Daily routine for optimal health
Human behaviour, sleep patterns, and endocrine systems are controlled by biological rhythms. For example, the circadian clock, which is a cluster of nerves located in the hypothalamus of the brain, relies primarily on light signals to regulate bodily functions such as waking/sleep cycle, body temperature, blood pressure, reaction time, levels of alertness, patterns of hormone secretion, and digestion.
For optimal health, Ayurveda recommends that our bodies be attuned to nature’s cycle. When we do this, we are able to avoid most diseases. Ayurveda outlines the main practices that we should perform on a daily basis to promote optimal health and the ideal use of our faculties. In Sanskrit this daily routine is called Dinacharya.
“Ayurveda’s answer is that there are “master cycles” in us governed by the quantum mechanical body. Every day two waves of change pass through us, each bringing a Kapha cycle, then a Pitta, and finally a Vata cycle. These three phases take place from sunrise to sunset, then again from sunset to sunrise.” Deepak Chopra, M.D. - Perfect Health.
The approximate times are as follows:
6am to 10am - Kapha
10am to 2pm - Pitta
2pm to 6pm - Vata
6pm to 10pm - Kapha
10pm to 2am - Pitta
2am to 6am - Vata
In the Kapha period of the day, one exhibits the qualities of the earth element: slow, heavy, relaxed and calm. In the Pitta period, the fire energy is at its peak and this manifests as optimum digestive capacity in the daytime while at night Pitta transforms and assimilates all inputs from the day as we rest during sleep. Vata controls the nervous systems therefore our mental faculties are at their highest level in the daytime Vata period. Modern research has proven that people do best at mental tests in this period. In the morning Vata cycle, brain impulses are at its liveliest and this manifests as active dream sleep or rapid eye movement sleep.
A healthy person should get up one or two hours before sunrise. During these hours, the Vata (air) element is dominant. Waking up before dawn one can utilize the Vata qualities in nature. Vata is light, subtle and clear and this helps in to tune the body to the delicate messages that nature sends. This is the time when there is the most pureness and clarity (Sattva) in the air.
1. Things to do upon waking:
As you wake up, do not get out of bed right away. Try to be aware of your body and feel connected. Take a few deep breaths in and out and feel the movement in your body.
Take note and appreciate all the gifts in your life e.g. nature, loved ones, safety and security, or anything that is dear to you.
Go to the bathroom upon waking to eliminate waste and clear your digestive system.
Wash your face with a homemade natural face wash mix 1/4 teaspoon of curcuma with 4 tablespoons of whole milk. This promotes lustrous skin, prevents skin eruptions, slows down early wrinkling and heals dry skin.
Gently massage the gums and the teeth with curcuma or any other bitter, pungent or astringent herb two times a day, morning and night.
Tongue Scrapping: the tongue represents the whole digestive system and its health. Use a stainless steel, copper or silver tongue scraper to remove excess toxins from the tongue. Toxins and metabolic waste can accumulate there during the night. Scrape your tongue from base to tip. This prevents diseases of oral cavity, improves sensation of taste, removes food debris and prevents bad breath.
Chewing Sesame Seeds: this is recommended for the general health of teeth and gums. Chew 2 to 4 teaspoons of sesame seeds and spread the paste to all parts of the mouth. Then spit out the paste and rinse the mouth. This improves teeth enamel.
Drinking Water: Water is the best choice among the healing substances according to Ayurveda. Drink a glass of warm or room temperature water on an empty stomach (300 to 500ml). This prevents and corrects malabsorption, constipation, piles, a distention, urinary diseases, eye and skin diseases.
Dip a q-tip (cotton bud) in lukewarm sesame or mahanarayana oil and smear it gently in the ear (Please consult your physician if you have any pre-existing ear conditions). It prevents tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and other old age diseases. It also improves audibility, softens earwax and smoothens dry ear.
Nasal Care: Clean your nose with Anu Thailam oil for 7 days, 3 times a year. The rest of the time, you may use neti (warm water mixed with sea salt). Never use both methods on the same day. Benefits include, improved sense of smell , clearer sinuses, and vibrant voice.
Abhyanga (oil massage): Generally sesame oil is used, but benefits are more pronounced if any herbal oil is used, such as Dhanwantharam thailam. Oil should be warm before application. If you are pressed for time, you may just focus on the head, face, ears, and feet. It will improve the efficiency of your sense organs. Apply the oil all over the body from head to toes. Add a few drops of oil to the top of your head, massage ears, nose, eyes, temples and work your way down the body to the hands and feet. Use long strokes on limbs and circular strokes on the joints. For best results stay in a warm place and leave the oil on your body for 20 minutes and then shower.
Meditation: For a few minutes to an hour sit down and see who you really are, put your attention towards awareness. This is the most important aspect of Dinacharya. Simply be quiet and sit in peace.
This should be warm, nourishing and wholesome
Porridge with Milk
3 tbsp rolled or steel-cut oats/whole wheat/parboiled rice
½ cup almond/coconut/rice milk
½ tsp cinnamon
3 pieces broken walnuts/almonds/other nuts
Some raisins and seeds (optional)
Place oats/wheat/rice and milk in a small pot on a medium fire. Cook for about 15 minutes. Serve in a bowl, topped with cinnamon, walnuts, seeds, raisins and stevia or honey if desired. (If you don’t like the porridge consistency add more or less milk.)
It should be taken early between 12 and 1pm as this coincides with the peak Pitta period.
Ayurveda recommends that the lunch should be the largest meal of the day. After the meal it is good to take a little walk, i.e. a hundred steps to help the food digest.
Anything more than a short nap should be avoided because sleeping in the day is not recommended for healthy people in Ayurveda.
Sunset is a special time of balance between day and night. In this balance it is easier for your mind to stop long enough so that you can see your Self. This is the time for evening prayers and meditations in many cultures around the world.
It should be taken around 6 to 7 P.M. It should be lighter than lunch. The dinner should be at least three hours before bedtime.
Sleeping just after the dinner is not conducive to a sound sleep.
Walk to aid digestion for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Go to sleep between 9:30 P.M and 10 P.M, but no later than 11 P.M, so that you can get 6 to 8 hours of sleep depending on your constitution. Vata dosha need the most sleep and Kapha needs the least.
A good practice is to massage the soles of your feet with calming oil before going to bed.
One should try to keep the routine as close to the recommended Dincharya as possible. The body might resist the change for a first few days but you will be rewarded with a much healthier and satisfying life in the long run!