Our lives are going along pretty well at the moment, so why should we bother to embrace an ayurvedic daily routine (dinacharya)? Because it is one of the most powerful tools in ayurveda, if not the most powerful. It improves your vitality and overall, long-term health while grounding you and giving you the mental clarity to cope with today’s hectic way of life. Therefore, a daily routine is at the very heart of any ayurvedic lifestyle advice. However, no single piece of advice suits everyone. While there are general guidelines, they do have to be adapted to meet a person’s specific constitution and their current state of health.

Dinacharya has three important components: a) living in accordance with nature’s cycles; b) commitment to self-care and c) ethical living. Living with nature’s cycles ensures resilience and adaptability, self-care imparts lasting health benefits and ethical living creates personal and social harmony.

Setting up a regular waking and sleeping habit

Get up early! Then you’ll have plenty of time for self-care measures and to plan the day. The results of early rising will exhibit as reduced anxiety about the day, better stress management and plenty of time for bodily functions. Waking up early means going to bed early. In that way a smooth ‘waking and sleeping pattern’ is ensured and that is the key to your mental equilibrium. Ideally, you should go to bed 6 to 8 hours before sunrise. Whilst work, travel needs and social life may make it difficult to stick to that every single day of your life, long term health and happiness depend on how often you can manage it. The beneficial results of this habit are cumulative. Monitor your average sleep and waking times on a weekly basis. Every classical ayurvedic text from between the 2nd century BC and 7th century AD instructs a student of ayurveda (who is first of all a student of healthy living then a physician in training) to develop the habit of waking up around ‘Brahmi muhurta’, or 48 minutes before sunrise in vedic timekeeping. Today, we understand that cortisol increases just before sunrise, stimulating the bodily functions and thus making it the ideal time to swing into action. On the other hand, sleep is regulated by the hormone melatonin which responds to darkness. Cortisol should be high during the waking hours of the day and when this pattern is out of balance, our body clock struggles to align itself with nature’s clock and health problems follow. The entire human physiology has evolved around the cycle of day and night and disrupting such a cyclical pattern results in neurological, hormonal and immunological ailments.

reduce the sensitivity of the teeth is to gargle with oil and water. Just mix lukewarm water with a teaspoon of coconut oil or sesame oil, gargle until it turns frothy then spit it out.

Protect against exposure to airborne pollutants and allergens by smearing the inside of the nostrils with a couple of drops of organic sesame oil or pure ghee. Oiling the inside of them can also improve mental focus, reduce brain fog and improve memory, as the nerve endings in the nostrils directly influence the brain.

Exercise and oil application

Exercising daily, especially during winter and spring, by those who are physically able is an essential aspect of dinacharya. The goal is to exercise to your optimal strength by challenging yourself to sweat out but not to burn out. As you get stronger by exercising regularly, you reap the rewards of increased energy, improved digestion and greater mental focus. And you burn off excess fat.

The application of warm oils such as sesame oil to the entire body followed by a warm bath can improve circulation, reduce pain, slow down ageing, relieve fatigue, impart a healthy skin and improve sleep. Especially recommended is gently applying the oil whilst massaging the scalp, the ear lobes and the soles of the feet. For those with excessively oily skin or wishing to lose fat, rubbing the body with the dry and coarse triphala powder (see page XX), or mixing it with chick pea powder, can reduce the kapha dosha (the bio-energy based on water and earth), increase compactness of the body and improve skin health. When washing, it is important to use cold water on the head, face and neck and warm water on the rest of the body. This will ensure protection of the sense organs and will improve circulation.

Personal responsibility for health and ethical living

Living a life of balance is at the core of dinacharya. This is achieved through personal responsibility for health whilst contributing to the wellbeing of the community and the environment. To begin with, eat with awareness by avoiding over or under eating. Follow a personal hygiene regime and embrace a healthy, nutritious diet. Then adopt a healthy lifestyle and a healthy attitude towards oneself and other beings. Do all you possibly can to prevent the onset of illnesses and the physical or emotional disturbances that result.

However, ayurveda recommends not only healthy eating and exercise but greatly emphasises the benefits of ethical living. This includes caring about the happiness of all, developing good friendships and dealing with stress and conflicts in a constructive manner. Ayurveda instructs one to actively avoid hurting, stealing, being greedy, having harsh and provocative conversations, being jealous, quarrelling and being untruthful. On the other hand, ayurveda strongly recommends being equanimous in good times and bad, cultivating a pleasant appearance, speaking and behaving agreeably and, last but not least, avoiding abuse of the senses through over-stimulation.

As mentioned previously, while there is general advice on beneficial daily routines, it has to be adapted to each individual. For example, while an oil massage can have many benefits, it should be avoided by somebody who has a lot of ama (undigested residues, toxins) in the body. Instead preference should be given to simple cleansing measures like drinking half a litre of warm water straight after rising in the morning, much like an inside shower for your gastrointestinal tract.

But then, observing a personalised daily routine can dramatically improve your life over a surprisingly short period of time and is a great tool for slowing down ageing, too. And that’s the beauty of it.