Dinacharya: Your Daily Yogic Routine
Translating to “knowledge of life” in Sanskrit, Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old sister science of yoga that assists practitioners in leading their lives by way of intuitive rituals. In adhering to one’s specific needs, those utilizing the practice of Ayurveda fall into rhythm with the seasons of self, emulating Mother Nature’s transitions and revelations in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
The Ayurveda practice of dinacharya, or “law of nature,” consists of daily self-care routines, which provide structure for instilling balance and establishing cohesiveness in the physical, mental, and emotional bodies.
Dinacharya is based on the philosophy that human beings run on a biological clock dictated by the patterns of the sun and the moon; different times of day adhere to different types of energy. These energies, known as doshas, connect the body and the mind in functionality. Three doshas exist: vata, kapha, and pitta; each dosha is associated with elements found in nature.
The first and early waking hours of the day 2am to 6am, and their afternoon inverse 2pm to 6pm, are identified as vata, which is associated with the elements of air and ether, or a sense of lightness. Movement is incredibly important at these times, as they are both transitional periods. In the early hours of the morning, it is believed that sleep and dreams are most active and that we are most receptive to thought; in the afternoon, many experience the need to mobilize to reenergize, sparking creativity.
From 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm, it is said our kapha energy governs the manner in which we show up in the world. Kapha works in relation with earth and water, countering vata’s airiness with a sense of grounding.
Pitta energy runs its course through our systems during the hours of 10am to 2pm, and 10pm to 2am. Related to fire and water, waking pitta hours are correlated with high productivity. During the wee hours of the evening, typically the mind is resting, but the internal organs are vigorously cleansing the body, preparing us for the next day to come.
A Path to Balance
When the body and mind are in balance with these cycles, we experience a sense of contentment in all areas of our lives. As represented by the changes in even a matter of hours, the human condition is not static. It is not uncommon for one of the doshas to dominate at different points in time, regardless of where the dosha cycles suggest we should be landing on the energetic spectrum. We do not remain in a place of equanimity without putting forth awareness and effort, but it is possible to achieve balance through establishing a dinacharya routine.
Dinacharya practices help to establish congruence in our vata, kapha, and pitta energies.
When instability encroaches into our energetic cyclicality, we may feel noticeably “off” and over time, unbalanced physical, mental, and emotional bodies breed disease and dis-ease. Benefits of dinacharya can be experienced almost immediately, and can serve vitality for decades when adhered to properly.
Components of dinacharya can be incorporated into virtually any time of day, and can be quite extensive; according to Aryuvedic Physician Vasant Lad, there are nineteen steps composing a proper morning awakening of the physical and mental bodies alone. Many traditional dinacharya practices applicable to specific hours of the day can be adapted and become inputs to forming a consistent self-ritual.
Wake Before the Sun
This vata time of day is believed to be one of quiet connection. Once the sun is in the sky, the clock of Ayurveda ticks to kapha, signaling it is time to move and be productive. Waking earlier than you usually may begin the day offers a chance to connect energetically with self, rather than your inbox first thing.
Because the morning boasts fresh energy and serenity, this segment of the day has the potential to serve as an undistracted platform for meditation. Perhaps your sit consists of a few quiet moments, or maybe lasts a bit longer. Returning to a mindfulness practice at the end of the day allows for you to come full circle with your day’s experience, and is effective in supporting more restful sleep.
Finding time to be active throughout the day is important for maintaining balance and focus, as well as setting the stage for fulfilling the day’s requirements with ample energy.
In the morning, support the waking of your body in a way you enjoy, whether it be taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, working with kriya, hitting the mat for Pilates, or devoting time to your yoga practice to energize or unfold slowly.
The afternoon is a prime time to get the blood flowing. After your largest meal of the day is consumed at lunchtime, give yourself at least 10-15 minutes for a walk or afternoon stretch to promote blood flow, ensuring the body and mind stay fired and inspired. Evening calls for gentler movement, such as a yin yoga practice, so that sleep may be gracefully eased in to.
This practice has been an aspect of dinacharya for thousands of years, and involves swooshing oil, such as sunflower or sesame, around your gums and teeth for 15-20 minutes each day, typically in the morning. Oil pulling is effective in removing toxins and parasites, which reside in the nooks and crannies between teeth, around the tongue, and in the gums.
These organisms not only affect the outer appearance of our pearly whites, but are often the root of inflammation and infection occurring throughout the body.
To reap the benefits of a brighter smile, clearer sinuses and skin, and healthier immune system, simply drink a glass of water upon waking, melt 1-3 tablespoons of an oil of your choice either on the stove or in your mouth, gargle for 20 minutes (this can be done while preparing breakfast or lunch, reading emails, etc.), spit, and rinse with water.
Known as Abhyanga in Ayurveda, self-massaging is often practiced as a component of dinacharya in either or both the morning and the evening. According to Sandhiya Ramaswamy, regarded Ayurvedic chef and educator, abhyanga, when performed daily, enhances balance in the energy bodies and overall longevity, calms the nervous system, softens skin, and tones muscle, amongst other benefits. Using warm oil, start at your scalp and work your way down the body using your fingertips and palms. Once applied, allow for the oil to marinate into your skin for five to ten minutes, and follow with a warm bath or shower.
This Ayurvedic technique requires a very small time investment, but pays greatly in its dividends. Using silk gloves or a dry skin brush, start at the feet and work your way up to the crown of your head. According to Dr. John Doulliard, director of LifeSpa.com, a leading resource in Ayurvedic wellness, brushing toward the direction of your heart drains the lymphatic system, and can help the body move waste more quickly and stimulate the burning of fat. This technique can be practiced preceding self-massage for added benefit.
Morning and evening meals should be light in comparison to your lunchtime consumption. Afternoon is the time of day most appropriate for intake of your heaviest meal, for several reasons. The digestive system has fully awakened, and the body has ample time to break down what has been consumed without interrupting your awakening or your sleep cycle. Agni, or digestive energy, is in full force; in order to keep the fire roaring, it is necessary to fuel adequately.
According to Monica Bloom, author of “In Your Elements: A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life,” a warm, vegetable-filled plate should be consumed at this time. Acknowledging this may not be ideal for meals eaten at work in terms of preparation, Monica suggests preparing a large batch of healthful dishes at night, eating a small portion for dinner, and bringing the majority on the go with you the next day to save both time and hunger pangs.
Head to Bed Early
It is recommended to begin your evening ritual around 8:30pm to ensure a restful transition into your evening rest. Unwinding with a book or a bath serves as a palate cleanser between the busyness of the day and the tranquility of bedtime. Establishing an early bedtime initiative for your self can also prevent late-night, metabolism-hindering snacking; around 10pm, pitta energy kicks back in which, when awake can spark hunger, when resting allows for full-body restoration.
The above are only a select few options on the full menu of dinacharya offerings. Taste one, taste all offerings; Director of Ayurveda Programs at Shankara Ayurveda Spa Medha Garud notes that the adoption of two dinacharya-inspired changes can make a difference when enveloped into your day-to-day routine. The implementation of a personal dinacharya ritual can serve as powerful and effective insurance for physical, mental, and emotional congruence and observance.
An Ayurvedic Elixir for Total Rejuvenation
The Vedic sutras and ayurvedic texts, describe a sacred drink called soma rasa, said to beget eternal life. Soma rasa, also called amrita, is a Sanskrit word meaning “nectar of immortality.’’ Like the legendary “Fountain of Youth,” there are many speculations regarding the origin and location of soma rasa. The mythic stories of soma rasa describe its literal power in the human body. Soma is created internally within natural physiological processes, and harvested externally from plants and herbs. The correct utilization of soma rasa via meditation, diet, ritual, and yoga results in total rejuvenation of the human form.
The tantric systems in India, teach that soma rasa is made from moon’s waters. The moon is sometimes referred to as a cup the gods drink soma from to maintain their immortality. Every evening all the gods dip a finger into the moon-cup and drink the soma until the moon is empty.[i] Rituals described in the Vedic texts, still practiced in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, make soma from a plant harvested in the Himalayas. Some researchers theorize this is not the soma plant referred to in the Vedic texts, and believe soma is an unidentified, hallucinogenic plant, that grows in northern India and Nepal.[ii] The 9th Mandela in the Rg Veda, called the Soma Mandela, devotes 114 hymns to the purification of Soma, which is said to bring those who drink it to ecstasy. Other scholars hypothesize that soma is a bhasma, a type of ayurvedic medicine made according to rasashastra.[iii] Rasashastra is a type of alchemy medicine native to India, and involves the purification of metals and gems through a process of alternate heating, cooling, oxidizing and crushing, until a fine pure ash of consumable medicine is left, called a bhasma. Mercury, one of the primary metals used in rasashastra preparations, is thought to make the body perfect. Rasashastra is still practiced today, and takes years of specialized study under a master alchemist. Taking rasashastra preparations from untrained or unknown sources can be dangerous, and possibly life threatening.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika teaches that meditation, specifically a practice called the kechari mudra, where a devotee inverts his tongue to touch the far recesses of his throat, and holds the posture for a period of time, will clear a membrane, and allow the secretion of soma to consistently drip from the sahasrara chakra.[iv] Meditation is taught to perfect the body so the practitioner can focus on gathering his internal winds, and bring the soma from the base of his spine up to the crown of his head, where the sahasrara chakra secretes soma rasa.[v] When soma rasa is secreted, the practitioner will experience bliss and immortality.
In the Sushruta Samhita, a classic Ayurvedic text, soma is described as having several plant origins, extracted in an elaborate ritual, that require building a house made of three chambers, where the center chamber is dedicated for the soma practice. The devotee begins with a series of specific mantras, pricking the bulb of the plant with a golden needle, and collecting its milky substance in a silver vessel, and drinks it. He then experiences soma’s effects over a period of four months, marked by distinct physical changes and practices, that include moving to different chambers for set days, applying and ingesting specific herbs, taking baths, and receiving specific massages. By the end of the fourth month, he is renewed physically, attains mastery over cosmological knowledge, never meets a failure in life, and is infused with divine spirit.[vi]
Soma has both, a metaphysical and physical means of transference. The substance of soma is pure love, and gives waves of bliss through our consciousness when it is ingested or produced. Exposure to the full moon, far away from city lights increases internal soma. It can also be cultivated in healthy lifestyle habits, extracted from plants, and produced in meditation. It requires a level of systemic function to be fully utilized, and therefore, cannot be accessed by sheer whim. Intentional support, facilitated by rejuvenation practices that restore digestive strength and detoxification, enable the extraction and proper assimilation of soma rasa.
Physically, soma is secreted by the glandular system. It is a finite manifestation of our immune system, and life force. The ancient Vedic texts indicate the place of soma secretion is the pineal gland, and some theorize that soma may actually be the powerful antioxidant called melatonin.[vii] As it is consumed, the body’s tissues become more elastic, and regain strength. The heart beats with a youthful vigor, and the mind sharpens. The shared teaching of the soma legend says, that immortality is not living forever, as we understand it, it is having enough physical strength and health, that the body is not an impediment to self-realization. The Vedic texts teach the desire to live forever is only worthy in order to completely actualize one’s full potential. The yogic and ayurvedic practices rejuvenate the body and restore vitality, so that we can ultimately transcend our physical body and reach enlightenment.
Moon’s Soma Drink
This is a drink that enhances soma production within the body and mind. It is best enjoyed after an evening meditation practice while basking under the light of the full moon.
- ½ C Macadamia Nuts
- ½ C Brazil Nuts
- 4 C Purified Water
- 4 Thai Coconuts
- 1 T Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Pink Pepper
- ½ tsp Himalayan Salt
- 1 Vanilla Bean Pod
- ½ T Shatavari Root Powder
Soak macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts in a bowl with 4 cups of purified water. Strain and discard water.
Put nuts in a high speed blender with 4 more cups of purified water. Blend at a high speed. Strain through a nut milk bag and set aside.
Crack open coconuts and pour coconut water into blender. Scrape out meat and add to blender. Blend at high speed until liquefied.
Add macadamia and Brazil nut milk back into blender with coconut milk.
Slice vanilla bean pod and scrape seeds into a small bowl. Blend into nut milk with the remaining ingredients. Pour into glasses and serve at room temperature.
[i] Cashford, J. (2003). The Moon: myth and image. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
[ii] Jay, Mike. (1999). Blue Tide: The Search for Soma. New York: Autonomedia,
[iii] Mishra, L. C. (2004). Scientific basis for Ayurvedic therapies. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
[iv] Aiyangar, M. (1949). Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā of Svātmārāma Svāmin ((3d ed.). Madras, India: Theosophical Pub. House.
[v] Fenner, Edward. 1(979). Rasyana Sidhhi: Medicine and Alchemy in the Buddhist Tantras. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.
[vi] Dash, S., Padhy., & Sachidananda. The soma drinker of ancient India: an ethnobotanical retrospection. Journal of Human Ecology, 19-26.
[vii] Bhatnagar, S. S., & Isaacs, D. (2009). Microchakras: innerTuning for psychological well-being. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions.