Most of us have some daily routines that are either required of us, such as going to work or school, or that are necessary, like eating, drinking fluids, breathing and going to the bathroom. We can choose to go through our life paying little attention to these necessities, engaging with them as little as possible. Or we can choose to develop rituals around these activities – infusing them with intention and bringing a deeper sense of meaning into our engagement with our body and our self-care.
In Ayurveda, a simple morning routine and structured day is considered to be the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. It is these simple rituals and routines that, combined together, form a healthy lifestyle.
Daily routines are called Dinacharya and they are individualized for each dosha or mind-body type. Dinacharya outlines healthy practices starting from the moment you wake up in the morning. In fact, they even include ideal bedtimes and wake up times for each dosha!
Routines Help Manage Stress
What many people don’t realize about routines is that they help us manage stress in our lives. When the body knows what to expect on a daily basis, it feels comfortable and at ease. When the body doesn’t know when it will sleep, when it will eat or when it will be able to get the all-important water, your body will feel stressed and you might feel on edge as a result. The same way that many of us might feel a little uneasy if we didn’t know what to expect out of a new experience. Or the way we might feel a little stressed out if we were on our way to a job interview and we didn’t know where we were going!
Start With A Sleep Schedule
It may not be realistic for everyone to completely tailor their sleep schedule around their dosha. But simply having a sleep schedule is a good place to start. Start by choosing a bedtime and wake up range (within an hour or so) that you can realistically commit to daily, for at least 5 out of 7 days of the week.
Go to bed between 9pm and 10pm and get up between 6am and 7am. For those of you who have a weekday wake up time already, you may find that all you really need to do is commit to a bedtime range.
Routine Is Key For Good Digestion
The other area where routine is particularly important is around digestion. The body does best when it can count on regular meals. When you eat regular, consistent and balanced meals you will feel more even and balanced emotionally. Eating regular meals is also important for good breakdown and absorption of nutrients.
According to Ayurveda, digestion is the seat of good health. All health issues stem in some way from digestive imbalance(s) and all conditions can be improved by improving digestion. When you go a long time without eating, digestive metabolism (what in Ayurveda is called digestive fire) declines. This means that if you skip breakfast and then eat a big lunch, your digestion will not work as well; you may feel slow, sluggish and even sleepy after eating, and you will not absorb as many nutrients.
Start With A Morning Routine
Morning is the best time to engage in some rituals of self-care and tend to your body’s basic needs. The activities and choices of your morning routine help set the stage for the day ahead of you. If you are calm and centered in the morning and take time to care for yourself with a morning routine, you will have a more balanced, relaxed and peaceful day.
I always tell my students and clients that it is better to wake up a little earlier and have a relaxed morning routine than it is to get an extra half hour of sleep and then run around trying to get out the door on time. Balance is the goal here. You want to create an environment where your emotional and physical needs can live in balance with one another.
When you first wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to use the bathroom, wash your face if you like to, or take a shower.
When you are ready to go to the kitchen, make yourself some hot ginger tea using fresh ginger root (see recipe below). This is a great way to start the day. Hot ginger tea kick starts the metabolism or the digestive fire, stimulates digestion and absorption and gets the appetite going. Ginger is also a peripheral circulatory stimulant, so it gets everything moving in the morning and makes you feel alive and more awake!
You will likely be hungry fairly soon after, so make time to sit down for breakfast and enjoy what you are eating, even if it is nothing fancy. If you drink coffee, save it for after breakfast – your nervous system and digestive system will do better if you get a good meal in first before coffee. Coffee can also suppress the appetite, making people think they are not hungry or do not need breakfast.
Throughout the day, commit to eating lunch and dinner and snacking only if you feel hungry. If you like the hot ginger tea and it improves your digestion, consider bringing some with you during the day to have before lunch or having some before dinner. It is best to drink it hot, but it can be drank room temperature as well if that is what works for you. You can also make big batches and store it in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days, reheating it as needed.
Make Time To Wind Down
An end of the day routine is as important as a morning routine. It is important for the body to take some time to wind down at the end of the day. Creating some ritual and routine around this wind down time can make it even more grounding and give you and your body something to look forward to.
Getting home at the end of the day can be a good time for this. A cup of calming tea, a few minutes of reading or stretching or a nice walk are all good, easy options. Sometimes even combining your daily wind down time with your dinner prep can work well. I find it calming, relaxing and grounding to do a few dishes and prep a few vegetables when I get home. It helps settle me.
Of course, one could rush through these activities, which would be less grounding and settling. I suggest you try to do these tasks and rituals calmly, with the intention of relaxing – it can have a positive impact on many household chores… or should we call them rituals!
Before bed is another important time to wind down. Consider some very gentle yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation, reading or just some time to sit and stair at the wall. It is important to help the body transition to a place of quiet and calm so that you can get a truly restful night sleep.
Make Your Morning Routine and Daily Rituals Work for You
The bottom line with rituals and routines is that they are supposed to provide guidance and a grounding point to help you live a life of balance. With that wisdom it is clear that we are each able, and to a large extent expected, to adapt and develop routines based on our individual preferences and needs.
We have to constantly balance our wants and desires with our external necessities (such as work, etc.) and the internal necessities of our body. And holistically, we know that these things cannot be separated – the health of our external world and our internal environment, our physical health and our emotional health are all connected.
It is important to be mindful and try not to use your individuality as a means to indulge in unhealthy habits. Instead, use your individuality as a way to help you engage in rituals and routines that help you live a life of balance in a changing world.
You may find that your rituals and routines change seasonally, with a shift in your external schedule or when those you are close with make changes. Some rituals and routines may come easy for you and seem straightforward and others may be challenging. Be gentle, patient and honest with yourself – these qualities are all important to a life of balance.
Ginger Tea Recipe
1 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated
1 cup boiling water
squeeze of lime (optional)
½ teaspoon honey (optional)
Steep the grated ginger and hot water with a lid for 10 – 15 minutes. You can strain out the grated ginger or drink it with the pieces, as I usually like to do! Lime and honey would be optional based off of your flavor preferences.