School of Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion
Simply put, it is impossible to maintain good health without a good daily routine. If you feel fatigued, have trouble sleeping at night, eat on an erratic schedule, or generally feel frazzled throughout the day, the following article will help guide you back to a sense of calm by implementing regularity and routine to your lifestyle.
A typically fast paced lifestyle means humans have been drawn away from these natural intuitions, but an Ayurvedic daily routine can help get you back on course. After all, Ayurveda translates as "the science of life" or the art of daily living. This art of daily living is created through a daily routine (dinacharya).
The foundation of a strong routine is built by implementing healthy habits and following them daily. Habits are the acts you do instinctually each day, like brushing your teeth or grabbing your keys before you leave the house. When something becomes a habit, you do it automatically, and you don't waste time thinking or worrying about what you should be doing. Habits help make your life run like clockwork.
By setting your day up with a number of healthy habits, you can rest assured that you are taking good care of your body. This frees your mind, giving you the time and energy to concentrate on other areas of your life. Habits help keep you on track with your health and self-improvement goals. As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Continue reading to learn more about what an Ayurvedic lifestyle involves and how it can contribute to better health, more energy, a clearer mind, and enthusiasm for life.
Having a regular schedule can significantly improve your wellbeing, starting with the quality of your sleep. Establishing a sleep schedule of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day makes it easier for you to fall into a deep, restful sleep each night and wake feeling refreshed in the morning. Having a relaxing routine prior to bedtime also sends a message to the nervous system that it is time to unwind. It is best to keep this routine relatively consistent throughout the week (and the weekend!), but there is of course room for flexibility. If social commitments draw you away from your sleep schedule, just try return to it as soon as possible.
A daily routine is one of the most fundamental steps to support your digestive strength (agni) and elimination. By eating at the same times every day, you can regulate your appetite and improve digestive function. Your stomach will start to get hungry at the same time, and digestive secretions will be regular and strong. Planning mealtimes also means you won't fall into the habit of skipping meals which can lead to poor food choices. A regular eating schedule leads to regular elimination, which reduces inconvenient and irregular bowel movements.
In Ayurveda, all three doshas can become imbalanced without a proper routine, but the worst affected is Vata. Vata is very sensitive to irregularities, and when your lifestyle is unpredictable, your nervous system becomes frayed and symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and irregular digestion can develop. By having a regular routine, you can balance Vata and bring more stability to your daily life.
Like all things in Ayurveda, your lifestyle and daily routine can be completely personalized to suit your unique body type and schedule. Everyone does not have to follow the same routine. In fact, that can actually be counterproductive. Vata types do best with an early night and benefit from some extra time in bed in the morning; rising at 7am may be just right for them. However, it is more appropriate for a Kapha type to be about of bed and moving between 5am-6am, despite their desire for more sleep.
While your daily habits should remain fairly consistent, your routine also needs to be somewhat flexible. Life will throw a curveball every now and then and your routine will get turned on its head, so it is important to adapt as needed. As well at this, an Ayurvedic routine encourages moving with the seasons. While the fundamentals stay the same, there will be some variabilities throughout the year. For example, the practices that help cool and support the body through the heat of the summer will be inappropriate in the winter, and vice versa. Let's take a look at the most important aspects of living an Ayurvedic lifestyle and get you started with implementing a daily routine.
Start your day, still in bed if you like, with a brief moment of contemplation and gratitude. Also, take a few minutes to consider your schedule for the day ahead and what is your top priority. When you rise from bed, take a trip to the bathroom, empty your bladder, and eliminate a stool if there is the urge to do so. Then, take a look at your tongue in the mirror and see if there is any coating. This can signify the level of undigested toxins (ama) in the digestive tract.
Clean your tongue by gently scraping away this coating using either a tongue scraper or a metal spoon. Cleaning the tongue in this way removes the digestive toxins before your body has a chance to redigest them. It also keeps the taste buds sharp. After scraping your tongue, brush your teeth using a soft bristled brush and preferably with an natural, astringent toothpaste. Then, you may choose to do a few minutes of oil pulling to further cleanse the mouth and nourish the gums. Take 1 tbsp of either cold pressed sesame oil or coconut oil and swish vigorously, then discard the oil in a bin.
Next, have a cup of warm water to start your day. You can add a squeeze of lemon in the colder months or lime in the warmer months to help the body wake up and flush the digestive tract. This little squeeze of sour also stimulates the liver to release bile, helping to detoxify and encourage a bowel movement. Vata types that are prone to dehydration can also add a pinch of mineral salt.
If you haven't already, now is a good time to have a bowel movement, before you eat breakfast. It can take some time to train your body to eliminate first thing in the morning, but this is more likely when you have a routine. Never strain to eliminate, but rather practice some deep, slow breathing while sitting on the toilet and focus on releasing any tension. By placing something underneath your feet, such as a small box, basket, or even bathroom trash can, you simulate a squatting position (knees slightly higher than hips) which allows for easier passage and complete elimination of stools. As you inhale, draw the anus upward and as you exhale relax the anus. Your morning warm water will also stimulate peristalsis.
The next stage of the morning routine is to get the lymphatic system moving with either dry brushing (garshana) or self-massage with oil (abhyanga). Which one you choose to do will depend on your body type. Dry Vata types do much better with oil massage. Kapha types are usually naturally oily and need more stimulation in the morning, so dry brushing is often a better option. It is important to use a natural bristle brush for dry massage and organic oil during the self-massage, as the skin is incredibly absorbent. Both of these practice help you get in touch with your body before you start your day, and allow you to keep track of strange feelings, lumps, aches, pains, and sore muscles.
The skin and the nerves have a close relationship, and the oil from the massage nourishes and sedates agitated nerves, preventing you from feeling frazzled. Each dosha will benefit from a different type of oil. The best choices for Vata are Vata oil and sesame oil. Pittas should use cooling oils such as Pitta oil, sunflower oil, or coconut oil. If Kaphas choose to do a self-massage, they should favor more heating and invigorating oils like Kapha oil, mustard oil, or safflower oil.
After dry brushing or your oil massage, take a shower with warm water. Very hot water should be avoided as it can dry out the skin and overheat Pitta. Rinse off the extra oil using soap just in the areas you feel necessary. Once you are out of the shower, pat your skin dry, which will absorb any excess oil.
To continue stimulating circulation and lymphatic flow in the morning, follow up your massage with some yoga or other exercise. Vatas should engage in gentle exercise only, like restorative yoga or walking. Pittas can partake in more strenuous exercise, but must be careful not to push themselves too much and overheat. Kaphas can exercise more vigorously, but often need some motivation in the mornings. For all body types, you should only exercise to the capacity where you can still breathe through your nose and just until you break a light sweat. This gets the blood flowing and wakes you up without over exerting yourself. It also helps stretch out the body after lying in bed for the night.
Next, take just a few minutes for meditation and breathing exercises. You don't need any special equipment or a massive time commitment for these mindful practices. A great way to start is to learn how to belly breathe, as this is an easy and effective way to relax your mind that is suitable for beginners. Once your morning self-care routine is complete, it is time to enjoy breakfast, which should be a light meal suitable for your dosha, ideally between 7am-8am. Once you are fueled for the day, you can go about your morning work or activities.
Throughout your day, try and stay active, even if you have a desk job. Some ways around this are to create a standing desk, or simply stand up and have a quick stretch every hour. Also, make sure to take regular breaks from looking at a computer screen too. If you feel stress or tension mounting during your work day, you can practice some more belly breathing at your desk, or even in a meeting.
At the end of your day, take a note of what tasks are still outstanding and write them on your list for the following day. This will help keep you stay on track of everything, and also put your mind at ease for the evening. It is important to have some small ritual like this at the end of a work day so you can leave it aside and not carry concerns home with you.
Make sure to switch all electronics off 1-2 hours before bed. All artificial lights, especially blue light, can aggravate the nervous system and make it harder to fall asleep. They can also disrupt melatonin production, which is responsible for sending you off to sleep. A hot bath or warm milk with some nutmeg is a relaxing way to end your day and set yourself up for a night of deep, rejuvenating sleep. If you suffer from constipation or irregular bowels, you can take some triphala before bed to regulate bowel movements and aid the body to detoxify overnight. As you lie in bed, this can be an opportunity to practice another few minutes of prayer, meditation, breathing, or gratitude to end your day.
In many cases, an imbalanced lifestyle is caused by lack of time. If you work a 50-hour week, have kids to care for, or other major responsibilities, it is likely that you savor whatever free time you can get, and spend it relaxing. A hectic schedule leaves little to no time for cooking or following a daily routine. It can also lead to increased anxiety and poor quality sleep, leaving you feeling even more tired and fatigued with each passing day.
There is a term in Ayurveda, prajnaparadha, which means crimes against wisdom, or mistake of the intellect. This is very much related to lifestyle and the choices you make. In certain cases, you may know an activity will be harmful or destructive, such as drinking alochol with work the next morning, smoking, or eating a big piece of chocolate cake when you are intolerant to dairy. However, despite your knowledge that this activity will be unsupportive, you engage in it anyway. While we all indulge once in a while, repeated offences against your intuition can be a major causative factor in lifestyle imbalances.
When a Vata's digestive system goes out of balance, they generally experience irregular or erratic digestion (vishamagni). This means that sometimes they can digest a meal, but more often than not, their digestive strength is too weak, and they are left with gas, bloating, and even constipation. To remedy an imbalanced Vata digestion, follow a Vata balancing diet including easy to digest foods. Digestive support formula hingvastak churna can help relieve symptoms of irregular digestion.
When Pitta types go out of balance, they tend to experience fast digestion (tikshnagni), meaning food moves too quickly through their digestive tract, resulting in soft stools or diarrhea. Following a cooling Pitta balancing diet and using herbal remedy avipattikar churna is often useful to reduce the excess heat in an imbalanced Pitta digestive tract. Kapha types, when out of balance, likely experience slow digestion (mandagni). They often have a heavy stomach and feel lethargic, sluggish, and dull after eating. A lighter Kapha balancing diet and digestive stimulant trikatu can help stoke their digestive fire and speed up their digestion.
To alleviate insomnia, it is essential to calm the mind and feel grounded ahead of sleep. Creating a bedtime routine and implementing it each night can help ease you into a restful sleep and bring stability to your sleeping patterns. Start by reducing screen time in the hours leading up to bed. Instead, read an easy going book, spend some time journaling, and make yourself a cup of warm milk with nutmeg. You can also rub bhringaraj oil on your scalp and feet as a useful sleep aid. Ensure you get to bed by 10pm, as staying up later than this can lead to a disturbed sleep as you get a "second wind."
Take some time to create a healthy sleeping environment in your bedroom, making sure it is dark and a comfortable temperature for you. If you are lying awake in bed, do your best to stay calm, even if you are getting frustrated. Avoid using your phone or watching TV, as this will only reduce your chances of falling asleep. Instead, practice belly breathing until you feel relaxed again, and this can also help you fall asleep by switching your nervous system into "rest and digest" mode.
A Vata person should take rest when they need it, especially after a long day at work. If they are at home, they may even benefit from taking a nap. They should also make sure they are hydrated by drinking some warm water with a pinch of mineral salt and a squeeze of lime. Vatas can become easily dehydrated, sapping their much needed energy. Ashwagandha and adrenal energy are both adaptogenic tonics that can help the body adapt to stress and boost energy in depleted Vatas.
Kapha people generally need to engage in some sort of invigorating activity, like exercise, to boost their energy. A brisk walk or jog may just be what they need to stimulate circulation and put a spring back in their step. They should also favor lighter foods, as heavy meals will only slow them down more.
Abhyanga, the daily self-massage, is particularly beneficial for Vata. The heavy and warming qualities of sesame oil soothe and sedate an agitated nervous system. The act of performing the massage also helps them slow down, if even just for a few minutes. Vatas should always favor warmth, creating a cozy home and eating warm soups and stews. If Vatas get cold, it can chill them to the bone and be hard to shake.
Vatas are also the most thrown by travel, even though they tend to be very attracted to it. In fact, they love movement in general. While they can of course fulfill their love for travel, they should be mindful to bring some home comforts with them, and try and establish a regular cycle of sleeping and eating throughout their trip. Find more information on a Vata balancing lifestyle here.
Pittas need some calming, cooling, and soothing. While they may be attracted to competitive sports, they might just find that restorative exercise, like yoga, or swimming, serves them better. They also should learn to not take their typically strong bodies, and digestive systems, for granted by pushing themselves to the limit. Amalaki acts as a rejuvenative to the entire body, and can help reduce Pitta heat and stress. Find more information on a Pitta balancing lifestyle here.
Dry brushing is a great, easy technique for a Kapha person to implement as it helps stimulate their sluggish lymphatic system. Kaphas should also take the time to find a type of exercise that they enjoy, one that gets their heart pumping and they will practice regularly. A team sport is great for motivating a Kapha, as is the support of a coach. They should also keep themselves warm and eat well spiced, invigorating meals to spark up their cold, sluggish digestion. Find more information on a Kapha balancing lifestyle here.
As for remembering everything each day, think about brushing your teeth. How many days have you forgotten to do that? Perhaps you rushed out the door without brushing or forgot to bring your toothbrush on a plane, but generally, this is something you do instinctually at the same time each day because it is a well established habit. Have faith that one day, your new habits will be as ingrained in your routine as brushing your teeth.
Not only does Ayurveda outline a detailed daily routine, it provides a flexible framework for each person to adapt to their own body, work schedule, health concerns, and season. Living by an Ayurvedic lifestyle is a powerful practice. The daily routine brings order into your life, and then brings order into your body too. Eventually, you will see how ordering and structuring your day forms a solid backbone that gives you the time and energy to thrive in your endeavors. You will feel more competent and life will seem less stressful. You will be in a far better position to reap the rewards of a healthier body and happier mind.
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