The daily routine or dināchāryā is one arm of Āyurveda’s powerful triad of healthy living, alongside diet and medical therapies. Daily routines can involve any positive practice(s) and work with (and generate!) available time. Creating and maintaining a daily routine means there are new decisions to be made. But over time fewer choices are required, alongside greater vitality, stability and balance.
In general, activities of the daily routine focus on the early morning period—making use of this generative time; creating vitality; setting the tone for the day. The ancient treatises, the Charaka Samhita, Ashtanga Hridyam, and Bhavaprakasha tell us a healthful dināchāryā or daily routine includes one or more of the following practices (in addition to dietary patterns):
The eternal cycles of Mother Nature exemplify on-going renewal and balance within the ebb and flow of life. Today many of us are out of touch with the reality and subtlety of cycles—the quotidian day-night cycle, seasonal cycles, the digestive cycle, and the cycle of human life.
By aligning ourselves with natural forces we work in harmony Nature, rather than against the natural flow. We support our own nature, optimise every aspect of health and integration, and better understand ourselves.
Āyurveda sees human life evolve in three main phases that influence all dosha types:
Childhood—from birth to around eighteen years—the earth and water elements dominate, and the physical body is more plump and moist. In balance, children are fresh and disease resistant. When imbalanced, they are more vulnerable to chronic congestions, especially of the chest, nose and ears.
Adulthood—from eighteen to around sixty—the fire element increases its dominance. This is the period when passions burn strongest and we strive to make our mark. As adults, we are more vulnerable to inflammatory and blood diseases, including disorders of the heart.
The later years—from sixty until death—air and ether dominate, and drier, lighter qualities take over. The tissues turn rough and brittle, and the mind becomes more diffuse.
Every day these stages of life are a broader backdrop against which our innate dosha-type exists, and our overall dosha balance unfolds.
Āyurveda understands that we exist in deep inter-dependence with our surrounds. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the seasonal cycles (and all cycles) revolve according to the dominance of the five great elements. As the Earth rotates, its proximity to the sun’s fire, and relative build-up and dispersal of earth, water, fire and air, manifest new seasons and bring old seasons to fruition.
In general, summers are dominated by the fire element and qualities of heat, sharpness, and light. In autumn (fall), the air element rules, and winds are mobile, rough, and dry. Cold winters can be sharp and clear, or wet, dull and cloudy. Spring, a time of growth and rejuvenation is moist, warm and light.
As the dominance of atmospheric elements change, so change the seasons, and our ability to stay in balance and tolerate certain foods. To what extent each season affects us depends on our personal dosha or constitution. If the season brings qualities opposite to our constitution, our system is naturally pacified and easier to keep in balance. For example, spring’s warm, moist qualities help to counter the cold, dry attributes of vāta dosha; the chill of winter helps cool hot pitta fires; and dry, windy autumn lightens heavy, oily kapha.
When supported by opposite ecological qualities we may tolerate foods and activities that at other times provoke imbalance. But when similar or ‘like’ elements occur in the environment as in our physical system, eating foods high in these elements is a recipe for disease.
Another cycle worth paying attention to is the daily digestive cycle. While appetite and hunger vary greatly between individuals (according to dosha-type and many other factors), the ability to digest food changes predictably every day.
Overnight while we sleep the entire physical system, including the nerves and brain, undergo cleansing and rejuvenation. The upper gut rests and regenerates. The lower gut—the colon—accumulates unwanted metabolic wastes, moving them into channels for morning (ideally dawn) elimination.