I gotta come clean with you if you are starting to get interested in Ayurveda: it’s not sexy. There is no wild roller coaster of emotions, no cliffhanger, or dramatic foreshadowing about how it’s all going to turn out. Ayurveda starts off where “Happily Ever After” leaves us. In other words, how does life turn out happily, not to mention ever after?
One of the main thrusts of Ayurveda is called the “Dinacharya”, or daily routine. This routine is meant to be followed every day according to your prominent dosha, and entails what time you wake up, morning ablutions, times for meals, rest, work, socializing, and bedtime. No matter what, you are meant to rise upon waking, and get to by by 10 pm. (This is a huge struggle for many of my clients: some cannot get out of bed before 8 am, some can’t get to bed before 2 am.)
It is hard to convince people that the dinacharya is the cornerstone to good health. It’s not a “Lose 10 LBS In 1 Week!” kind of sensation, but rather employs a quiet, steady determination. Consider the analogy: even though you go to the dentist once or twice a year for a deep cleaning, you still gotta brush your teeth every single day to have a healthy mouth. Ayurveda works in the same way- the idea is that if you do many small things every day that are good for you, the result will be one big happy healthy life. Each positive action you take is one turn of the mighty barge of your life in the right trajectory.
Ayurveda doesn’t just want you healthy NOW, it wants you healthy when you are in your 80s, and just starting to get an idea what life is supposed to be about. The crux of it is that we are all striving for Enlightenment, but it’s going to take a heck of a long time- lifetimes even- to reach that goal. Our only hope is to learn enough and expunge enough karma in each lifetime to give us a shot at getting off the wheel. To that end, we need to live to be quite old in each lifetime to get a leg up next time around. It is common knowledge that we cannot truly embrace spirit when we are diseased or in pain. Thus, we must keep the body strong, healthy, vital, vibrant. How? The Dinacharya. It’s not immediately obvious, but over time, the positive effects are undeniable.
Here is an example of a Dinacharya to keep Vata healthy and in balance:
Make sure you have a schedule for each day- preferably the same one. Although Vatas love adventure and spontaneity, they really do best with a regular routine. Wake early and do some gentle stretches or yoga, do some breathing or meditation, and then perform an abhyanga (oiling the body). Have a warm, hearty breakfast, and then get engaged with the day. If you can, take plenty of time for a full lunch, and then a stroll around the block. Use the afternoon to be creative, social, and productive, but give yourself a break for tea in the afternoon to gather yourself. Without this moment out of your busy day, you can easily crash and feel exhausted by 5-6, right about the time dinner should be prepared. Dinner should be warm and light, but with plenty of protein. Lentil soup and steamed greens comes to mind. Wind up the evening with quiet music, reading, or gentle enjoyable hobbies, and get in bed by 10. So nice, eh? One client looked at me incredulously, saying, “Um, this is a schedule for summer camp.” I know, nobody comes by this schedule easily, but it is something to strive for.
Pittas and Kaphas have approximately the same framework, with more or less vigorous exercise, amount of food, and evening activity level. That’s it folks: the great secret to living a long and healthy life is moderation, sleep, and eating consciously. Is it exciting, hip, or hot? Ehh, not so much. But when you take this dinacharya into your life, accompanied by the diet that works for your dosha, subtle and powerful health changes start to occur. By relinquishing a stressful and extreme life in the present we receive the greatest boon to any life: youthfulness in old age. Friends! when we are very old, we will be oh so very wise. And what an incredible gift we will give to our future selves to arrive at that place full of joy, health, vibrancy, clarity, and peace. This is the road map Ayurveda gives us. Life is going to unfold so beautifully!