One of the most important Ayurvedic methods for well-being and joy is a daily self-care ritual also known as Dinacharya. Allowing our body to have a routine regulates our biological clock and aids digestion, absorption and elimination. This consequently results in greater self-esteem, happiness and peace.
Having a routine calms our mind
Having a routine helps us to plan our day. When we start our day, every day, in the same way, our body and mind start to feel more safe and steady, which allows our mind to relax, whilst our body is given time to rejuvenate. Taking time consciously every day to apply the Ayurvedic routines helps us to nourish our body, mind and spirit from early morning to late evening and also cleanses toxins as they accumulate throughout the day.
Where to begin?
There are many ways to start your day in order to keep yourself relaxed and rejuvenated at all times. Some of the programmes are longer and others shorter. What matters is that you find your own way, according to your doshic type, needs and the current state of balance, as this is the only way for you to receive positive nurturing energy throughout the day. Rather than engaging in intense practice, it is more important to choose what you like to do and then do it every day – without any excuse. In order to gain results, one of the most important things in Ayurveda is continuity.
Here is my daily routine. It is up to you to try out some of these ideas or you can find entirely different ways to spend the most important parts of the day. This will allow you to rejuvenate, let go of the old and increase your energy. To allow for your body and mind to adjust with ease, it is recommended to start with one or two practices during the first week and then add one more practice every second week.
1. Wake up early, before sunrise – if possible.
There is nothing better you can do for yourself than to wake up early and soak up the peaceful and fresh early morning energy, sipping it in and letting it fill you with positivity for the day. It is important to adjust your waking times according to the season, however here are some tips for the 3 main types:
- Vata 6 am
- Pitta 5.30 am
- Kapha 4.30 am
2. Say a prayer or positive affirmations to keep you in a loving vibration throughout the day.
This will allow you to take a moment to connect with yourself, feel gratitude, remain centred and collect strength and hope to help you calmly go throughout your day.
3. Wash your face.
Start by washing your eyes with cold water. This will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system in the morning, keeping yourself and your body in calm and relaxed state. Then wash your face and scrape your tongue to get rid of any bacteria from the night before. Scraping your tongue will also stimulate your digestion, which actually starts with the saliva in your mouth. At this point, you can also clean your teeth – if possible use natural powders such as neem for Pitta and roasted almond shell powder for Kapha and Vata.
4. Drink a large glass of warm water and feel free to add some lemon, if this suits your constitution.
Lemon is not recommended for people with acidity problems as well as in general for Pitta and Kapha types. A glass of warm water flushes your kidneys, stimulates peristalsis and cleanses your gastrointestinal tract. It is a much better option than a cup of coffee, which puts all of those organs under stress so early on in the day.
5. Clear your bowels and bladder – if possible within the first hour of waking up.
Normally, by the time you have washed your face, your body will naturally express a desire to clear any waste. However, if this does not happen, you can train your body to do it every morning, either through introducing a daily routine every day at exactly the same time or by sitting on the toilet until you have a bowel movement.
The following 3 activities I only practice occasionally – maximum 2 times a week.
6. Gargle with warm sesame oil then spit it out and massage your gums with your finger.
This practice strengthens your teeth and gums and relaxes your jaw, which holds an incredible amount of tension. It also helps to eliminate wrinkles. You can gargle up to twice daily.
7. Chew a handful of sesame seeds to additionally strengthen your gums and teeth.
By stimulating the saliva in your mouth, you wake up your stomach, improve your digestive fire as well as stimulate your liver. It is advised to brush your teeth after chewing once again with the powder.
8. Use a neti pot
The correct use of a neti pot is an advanced yogic practice, thus please contact an experienced practitioner to demonstrate and monitor your practice. I love to use a neti pot at the beginning of each new season, especially in spring, when I use it for 2 weeks to a month daily and then decrease its use to twice weekly. Also, if my mind becomes aggravated, I start using it more often to facilitate calm and quietness.
9. Morning body asanas followed by pranayama and some time to sit in silence.
A slow and gentle practice is recommended for Vata, moderately fast and intense exercise for Pitta and rapid and vigorous exercise for Kapha.
During my morning practice, I start by rotating my joints and massaging my glands, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I pay special attention to my spine, making sure I keep it as relaxed and flexible as possible as it influences my immune and nervous system as well as the entire functioning of my body. My practice ends with a couple of relaxing asanas, which I stay in for a while, whilst observing the current state of my body and mind. The final relaxation or Shavasana is a must in order for my body to be able to integrate the practice. Moving back into a sitting position, I end my practice with a simple breathing technique and a couple of minutes of silence, observing the sensations throughout my body whilst setting my intention for the day.
10. Shower and oil your body.
Some people prefer to shower in the evening, therefore this method can also be done in the evening instead of in the morning. There are many ways to oil your body; if you do it already you can stick to that method, or if not, learn Abhyanga – Indian self-body massage with an experienced practitioner. It is recommended to start massaging your head and move down to your toes.
For Vata the best oils are warming and heavy (sesame oil), for Pitta use cooling (coconut or sunflower oil) and for Kapha warming and light oils (mustard or sunflower). Please note that intense body oiling/massage or Abhyanga is not advised during pregnancy, menstruation, illness or whilst taking medication. If you like, you can also apply oil before your morning yoga practice and shower after.
11. Breakfast according to your type and needs.
1. Make sure your lunch is the largest meal of the day.
Between 10am and 2pm your digestive fire is at its peak. Therefore, this is a great time to have a large, healthy lunch, especially for Vata and Pitta types. By doing this you use the forces that are already in action, to your advantage, to aid your digestion so you do not feel sluggish and tired in the afternoon. Chew well as this also helps your digestion.
2. Go for a light walk after lunch or do some exercises to improve your digestion.
Especially after having a large lunch, you can help your body and allow it to digest properly. A perfectly suitable digestion exercise is where you simply lay on your left side for between 5 to 15 minutes after lunch. In order to learn breathing techniques for improved digestion, please contact an experienced practitioner.
1. Have an early and light dinner at the same time each day.
Having an early dinner, at least 3 hours before you go to bed allows for proper digestion and elimination of toxins and results in a calm and deep sleep.
2. Do evening relaxing yoga and meditation.
Gentle yin yoga practice is a perfect way to relax your body and mind, helping you to switch off from the day. It will allow you to reconnect with your true self, where your body feels completely safe, and for your parasympathetic system to be stimulated and your mind to become calm.
3. Massage your feet or head or do your body oiling.
You can either massage your feet to encourage circulation and flush out the toxins that have accumulated in your body throughout the day, or you can nurture your entire body with an Abhyanga massage before going to sleep.
4. Create a bedtime routine.
Having a short routine which you stick to every day before you go to bed, gives your body a signal that the day is slowly ending and it is bedtime. After introducing a routine, you might notice how easy it gets for your body to surrender to sleep. Some activities you can include in your bedtime routine are: brushing your teeth, washing your face, applying body oil, showering, or chanting a prayer or mantra. However, reading a book, using your phone or watching TV before bed is not advised as it stimulates your eyes and mind and can disrupt your sleep.
5. Go to bed by 10pm at the latest.
As mentioned in my previous articles, it is important to be in bed before the element of fire becomes active, which helps stimulate activity in your body, eliminate toxins and help you to let go of what you do not need any longer. Going to bed every day at the same time helps your body to naturally attune to a daily rhythm. Although you might need less sleep, you will rest more and wake up fresh and relaxed.
I hope the general framework above inspires you to adopt your own daily routine according to your constitution, needs, lifestyle and especially to what makes you feel good. If you do not connect with any of the above-mentioned practices, be brave and make up your own daily routine.