Nature is in a cycle. Sunrise, sunset, seasons all have their prescribed times. This is because physical laws govern this Existence. Imagine the chaos if the sun rose and set at random times each day! We would not know when to get up, to go to work, to sleep at night. Even though everything in nature changes constantly, there is an underlying stability that brings predictability about how the time of day and the seasons change, enabling us to structure our lives without worry about when – or whether – the sun will rise tomorrow. To that extent, Nature is very compassionate.
Everything in Nature is in tune. We notice a certain hustle and bustle during the daytime where every creature goes about its activities, and then, as night approaches, everything quietens down. We are each a small part of the larger Existence, with an internal clock that is in tune with Nature. If we are sensitive enough, we will see that our cycles of sleep, digestion, etc are happening at prescribed times.
However, with our current lifestyle – work hours, food/sleep habits, social media distractions – we have lost that connection with our inner clock. This has been linked to a host of health problems – sleep disorder, poor cognitive function, diabetes. obesity, heart disease, substance abuse etc. Many health problems can be remedied by simply being in tune with our body cycles, which are constantly transacting with the rest of Nature.
Ayurveda, a system that was developed many thousands of years ago, prescribes a daily regimen called Dinacharya; in Sanskrit, Din means ‘day’ and Acharya means ‘to follow’. It means to align our daily cycle with the natural cycles of Sun, Moon, Earth, and other planets in our solar system, which brings about a natural balance. As we come into balance, being healthy, happy, and joyful becomes our natural state.
Everything on this planet and in the cosmos is made up of the 5 elements – Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Space. So also is the human body. Even though the materials are the same, the unique combination of these 5 elements is what makes each creature unique. Ayurveda groups these 5 elements into 3 basic types of energy in our body which in Sanskrit are called Vaatha, the air element; Piththa, the fire element; and Kapha, the water element.
These 3 energies are dominant at certain times of the day. Vaatha is dominant from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and from 2:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m. Kapha is dominant from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Piththa is dominant from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. The wisdom of Ayurveda prescribes an ideal daily schedule which moves in accordance with these energy cycles. That is Dinacharya, which if we inculcate into our lives, creates natural balance and harmony.
Below is the recommended daily schedule.
Waking: As Vaatha is dominant from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. one should wake up before dawn. This is the time where there is more sattva (quality of balance and purity) in the air.
Detox and Elimination: After waking up comes cleansing. Emptying the colon and bladder ensures healthy functioning of the digestive system. Waiting until later in the day to empty yourself creates toxins and can lead to chronic conditions. Drinking 2 glasses of warm water acts as a laxative.
Clean the senses: Wash your eyes and face with cold water. Rose water is ideal, but cold water also works. Similarly clean your ears, brush your teeth and scrape the tongue. This will bring a freshness to the system. Gargling with warm water helps clear the throat.
Yoga or Exercise: After cleansing, it is time for yoga or exercise. Between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. the Kapha energies is dominant and is an optimal time for yoga and exercise. Doing this type of activity removes stagnation in the body, ignites the digestive fire, reduces fat and leaves you feeling light and joyful.
Bath: Have a warm water bath to wash off the sweat and toxins. Wear comfortable clothes.
Meditate: Sit in a quiet space and meditate for a few minutes to an hour. Doing this balances the Prana and connects you with your Inner Self or Larger Consciousness. This is an important aspect of Dinacharya as it brings peace and sets the pace for the day.
Breakfast: Eat a wholesome but light breakfast. Eat enough to sustain you through lunch. Offer gratitude to the food before you eat as it is that which sustains you every day.
Work: Next it is time for your work.
Lunch: Have your lunch between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Pitta energy is dominant during this time, which means your digestive fire is at its best. This should be your largest and main meal of the day. So eat a nutritious meal. Take a walk after lunch to help digest the food. Avoid taking naps.
Work: Back to work.
Sunset/Dinner: As evening approaches, everything in nature begins to slow down. This is the time to start winding down. It is best to finish dinner by 7 p.m. so that the food can be digested before it is sleep time. Eating a light dinner (compared to lunch) is recommended.
Relaxation/Sleep: It is time to relax and spend time doing the things we enjoy. 10 p.m. is sleep time so you can get 6 – 7 hours of sleep before it is time to wake up before dawn.
This, in essence, is Dinacharya. If the above routine is not feasible, at least tuning our sleep times to the natural cycles, eating wholesome and nutritious food and most importantly, avoiding sleeping immediately after meals ensures we will live a healthy, happy, and disease-free life.
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