Dincharya – The Daily Routine
Maharishi Baghbhatt in Ashtanga Hridayam and Maharishi Charak in Charak Samhita explain ‘dincharya’ and its importance. As per Ayurvedic philosophy, a healthy lifestyle is a choice that you can make; you can choose a daily routine which helps build up resistance to diseases. You should jump-start the day by focusing on ‘Dincharya’, or disciplined morning routine that works to align the body with nature’s rhythms, balance the doshas, and foster self-esteem. Diligently adding just one or more of the following practices every month can radically alter your experience of the day.
Dinacharya (In Sanskrit Dina means daily and Charya means following, moving) is a concept in Ayurvedic medicine that looks at the cycles of nature and bases daily activities around these cycles. Ayurveda contends that in order to be optimally healthy we should tune our bodies to the nature’s master cycle which in turn regulates the various other rhythms. Modern Science is just beginning to understand how important it is for the body to maintain circadian rhythm and to stay in rhythm with nature.
A daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring and maintain balance in body, mind, and consciousness. By regularizing one’s circadian rhythm it also aids digestion, absorption and assimilation of food, generates discipline and happiness and leads to better self-esteem, peace and longevity.
The concept of dinacharya says that each day two cycles of change occur. These cycles correlate with the Ayurvedic concept of doshas. Each cycle brings cyclical periods of Vata, Pitta, or Kapha predominance. The approximate times of these cycles are as follows:
6 A.M. to 10 A.M. – Kapha
10 A.M. to 2 P.M. – Pitta
2 P.M. to 6 P.M. – Vata
6 P.M. to 10 P.M. – Kapha
10 P.M. to 2 A.M. – Pitta
2 A.M to 6 A.M. – Vata
Routines covered by dinacharya include: waking time, elimination, hygiene, massage, exercise, bathing, meditation and prayer, meals, study, work, relaxation and sleeping. Considering the above cycles the ideal daily schedule should be like this:
Wake Up Early in the Morning. Arise early in the morning, preferably 2 hours before the sunrise. At this hour, the sattvic qualities in nature bring peace of mind and freshness to the senses. Despite seasonal changes, on an average vata predominant people should get up about 6 a.m., pitta predominant people by 5:30 a.m., and kapha predominant people by 4:30 a.m.
The First Mantra and Morning Prayer. After waking, look at your hands for a few moments, and say the following mantra:
कराग्रे वसते लक्ष्मिः करमध्ये सरस्वति ।
करमूले तु गोविन्दः प्रभाते करदर्शनम् ॥
KARAAGRE VASATE LAXMI, KARMADHYE SARASWATI
KARMOOLE TOO GOVINDAH, PRABHATE KARDARSHAMAM ||
KARAAGRE VASATE LAXMI : Lakshmi (Goddess of Money) resides at the tip of the finger – Rub the fingertips with your thumbs in a circular soothing rhythm (right clockwise circles, left anticlockwise circles),
KARMADHYE SARASWATI : At middle of the palm is Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) – With the fingertips rub the palms. Then turn the right wrist clockwise and the left wrist anticlockwise,
KARMOOLE TOO GOVINDAH : At the root of the hands resides Brahma (Lord of the Universe) – look at the base of hands,
PRABHATE KARDARSHAMAM : Witness their presence in the morning (Brahma Muhurta) – rub both hands together and move the palms slowly over your face, covering head, shoulders, arms, and legs, creating an energy shield which wards off negative influences for the whole of the day.
To pronounce “ka” uvula is used. The word “ra” is pronounced using the tip of the tongue touching the upper lingua. Once again in “gre” uvula and soft palate are used. So, to pronounce ‘KaRaGre’ the vocal apparatus of our mouth is activated. Similarly, the whole mantra activates all parts of the mouth involved in voice production. This activates the related marma points and, in turn, different parts of the brain.
Focus your attention on the breath and sit silently for a few moments.
Eye Exercises. Sit in the Sukhasana (easy pose) with your legs crossed and spine, neck and head in a straight line. Look directly to the front at eye-level and breathe normally. Move your eyes upward to the ceiling and stay for two seconds. Look downwards and stay for two seconds. Close your eyes for two seconds. Look toward the right side, as far as your eye will see, for two seconds. Look to the left side for two seconds. Look to the front again. Close your eyes for 6-8 seconds. Blink your eyes 7 times and rotate your eyes clockwise and anti-clockwise.
This completes one round. Start with 2-3 rounds.
Rub both palms together quickly for 8-10 seconds. This friction creates a little heat.
Close the eyes and gently place the palms over your eyes for one minute. Breathe in and out slowly to release stress. Repeat 2-3 times.
Touch the ground with your right hand, then the same hand to the forehead, with great love and respect to Mother Earth. Put your right foot down and get up.
Clean the Eyes, Face and Mouth. Fill your mouth with water and hold for a few seconds with your eyes closed. Spit it out and repeat 2-3 times.
Then splash your eyes and face with cool or slightly warm water (or one of the eye washes) 10-15 times.
- Tridoshic eyewash: Boil ¼ tsf of Triphala in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes; cool and strain.
- Pitta eyewash: Use cold water. You can also use organic rose water. Netra Tarpana with desi ghee can also be done.
- Kapha eyewash: Put 3-5 drops of cranberry juice in a teaspoon of distilled water and use it.
Gently massage the eyelids. Dry your face with a clean towel.
Repeat again in the evening when you return from work or school.
Drink Water. Drink three glassfuls of water at room temperature, preferably from a pure copper pot filled the night before. This stimulates peristalsis, washes the GI track and flushes the kidneys. It helps elimination.
Evacuation. Squat on the toilet and have a bowel movement. Improper digestion or lack of sound sleep can prevent this. However, drinking water followed by squatting on the toilet at a set time each day, helps to regulate bowel movements. After evacuation wash the anal area with warm water then the hands with soap.
Scrape your Tongue. Jihva Prakshalana or tongue scraping is recommended by Ayurveda. Ayurveda considers the coating on the tongue as an indicator of ‘ama’ or toxins in the colon. Charaka Samhita, an early Ayurvedic text, says that by cleaning the tongue, “(this) removes foul smell, tastelessness … and by taking out dirt coated on the tongue, teeth and mouth brings relish immediately.” According to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (AAOMP), a coated or hairy tongue is a sign of imbalance of keratin on the tongue. For scraping, join the tip of the thumb with the tip of the first finger and rub/ scrape the coating on the tongue off. Also, vata people can use a gold scraper, pitta a silver one, and kapha copper. Stainless steel can be used by all people. Gently scrape the tongue from the back forward, until you have scraped the whole surface for 7-14 strokes. This stimulates the internal organs, helps digestion, and removes ama, and hence, cleanses the body. Gargle with warm saline water or herbal tea.
Oil Pulling. Charaka Samhita Ch V-78 to 80 talks about the benefits of oil pulling, ‘It is beneficial for strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One used to this practice never gets dryness of throat, nor do his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never be carious and will be deep rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables’. Gandusha and Kavala graha are two primary oral pulling techniques. In gandusha, a medicated fluid is held in mouth until there is lacrimation and nasal discharge. In kavala graha, the mouth is only three-fourths filled with the medicated fluid and the fluid is swished in the mouth for a specific time. You can also gargle with oil. Organic, cold-pressed oils should be used. Most commonly, sesame oil or coconut oil is used. Rub oil on your gums. Take 1-3 tsp of oil in your mouth. Swish it around for 20 minutes or just keep it in your mouth. Spit this oil into trash, compost or outside in the grass. Rinse your mouth with water. This strengthens the teeth, improves the sense of taste, lubricates the palate and is good for eyes.
Brush the teeth. Brushing your teeth with a ‘dantpavan or datun’ twice a day is recommended by Acharya Sushruta in Sushruta Samhita. Teeth cleaning twig or datun is made from a twig from a tree. It can help to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. The chewed, frayed end of the twig is used as a brush. In India, twigs of Pilu, neem, kicker, peepal tree, the Indian plum or ber fruit tree, the Java plum or jamun tree, the gum arabic tree, safed babul, apamarga, bael tree, dhak, madar ak, kamer, karanj, vijayasar, arjun, gular, bargad, mulhatti, tejovati, meswak, mango are used for brushing teeth. Walnut bark can also be used. You can also use natural tooth powder or paste.
Neti. Neti is one of the Shatkarma (sometimes known as Shatkriya), the yogic system of body cleansing techniques. It is intended to clean the air passages. Hatha Yoga Pradipika attributes to Neti many beneficial effects that range from profound physiological ones on the body, mind and personality to even clairvoyance. The two main variants are jala neti using water and the more advanced sutra neti using string. After practice, dugdha paan and ghrit paan can also be undertaken.
Oleation of Natural Orifices. Ayurveda recommends oiling all of the ‘nava dwar’ (the nine doors of the body) every day: eyes, ears, nostrils, navel, anus and glans penis/ vagina.
- Netra Tarpana. In routine, washing the eyes, as described above, after waking up is enough. You can also put drops of ‘desi ghee’ or honey with turmeric daily. Periodically, full procedure of netra tarpan can be undertaken. Netra means Eye, Tarpana means Nourishment. Thus Netra Tarpana means ‘Nourishment of Eye’ or a treatment which nourishes the eye. Other names for Netra Tarpana are: Netra Tarpanam, Akshi Tarpana / Akshi Tarpanam, Netra Vasti – Vasti means pooling. This procedure nourishes and strengthens the eyes, cures the eye diseases.
- Nasya (Nasal Drops). Putting 3 to 5 drops of warm ghee or almond oil into each nostril in the morning and before sleep helps to lubricate the nose, clean the sinuses, and improves voice, vision, and mental clarity. Nasya nourishes prana and facilitates intelligence.
- For vata: sesame oil, ghee, or vacha (calamus) oil.
- For pitta: brahmi ghee, sunflower or coconut oil.
- For kapha: vacha (calamus root) oil.
- Karana purana (Oil Drops in the Ears). An ear massage is a boon to the entire body. Begin at the top of the ear and use the thumbs and index fingers to rub the rim, moving slowly down to the lobe. 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 oil in each ear can help these disorders.
- Chakra Basti. Chakra basti, also called nabhi basti (navel basti), is applied to the umbilical region. Nabhi the umbilicus is considered as marma in Ayurveda. Nabhi marma is the vital center where 72,000 nadis (the subtle energy pathways) converge. Ayurveda says that the navel is directly linked to various parts of our body and the application of certain natural and herbal oils on the navel can make us get rid of various health related hassles we come across in our day-to-day lives. In daily routine, we can just apply oil to the navel.
- Neem Oil in the navel helps in getting rid of pimples
- Mustard oil in the navel helps to get rid of cracked lips and makes the face glow
- Pure cow ghee in the navel softens skin
- Alcohol dipped cotton in the navel helps to get rid of cold, flu and runny nose
- Oleation of Anus, Genitalia. Regularly applying oil to anus and genitals keeps the parts lubricated and helps prevent many common problems related to theses areas.
Massage: Ashtanga Hridayam: Sutrasthana: II: 8-9 says, ‘Abhyanga should be resorted to daily. It wards off old age, exertion and aggravation of vata’. Abhyanga is the full body massage with oil. This keeps us strong and stress-free. Even five minutes of massage every day is sufficient. You can rub warm oil over the head and whole body. Gentle, daily oil massage of the scalp can bring happiness, as well as prevent headache, baldness, greying, and receding hairline. Oiling your body before bedtime will help induce sound sleep and keep the skin soft.
- For vata, use warm sesame oil.
- For pitta, use warm sunflower or coconut oil.
- For kapha, use warm sunflower or mustard oil.
Exercise: Vyayama is the name for physical exercise. This is usually some Yoga postures and breathing exercises (Pranayama) but it can be anything including a walk, a swim, Surya Namaskar or other exercises. Regular exercise, especially yoga, improves circulation, strength, and endurance. This early morning exercise removes stagnation in the body and mind, strengthens the digestive fire, reduces fat and gives you an overall feeling of lightness and joy as it fills your body with good, fresh and pure Prana. It helps one relax and have sound sleep, and improves digestion and elimination. It is not to be strenuous. Exercise daily to half of your capacity, which is until sweat forms on the forehead, armpits, and spine. Yoga schedule can look like this:
- Vata: Slow Surya Namaskar, 12 times; Leg lifting; Ushtrasana; Bhujangasana; Marjari-asana. Slow, gentle exercise.
- Pitta: Chandra Namaskar, 12 times, moderately fast; Matsyasana; Navasana; Dhanurasana. Calming exercise.
- Kapha: Fast Surya Namaskar, 12 times; Setubandhasana; Mayurasana; Tadasana; Singhasana. Vigorous exercise.
Pranayama. After exercise, sit quietly and do some pranayama as follows:
- 12 alternate nostril breaths for vata;
- 10 cooling shitali breaths (curling up your tongue lengthwise and breathing through it) for pitta;
- 100 bhastrika (short, fast breaths) for kapha.
Bath: After exercise, once your body has cooled down, take a bath to remove any excess oil and dirt. Both, shower and bathtub are recommended. Bathing with cold water before sunrise enhances body immunity and has always been recommended in Yoga.
Clothing. Put on clean clothing after the bath. Natural fabric clothing is recommended as the most suitable attire for physical and mental health. Natural fabrics breathe and do not disturb the subtle energy fields of the body. Cotton, wool, silk, and rayon are the preferred fabrics. Wearing polyester/synthetic clothing of any kind is not encouraged.
Meditation and Prayer. It is important to meditate morning and evening for at least 15 minutes. Anapanasati, Vipashyana, Pranava Jaap or any meditation technique you know well can be practiced. Meditation brings balance and peace into your life.
Breakfast. Breakfast should be warm, nourishing and wholesome. Take a light meal in hot months or if your agni is low, and more substantial in the cold. Breakfast should be sufficient to get you to lunch without the need of a snack.
Study / Work: Do what you do from now until noon.
Lunch: Lunch should be taken early between 12 and 1 P.M. This period coincides with the peak of Pitta, which is responsible for digestion. Ayurveda recommends that the lunch should be the largest meal of the day consisting of wholesome food with a balance of all the six tastes of:
- Sweet (decreases Vata and Pitta, increases Kapha),
- Sour (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha),
- Salty (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha),
- Bitter (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha),
- Pungent (increases Vata and Pitta, decreases Kapha),
- Astringent (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha)
Predominantly vegetarian diet is suitable for our body. For a meal to be balanced, we should also pay attention to the order in which we experience the 6 tastes. These are best digested if taken in a particular order based on doshas. Sweet and salty foods are digested in the stomach by the kapha dosha; so they should be eaten first. Sour foods are digested in the small intestine by the pitta dosha; so they should be eaten next. Pungent, bitter and astringent foods are digested in the colon by the vata dosha and should be eaten last. So, the order in which foods should be taken is:
|First||Sweet and Salty Foods|
|Last||Pungent, Bitter or Astringent Foods|
After lunch, it is good to take a short walk to help digest the food.
Siesta: Sleeping in the day is prohibited in Ayurveda as it leads to accumulation of vitiated kapha. Even during summers, anything more than a short nap should be avoided.
Study/ Work: Do what you do from now until supper.
Sunset is a time of balance between the day and the night. This is the time for evening prayers and meditation.
A light dinner should be taken around 6 – 7 P.M., at least three hours before bedtime. Sleeping right after dinner is unhealthy, causes indigestion and interferes with the repair mechanism of the body. After dinner, walk for about 10 – 15 minutes to aid digestion. After dinner, just take it easy. Spend time with family, interact with friends, read, and relax.
Having a scheduled bedtime trains the body to know that it is time to wind-down and recuperate. Go to bed between 9 – 10 P.M. to get 6 to 7 hours of sleep by 4:30 am. Create a simple series of events that helps to signal your body that the day is winding down and that you will be going to sleep soon. It is important that these activities be consistent from one day to the next. A bedtime routine might include things like:
- Brushing the teeth
- Washing the face
- Applying oil to the feet and scalp
- Other soothing, quieting activities that appeal to you
Triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic formula which has a unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract while replenishing, nourishing, and rejuvenating the tissues. Take Triphala with warm water, 1 hour before sleep. It supports healthy elimination upon waking up in the morning.
Reading in bed is not recommended. If you do want to read before bed, designate a separate place other than your bed.
Try to maintain Dincharya. First few days might be difficult but persistence is bound to get rewarded with a much healthier and satisfying life.
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