Far from merely addressing remedies for ailments, Ayurveda emphasises preventative health and longevity as the foremost pursuits of life. After all, its direct translation is “the Science of Life.” Creating vitality in everyday life is as central, if not more, to the teachings of Ayurveda as is the treatment of illnesses and diseases. One of the primary ways in which we can maximise our potential for perfect health is by building daily habits and routines that allow us to achieve physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony. The Ayurvedic daily routine or dinacharya consists of a set of actions that must be undertaken on a daily basis to help us achieve a state of perfect balance. Balance in this context not only refers to internal balance, wherein each aspect of one’s being is in sync with the others, but also external balance, wherein the being is in sync with nature in every way.
A dinacharya helps us to regularise our bodily functions, including digestion, elimination, and assimilation, and also contributes in great measure to mental and emotional well-being. It restructures the body clock and brings it back in tune with nature, which ensures that all the organs begin to function in their highest capacity. Since the dinacharya largely takes place in the morning, beginning as soon as we wake up, it is highly focused on detoxification from the night before and nourishment to prepare the body for the day ahead.
Although each individual’s ideal dinacharya will differ based on factors including age, body-mind constitution or dosha, imbalances, and so on, there are several broad guidelines that can be universally adhered to.
- Rise Early: Ayurveda recommends rising during the time of Brahmamuhurtha, which is precisely 1 hour and 36 minutes before sunrise, as this is the most auspicious time of the day to meditate and pray. However, since this can be impractical given the pressures of the modern day, it is recommended to wake up as early as possible, preferably before 6AM. Ayurveda divides the hours of the day according to the dosha that is in the highest concentration during that time. According to the Ayurvedic clock, 2AM-6AM is Vata time, 6AM-10AM is Kapha time, 10AM-2PM is Pitta time, 2PM-6PM is Vata time, 6PM-10PM is Kapha time, and 10PM-2AM is Pitta time. Due to Vata’s qualities of lightness, activity and movement, it is ideal to wake up before 6AM, after which Kapha’s slow, sluggish qualities take over.
- Wash Eyes and Face: Right after waking up, it is advised to splash one’s face with cool water to increase alertness and mobility. This is followed by rinsing the eyes with eyewashes that are specifically suited to one’s dosha. This practice allows the eyes to be regularly cleansed and nourished, thereby improving eyesight and warding off eye-related ailments that are so prevalent these days.
- Tongue Scraping: Using either a scraper made out of stainless steel, or other material depending on one’s dosha, the tongue must be scraped 7-10 times from back to front every morning before consuming any food or water. This is an unparalleled practice for detoxification, as it removes bacteria from the surface of your tongue that you would otherwise have ingested. This not only helps prevent tooth decay, bad breath and cavities, but also improves overall health by stimulating the internal organs and aiding in digestion.
- Oil Pulling: Another method of detoxification, oil pulling is a great practice for dental health, as it prevents cavities, bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay. In addition, since it helps to pull out the toxins present in your mouth, it can benefit overall health by increasing energy, aiding digestion, and even preventing acne and inflammation. There are two forms of oil pulling in Ayurveda: kavala and gandoosha. Kavala involves swishing about a tablespoon of oil in the mouth for a minimum of 3-4 minutes and then spitting it out. Gandoosha involves filling up the mouth with oil or a mixture of oil and water and holding it for a few minutes before spitting it out. Either can be used, depending on the individual’s constitution and specific concerns.
- Nasya: The application and inhalation of 2-3 drops of oil in each nostril, or Nasya, is a great way to cleanse and protect the nasal cavity. This simple process has innumerable benefits, since the nose is essentially a doorway to several parts of our body. It not only prevents nasal ailments such as sinuses and blockages, but also ensures mental clarity, stress relief, relief from headaches and throat congestion, and protection from pollutants. Given the current state of our environment, Nasya is an efficient technique to protect our bodies from toxins and pollutants that are constantly entering our systems through our nose.
- Dry Brushing: Given that our largest organ happens to be our skin, garshana or dry brushing is one of the foremost methods of ensuring not only healthy and supple skin, but also overall detoxification, removal of cellulite, and stress reduction. Ideally using a wooden brush with natural bristles, dry brushing consists of administering light circular strokes all over the body in the direction of the heart. This process removes dry and damaged skin and stimulates the lymphatic system, leaving the skin renewed and the body energised.
- Abhyanga: Self-massage or Abhyanga with nourishing and often medicated oils is perhaps Ayurveda’s best kept secret, given its plethora of benefits. Right before bathing, warm oil is massaged all over the body and allowed to penetrate into the body through the skin. This process nourishes the skin, making it smooth, supple and firm. The deeply relaxing process of massaging the body creates a sense of calmness and mental clarity that lasts throughout the day, even improving sleep at night. The oil also draws out toxins from the skin, which are then removed through the process of bathing, allowing the body to be energised and radiant for the rest of the day. Long-term, abhyanga is known to significantly increase longevity and overall vitality in the daily life of those who practice it regularly.
Aside from these guidelines, Ayurveda also encourages a daily practice of Yoga and Pranayama, followed by meditation. It is essential to incorporate light exercise and stretching in the morning so that the organs are stimulated and the body is energised for the day ahead. Further, starting the day with Pranayama and meditation ensure that all the activities and decisions of the day are taken in a state of mental clarity.
It is believed that a combination of the self-care rituals in the dinacharya, practiced on a regular basis in the long term, brings the body into a state of complete harmony with nature. This inevitably leads to perfect balance inside and out. Once balance is achieved, an individual can truly thrive. Not only does this state of health prevent diseases and illnesses, but it also allows the individual to live a long, vibrant and stable life. Following a suitable dinacharya is all the more relevant in today’s busy and chaotic age, where self-care often takes a backseat and lifestyle-related diseases are at an all-time high. Incorporating small changes in our daily routines as prescribed by this 5000 year old science can truly lead to life-changing benefits in all aspects of our lives.