Dinacharya – Ayurvedic Routines for Health
By Vishnu Dass, LMT, NTS, CAyu
True freedom can only be achieved through discipline and awareness. This is why in India yogis go through so many austerities to attain liberation. Health is freedom from disease, but also freedom from unrestrained desires and drives. An Ayurvedic lifestyle requires discipline and awareness, which you can develop by slowly integrating daily routines, or dinacharya, into your lifestyle. Following are some of the main dinacharya practices.
Wastes should be eliminated from the body first thing in the morning. This helps revitalize the organism and prepare the body to receive more nutrients. According to Ayurveda, one should have at least one bowel movement a day. If not, the toxins can be reabsorbed into the tissues. To avoid this, it is important to eat enough fiber-rich food and good quality oils, such as flax, olive or sesame oil, and avoid excessive amounts of raw foods and chilled drinks. There are traditional herbal compounds that help restore and maintain the tone of the colon while gently cleansing it on a daily basis. But be careful not to abuse laxatives; even the herbal ones can weaken the tone of the colon and create dependency.
Another early morning Ayurvedic practice is to gently brush the teeth and scrape the tongue. A thick coating on the tongue indicates that there is ama (toxins) from improperly digested food in the GI tract. You should scrape off this coating with a metallic tongue scraper several times prior to brushing your teeth.
Early morning bathing is another basic dinacharya practice. In yogic traditions, bathing symbolizes the purification of the soul. From an Ayurvedic perspective, it also washes the sweat residue from the pores of the skin, leaving a healthy radiant glow. Gentle herbal soaps or powders can be used. The daily practice of rubbing the body with oil (abhyanga) can further nourish the skin and deeper tissues. Vata constitutions should use sesame oil, pitta should use coconut oil and kapha are best with corn oil.
As much as possible, you should wake with or before the sun for meditation. In the Vedic tradition, the pre dawn hours are known as Brahma murta. This quiet, calm time, when the Earth and its inhabitants are still asleep, is most conducive to a meditation practice. Even if it cannot be done before dawn, regular meditation is essential for the maintenance of health. It helps to rejuvenate and purify the entire nervous system, as well as to calm the mind so you can experience deeper awareness, peace and joy.
Yoga and exercise are also important aspects of good health. The type of exercise you choose should be suitable for your specific constitution. Walking is probably the best exercise for all constitutions, as is traditional hatha yoga. Ayurveda suggests a workout at half the body’s capacity, just until you break a sweat. This will stimulate the digestive fire (agni) and relieve constipation. Relaxation and sound sleep will also result. Over-exercising can cause dehydration, breathlessness, muscle aches, chest pain, and it may eventually lead to arthritis, sciatica, or heart conditions. Kapha individuals can perform the most strenuous type of exercise. Pitta people should do a medium amount of exercise and only during the coolest time of day. Those with a vata constitution should do the gentlest type of exercise; even though they love to jump and jog, better choices are yoga, stretching and T’ai Chi.
Finally, the cultivation of clear, compassionate and loving relationships is another important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Suppressed or unresolved emotions can poison your body just as much as bad food combining. Regular meditation (or a meditative type of practice) can enhance your awareness of relationships and promote discrimination as well.
© 2002 Vishnu Dass. No reproduction allowed without written permission from the author.