Make Room For Good Habits And Create healthy Routine
‘An Ayurvedic view on daily routines’
Ayurveda describes routines in the context ‘Dinacharya’. The word Dinacharya is derived from two words – Dina means ‘day’ and Charya means ‘regimens or routines’. Healthy routines are very essential to establish balance and harmony in the body, mind and spirit. Leading a life without a healthy routine is the same as swimming against the current, which makes onward journey difficult.
Experts say that “Instead of changing complete lifestyle to adhere specific recommendations, better find ways to fit recommendations into your lifestyle”. Thus here we aim at introducing the Ayurvedic aspects of daily routines and how to implement them gradually into your life.
Why healthy routine is important?
“We are what we repeatedly do”.
Everything in the universe has a rhythm. One who wants to have a balanced healthy life, follow a proper routine in accordance with the laws of nature by fostering harmony between individual and nature. One must take care the body at any cost, because if the body loses (becomes unbalanced) everything else will lose. As per Ayurveda, following a routine is loving, caring, nurturing and connecting yourself, which is the key for healing and healthy living. “Rhythm of the body, melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life,” said B.K.S Iyengar.
A general overview of daily regimens:
- Wake up time (Pratauthana): The ideal time to wake up is one and half hours before sunrise, ‘Brahmamuhoorta’. One muhoortha is said to be ‘45 minutes’ and brahmamuhoortha is the second last muhoortha before sunrise. Waking up at this time makes the day active, promotes health and longevity. As per Ayurveda, this period of the day is considered as ‘vata zone’. Calm, clear, cool, stable and subtle energies are predominant in nature, the best time to ‘receive’. Mind is more alert, rested, focused and peaceful, disturbed and unstable energies are less in nature compared with the other time of the day. Thus good time to perform Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation practices and learning. Studies say that endorphin concentration is at a peak which energizes the fabrics of the brain and stabilizes the mind.
- Getting up from bed: Gently roll to your right side. Keeping your eyes closed, slowly come to the sitting position with the support of your hands.
- Warming your eyes: Rub your both palms and make them warm. Keep your palms on the eyes and face for a few seconds. Slowly drop your palms and gently open your eyes with few blinking. The warmth helps to activate your eye receptors.
- Bhoomi vandhana: With respect, touch the ground (‘Mother Earth’) with hand, before keeping the first foot. A sudden change of the body from horizontal (lying) to the vertical position (sitting) can create pressure on the heart to pump blood upwards. So bringing your head down the level of heart reduces the pressure on pumping the blood.
- Wash your hands and face: Clean your hands, splash cool water on the face and clean your eyes, nose and face properly. This helps to overcome the laziness.
- Intake of warm water (Ushapana): Drink a glass of warm water on an empty stomach in the morning. Can add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of grated ginger. Drinking this on empty stomach helps to cleanse the liver, flush colon, improves digestion and metabolism. Drinking water kept in a copper vessel overnight is also beneficial.
Bowel evacuation (Sauchakarma):
Regular evacuation of feces, in the morning, neither with any strain nor suppress the urges. Vata zone in the early morning prompts body’s natural urges.
Importance of squatting in Toilets: Squatting makes the rectal muscle (Puborectalis) relax and the anal canal gets wide open with no folding in the terminal rectum. Thus leads to easy and complete evacuation of fecal materials. Cleanliness in general or after defecation plays a huge role in the maintenance of good health.
Brushing teeth (Dantadhavana):
In the ancient era, people used tender twigs of medicinal plants like neem, babul, calotropis, banyan, etc. for brushing teeth. Now it has changed to readymade toothbrushes. Choose the soft brush and without harming the tooth, brush twice daily. You may also use the herbal toothpaste powders for cleaning the teeth.
- Maintain oral health and hygiene.
- Prevents dental carries by maintaining salivary pH and promotion of salivary secretion.
- Regular mechanical removal of food debris
- Controls over acid formation, helps to prevent dental plaques which in turn prevents periodontal diseases.
Herbal toothpaste powder formula:
- Charcoal fine powder – 1 teaspoon
- Sea salt or Pink salt (fine powder) – ¼ teaspoon
- Baking soda – ¼ teaspoon
- Cinnamon powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Clove powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Peppermint or mint essential oil – 1 drop (optional)
Mix all ingredients together. With your finger, apply on the teeth and gum, rub (like brushing). Then gargle and clean your mouth properly.
Tongue Scraping (Jivha nirlekhana):
After brushing teeth, the next important regimen is scraping of the tongue. It improves the communication between food (phytonutrients) and body, by removing the tongue coating which interferes with this connection. Also, many herbs have their beneficial effects from the initial contact with tongue receptors.
The main reason for the formation of ama (toxins) in the body is improper digestion, can notice on your tongue in the form of a coating. The coating on the tongue affects the transmission of the proper signals from the taste receptors to the brain, leads to improper release of stomach acids and enzymes. Scrapping tongue clears the toxins from the tongue and improves taste perception, thereby enhances digestion and metabolism.
How to scrape your tongue?
In the morning after brushing the teeth. Relax your tongue, gently reach the back of your tongue with the scrapper, as much as comfortable. Scrape gently the tongue from back to front for 3 to 5 times. Then rinse your mouth with water.
Benefits of Tongue scraping:
- Remove foul smell and coating
- Improve digestion and taste perception
- Removes toxins and bacteria from the oral cavity
Tongue scraper or Tongue cleaner:
A device designed to clean the coating on the tongue. Tongue scraper should not be too sharp and uneven edge, made out of metals like gold, silver, copper, stainless steel and brass.
Application of collyrium (Anjana):
Eyes are predominant of Pitta dosha or Teja Mahabhuta (fire element). The proper maintenance of pitta (fire) is needed for the proper functioning of eye and vision. Application of collyrium (Kajal) helps to release the excessive accumulation of kapha dosha and its bad effects.
- Improves eye health and vision
- Prevent and cure several eye diseases
- Removes dirt from eye
- Subsides burning sensation, itchiness and pain in the eyes.
How to apply collyrium: Using fingertip (index, middle or the ring finger), apply the collyrium on the inner eyelid from inner corner to outer corner of the eye.
Nasal instillation (Nasya):
Ayurvedic instillation of medicaments into the nostrils is called Nasya. It is one of the cleansing therapy in Panchakarma. In Panchakarma treatments, usually medicaments are used in higher doses, can be practice as a part of daily regimen in mild doses. Nose is the entry or doorway to head; hence all diseases above the shoulder can be treated through nasal route i.e. Nasya.
- Nourishes all organs above head
- Strengthens teeth, gums and eyes
- Cleanse sinus and respiratory passage
- Lubricates and strengthens nasal mucosa
- Reduce sinusitis, allergies, hay fever and other upper respiratory issues.
‘Anu tailam’ is a classical Ayurvedic nasal drop, which is commonly available and the best one to choose for daily use. To reduce the dryness in the nasal passage, few drops of sesame oil is also a good option.
Mouth Gargling or Mouth Wash (Gandusha):
Holding medicated oil/ herbal concoction in the mouth for few minutes is called Gandusha. You can gently swish or rinse the content. Mouth gargling after brushing and tongue scraping improve the absorption of herbal qualities to the body. Nowadays, holding and rinsing oils in mouth, oil pulling, is common and becomes a trend.
- Enhances oral cavity hygiene and health
- Inhibits early tooth degeneration.
- Removes foul smell in mouth and bad breath
- Reduce dryness of face and mouth
- Cures anorexia, loss of taste, sore throat and other diseases of mouth and throat.
For daily practice, you can use 1 or 2 tablespoons of sesame oil or coconut oil. Hold the oil in the mouth for 2 to 5 minutes or till your mouth get full with saliva, can slowly swish the oil in the mouth. Then spit it out and wash your mouth with warm water.
Abhyanga, application of oil all over the body. Self-massage is the expression of ‘self-love’. Sneha in Sanskrit meaning ‘lipids or oils’ and also ‘love’; anointing oil on body is receiving smoothness, suppleness and love. The best oil which Ayurveda recommends for daily application is black sesame oil. Warm the oil before you apply on body, to gain more benefits.
The main regions you must apply oil is the crown (head), ears and sole of feet. These regions have lots of nerve endings, vital points (marma) and major seats of vata dosha. Daily oil massage on these regions calms the vata energy; the nervous system.
Benefits of Abhyanga:
Daily anointing oil all over the body, from head to toes brings the following benefits:
- Relieves tiredness, aches and pains of the body (by reducing excess vata).
- Improves vision, skin tone and complexion.
- Nourishes and rejuvenates body tissue, slows the aging process.
- Calms the nervous system and improves sleep.
Ayurveda recommends specific lifestyle and activities according to seasons, constitutions, body strength and age. Exercise should perform daily and properly, in all seasons, who desire well-being. Ayurveda explained the benefits of vyayama and the bad effects if performs wrongly. Vyayama if practiced properly then it brings strength, stability, complexion and improves digestive functions. If performed in improper ways then it can result in many diseases and injuries.
- Promotes complexion, luster, strength, stability, stamina, endurance and longevity.
- Enhances digestive functions and body lightness
- Reduces excessive fat accumulation, obesity and other lifestyle disorders
- Improves muscle tone, muscle strength and flexibility
As per Ayurveda, one should perform vyayama regularly, according to seasons and body strength (Bala). Also recommended to use half of the total body strength (Ardha Bala) to perform exercise. The body strength is unique in people, depends on the body constitution, age and overall wellbeing.
- Vata and Pitta constitution should focus more on gentle, slow, calming and grounding activities like Hatha yoga, stretching, Thai chi, and other restorative activities. And minimizes strong, intense, very active and over exhausting activities on a daily basis. Pitta people should particularly avoid over indulge in heat generating activities like hot yoga, exposing hot sun and performing activities.
- Kapha constitution can perform more strong, active and intense exercises according to their strength like running, strong yogas, gym, boxing, etc.
Ayurveda recommends post-workout massage, application of oil all over the body, improves muscle flexibility, softness and strength, speed up muscle recovery and reduces muscle soreness. Then after rest, taking a warm shower enhances the above mentioned benefits.
Body scrubs (Udhvarthana):
Massaging or scrubbing the body with dry herbal powders. Udhvarthana, best for Kapha constitution and highly recommended for obesity. Strong and upward movement is the main stroke in Udhvarthana, to burn fat tissue and helps in weight loss.
- Exfoliates dead skin and toxins
- Revitalizes the sense of touch, cleanses and tones the skin
- Improves complexion and blood circulation
- Reduces excess accumulation of superficial fat tissue
- Helps in cellulitis and bad body odor.
A simple herbal scrub formula:
- Mung bean powder – ½ cup
- Chickpea powder – ½ cup
- Ginger powder – 1 teaspoon
- Triphala powder – 2 tbsp. (optional)
- Barley powder – ¼ cup
Note: Don’t make all powders too fine.
- Dry skin, eczema, psoriasis and any kind of inflammatory skin issues
- On cuts, wounds and burns
Bath has a great role in socio-religious life, in India. It brings purification, not just physically, but mentally too. Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, mentions the importance of Snana, in the context Saucha (purity), when he describes the Niyama (Individual disciplines) – ‘the second limb of Yoga’.
Importance of daily bathing:
Body tissues excrete different kinds of malas – waste products (like secretions from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, mouth, genital, anus and skin pores), as a result of tissue repairing, regeneration and cleansing. These happen more in the night, during sleep time. Most malas (wastes) are excreted through the skin pores and accumulates on skin in the form of dead cells, debris, oils, etc. and should properly remove on a daily basis. Ayurveda recommends using herbal powders as scrub to remove these impurities to maintain overall well-being.
Recommendation on taking shower after exercise also reveals the importance of bath after any physical exertion. After exercise, one must rest for minimum 15 minutes, brings the body back to its normal temperature and functions, before taking shower.
A warm or lukewarm bath is recommended for aged, children, in winter or cold climate and for Vata and Kapha prakriti (constitution). But avoid warm water on the head, heat can damage the eyes and hair roots. A cool shower is recommended for pitta constitutions, pitta imbalances and in extreme hot summer.
- Improves digestive functions
- Improves immunity, strength and lifespan (longevity)
- Removes impurities, fatigue, lethargy and burning sensation
- Enhance satisfaction, luster, enthusiasm and clarity in mind.
- Fever, cold and flu, diarrhea, indigestion, earache
- Immediately after meals
Regimens after the shower:
- Wearing clean clothes and garments (Vastra mala dharana)
- Dressing hair
- Using anointments (Anulepa) on the body like any natural perfumes, essential oil and others.
Meditation and prayers:
To set up a positive intension and mood, the next regimen Ayurveda recommends is to meditate and prayers. Meditation is a voluntary training of the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts to combat stress and ultimately bring in a state of deep silence. Chanting mantras, Om chanting, or any prayers you like.
Ayurveda didn’t mention when to eat, but recommended ‘eat when you are hungry’ and ‘eat according to the strength of one’s hunger (agni – appetite)’. Hunger indicates that the digestive enzymes are activated to the optimum level. One should stop eating when hunger subsides. Eating beyond the limit of hunger makes pressure on the digestive system, leads to indigestion and other digestive discomforts.
Digestive function is gradually igniting with the day starts (morning), and get into its peek by the middle of the day (noon time) and gradually diminishes after sunset. So one must eat light breakfast, the main meal for lunch and early and light dinner, if possible finish dinner before sunset.
How many meals per day:
Ayurveda suggests having meals according to the body constitution and strength of agni (digestive fire).
- Vata constitution – small meals frequently.
- Pitta constitution – 3 main meals and snacks in between.
- Kapha constitution – 2 or a maximum of 3 meals, better skip breakfast or eat very light if hungry. No snacks.
This is a general guideline, you can skip any of the meals if you are not hungry. Should keep a minimum 2 hours gap for each meal.
Generally, there are two main reasons for not feeling hungry at meal time. 1. If you overeat on the previous meal. 2. If your digestive strength is not strong enough to process the food. So one should wisely choose the right quantity of food for each meal.
Ayurveda does not encourage to “eat like a king in the morning”. To make your day more active and clear, better start with a light meal in the morning. If your appetite is very strong, then you can choose a good portion of food for breakfast, make sure that it is nourishing, grounding but not heavy. In winter season, one can eat a good portion of food for breakfast (as night is longer, appetite can be stronger in the morning). If you are not hungry and feeling heavy, then skip your breakfast and have some herbal teas to stimulate the appetite. Later when you are hungry again, eat something light, so that you will be hungry on time for the next meal too. Skipping breakfast is best for kapha constitution.
Ayurveda says that the body has an impact on the movement of sun, digestive fire is at best when the sun is strong and in its peak. So lunch can be the main meal of the day. Salads, greasy foods, yogurt and other dairy products, sweet preparations, etc. are allowed to have during lunch time, if your constitution agrees. And these recommendations are meant for people who are healthy, but not on daily basis.
As the sun goes down our digestive fire naturally slows down, one should avoid heavy meals for dinner and finish before the sunsets. Foods are heavy to digest like raw vegetables, yogurt, cheese, etc. are not recommended for dinner. Keep this quote in your mind – ‘early and light dinner, more late you eat, more simple the dinner’. Keep a minimum of three hours between the last meal (dinner) and bedtime.
“Love what you do, do what you love”. Work has a big role in our lives, because it provides wealth (artha) to take care our health. One should know how to balance the work life. Below are some guidelines on suitable profession according to the constitutional features.
Salesman, Marketing field
Administration field, Nurse
Teaching field, Writer
Photographer, Designer, etc.
Evening regimens (Ratricharya):
Night regimens have an important role in preventing many lifestyle disorders. Evening or night regimens are explained in Ayurveda under the context Ratricharya (Ratri means ‘night’, charya means ‘regimens’). Ratricharya begins from sunset till bedtime. Night regimens mean not just explained about the sleep, but other things like regimens that are contraindicated, regarding sex, foods, relaxation, meditation, etc. Evening time is to rest, relax and wind down. You can indulge in any kind of relaxing activity with family, reading books, listening to music, writing, studying, planning for the next day, journals, meditation, etc. Ayurveda mentioned that the best time for sex is at night, but not late at night. One should avoid the following things at sunset time (Sandhya kala – the junction between the day and night) – eating, sexual activities, sleeping and studying or reading.
Preparations before bedtime:
- One should go to bed before the pitta kala (time) starts say before 9.30 PM
- Avoid any kinds of stimulants, including electronics (screens)
- Do meditation or prayers to calm the mind
- Reading books before bed help to fall asleep
- Write down your thoughts and ideas, if your mind is busy and active
- Keep your bed clean and comfortable with proper pillows
- Can drink a cup of warm cow milk, if you are hungry before sleep. Best for Vata constitution and people with sleep issues.
- Sleep with the head pointing east or south improves the sleep quality
- Sleeping on the back or left side are ideal positions.