For most people, cultivating a morning routine is a healthy and helpful way to maintain balance across our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. I think most of us can resonate with those stressful mornings of sleeping through an alarm, waking up in a frazzle, racing around the house to get ready and rushing out the door. Not the most pleasant way to begin the day.
I definitely notice the effects of setting a healthy tone in the morning – a ritual that provides physical routine, mental consistency and emotional stability. In Ayurveda, routine is called Dinacharya, which translates to ‘Din’ meaning day and “Charya” meaning to follow. Thus, Dinacharya is a process that we should follow daily to achieve optimal health. By incorporating practices that directly influence and improve our dietary choices, exercise and hygiene, we effectively enhance our mind and body’s ability to not only achieve the days tasks, but to thrive in the process. This is achieved by providing our body with foods that best serve our individual constitution, by cleansing the body to remove toxins and by regularly moving the body to release stagnant energy, nervous tension, stiffness in the joints and tightness in the muscles.
Ayurveda is aligned with natures cycles, with the qualities of different foods and the energies of the sun and the moon, which are heating and energising (sun) and cool and nurturing (moon). Dinacharya typically consists of a variety of cleaning practices, movement and meditation rituals and dietary guidelines, that whilst may be quite daunting initially, can be gradually incorporated into our daily routine to bring health and vitality.
Each day is broken up into two cycles between 6am and 6pm and from 6pm to 6am.
The first cycle:
6am – 10am Kapha (qualities: generally steady, earthy, heavy, slow and oily)
10am – 2pm Pitta (qualities: generally hot, intense, penetrating and acidic)
2pm – 6pm Vata (qualities: generally cold, dry, changeable, moving, irregular)
The second cycle:
6pm – 10pm Kapha qualities: generally steady, earthy, heavy, slow and oily)
10pm – 2am Pitta (qualities: generally hot, intense, penetrating and acidic)
2am – 6am Vata (qualities: generally cold, dry, changeable, moving, irregular)
It is helpful to take advantage of these cycles to enhance productivity, creativity and bodily function.
General tips for honouring natures cycles:
Rise before the sun as this is aligned with the energy of Vata, which is creative, changing and intuitive but requires steadiness, routine and balance to keep the nervous system in harmony.
Complete cleansing activities such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, drinking warm water, scraping your tongue, using a neti-pot and self-massage to aid in removing toxic build-up in the body.
Follow with a movement practice such as yoga or a walk outside (or any other practice that you enjoy) ensuring to incorporate space for reflection and relaxation.
Eat breakfast after your morning routine that is aligned with your unique constitution.
Begin the day’s activities
Eat lunch (your largest meal of the day) between 12-1pm when Pitta is the dominate energy – Pitta is all about fire, energy and digestion which will help to process your food into energy. Ensure that you include healthy fresh produce as part of your meal.
In the afternoon choose an activity that will balance out the rest of the day (if you were stressed, rushing around, working in a physically demanding job, etc, then choose gentle yoga or meditation, a walk out in nature or something fun like a dance class with a friend – any of these practices will help to remove any nervous tension, stress, frustration and/or anxiety. If you sat at a desk all day, you would be best served by some form of exercise that is physically challenging, followed by a 5-10-minute meditation.
Ideally dinner should be a smaller meal than lunch and consumed around 6pm including fresh plant-based ingredients to balance the heavy, earth qualities of Kapha.
After dinner make time for reflective practices, planning, restorative yoga, reading a good book, self-massage, tea, a night walk and/or a warm bath.
Aim to go to bed by 10pm as this is the end of Kapha’s cycle, which is an earthy, grounded and relaxed energy – this will provide the best opportunity for you to get a good night sleep.
Written by Erin Grant-Stevenson for The Loft Dance & Yoga Studio 2018