Dinacharya: The Art of Daily Routine

By Felicia M. Tomasko

We often view routine as something dull and mechanical. But from the perspective of Ayurveda, dinacharya—the art of daily routine—is essential.

Following an Ayurvedic routine is deceptively simple. Our daily habits rather than our occasional indulgences have the most significant influence on our health. Some primary principles to consider are walking the path of moderation through avoiding excesses and extremes, generally calming vata and planning activities to correlate with the inherent daily cycles.

Ayurveda describes a daily cycle during which the doshas alternate in their predominance. Planning activities at the appropriate time allows the day to run more smoothly.

In the art of dinacharya, how the day is begun sets the tone for the rest of the day. If we wake up early in the morning, earlier than the start of the kapha time of day (6 a.m.), we will feel more awake, alert and energized, before the heaviness of kapha starts to weigh us down.

The pitta midday hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. are often when we are most alert and productive. Take advantage of this time of clarity by tackling difficult tasks. This is also when the body’s agni (digestive fire) is at its most intense, so eating your largest meal of the day at this time promotes healthy and complete digestion and elimination. Additionally, eating regularly and at approximately the same time each day balances all the doshas.

In the mid-afternoon vata time, we may feel an energetic lull. Instead of succumbing to coffee or sugar, take a brisk walk, enjoy a cup of herbal tea or take a short break from work for an energizing boost.

Evening is the second kapha time of the day. Eating dinner earlier rather than later gives the body ample time to digest in this slower time of day. It is good to take advantage of the natural strength, stability and earthiness of kapha energy by studying, exercising or socializing in the evening.

It is important to slow down as the evening winds on to sleep well. Going to sleep around 10 p.m. allows you to sleep through the pitta time of night when the body digests toxins and rejuvenates itself. You may notice that if you stay up past ten, you feel hungry and get a second wind due to the heating effect of pitta.

Very early morning is another vata time characterized by our connection to our creativity and intuition. We dream the most in these hours; they are also ideal for meditation, asana and spiritual practice.

Our routine should strive to calm the body. Still, creating calm does not mean falling prey to stagnation. Dinacharya should include practices to keep things moving in the body, physically and energetically. One practice is to begin the morning with a cup of hot water to encourage proper daily elimination and kindle the agni, or digestive fire. Other morning cleansing practices include neti and scraping the tongue with a tongue scraper.

Neti is the practice of washing the nasal passages with salt water. Use pure, body temperature water with enough salt to make the solution taste salty like tears (1 ½ tsps of salt per quart of water, or a pinch per cup). You can either use a bowl and draw the water into the nose with the breath or use a neti pot and pour the water through your nostrils with your head tipped to one side over the sink. It can be helpful to follow neti with nasya (warm oil in the nostrils). Nasya is an herbal solution in either oil or ghee.

Regular abhyanga (massage) is an effective way to calm all the doshas. Two ways to incorporate abhyanga are: oiling before bathing or showering or oiling the feet before sleeping, which releases the day’s frenetic energy and promotes sound sleep.

Discover for yourself your best time for yoga, keeping in mind that consistency brings more power to your practice; a short daily practice is more effective than a monthly asana marathon. Make sure you have some type of asana, exercise or movement in your day, as it is too easy to spend most of our time sitting at desks or driving.

Remember that asana helps prepare the body physically and energetically for some of the more subtle practices like pranayama (breath techniques), meditation, chanting, study or prayer. Incorporate other practices in your day including savasana (relaxation) and a short meditation, which can be effective to focus the mind and calm all three doshas.

The art of dinacharya encourages harmony and balance 24/7. It is not necessary to follow every recommendation, but it is important to find the ones that work for you. When we approach our daily routine with awareness and schedule our routine with knowledge of the whole in mind, we can take advantage of the profound effect the little things.

Ayurveda Self Care I and II, fulfills the Ayurveda study requirements for the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) 1,000-hour certification. Both courses will be offered in LMU in the Summer of 2016, by Felicia Tomasko and Siva Mohan. To register, go to the LMU Extension Course Catalog.