Ayurveda is an eternal science, something that has no beginning or end. It not only helps you to understand the value of life, but it also provides timeless direction that encourages one to live life in the most harmonious way possible.
Ayurveda is an ancient wisdom that is meant to be used everyday, it’s not something you look for only when you need it. It’s very practical and accessible because its foundation is based in maintenance of good health and prevention of disease. In Ayurveda the definition of health is so elaborate, so complete, so holistic that it is present in the food you choose to eat, in the colors you choose to wear, and how you arrange your environment, everything that is part of your life either internal or external; therefore the easiest way to have access to Ayurveda is through your lifestyle and diet.
The basis of Ayurveda consists of the 5 elements ether, air, fire, water and earth and they influence and interact with you. The interaction of these 5 elements is in each fragment of this universe. The molecular structure of the food we eat contains these 5 elements, just as the human body is made up of them. If I strive to understand what my constitution is based on these 5 elements and also understand what are the tastes and subtle qualities of the food I eat, while also understanding what part of the cycle of day I’m eating, in what season I’m in and in what part of the world I’m in; I will see that all these things go together and influence me. We need to synchronize our internal rhythm with the rhythm of nature to create harmony and therefore balanced health.
The individualization of each being is called dosha; whose literal meaning is to be out of harmony. This literal meaning relates to the delicate balance the doshas maintain in our bodies and minds; when in balace the doshas create perfect health, when out of balance, they create disease. Ayurveda says then this creation, this diversification, this isolation or individualization, is a state of disharmony of the perfect balance of creation as a whole; this is called dosha. On the other hand this individualization is the perfect balance.
Kapha is comprised of primarily water + earth it means to nurture, grow, expand, stabilize, it is compassion, love, structure and lubrication.
Pitta is comprised of primarily fire + water it relates to metabolization, digestion, it is passion, focus, concentration, alertness, intelligence, fire.
Vata is comprised primarily of air +ether it relates to circulation, movement, enthusiasm for life, it is vital life force energy, mobility and creativity.
Following the Ayurvedic guide to practice a daily routine is necessary if you want a radical change in your life; in your body, mind and consciousness. This routine helps establish a balance in our constitution, it regulates the biological clock, encourages hormonal balance, improves quality of sleep, digestion, absorption and assimilation, all these improvements help generate high self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness and longevity. Don’t you think it’s worth doing?
A balanced lifestyle creates a definite rhythm in a person’s life. On the other hand, if they go to bed too late, have irregular eating habits, work stress, irregular bowel movements and repression of natural urges; these are some of the habits that will definitely unsettle us. Getting used to being regular involves having a regular schedule to sleep, to walk, to eat, to eliminate, along with practicing other aspects of the daily routine; this will bring discipline and helps to maintain the elements balanced in the mind and body, resulting in good health. Below I will share a guide to create a daily routine that will keep you in balance.
At first, integrating all the steps of the daily routine that is recommended for all mind-body types by Ayurveda can be a bit overwhelming, I know! But it’s truly beyond worth the time and effort it takes, as it will change your life for the better, guaranteed. This is also why it’s a fabulous experience to book yourself an Ayurveda and Yoga Retreat in a beautiful location. This way you not only get to travel and experience a new culture, but you’re able to truly immerse yourself in the Ayurveda lifestyle and get a solid routine going while you’re supported by compassionate health care professionals that create a customized diet and lifestyle plan that you easily integrate into your life back home. It’s a win-win, you get to take a well deserved break from your daily responsibilities while investing in your health!
Dinacharya~Ayurvedic Daily Routine
- Get up early in the morning!
It’s good to get up before sunrise, ideally 1-2 hours before, when the Sattvic qualities are dominant in nature, bringing peace to the mind and freshness to the senses. Also go to sleep early to ensure you sleep well.
Waking up late can make you feel heavy and cause you to lack interest or motivation during the day. Also, we must rise as early as possible to find the time to dedicate to a consistent balanced routine that includes preparing healthy locally and seasonally sourced food for the day!! It’s highly recommended to do your routine first thing in the morning, because as the day progresses, we’re more easily pursuade by pessimism as decision fatigue sets in.
- Notice your agni-digestive fire. How does your gut and mind feel? Do you feel sluggish, cloudy and heavy? Light, clear and refreshed? What is the taste in your mouth, metallic, sour sweet? Do you feel gassy or bloated? Do you feel hungry? We should not eat until about 2 hours after waking more or less, so if you feel hungry upon waking, it’s likely to be ‘false hunger’ so best to sip on warm water as per usual and go about your morning routine and likely the hunger will pass. It is important to do intermittent fasting, the traditional way, where we fast from about 7pm-after 7:30am and sip on plenty of warm-hot water every 15 mins (rather than guzzling 500 ml at a time!) in the mornings before food, as this is an optimal time for water absorption. Don’t worry, I will have a blog talking ALL about water and how and when to drink it, very soon!
- Say a prayer before leaving the bed. This can be the simplest or most complex prayer to the God of your understanding. The important thing is to start your day with an attitude of gratitude. After this prayer touch the ground with your right hand, then the same hand to the forehead, with great love and respect to Mother Earth.
- Go and empty the bladder. Notice the qualities or the urine, is it sparse, dark yellow, bubbly, cloudy, does it burn or have a strong odour? This will tell us a lot about our current state of health. For example; Bubbly +sparse= high vata. Dark yellow, burning sensation + strong odour= dehydration and high pitta. Cloudy= high kapha
- Brush your teeth regularly. You can brush daily with a special tooth powder containing the powdered herbs of mainly neem and manjeesta, but especailly if there is an infection in the gums. For this you can also use the powder of roasted almond skin. Then clean your tongue with a tongue scraper, toxins that come to the surface of the tongue are toxins that the liver could not process and because of the horizontal position you sleep in, the toxins go into the tongue, as the body was unable to expel them through the urine, feces or sweat. Note how you are doing with your diet, what foods you are eating and when you awake, look at your tongue before you clean your mouth; like self urine analysis, this is a good parameter for health. Scraping the tongue stimulates the internal organs, regulates the water and earth element and improves digestion, on top of removing the bacteria accumulated there.
- After the cleaning mouth, swish and hold warm sesame oil in your mouth, this strengthens the teeth, gums and jaw, while relaxing the jaw aiding in TMJD, it improves the voice and removes wrinkles of the cheeks. This practice is called Gandusha or Kavala.
- Wash your face and your eyes. For your eye wash you can use regular filtered water, organic rose water or a cooled and super well strained triphala tea.
- In the morning, while you are still fasting from the previous night, get in the habit of drinking a glass of room temperature water, preferably in a cup made of clean authentic copper; fill the copper vessel with water the night before, it cleanses the digestive tract, the kidneys and stimulates peristalsis of the intestine, aiding in a regular bowel movement. It is not a good idea to start the day by drinking coffee or black tea as these drain the energy of the kidneys, cause stress in the adrenal glands and create long-term constipation. Instead of the copper cup, which can be heating (avoid regular use it you live in a hot climate or have a pitta related disorder you can also just drink warm-hot water.
- Evacuation: sit or better squat on the toilet and have your bowel movement, create the habit of drinking water early and going to sit on the toilet, after some time you will see this helps to regulate your bowel movements. Improper digestion of the previous night’s meal or lack of sound sleep can prevent this. However the warm water, followed by sitting on the toilet at a set time each day, helps to regulate bowel movements. Alternate nostril breathing may also help. Wash your anal orifice with warm water and wash hands with soap afterwards.
- Nasal Drops (Nasya) Putting 3 to 5 drops of warm ghee or oil into each nostril in the morning helps to lubricate the nose, clean the sinuses, and improve voice, vision, and mental clarity. Our nose is the door to the brain, so nose drops nourish prana and bring intelligence. For vata: sesame oil, ghee, or vacha (calamus root) oil. For pitta: brahmi ghee, sunflower or coconut oil. For kapha: vacha (calamus root) oil.
- Oil Drops in the Ears (Karana purana) Conditions such as ringing in the ears, excess ear wax, poor hearing, lockjaw, and TMJ, are all due to vata in the ears. Putting 5 drops of warm sesame oil in each ear can help these disorders.
- Abhyanga; warm oil massage. Give yourself a daily massage by applying oil on the body and head (on head at least once a week) and letting it soak in for 20-30 minutes, the longer the better. This is actually a really good time to fit in your pranayama and mediation. Giving yourself a brief massage every morning before you bathe improves self love (the word for oil in Sanskrit is snehana-which also means love. Oil= Love!!) circulation, maintains smooth and wrinkle-free skin and helps you feel fresh all day. If you do this at night it is also good and induces deep sleep. The head massage prevents hair loss, headache, gray hair and brings happiness. Not sure if you know, but I’m a former hairstylist and here’s my TIP for washing oil out of your hair: apply the shampoo directly to your oily scalp, before getting it wet!! Rub it in good (you’re going to think I’m crazy at this point…) get a good oily lather. And then hit it with some water not a lot, just enough to lather it up reeeal good. Then rinse and wash again as usual.
- Bathe in warm water, using only cool water on the head. Bathing is a practice that refreshes you and cleans you, it removes dirt, sweat, odor and fatigue and brings energy to the body, clarity to the mind and holiness in your life. It is best done after Abhyanga or massage so you can remove any excess oil from the body.
- Dress after bathing, use clean clothes made from natural materials such as cotton or silk, this brings a healthy flow of prana and air, beauty and virtue and develops self-esteem.
- Use natural perfumes, such as essential oils, this brings freshness, attraction and joy, it gives vitality to the body and improves self-esteem.
- Exercise, especially yoga, regulates your system, improves circulation, provides strength and endurance. It helps you relax and sleep well, helps digestion and elimination. Walking and biking is good for everyone. (It is best to practice yoga under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher or consider taking an enriched yoga teacher training program to deepen your own knowledge and experience to create a safe home practice.)
- It is important to practice meditation for at least 10 to 15 minutes, both at dawn and at dusk. This will bring balance and peace to your life. You can practice the So-Hum meditation, sitting comfortably, inhale and mentally repeat sooooo, then exhale slowly and repeat in your mind Haaam, and so forth for 11 minutes, with eyes closed. So-Ham mantra means: I am God, I am that.
- Now its time for breakfast. It should be a light meal in summer or anytime your digestive fire is low and potentially still digesting last nights dinner. It can be more substantial in cold season when your digestive fire is stronger. If you burp and taste or smell last nights’ pizza, you may want to consider just having a spiced chai tea with milk or digestive tea, and skipping breakfast altogether. This is because your body is still assimilating last nights meal (which may be due to a poor food combination or choice, eating too late or over eating for example) and it needs to finish that first before becoming burdened by another job. It is important to chew something in the morning though so have a handful of freshly toasted sesame seeds, 2 dates or a big few inches of fresh coconut meat, to stimulate digestion and start your day with a good dose of healthy fats and minerals.
- Lunch. This should be the main meal of the day, eat between 11 am and 1 pm. Do not eat anything between meals, we usually do this due to insecurity, which causes an emotional or false hunger and this will destroy your digestive fire and accumulate toxins.
- Dinner. Should be light and must be eaten at sunset 6.30 pm or earlier.
- During the evening. Rest, read, relax, you can also take a walk or a bike ride, you can take triphala an hour after dinner and if you are going to drink a cup of boiled milk with turmeric or cardamom, to induce a deep sleep, make sure you take the triphala 2 hours before the milk.
- Bedtime. Go to sleep between 10 and 11pm at the latest.
- Sexual Activity. The best time to make love is between 10pm and 11pm. Sexual activity should be avoided after having a heavy meal, or when you’re in a hurry, angry or fatigued, the correct amount and the correct time to sexual activity is important. Lovemaking often decreases ojas and leaves you weak and open to disease. Ojas can be restored after sex, by giving yourself a massage or drinking something nutritious like a glass of warm almond milk. Ojas (vigor, is consciousness in its biological form, the power that unifies matter and intelligence) The glowing image of brightness, grace and beauty that ojas gives a person is its perceived external effects. Its interior effect is the feeling of peace, calm, happiness and a very strong immunity. We were born with adequate load ojas in our organism. We begin to lose it depending upon the lifestyle we choose, our stress levels, how we manage our emotions. Toxins are the opposite of ojas and toxins affect the tissues, preventing them from forming properly. Ojas is of subtle nature. To restore it we do Panchakarma or a protocol that will help you reboot your system and give you a foundation for your body to function well. Also changes in your routine are necessary to purify your body for it to return to its proper functioning and produce by itself that valuable substance, which remains lodged in the heart region and spreads through the subtle channels.
Be gentle with yourself and make changes gradually. If you try to follow these recommendations and you experience a problem, you should consult a practitioner of Ayurveda. We must do everything possible within our ability and our intelligence to find health. And what we have found is that we have to get back to the basics, we must return to the roots, we must return to ourselves, this is the only way to find a solution. I feel that people are already doing this and it has nothing to do with coming from the east or west, it has to do with humans, no matter where we are, we must choose the path that leads us back home to ourselves.
Shown here are a few products we can use for the practices above, we should integrate all of these into our morning routine, if possible, for proactive care of the 5 senses. Each of these practices is important to integrate into our modern day lives, since our senses are constantly bombarded with stimulation and get little time to cleanse and rejuvenate themselves. Description of the products starting on left going clockwise:
✔anu thailum -medicated nasal oil for nasya- where 2 drops are administered in each nostril
✔valiya velichenna -medicated ear oil (used by administering at least 5 drops in each ear and massaging in)
✔arimedas thailum -medicated mouth oil for ‘oil pulling’ (actually called Kavala or Gandusha?)
✔Not shown here is medicated oil for the head and body to do Abhyanga- self oil massage.
*You can also just use Organic Sesame oil for all of the above; ears, nose, mouth (although for head and body Abhyanga- if you don’t know your constitution and current imbalances; use Organic Sunflower oil as it’s a safe, tridoshically balancing choice for everyone to use) instead of these medicated versions that aren’t always easy to come by outside of India.
✔dansakanthi churna -bitter herbal tooth powder for brushing your teeth
✔copper tongue cleaner -to gently scrape the toxins off the tongue and stimulate reflex points of tongue
✔anjanam/kajal -medicated eye liner (a special herbal eye liner applied to the lower eyelid to open tear ducts, reducing burning and pain in the eyes. It creates a cooling effect to relax the eyes, it serves as preventive care, see my eyes below)
SACRED FEMININE RITUALS AND RIGHTS DURING MENSTRUATION
Ayurveda strongly suggests that while a woman is on her menstrual flow she should ideally not work, cook or have sexual relations and do little more than rest, read and relax; meaning they should even rest from doing a strong asana practice. This is because the body (and mind) is undergoing a cleansing phase and during a cleanse we need to reserve our energies so that the body can use the vital life force to direct toxins out of the body and rejuvenate itself. If a woman does not respect this powerful time of the month, where her energy is meant to be directed inwards and focused on resting into the creative aspects of herself, it can cause great detriment to her health, especially that of the reproductive and hormonal systems.
The prana during this time is dominated by apana vayu, the downward moving force, which is necessary to direct the toxic blood shedding from the endometrium down and out of the body. If a woman is mentally or physically stressed, the prana will naturally be drawn back up towards the brain and other vital organs to enable their proper function. This makes the body and prana work overtime and ultimately exhaust the individual and likely cause them to have unnatural menstrual issues such as PMS as well as feel spacey in their mind.
This doesn’t mean we cannot practice asana at all, but rather we should chose to engage in only restorative and supported postures and completely avoid strenuous asana (even chaturanga dandasana) and inversions of any kind; even including downward facing dog, standing forward bends and deep seated forward bends. It is also not recommended to do pranayama during this time, because the intelligence of the body is directing the prana exactly where it needs to go, so one should just surrender and allow it to direct and perform this task itself instead of trying to control the vital life force ourselves.
- Do not do strenuous exercise, including strenuous yoga.
- Do not do pranayama or abhyanga.
- Do not bathe with very hot nor very cold water.
- Do not engage in sexual activity, it can be detrimental to the woman’s health.
- Do not cut the nails, or hair, it can make your period more painful and can cause issues with the bone tissue.
- Eat foods containing iron, such as spinach and other leafy greens, raisins, beets.
- Eat foods that are easy to digest (lighter quantity, lightly cooked and steamed), as our agni is naturally diminished during this time.
- Take a break from taking any herbs or even supplements, as they may be to hard to digest at this time. Think, the simpler, the better when it comes to food/supplement choices.
- Use a comfortable organic cotton sanitary pad or a Moon/Diva Cup.
- Be sure to perform only minimal activity, you must rest, read and relax!