The ancient yogis looked to nature to understand their nature, then aligned their activities to be in harmony with nature’s rhythm. Ayurveda calls this “dinacharya”, or daily routine. These daily habits are potent medicine that taps us into our own healing potential by bringing our bodies into internal balance and also into balance with the external environment. Here's a look into what the habits are and why they have the potency for transformation that they have:
Habit 1: Eat an earlier, lighter dinner.
Our grandparents didn’t eat a big dinner at 8 or 9pm. They were out of the kitchen much earlier after having a small meal that they called “supper”, a supplement to the larger meal they had earlier in the day. Our grandparents were wise, and were living more in harmony with nature. When we eat late at night and go to bed with food in our stomachs, nighttime energy that should go towards healing, repair, and deep tissue cleansing goes to digestion instead. This interrupts our body’s housekeeping system and lowers the quality of our sleep. Likely, we will wake up with undigested food in our bodies, contributing not only to morning sleepiness and lethargy, but to a clogged and sluggish digestive system. We create a traffic jam in the digestive tract that manifests as a different ailments for different constitutions. Going to bed with an empty stomach is step one in repairing the digestive fire.
Habit 2: Go to bed early.
There is a natural uptick in energy after 10pm. Some of us may feel it this a great time to “get things done”, but that burst of energy is intended for your healing and daily regeneration. When we go to bed before 10pm we are allowing night time healing and repair to happen on a deeper level. We experience deeper, more rejuvenating sleep, as well as deep tissue cleansing and repair.
Habit 3: Start your day right.
When we go to bed early, we begin to rise early too. This gives us a chance to experience the peace of the morning, which we can carry with us throughout the day. Once the sun is up, we have entered the realm of doing. We will feel that we must get on with it. However, when we awaken in the pre-dawn energy of being, we have an opportunity to experience a deeper connection to ourselves. The ancient yogis said their prayers and performed their practices during the sunrise because they understood the potency of this time. When we wake slowly and witness the dawn of a new day, we can’t help but experience gratitude and wonder at this life.
Once we have entered the realm of doing, we turn our attention to the body. If we have had a long and deep night’s rest, we are parched and our energy is stagnant. Additionally, our internal housekeeping system has been busy collecting waste from our body while we were sleeping. We serve our bodies best of we take this time to hydrate and poop. This allows us to start our day without carrying anything leftover from the day before into it with us.
Habit 4: Breath and body practices.
Once we hydrate and poop, it is important that we move our bodies. Our energy is stagnant from sleep and if we don’t clear the energy channels we will be weighed down by it all day long. When we connect to the breath and move around, we have more energy accessible to both our bodies and our brains. We will move more efficiently and think more clearly all day long.
Habit 5: Eat a plant based diet.
As humans, what we are seeking when we want nourishment is the energy of plants. When we eat animals, we are taking in the energy they received from plants indirectly. When we shift to a plant based diet we are skipping the middleman and taking in the plant energy directly. We do not need to become vegan to experience this shift. Simply, we strive to eat more plants. We make them the staples of our diet. We build meals around them. We can develop a relationship with the plants that grow in our ecosystem seasonally and year round. This will connect us to our environment and bolster our health in a variety of ways, especially if we begin to consume a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, which brings a wider variety of nutrients into our systems.
Habit 6: Incorporate self massage.
The process of self massage is known as abhyanga in Ayurveda. When we practice abhyanga, we are literally getting in touch with ourselves. This benefits us in many ways. For one, our skin becomes lustrous and our joints pliant because the oil lubricates our bodies from the outside in. We also receive the benefit of improved circulation, as well as a boon to our immune system as lymphatic flow is stimulated. Also, our sense of self improves greatly. When we are giving ourselves a massage on a regular basis, we know who we are and what we need.
Habit 7: Sit in Silence.
Our world is busy and noisy. It is getting busier and noisier. Sitting in silence is the antidote to the chronic low grade stress we feel as humans on this planet at this time. Silence is nourishing to the spirit and a balm for a busy mind. It allows us to digest our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It allows our nervous systems to shift gears, and opens our minds to broader and new ways of thinking and connecting. When our minds are calm, we can sense into the expansiveness of our nature, and all things become possible. Ideas and inspiration find us. The yogis began cultivating the art of meditation by sitting in silence. We can too.
Habit 8: Come to your senses.
Our senses do not have to fail as we age. There are Ayurvedic techniques that stimulate and improve our senses on a daily basis. Tongue scraping, oil pulling, and oiling the nostrils are a few. When our senses are sharp, we take in the world around us with crispness and clarity. We become sensitive in the truest meaning of the word.
Habit 9: Heed the healthy eating guidelines.
Consciously preparing our future bodies is as much about when we eat as it is about what we eat. The yogis knew that the digestive fire, or agni, needed to be tended and stoked. They did this by eating at certain times of the day, and abstaining from eating at other times. In Ayurveda, this is known as rhythmic eating. When we build in daily fasting, and we eat at roughly the same time every day without snacking, we create a rhythm that will optimize our digestive system and allow for a bright active agni that turns our food into fuel, eliminates common digestive ailments, and regulates our elimination. In addition to a daily rhythm, we can observe a seasonal rhythm that incorporates cleansing to help prepare our bodies to transition to a different weather pattern with different dominant qualities in our environment. In particular, we want to release the heat of summer with a fall cleanse, and release the cold dampness of winter with a spring cleanse.
Habit 10: Live in ease.
Busyness is an epidemic in modern society. It also contributes to low grade stress which causes dis-ease. It is also a habit. By automating the daily habits of yogis we organically incline ourselves towards ease. We start to open up time and align our choices in such a way as to allow for spaciousness. We begin to be guided by the flow of energy. We are in sync. We experience less stress. We have greater access to our joy. Our relationships improve because we are not weighed down by the low frequency vibrations of dis-ease and disharmony. We are not suffering from decision fatigue. We are alert, awake, alive and connected. From this space, life feels abundant and sacred. We can finally see the reflection of our inner landscape and it is to be savored, not rushed through at a frenetic pace.
Many of the habits are counter to the way we do things in the modern world. If we notice, though, the modern world is full of disease and discomfort. We have diseases that were not present in recent generations plaguing our society. If we return to the wisdom of the body, deeply nourish and rest it while aligning to nature’s wisdom, we can heal. We can enjoy a more meaningful life. We can thrive.