Dinacharyā is a vital aspect of an Āyurvedic lifestyle. In fact, it can be considered the bedrock or grounding factor of that lifestyle. Observing a pattern of regular daily behavior can assist you in living a lifestyle that is conducive to meeting your goals in life, reducing fatigue, reducing stress, and allows you to respond appropriately to both the challenges and the opportunities of grace that present themselves during the day.
Having a routine of daily behavior can also serve to relieve the minute to minute or hour to hour stress of making choices or decisions that can occur during the day. It allows the body and the mind to become attuned to their natural rhythms and the rhythms of one's natural environment.
How the day begins is vital to setting the tone, color, and rhythm of the day that follows. One may find it quite useful upon awakening to give silent thanks, lay in the silence, or to say a mantra or prayer that has a special personal meaning. Upon rising one should avoid any external stimuli prior to meditation, yoga or any other personal practices.
The following is an outline of a useful routine.
- Go to sleep before 10 p.m., and awaken before sunrise. You will sleep better, and the early morning influences will help you begin your day with optimism and an awareness of real purpose.
- Attend to bathroom routines.
- Pray and meditate. Do this for at least 20 minutes, longer if you prefer. Your meditation session may be preceded by gentle hatha yoga practice or simple stretching exercises; this is optional.
- Have a light breakfast. Kapha constitutional types may wait until 10 a.m. or later to eat their first light meal.
- Wear clean, comfortable clothing.
- Begin your work or activities for the day.
- Have your main meal between noon and 2 p.m. For all meals, choose natural foods agreeable to your mind-body constitution. Have all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter) included at your main meal -- more of the tastes helpful to maintaining doshic balance and less of others. Have meals in a quiet, pleasant environment. Rest for a few minutes after eating, or take a short, relaxed walk.
- Continue work or activities.
- Late afternoon or early evening, meditate and relax.
- Have a light evening meal. Rest, or go for a short walk. Go to sleep by 10 p.m.
Abhyanga is a mindful massage of the body with oils that are specific for one’s doshic constitution and present health condition. If possible, it should become part of one's dinacharyā.
Abhyanga has many benefits such as:
- Increases ojas, energy & vitality.
- Helps reduce pain.
- Slows the aging process / increases longevity.
- Pacifies Vāta dosha.
- Calms the nervous system and sense organs.
- Supports restful sleep patterns
- Nurtures and supports positive feelings & emotions.
- Gives a healthy glow to the hair and body.
The skin is the largest organ of the body and performs several important functions:
- Covering and providing a protective barrier.
- Regulating body temperature.
- Synthesizing vitamin D from the sun's rays.
- Maintaining water-electrolyte balance.
- Helping to maintain acid-alkaline levels.
Allowing the oil to penetrate the skin before daily bathing or showering protects, nourishes and supports one’s mind, body and spirit. Over time, with routine practice of Abhyanga, one’s health and well-being are improved at the most subtle cellular levels.
It is recommended that Abhyanga be done in a warm, comfortable environment with an oil that is balancing for your constitution and present condition. It is also recommended to use a towel or sheet you don’t mind throwing away to prevent oil from staining the floor.
- Warm approximately ½ cup oil. This can safely and easily done by placing the cup in a pot of hot water and allowing it to warm.
- Slowly and thoughtfully apply the oil to your entire body in the following manner:
- Begin at the top of the head, massaging the oil into the roots of the hair.
- Oil the face, including nostrils and ears, but avoid applying around the eyes.
- Next, work you way toward the center of the body, using long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes around the joints; massage the abdomen and chest in broad clockwise circular strokes.
- Be sure to thoroughly massage your hands and feet.
- Let the oil penetrate for approximately 20-30 minutes, being very careful when entering the shower or bathtub as your feet may be slippery from the oil. You can read, brush your teeth, or any other activity at this time; including sitting quietly.
- Rinse off in a shower or bath after using soap only in areas where needed and on your head.
It is recommended to choose a special 'abhyanga towel' for drying off after bathing as it will accumulate oil. Pat yourself dry, avoiding vigorous rubbing or wiping. Wear an old pair of cotton socks to protect your floor if your feet have any left-over oil.
Please be sure to wash the articles used for abhyanga well! if there is enough oil residue while they are in the dryer, a fire can result.
To clean the oiled towels and/or clothing, wash with your chosen laundry detergent and add approximately 1 cup of rubbing alcohol, or you may use approximately ¼ cup dishwasher detergent with a full load. Experiment to find the best result. Oil tends to accumulate in your drain over time. Twice each month, pour approximately ¼ cup of dishwashing detergent into the drain, followed by 2-3 cups of boiling water. Wait 15 minutes and then run hot water down the drain for 2 – 3 minutes to flush out the residue.
- Acute āma conditions, such as fever, chills, common cold, diarrhea or flu.
- Chronic high systemic āma, ie. tongue completely coated.
- Moderate to severe indigestion.
- Immediately after taking emetics or purgatives.
- If you are under a doctor’s care for a medical condition, abhyanga should not be done without your doctors approval.
- During pregnancy, without the consent of your health care practitioner.
- During your menstrual cycle.
- Infected or open lesions.
- Morbid obesity.
- Blood clots / bleeding disorders.
- Alcoholic toxic state - hangover.
- Extreme emotion.
- Acute hypoglycemia.
- Insulin-dependent diabetes.
- Severe dehydration.
- During chemotherapy.
The above procedure and information is courtesy of the Ayurvedic Institute, Albuquerque, NM