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Dinacharya: Establishing Healthy Routines

August 31, 2021 12 min read

Practicing healthy, daily routines is an important aspect of Ayurveda; this is known as dinacharya.

When we have consistent practices, we are less frazzled by the chaos that can occur – resulting in a better ability to stay grounded in the face of stress, discomfort, and the unknown. By creating a foundation, we cultivate trust in ourselves and the dance of life. A routine is a very personal creation that honors your body, personality, lifestyle, and soul.

We invite you to bring more awareness and enjoyment into your day-to-day activities, with an emphasis on steady routines and self-care. By having consistent practices, you create confidence and ease in your daily flow. By putting time into taking care of yourself, you show that you matter as the important leader of your own life. Practice bettering your routines with your physical self to enhance all aspects of your spiritual Self. 

Morning Routine

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Cultivate a sequence for your morning: a practice that you enjoy spending time with before the journey of your day unfolds. Having a consistent routine at the start of your day helps prepare your mind and body for the day ahead of you. By preparing for the day with self-love, we strengthen the protective shield around our Being. Rise with intention, incorporate self-care practices, and allow space for reflective activities at the start of your day.

You may notice a habit of putting off self-care practices for the end of the day, then when the end of the day comes you don't have time for them... Make self-care a priority by practicing it first thing in the morning. If you tend to rush in the mornings and not take time for yourself, you may want to start small – even simply taking time to enjoy a cup of tea can shift the course of your day.

Spend your morning with rituals that uplift you. Explore different activities and discover which practices you would like to turn into a habit. You may decide to write in your journal, water your plants, move your body, meditate, or simply gaze out the window. Check in with yourself and your needs each day. You know how to best tend to yourself – let that voice guide you and don’t be afraid to try new things! (A few of our favorite ways to wake up are dance parties, intention setting, and sun gazing.)

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Rise With the Sun

The sun is nature's alarm clock. We are natural, cyclical beings; when we awaken with the sun, we allow our bodies to connect with the rhythm of the elements around us. By rising with the sun, you have the opportunity to slowly transition from sleeping to waking – allowing your body and mind to adjust at a peaceful pace. Offer your gratitude to the sun and see how deeply you can savor the start of a new day.  Take a round of deep breaths; clear any negativity and cultivate a loving energy. This is the perfect time for you to gather your energy and find your center so you can meet life with a clear mind and heart.

  • Hydrates the body

  • Helps fully digest anything leftover in your stomach – resulting in proper absorption of nutrients along with a healthy morning elimination (which flushes out toxins)

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Improves skin

  • Supports the lymphatic system

  • Boosts your immune system.

  • The potassium and magnesium in lemons support brain and nerve health which increases alertness, mood and the ability to focus

Drink Warm Lemon Water

Awaken your digestive fire before breaking your nightly fast by drinking warm water with lemon (or lime) upon rising. Hydration and absorption are two main components of a healthy body. Start your day feeling cleansed and rejuvenated by stimulating the fire to burn up yesterday’s residue and clear space for today’s intake.

You may notice you reach for coffee as your first act in the morning. Rather than serving your soul false energy with coffee as you rise, practice assisting your body’s natural functions for rejuvenation with this new ritual. It may be a hard habit to break, but shifting your attention and intention to a healing beverage may help this new ritual stick.

Tongue Scrape

Ever notice that layer of coating on your tongue? In Ayurveda, this is known as “ama” –toxins that arise and release through your tongue. The coating can appear due to improper digestion or unhealthy consumption. It can also be an indicator of something occurring deeper in the body. Tongue scrape daily to clean your tongue of these toxins. Start by choosing a scraper – copper is optimal. Begin at the back of the tongue and gently (rather than scraping) pull the ama forward. Rinse the scraper and repeat until you are satisfied and can see your beautiful pink tongue again!  Tongue scraping will enhance your sense of taste, stimulate your digestive organs and freshen your breath. On a subtle level, removing the ama from your tongue helps with the ability to express yourself clearly & confidently. 

This can be practiced daily and is best to do first thing in the morning! Be sure to look at the ama in the mirror and notice its qualities: what color is it, what is its thickness and how much of your tongue is coated? Begin to notice if you have more ama after eating certain foods – it may indicate which foods you have trouble digesting.

Oil pull

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Your mouth is connected to your entire digestive system – having a clean and healthy mouth reflects having a clean and healthy body. To ensure a clean mouth, go beyond brushing your teeth and practice oil pulling*. This practice draws out toxins that your body wishes to release.

Put a comfortable amount of liquefied oil in your mouth and swish for 5-20 minutes as part of your morning routine (preferably before eating). Five minutes may feel like a lot of time in the beginning, but your jaw muscles will strengthen over time! When you feel it has been enough time, spit the oil in the trash to avoid drain clogging. Rinse your mouth of excess oil with warm water before brushing your teeth.

Oil pulling draws out toxins and whitens teeth naturally, but the benefits of oil pulling go beyond dental bonuses! It increases energy, reduces headaches, helps balance hormones, along with enhancing taste receptors. Enjoy the much-appreciated benefits this simple practice brings.

*Always use organic oils – sesame, coconut, and sunflower are a few suggestions. 

Dry Brush

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Dry brushing is a technique used to take off dead skin cells. It unclogs pores, increases oxygenation, and helps with circulation in the lymphatic system to release built-up toxins. Dry brushing before abhyanga(which we’ll go over in a sec!) helps the oils absorb into one’s skin rather than sit on top and coat it.

Having a natural, non-synthetic brush is ideal. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular strokes on your joints and abdomen. Always brush towards your heart as that is where the lymph system drains. Gently brush your skin with enough pressure to scrape off the dead skin cells – do not press harder than you think necessary. It is recommended to do this practice in the shower (pre-rinse), or with a towel beneath you to catch any debris. As you move through this practice, keep in mind the intention of releasing the old and embracing the new. Thank your body for the protection it has given you & honor the new skin under the surface as you welcome its first breaths!  

Tip: If you tend towards oily skin, you may incorporate this practice more often; if you have drier skin, do it less often.  Let your body communicate with you to know when this practice will compliment you. (Be mindful of drying out in the winter months.)

Use a Neti Pot

Cleansing the sinuses allows for better airflow through the body, resulting in a clearer and more alert mind. In Ayurveda, we use a neti pot. This entails pouring water through one nostril and having it come out the other. It can sound daunting and at first may be uncomfortable – but the results are worth it!

Fill your neti pot with sterile, warm water (if you don’t have sterile water, boiling the water first will sterilize it) and add ¼ - ½ of a teaspoon of salt (generally, the more salt you use the less it burns – play around to find the ratio that works best for you). Face forward and place the spout into one of your nostrils. Be sure to breathe through your mouth and keep it open throughout the process. As you begin to tip the neti pot into your nostril, tilt your forehead down and turn it sideways slightly until water starts to pour out the open nostril. You may have to adjust your posture until you find the right flow. Once the neti pot is empty, very gently blow your nose into the sink, then wipe with a tissue. Repeat on the other side.

Using a neti pot helps relieve symptoms caused by allergies and helps maintain a healthy nasal/sinus lining. It also reduces airborne toxins and pollen from accumulating. Neti cleansing is usually recommended to do a couple of times a week or more if needed.

Bonus: apply a drop of sesame oil after your rinse to help soothe & relieve any irritation or dryness that may occur. 

Abhyanga

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Abhyanga is the practice of self-oil massage. Its purpose is to cultivate self-love, create a layer of protection (physical, mental/emotional, spiritual), and nourish the skin. The skin is our largest organ, by massaging it with oil we are feeding it nutrients to keep it healthy.

Choose an oil* (always food grade) and warm it up on the stove or with a candle. Once warmed, you may begin with a scalp massage (optional) and move down to your ears and face (also optional). Gently and lovingly work your way towards your heart. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular motions on your joints. Begin bottom to top to rise your stagnant energy or top to bottom for grounding. 

Throughout this practice, keep in mind the intention of loving and nurturing your body. Look in the mirror and recognize the beauty and power you hold; enjoy this time with your naked body and the magic it provides for you. Your vessel is unconditionally Sacred. 

This can be practiced daily and at any time. Practiced in the morning, it helps with grounding and works as a protective layer throughout your day; practiced in the evening it allows you to let go of the stresses of the day and truly connect with yourself before transitioning into deep rest.  *When choosing an oil, it is best to use sesame oil for dry skin or in the colder months and coconut oil for already moist skin or in the warmer months.

Yoga/Movement

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Nowadays we go to yoga classes and do what the instructors tell us to, but is it always in alignment with our body's individual needs? Listen to what your body is asking for and choose a yoga practice that helps support what you need in this particular moment. Before choosing a class or practice, get in touch with your body – how does it want to stretch? How are you feeling in this moment? Do you need gentle, grounding poses? Or vigorous, stimulating poses?

Support your body fully by exploring what it truly needs. Rather than amping your cardio and performing sixty asanas (positions) in an hour, your Yoga (union with Self) may be gracefully sinking into one or two poses that go deeper into an area in need. Look into which positions open your tight hips, help to release grief, or ease you into sleep. Bring as much love and awareness into the practice as possible.

Expand your ideas of exercise by exploring dancing, hiking, swimming, climbing, flow arts, or any physical activity that excites you!

Soul Connection

Do you allow time and space for deep and meaningful connection with yourself? By soul searching and connecting with our deepest essence, we are able to live from our truest Self. Allow yourself the time to simply beand see what arises. So often we find ourselves lost in the stream of thoughts our mind produces and the “do, do, do” mentality of our culture. We go from one task to the next and look towards achievement to define our worth. When we are not “doing,” we search for ways to relax – sometimes through mindless activities such as watching T.V., scrolling through social media, or consuming substances.

Step away from the surface-level activities you unconsciously partake in and connect with the deeper part of your Being that resides beneath the surface. What activities inspire your soul and awaken your passions? What makes you feel whole and connected to your deepest Self? Is it creative expression, being in nature, starting a new hobby, or simply tending to yourself and your personal needs? Allow this to be a way for you to explore your relationship with Self through unconditional love. 

Bonus: Write a list of things and experiences that you’ve been craving – whether they are productive or decompressing. Keep this list around as a reminder that you don’t always have to be doing things. Pull it out of your pocket, wallet or jacket when you feel lost to remind yourself of the things you enjoy but may be neglecting. Honor the calling and take time aside for this. 

Bedtime Routine

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A bedtime routine helps prepare for a restful night's sleep. Getting a full night's sleep is important: you will function at your best the next day by being well-rested. Just as we arose with the sun, we begin to wind down as it sets. Begin a calming routine an hour before bed to create a soothing environment for your night of rest.

Put away technology an hour before bed: eliminating distractions before bed allows us to transition into sleep easily and sleep more soundly throughout the night, resulting in optimal rest. We tend to think, “I’m not tired yet,” so we stay up later. By creating space, we allow tiredness to settle in and naturally fall to sleep earlier. Going to sleep at the same time every night results in better sleep and an improved mood. Being in bed by 10 pm allows us to get enough sleep to wake up with the sun (our natural cycle). There is also a second wind of energy within the night beginning at ten – use this energy exploring dreamland to avoid staying up late and burning out the next day.

Allow your body and mind to process what it went through during the day by embracing moments of rest – enjoy a calming tea, reflect through writing, have a gentle yoga practice, or sit in meditation. Once you notice yourself getting sleepy, cuddle up in bed and allow yourself to fully relax until you enter the dream world. (Some of our favorite relaxing nighttime activities include baths, golden milk, and reading poetry.)

Bonus:

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Diet

Eat whole, unprocessed foods. It is important to eat more whole foods as opposed to processed. When we eat fresh foods, we are in-taking prana (life-force energy) from the food, along with more nutrients. Processed foods generally contain chemicals and preservatives, which enter our system and show up as toxins trying to escape our bodies. Eat in alignment with the Earth to provide the most wholesome meals.

Nature

Nature is healing. It allows us to take a step back from the drama of our lives and simply be present. By connecting with the vastness of the world around us, our daily stressors suddenly seem less important. Spend time in nature as often as possible - eat outside, exercise outside, meditate outside… just get out there!

Journaling

Svadhyaya, or Self-inquiry, is a very important part of Yoga – it is an influential aspect of personal transformation. Our emotions and our inner world contain the depths of an ocean. By reflecting and getting in touch with our emotions, we learn how to navigate our inner terrain. When we identify too much with our thoughts and emotions, attachment forms and creates stagnancy. It is easy to get stuck in the stories we tell ourselves, and unless we know how to navigate them, we will remain stuck. Unraveling the meaning behind our emotions allows for change to take place. Working through our blockages allows for a clear channel to form. Understanding our motives allows for self-compassion and humility. Take time to learn about yourself through the practice of journaling.

Play/Creativity

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Playfulness and creative expression are two major components of happiness and a sense of fulfillment. Do you find that you tend to be more serious and focus your time only on things that will lead you to “success”? It is so easy for us to form a checklist of “should” and “should not” as we attempt to live a healthier life. We often forget that we are meant to enjoy our own unique expression of living as we grow – not just once we get there! Life is not meant to be a constant analysis of our progress, but a transformational journey with an appreciation for how far we have come!

As we grow older and gain more responsibilities, we can feel heavy and bogged down. Let yourself shed some stress by engaging in playful activities that uplift your Spirit. Rediscover your favorite childhood activities and see if you can bring any of them back into your daily life for an extra dose of playfulness. Skip instead of walk, make chalk art, blow bubbles, dress funky, hug your stuffed animals, play a game, build a fort, finger paint, ride a bike! Indulge in the youthful essence of your spirit. Let loose and don't be afraid to act silly!

Erica Beaty
Erica Beaty



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