– Astanga Hrdayan, Sutrasthana II
Dinacharya is a set of tools for your sanity.
At least this is my personal experience.
The word means, ‘to get close to the day.’ Ayurveda is touted as a medical system that treats mind, body and spirit by aligning with nature’s rhythms. That all sounds wonderful, and so many people are drawn to the idea of living with the seasons, and grooving with the rhythms of nature. But what does that MEAN? And how does one actually do it?
And like most things in Ayurveda, the concept is simple but it is not easy. Dinacharya involves a set of self-care and awareness tools which balance our energy, calm the mind, cleanse the sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin) and strengthen digestion. When we do all these things, we improve our innate immunity, and strength. This can benefit us when we’re treating a disease or imbalance, and act as strong preventative medicine. Just as without proper diet, medicine is of little use, without some awareness of our daily routine, or dinacharya, medicine and even an incredible diet can fall short.
I swear, I am not trying to make life more difficult. I feel like I am sharing THE SECRET to making it all happen for you. Let’s get to it.
Dinacharya provides an understanding of our body, our physiology naturally functions. How our body functions is always in relation to the external influences or elements. We speak of 5 elements in Ayurveda (space, air, fire, water, earth), and these 5 elements make up the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha). If you are reading this blog, you’re most-likely at least familiar with these things.
The doshas, or the elements, are more influential at certain times of day, certain times of our lives, and certain times of the year (this gets into more seasonal stuff, but we’ll stick to the rhythms over one day.) The reason we say those elements are dominant at a certain time, is because we see their qualities manifest internally and or externally during that time. We can either fight against those qualities, or use them to our best advantage. Dinacharya teaches us how to artfully do both.
V, P, K
Vata dosha, which is made up of the Space and Air elements, rules the pre-dawn hours, and late-afternoon. About between 2 and 6 a.m. and p.m. There is a quality of expansiveness, spaciousness, lightness and clarity. There may also be a natural dip of energy in the afternoon, after we digest our lunch. You might notice that the wind tends to pick up right before the dawn, or in late afternoon. Or that time seems to stand still.
Pitta dosha, which is made up of fire and water elements, rules midday and midnight. About between ten and 2 on the clock we may notice qualities of heat or redness, sharpness, transformation, passion, and lightness. The fire element increases our digestive capacity midday, and at midnight, it moves in to do a cleaning house while we sleep. If we stay up, we’ll get a second wind, and perhaps our mind will feel very active. This is temptress of the midnight snack.
Kapha dosha, which is made up of the water and earth elements, is most dominant in the mid-morning, and the evening, say between 6 and ten a.m. and also p.m. These heavy, earthy qualities of Kapha can weigh us down. This heaviness is excellent to bring us towards sleep, but if we wake up ‘too late’ in the morning, after sunrise and after Vata time and Brahma muhurta, we’ll have a harder time to get moving. The stability, juiciness, and strength is these hours are beneficial for exercise.
What you can do
“The first moments of a day, like the first seconds of an infant’s life, are minutes that can set the tone for an experience. If we allow the first attention of the day to be peaceful, grateful and infused with a sense of joy, it is more likely that our day will be pleasant.” – Dr. Claudia Welch
If we all started our day from a peaceful and loving place, our world could be a better place. It’s ideal to start to shift into these rhythms by adopting some new, or adapting your old, morning routine.
1. Wake early, around sunrise or just before. Empty your bladder, and bowels if easy. This is something much of our culture has difficulty with, and waking up during Vata time (which governs elimination) can be a huge and simple first step to having naturally regular bowel movements.
2. Brush your teeth, and scrape your tongue.
3. Rinse your eyes with cool water or rose water, while you are at the sink.
4. Drink one or 2 warm cups of water with lemon, or lime, and a tiny bit of raw honey. The additions are optional, and the warm water a simple way to kick-start digestion for the day, and flush the stomach, kidneys and liver. You may also opt to chew an aromatic spice, such as a cardamom pod, frankincense jewel, or fennel seeds to freshen breath, whiten teeth and again, aid in digestive juices flowing.
5. Meditate, or practice pranayama and yoga.
6. Dry brushing and/or self massage with oils. Plain, organic sesame is great.
7. Bathe or shower.
8. Eat breakfast that will carry you through to lunch.
To take with you the intelligence of dinacharya throughout the day, you will eat your largest meal at lunch time, Pitta time, and a small, light dinner, ideally before 7 p.m. You might opt to rest, read or study during the Vata hours of the afternoon, and ideally you’ll be in bed, asleep before 10 p.m., so Pitta won’t keep you up, but will clean ‘house’ in your digestive tract, to help you eliminate easily any wastes in the morning. for any of you who have made it this far, and want to know more, I must point you to this excellent article diving more deeply into Dinacharya, by Dr. Claudia Welch.
It’s not about ruling or controlling every piece of your day – but it may feel like this at first. hear a lot of people say that sometimes dinacharya feels like work, like slogging through mud to get it all in. In my experience, starting slow is where it’s at. Choosing to perhaps just drink warm water, and meditate for 5 minutes before opening your phone or computer can be a game changer. You’ll feel good, and want more…then wake up early to fit in more practices before work. And once your body’s biorhythms (hunger, elimination, sleep-wake cycle) start to get back on track, positive shifts come very naturally. Remember, it’s a life long practice, there is no need to rush.
My seasonal cleanse is all about practicing and learning dinacharya, taking time for deeper practices, to see what can stick with you for the long run. And yes, a little bit about eating kitchari. 🙂 All the best!
Dinacharya, Changing Lives through Daily Living, by Dr. Claudia Welch.
Astanga Hrdayam, Vagbhata. Sutrasthana, Dinacarya Adhyaya.