Dinacharya: Nourishing Routines for Mindfulness & Good Health
At the end of this month I will be heading into four weeks of Yoga Teacher Training which means I will be teaching long hours six days a week in addition to managing my business and the other aspects of my life outside the classroom. In preparation for this I am placing an added emphasis on maintaining a healthy daily routine in order to be well rested and prepared for the busier month to come. Whether you are the teacher or the student Yoga Teacher Training is always a fun, inspiring, transformational, and exciting journey and at the same time it is also challenging as you are learning and experiencing so much while asking yourself to grow in new ways. To manage the challenge and excitement of it all I will be teaching my students the benefits of a nourishing daily routine on the very first day.
The daily routine, or Dinacharya as it is called in Ayurveda, is central to promoting health and well being and preventing imbalance and in my experience is one of the simplest and most powerful tools we have to take our health into our own hands. At the heart of the Dinacharya is the concept of mindfulness and ritual, making conscious the everyday transitions and events of our lives. A teacher whose writings and teachings have greatly inspired me on my own path is Maya Tiwari. I love the way she speaks about the Seven Daily Transitions as sacred phases of the day and her work has inspired the way that I think about the daily routine and so here I have included my own version of the Dinacharya to support you in your pursuit of good health.
Dinacharya: Nourishing Daily Routines To Support Mindfulness & Good Health
- Strive to get up early enough to do the practices that will nourish you as well as allow you time to enjoy the stillness of early morning as this will affect how you will experience the rest of the day.
- Getting up just before the sun rises is ideal but if that is impossible due to your work schedule at least make sure you are awake a minimum of 90 minutes before you have to be anywhere so you don’t need to rush.
- Early morning is ruled by the elements of Air and Ether and so has the qualities of subtlety, spaciousness, clarity, and coolness. If we miss this precious time of day we may feel harried, tense, or mentally overheated through the rest of the day
2. Cleansing Your Body
- Start the day by putting on the kettle and making a large jar of boiled water and lemon to sip throughout the morning. This helps clear out the digestive tract of any undigested food from the previous day and stimulates your agni or digestive fire for the day to come.
- Head to the bathroom for a brisk dry brushing or Abhayanga-Oil Massage and a shower to stimulate circulation, nourish your nervous system, and warm your body.
- Do some form of movement practice such as yoga asana or a silent walk on the beach as well as a brief meditation. I consider these practices a form of prayer as it allows me to get in touch with the mystery of my life through movement, breath and awareness.
- I personally include a more formal practice of prayer as well, which for myself is simply an expression of gratitude for the day and for the blessings of my life, a statement of my deepest intentions and a request for guidance and support.
- Remember this doesn’t need to be a long drawn out affair to be effective. 10 minute of Sun Salutations and 10 minutes of meditation goes a long way and will support you in putting the details of your day into a larger perspective .
4. Eating Well
- Meal times are wonderful opportunities to pause and focus on nourishing yourself. Do your best to plan your meals and your meal times so that they are conscious and free from stress. This may mean getting up earlier and preparing your meals or your shopping list in the morning which is a lovely sadhana or practice of it’s own.
- Avoid eating on the go and rather try to sit down for your meals. Don’t work while you eat but instead take in the sounds around you and place your attention on the smells and sensations that accompany eating. This type of mindfulness will allow you to make better food choices and avoid overeating.
- Eat food that is fresh, local, and in season for optimal health.
- Breakfast is should be taken after your movement practice, lunch is best mid day and can be larger as digestion is strongest at that time while dinner is ideally a lighter affair taken early in the evening.
- Meal times are another great opportunity for giving thanks and this practice will cultivate a greater sense of gratitude and abundance in our lives overall
- The way in which we approach our work is so deeply important to our well-being. Cultivating an attitude of service in regards to the work you do in the world will allow you to bring joy and positivity into your workplace and keep you from developing negative states of mind that can bring you down. I worked in restaurants for many years and if I could remember what a treat it was to be on the receiving end of good service as a customer than I was able to provide it as a waitress. This remembrance made everything more fun and rewarding for both myself and the people I worked with as well as the people that I served.
- Avoid overworking. This can happen when we love our work or when we own our own businesses but it is important to avoid overworking by creating boundaries around your work hours in order to avoid aggravating Pitta dosha (Fire), which can lead to burn out.
- For those of you who really struggle with finding enjoyment in the work you do at least take the time each day to cultivate gratitude for the fact that you have a means to support yourself when so many people don’t and you will find in time that this gratitude will allow you to find more pleasure in your daily efforts.
6. Celebration and Play
- Take time each day, even if it is just a few moments on your walk to work, to celebrate the beauty that surrounds you.
- Look at the sky, witness the trees, silently honor the strength and kindness of the people you see, breathe deep and welcome the gift of fresh air in your lungs and as often as you can get your hands in the dirt, walk barefoot in the grass, swim in the ocean, walk in the rain or play in the snow.
- Remember that the world is a beautiful place and no matter where you are there is always something to celebrate.
- This practice done daily helps take you out of the smaller sense of yourself as a separate being disconnected from the whole and will not only bring joy to your day but will relieve stress and anxiety as well.
- Finish the active part of each day by making time for stillness and reflection.
- Put your legs up the wall for a few moments or sit for formal meditation practice.
- Restorative poses are wonderful if you’ve had a stressful day.
- Even just sitting silently for a few moments with a cup of tea before bed to listen to the sounds around you and feel the day coming to an end can be deeply nourishing and will help you to sleep well.
- The hours before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after midnight so do your best to get to bed by 10pm most nights in order to feel your best.
- Turn off all computers, television and bright lights 30-60 minutes before you want to sleep.
- Take a warm bath to help you sleep on nights when you feel wound up.
- Reading inspirational literature before bed is a practice that supports good dreams and uplifting thoughts.
- Never go to bed angry at someone in your household-kiss and make up or at least agree to lovingly disagree.
- Take a few moments just sitting in bed to be still and simply listen to the sounds around you and allow the activity of the day to settle. Sleep with peacefulness and gratitude in your heart.