the ones who can get so immersed in a creative project that they forget to eat or move. They are particularly vulnerable to becoming imbalanced if they don’t have a daily routine that includes regular periods of both rest and activity. The imbalance can show up as constipation, insomnia, anxiety, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Following a self-care routine keeps them grounded and in balance. They should do nasya, self-massage or abhyanga with vata-balancing oil, practice warm yoga asanas, eat freshly cooked warm meals, drink warm water throughout the day, avoid raw and cold foods, practice alternate nostril breathing, and stick to a routine.
Dinacharya for balancing pitta dosha: Pitta dosha is formed from fire and water. Pitta has the characteristics of being hot, oily, and light. According to Ayurveda, this dosha is responsible for our ability to mentally digest our life experiences and biologically digest our food. Pitta is responsible for all our chemical and metabolic transformations. It governs the digestion of food, thoughts, and emotions. Pitta characteristics include a keen intellect, strong metabolism, and a big appetite for adventure. They are natural leaders and orators.
Pitta-dominant people should wake up before 6 am every day. They need to slow down to avoid burnout. Their dinacharya should include time to reflect on the day and spend time in nature. They should avoid spicy, sour, fermented, oily, fried, and processed foods. Cut down on both caffeine and alcohol. Whenever possible, eat more bitter and sweet foods in a calm environment. Eat slowly and avoid talking, watching television, or reading during mealtimes. Practice moon salutations, Chandra Bhedna, and Sitali Pranayama. Practice abhyanga with coconut oil.
Dinacharya for balancing kapha dosha: Kapha dosha comprises water and earth. People with this dosha are said to have the best immunity. But when kapha dosha gets aggravated, it becomes the root cause of all lifestyle disorders. Kapha-dominant people, temperamentally, offer unconditional love and have a lot of patience, unwavering mind, inner peace, calmness, and stability. Much like the qualities of water and earth, these people, when in balance, are soft, gentle, calm, and transparent. They prefer to have a fixed routine rather than trying something new every day. A structured routine is good but occasionally changing things up allows for the mind to be open and less rigid. When you have excess kapha, these “good qualities” turn into bad. Think weight gain, sluggishness, slow to process, unmotivated, laziness, stubbornness, excessive attachment, greed, etc.
They should wake up by 5-5:30 am. They tend to oversleep and overeat when out of balance. They should do exercises in the morning to sweat it out and get rid of the kapha sluggishness. No snacking during the day. Stick to three warm meals and light dinners (avoid dairy, sweets, meats, and gluten). All spices are good to cook with and include in meals. They don’t need daily oil massages as kapha-dominant people have naturally oily skin. Instead, they should do gharshana, which is the practice of massaging the body with soft powders (like chickpea). Gharshana stimulates the movement of the lymph, balances kapha, encourages circulation, bolsters the health of the skin, and strengthens the tissues of the body. Every person should walk at least 100 steps after each meal. But kapha-dominant people should make sure they never skip it. Sun salutations also work well in lowering kapha, along with Kapala Bhati Kriya which improves digestion.
For good health, balancing the doshas is important. This is done primarily by countering the predominant dosha, to bring it to balance.
While there are many to-do items on the traditional dinacharya list, the important thing is to lead a balanced life, not a stressful one. Start with one or two things. A week or two later, add more practices to your mornings. If you like to journal, maintain a record of how you feel as you make these shifts.
When you know that every day begins with the same routine, it gives your mind room to breathe. Not having to think constantly about what next can lessen your decision fatigue. Ayurveda has been illuminating us for 5,000 years that these simple, daily actions can regulate our body clock and digestion, help remove toxins from the body, and bring us back into balance.
Sweta Vikram, a wellness coach and graduate of Columbia University, studied Ayurveda with Dr. Vasant Lad, a leading practitioner in the U.S. Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.
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