Dinacharya: An Ayurvedic Practice for Daily Living
By Vishnu Dass
Health is one of our greatest forms of wealth. In the ancient texts it is stated that a person who follows an Ayurvedic lifestyle can easily live, healthy and happy, for 100 years. One of the best ways to maintain our health and prevent disease is to follow the practices of dinacharya, or healthy routine, in our day-to-day life. Ayurveda offers many tips to help us align ourselves with the body’s natural rhythms and promote cleansing, rejuvenation, and longevity. Gradually incorporating these routines into our daily lives can have a lasing effect on our health.
Wake up with the sun
- The Vedic scriptures recommend waking up in the predawn hours to perform meditation and other spiritual practices. This time is considered to be the most beneficial time to attain higher states of consciousness.
- This may not be possible for everyone, but we should try to at least wake up before 7:00, so as to align ourselves with the sun to enhance our vital energy.
Clean the throat
- This is done by rubbing the middle and ring finger on the back of the tongue until it induces a slight gag reflex, helping to bring up phlegm from the back of the throat; then it can be coughed up, thus clearing the throat.
Brush the teeth
- Gentle brushing of the teeth should always be done before any food or drink is taken in the morning.
- This should be done soon after waking up.
- Ayurvedic toothpastes or powders that contain herbs such as neem, triphala, cetechu bark, and peelu are the best.
Scrape the tongue
- This practice is as common as brushing the teeth in India. Tongue scrapers can be found in many health food stores or at Indian grocery stores. It is a flattened U-shaped piece of metal. Copper is best for vata and kapha, and silver is cooling to pitta, while stainless steel is tridoshic.
- Scrape from the back of the tongue to the front seven times firmly so as to remove the thick whitish coating.
- In Ayurveda, the ama on the tongue represents toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, so if it is not removed first thing in the morning it mixes with food or drinks and goes back into the body.
Drink a glass of water
- After the mouth is cleaned it is very important to drink a glass of room temperature or warm water. This helps flush toxins from the GI tract to be removed through the urine and feces and rejuvenate the system.
- This simple daily practice can be of great help in chronic constipation.
- This is not so easy to plan, but simply becoming more aware of how important it is to have proper and complete elimination in the morning before exercise and eating helps in this process.
- It is also recommended to get plenty of fiber and use healthy oils or ghee in the diet, drink enough fluids, drink triphala tea at bedtime (if appropriate) and practice hatha yoga on a regular basis.
- Daily performing self-oil massage to the entire body before a hot shower helps to nourish and revitalize the skin, relax and nourish the muscles, and calm down vata dosha.
- The oil is not to be washed off but allowed to absorb into the tissues.
- It is best to take warm showers to pacify vata and loosen tight muscles, but never run water that is too hot over the head. It will weaken the senses over time.
Tratak (gazing into a flame)
- This involves gazing into the flame of a ghee lamp or a white candle without blinking for three to five minutes (if this is a new practice for you, gaze at the flame for as long as is comfortable, rest the eyes and repeat 2-3 times).
- It is important that the flame is at eye level.
- This practice helps to purify and strengthen the eyes and calm the mind.
- Regular morning exercise helps to strengthen the body, grounds vata dosha, kindles agni (the digestive fire), and burns fat and toxins. It should always be combined with stretching, to free up blocked energy pathways.
- Hatha yoga is perfect because it combines the two and it is also meditative, which promotes peace of mind.
Pranayama (breath control) Techniques
- After resting for a while in corpse pose, you can practice pranayama for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Bhastrika (fast abdominal breathing) is heating and helps to balance kapha and vata and remove phlegm, while nadishodana (alternate nostril breathing) helps to bring balance and calms the mind.
- Starting and ending the day with meditation helps to plant the seed of peace in our daily life. If we sit in the morning and meditate then it becomes increasingly easy to maintain that state of awareness throughout the rest of the day.
- The best time to eat a light breakfast is at around 8:00 to 8:30 in the morning. This allows the agni to become strong by lunchtime.
- The agni is strongest between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., so this is the best time to eat the biggest meal of the day.
- Dinner is best taken between 5 and 7 p.m. Since by this time the agni has slowed down, a lighter meal than lunch is preferable so the stomach is empty by bedtime. If food remains in the stomach at bedtime then it is not fully digested and can promote the formation of ama (toxins).
- Avoid eating too many heavy foods, such as yogurt, cheese, meat,* eggs,* and sweets which are hard to digest and can produce ama.
- Eat freshly cooked, organic, and whole foods as much as possible.
- Before Meals: Chew on a thin slice of ginger dipped in salt and lime juice, and wash it down with warm water to kindle the digestive fire.
- Only drink a small amount of warm water with meals, and avoid cold drinks since they weaken the digestion.
- Drink ginger tea after meals to promote good digestion.
- Avoid drinking too much before, during, and after meals, as this can wash away digestive enzymes.
- After dinner, take a walk for about a half hour to promote healthy digestion.
- When possible, eat in silence in a peaceful place.
- Avoid improper food combining.
- A short meditation before sleeping is helpful to calm the mind and reflect on and let go of the day. When you get into bed, lie on your left side as it directs vata in the proper direction helping promote digestion and proper elimination in the morning.
- Oiling the scalp and sales of the feet with a little warm sesame oil helps to induce a sound sleep and can be done every night if desired.
When integrating these new habits into our lives, it is important to remember that slow change is lasting change, since it allows us to incorporate healthier habits without it being a burden on our minds. Eventually, these simple routines become second nature.
* We have included ‘meat, eggs, and fish’ here because many may not have completely eliminated these from their diet. However, Shri Anandi Ma and this path strongly recommend a completely vegetarian diet to promote spiritual growth.
Vishnu Dass (NTS, LMT, CAyu) studied Ayurveda under the guidance of Dr. Vasant Lad, world-renowned Ayurvedic physician and teacher. He is a graduate of the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics in Albuquerque, MN. He had previously studied with herbalist Michael Tierra at the American School of Herbalism in Santa Cruz, CA. He is a former Board Member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) and was granted a Lifetime Professional Membership for his service to that Board.
Vishnu offers lectures and workshops on Ayurveda and yoga philosophy for various herb schools and yoga centers throughout the South East, and has published several articles on Ayurveda and yoga, both on local and national publications, including Light on Ayurveda Journal, New Life Journal, and Integrative Health and Healing, amongst others.He has been in clinical practice for over 12 years, treating people of all ages.
His practice, Blue Lotus Ayurveda : Natural Health & Rejuvenation is located at 822 Haywood Rd. – Asheville, North Carolina Phone: (828) 713-4266 For more information, go to his website at www.bluelotusayurveda.com
Photo courtesy of Rob and Stephanie Levy.