What is Dinacharya?
A daily routine is a vital and integral part of our state of health. A routine that is followed with care and awareness concerning our individual constitution and balance will bring many health benefits. In Ayurveda, there are certain steps prescribed to drive you along to your daily chores which are valuable in their relation to boosting your health and longevity. It’s called Dinacharya.
Many of us in our lives are busy and overwhelmed with how much there is to do in such a limited time. We rush out of bed in the morning, grab breakfast, and rush out the door to the next place we are supposed to be, and continue rushing until we get home in the evening. This frenetic pace is unhealthy. It is very difficult to find time for yourself.
It is important to assess any imbalances in your natural constitution before initiating a daily routine as it should be catered to your current state of health. However, some general guidelines are recommended from an Ayurvedic perspective.
The Link between Dinacharya and the Circadian Clock
There’s a link between the circadian clock and Dinacharya. The cycles of nature direct our internal biological clock, which is known as the circadian clock. The circadian rhythm governs our body’s daily fluctuations of temperature, blood pressure, muscular strength, levels of circulating hormones, neurotransmitters, and numerous other metabolic compounds and physiological processes like sleep, and wakefulness. These processes are influenced by the natural patterns of day and night.
Ayurveda divides the day into four hourly segments based on the Doshic (body types) system to identify and describe each time segment. It recommends certain lifestyle behaviors for each segment to benefit from this circadian cycle. Additionally, there has been research documenting the benefit and value of the Ayurvedic circadian rhythm system for medical treatments.
The Dinacharya – routine
- Morning routine:
- Regular waking time – This will vary a bit throughout the year. For example, in the winter waking before sunrise will help to prevent stagnation and accumulation in the body and dullness in the mind. In the summer, waking a bit after sunrise soothes the heat and intensity of the sun’s effect on our body. Say a personal prayer or mantra in bed reminding yourself of your positive connection to all things.
- Clean the face, mouth, and eyes – Splash some cool water on the face and eyes and rinse your mouth out. Gently rub the eyes and then rotate the eyes in all directions.
- Evacuating the bowels and bladder – Ideally, this happens naturally as an early morning impulse. If it doesn’t, drinking a large glass of warm water can be helpful. Also, the healthiest position for evacuating the bowels and bladder is squatting with the knees higher than the hips.
- Scrape the tongue – Take note of the colour and texture of the tongue coating. If it is thick and white, it indicates your diet is too heavy and your body is not digesting completely. If it is greasy and yellow, there is too much heat in your system. The dry and grey coating can indicate stress or overwhelm.
- Clean the teeth – Classically, it was recommended to use bitter, pungent, and astringent herbs to clean the mouth. If this is impractical for you, find a toothpaste that is not very sweet.
- Oil massage before bathing – In the winter and spring months (especially when it is wet or overcast), brushing the whole body with a soft, natural bristle brush improves circulation and aids the elimination of toxins and tensions. In the summer, autumn and winter (especially when it is windy and dry), applying warm oil to the whole body helps to protect the body from illness, strengthens the skin, soothes anxiety, improves circulation and helps the body to maintain moisture.
- Bathing – The pressure of the stream of water in a shower can be disturbing to the body and mind. Sitting in a bathtub and bathing by pouring buckets of water over the body calms the mind and encourages the energy of the body to flow smoothly.
- Meditation – Depending on the type of meditation practice you do, you might want to choose to practice before exercise, after exercise, before lunch, before dinner, or before bed (or multiple times per day).
- Daily exercise – Exercise is essential for good health. When practiced regularly, it supports good digestion, eases tension, lifts depression, and improves circulation. According to Ayurveda, you should work to half your capacity when you exercise, inducing a light sweat. If your diet is clean (fresh, whole foods) and you do not sweat too much, this light sweat is wonderful nourishment for the skin and can be massaged back into the skin.
- Regular mealtimes – Consume food appropriate to your constitution. Try to eat your meals at the same time every day, usually with at least 4 hours between meals and with dinner before sunset. For some people, two meals per day are sufficient. Others will find they need 3. Try to avoid snacking.
- Rest – A short rest at the beginning of the afternoon or before lunch or dinner can nourish the body and mind very deeply. Practicing Shavasana posture for 15 or 20 minutes is an excellent option.
- Midday routine:
- Lunch – Relax and make it the largest meal of the day. Do not snack until dinner.
- Brief rest on the left side and light walking (10 to 15 minutes) after lunch will facilitate digestion.
- Evening routine:
- Dinner – the lighter and earlier, the better.
- Regular bedtime – Try to go to bed at the same time every night; preferably not later than 10pm.
- Turn off electronics after sunset (or at least an hour before bed). Allow your mind to become more quiet and ready to rejuvenate through sleep. Exposure to artificial lights and computers damages our body’s relationship to natural cycles.
These are systemic routines in Ayurveda that have been developed to ensure proper hygiene and dosha balance in the human body. It varies according to day, night, and season. At first glance, these guidelines may seem time consuming, complicated, and trivial but they have been scientifically developed keeping your health in mind. These guidelines ensure proper hygiene, tridosha harmony, internal balance, and reduction of stress on the body and mind. Once these daily and nightly regimens are sustained, they become a natural part of life and easy to adhere to. These routines are not just ‘rules’ but practical guidelines for healthy living daily.
Simple changes in daily lifestyle after consulting with experts from the field of Ayurveda will help us to create a better and healthier future for the individuals which indirectly lead to a healthy society and can cause growth in overall performance at higher levels. This is the need of the modern era!
Importance of Ayurvedic Practices in Dinacharya
Ayurveda advices some very important practices as a part of the daily regime (Dinacharya), and describes the health benefits in terms of promotion of health followed by prevention and management for various health conditions. The recommended routine comprehends the day’s requirements (both physical and mental) from the moment one wakes up in the morning to the time one heads to bed. It covers all activities that everyone normally indulges in, instinctual, habitual, spontaneous, deliberate, life – preservative, aesthetically appealing, and professionally relevant.
Principle behind Gandusha (Oil pulling)
This Ayurvedic technique involves holding substances in the mouth. It is a medicated therapy that gently improves oral hygiene by holding natural fluids such as milk, honey, oil, etc., (as recommended by the physician) for 3-8 minutes in the mouth. As a daily routine, plain sesame oil (Tila taila) is advised for Gandusha. This treatment will strengthen the teeth and gums, and more importantly, improve the sensitivity of the taste buds, and freshness in your mouth.
Benefits of Souviranjana (Collyrium)
A gentle application of a medicated collyrium (souviranjana) to the inner skin of the lower eyelids is advised. This practice lubricates the eye, sharply delineates the white, dark, and red circles on the eyeball, sharpens the vision, and also promotes the growth of eyelashes; thereby it removes impurities, accentuates the natural beauty of the eyes and improves eyesight. Application of collyrium is recommended every day for protecting eyes, clear vision, lightness of the eye, reduces excessive lacrimation, promotes proper functioning of eyes, and also prevents eye diseases. Natural collyrium is prepared by the black soot of herbs such as Eclipta alba (Bhringaraja), Tabernaemontana divaricata (Nandivriksh), etc. Classical texts recommend that one should not apply the collyrium immediately after food consumption, head bath, undergoing purificatory therapies, suffering from fever, and not sleeping in the night.
Principles and Benefits of Nasya (Nasal instillations)
The administration of medicine through the nose is called Nasya. Two drops of medicated oil, Anu thaila, which is an Ayurvedic medicine available in Ayurvedic stores is instilled into each nostril, which is then inhaled deeply. When the liquid enters the throat, it is not swallowed but to be spat out. This pattern is called as Prathimarsa nasya. This has to be followed by gargling with warm water and medicated smoke inhalation for better effects.
Nasya enables the removal of phlegm from the respiratory channels, thus permitting easy breathing and better perception of the sense of smell. Daily usage of Nasya improves sense organ perception, gives strength to the shoulder muscles, prevents diseases of eyes, nose, and ears (prevents sinusitis, cervical spondylitis, grey hair) and reduces hair fall, cures the stiffness of neck, headache, facial paralysis and produces clarity of senses, hair growth, and good voice.
Benefits of Dhumapana (Medicated Smoking)
Inhalation of medicated smoke (produced by igniting turmeric, ghee, etc.) and exhalation is known as Dhumapana (medicated smoking). Part of vitiated kapha situated in the head is eliminated very fast by smoking. So, after the application of collyrium, smoking is prescribed. Medicated smoking cures heaviness, headache, rhinitis, half sided headache, earache, bad odour from nose and mouth, toothache, etc. It strengthens hair, skull bones, sense organs, and voice. It prevents strong vata-kapha disorders occurring above the shoulders.
Benefits of Abhyanga (Full Body Massage)
The medicated herbal oil application, Abhyanga is not only a massage; it is a program where the oil is liberally applied using soft and gentle strokes in the downward direction. The mere soaking of the body in the prescribed oil for the said duration regularly yields wide-ranging benefits such as good appetite, alertness during the day, and good sleep at night and reduced stress levels. It removes fatigue, daily aches and pains, gives a glowing skin, and most importantly helps to build immunity.
It also helps to mitigate vata, promote strength, growth, removes senile debility, fatigue, toughens the skin, and improves vision, strength, and life span. One has to apply oil at least to head, ears, and feet on regular basics. Avoid oil bath during indigestion, cough, cold, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, kapha predominant diseases. Pure sesame oil is advised to all generally.
Proper hair washes especially with herbal cleansers like reetha, shikakai, and amla powders are advised. Some of them are commercially available as OTC (over the counter) products with plant extracts. These will be beneficial compared to chemically synthesized shampoos. Hair wash has to be done with lukewarm water and it has to be naturally dried without using hot air dryers. Hair is damaged when exposed to chemical colouring; hence natural colouring agents like henna, amla powder, herbs like neelini (Indian Indigo), bringaraja (Eclipta alba) can be used for this purpose. Conditioning of the hair can be done by Aloe vera, hibiscus leaves, and buds, fenugreek seeds, and yogurt application.
Things to keep in mind while performing Surya Namaskara
Follow the body postures in each step very scrupulously. If it is not possible for you at the beginning, you are free to make some minor changes, here and there, for the time being. But your final aim is to attain the perfect position. While performing the asanas, keep your belly and hip part loose. Get the feel of the stretch and strain at the particular part of the body. The rest of the body should be free of muscle tension.
Each movement of the asana should be graceful. Use all your physical ability to experience the stretch and strain on your body while performing the asana. There are twelve steps in Surya Namaskar. You can count five seconds for each step of the Surya Namaskar. It means that one Surya Namaskar goes for one minute (and a bit more). This is the normal speed to perform twelve asanas or one Surya Namaskar round. Likewise, you can continue based on your capacity. Regular practice will enhance the endurance and number of Surya Namaskar cycles.
Asanas are not only a form of physical exercise but also the method of gaining the perfect mental and physical relaxation. Yogasana influences various internal organs and makes them functionally more efficient. Yogasana is an effortless activity.
Reasons to not Sleep during the Day
Sleeping during the day time, in seasons other than summer, is not advisable as it causes vitiation of kapha and pitta. Persons with excessive fat, those who are addicted to taking oily substances, those with kapha (shleshmika) constitution, those suffering from diseases due to the vitiation of kapha and those suffering from artificial poisoning (dushi visha) should never sleep during day time.