Written by Rachel Stermer
One of the most fundamental concepts to creating a lifestyle that supports the integration of Ayurveda is establishing a daily routine. By doing the same things at the same time everyday, our bodily organism can, in the simplest of terms, relax into a state of self generating health. Dinacharaya is the Sanskrit term for these daily observances. In essence, when we do a daily routine, we are creating a template to simply observe the body, mental state, and spiritual essence that we carry throughout the day. Though the body-mind is in constant flux, dinacharya stays the same, allowing us to simply observe the changes. We can think of this routine as equivalent to a meditation or spiritual practice. No matter what is going on externally in the illusory web of existence, we can rest upon these everyday actions that provide solidity and consistency in a life full of just the opposite.
Routine is certainly not one of the most glamorous concepts to explore. Even in our modern parlance, we use routine as a descriptor of something in direct contrast to the word exciting. Much of the modern world is built upon stimulation, gratification, new and different, thus fueling the inner resistance to sameness, repetition, and most of all, routine. Perhaps this is a foundational reason as to why so many people struggle to adapt this concept in daily life. As with breaking an addiction, and in this case the addiction is erratic living and irregularity, with each failed attempt to establish a routine and, in earnest, start a daily practice, there arrives a more disheartened confidence in the ability to simply, begin.
As with all things, we make changes when we are ready. Sometimes this readiness comes from the body’s signals, from inspiration and community, from knowing enough and also from ripeness to take action. However the motivation arrives, one of the most important things to remember is that slow and steady wins the race. And, while in this case there is no race to win, slow and steady is the most sustainable way to build the foundation of a routine. In fact, this slow and steadiness reinforces the opposites balance principle of Ayurveda that routine directly confronts. By utilizing the gunas or, universal qualities, of slow, steady, and regular, we are directly addressing the tendency of Vata to accumulate in the organism through the gunas of irregular, mobile and fast. The provocation of Vata, due to an irregular lifestyle and lack of routine, can manifest in symptoms like constipation, irregular digestion, and insomnia.
Let’s look at why these three manifestations of disturbed Vata in the body have a great proclivity to be pacified by applying the principle of routine. First of all, the colon, which is the seat of Vata, is, like Vata, an incredibly sensitive organ. Unless you are very lucky, most people have experienced constipation as a result of traveling or an unpleasant mental state, like anxiety. (Or due to a seemingly infinite number of other causes!) In both of these examples, routine evacuation, if there was one in the first place, is disturbed by change. Through the application of routine, if one simply wakes up in the morning at the same time each day and, at least, attempts to eliminate, the colon begins listening and, soon enough responding. As a result of letting go of yesterday’s waste, the body has more energy, less disturbed Vata, and a stronger capacity to digest food and turn it into healthy tissue.
Speaking of digestion, when we apply the principle of routine to mealtimes, our whole system benefits because there are designated rest times and digestion times. The digestive system, like the colon is finely attuned and rich with nervous tissue that functions most optimally with routine and awareness. If the system knows what to expect each day in terms of the work it needs to do to properly assimilate, digestion becomes well functioning, regular, and without the influence of disturbed doshas.
Finally, our sleep cycles are, perhaps, one of the most important aspects to maintaining a daily routine. We know that when sleep is disturbed, it is difficult to function at full capacity mentally, and the very same is true for our digestive system and elimination function. Thus, insomnia effects both the ability to eliminate and digest well, making sleep an essential part of the day to regularize. One of the simplest ways to address irregular sleep is to create a bedtime. Generally, we need the same amount of sleep each night (with some degree of variance) and you might notice that if you retire early, you are also able to rise early. The opposite is true and the cascade of eventual dosha disturbance happens when dinner is late, bedtime even later and then, morning elimination time is missed. All of these disturbances in the daily routine contribute to missing the moment when nature best supports the body to perform its functions. With the advent of electricity and various other inventions that lead us away from nature based existences, we have the option to bypass these circadian rhythms and become tantalized by the rhythm of machines, which don’t have much rhythm, as they are simply on or off.
Thus, it is a brave person that might pioneer into the ancient guidance of Ayurveda, turn off the lights and climb into bed before 10pm. In some ways, willingness to work with our own rhythms and sync up with the ways of nature might feel foreign, abstract, and like the odds are stacked. And, in some ways, especially for city dwellers, they are. As a bold experiment, pick one of the practices discussed as fundamental to establishing a daily routine; sleeping, eating or eliminating with regularity. Experiment with doing one or all of these at the same time each day. As part of that experiment, see which practice yields the most benefit. Or, are you able to try all three? The idea here is to be slow, steady and regular, and then just simply observe. What is bringing your well being the maximum amount of benefit and joy with the least amount of effort? What do you notice about shifting your focus from irregularity to regularity?
Read More on the Doshas and Ayurveda
The capacity to adapt and transform is fundamentally human. Upon implementing basic routine into a lifestyle practice, we can stand more confidently in our health journeys. We can begin integrating vast the plethora of longevity supporting practices that Ayurveda offers, which, in turn, will change our whole lives.