Athlete, author and self-development podcaster Rich Roll is credited with suggesting that “mood follows action”, and perhaps via our own daily routines we can all recognise how our actions do indeed impact our moods. Routines are essentially a refined and somewhat purposeful expression of our habits, which when repeated become ingrained and an integral part of our individual psyche.
Whether it’s the time you go to bed or wake up, the time you sit to meditate or the actions involved in your morning rituals, it’s clear that what we do affects how – and essentially who – we are.
The idea of a daily routine has existed for thousands of years in one form or another. Many routines arise from religious practices, and others from a simple awareness of the cycles of nature. When humans were hunter-gatherers, daily routines may have followed the arc of the sun or the cycles of seasons, staying closely connected and literally ‘at one’ with nature at all times. When we settled into organised communities and agricultural villages, it was around this time that we also evolved the brainpower to think in terms of religion and the power of belief, invisible forces at work and an understanding of the need to plan for the future.
Moving into today’s world, and a daily routine may tend to follow the guidelines of work and study; it might include an hour of emailing, watching TV or scrolling through social media. It might be food-prepping, making it to a local yoga class or squeezing in a few moments of morning meditation. Whatever it looks like, a routine is regarded as vital from an ayurvedic perspective in order to calm the mind, and connect the body to the rhythms of nature. The Sanskrit word used to describe a daily routine is dinacharya, referring to dina meaning ‘day’ and charya meaning ‘activity’.
Read on for some Ayurvedic advice for your own daily routines, and maybe bring a few into your day for greater wellbeing.
The Basic Ayurvedic Dinacharya
Upon rising, breathe slowly and deeply, focussing your mind on your idea of universal energy, divinity, God or nature. This can help create a sense of connection to the universe and encourage a positive mind-set. At this point, stay for a few minutes of meditation.
Cleanse the five senses via kappalabhati (‘skull shining breath’ – a dynamic pranayama practice), nauli (stomach churning to awaken digestive power), neti (using saline water to clear the nasal passage), tongue scraping, cooling the eyes using natural rose water eye drops (the eyes hold the quality of pitta or ‘fire energy’), and emptying of the bowels.
Practice abhyanga or self massage with sesame oil in autumn and winter, mustard or almond oil in spring, and coconut oil in summer.
Bathe or shower to clean off the oil
Choose light coloured clothes like white or pale blue to bring about a sense of calmness as you practice yoga and meditation.
Consume something warm for breakfast like stewed apples, porridge or traditional ayurvedic kitchari.
Spend some time outside connecting to nature, taking in fresh air and sunlight.
Take on tasks that require a lot of brain power or focus, or things you find challenging.
Consume your largest meal when the sun is highest in the sky (digestion follows the arc of the sun and is strongest when the sun is highest). Ayurveda never recommends eating cold or raw foods, but it is at this point that difficult to digest foods like this could be eaten, as the agni or ‘digestive fire’ is strongest at this point.
During the afternoon hours, explore creative endeavours, tasks that require communication or quick thinking. This would also be a good time for exercise or sports that require quick reflexes.
As things start to wind down in the evening, the ayurvedic advice is to consume something light and easy to digest like soup or broth, and to spend time in good company. Taking part in group activities or socialising with family at this time can create a useful boundary between work and home life.
Aim to head to bed before 10pm, as this is when the best quality sleep cycle is likely to starts. The energy of kapha (earth and water, heaviness and stability) is prevalent between 6pm-10pm, and is very supportive of relaxing and sleeping. From 10pm onwards pitta energy awakens, which is when night owls may feel that ‘second wind’ of energy.
This is part 1 of Ayurvedic Advice For Your Daily Routine. In Part 2 we’ll dive into the details behind exactly why certain practices are done at specific times, as well as some tips for using seasonal ingredients in self care items and cooking.
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