Ayurveda is all about balance. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body; what you think affects how you physically feel; what you eat and drink has an effect on your mind. Ayurveda in daily life is based on Dinacharya, Din: day, Acharya: behaviour. In order to keep your doshas (biological energies of the body and mind) balanced, and your agni (digestion and metabolism) in proper order, each individual is prescribed a daily routine aligned with nature’s cycles. When followed correctly, it will enable you to make the most of your life by strengthening immunity and purifying the body of wastes.
Here are 11 ways to introduce Ayurveda into your daily life:
Since our bodies are naturally tuned-in to the rising and setting of the sun, the ideal time to wake up is at dawn. This allows the cells in your system to soak up the tempered rays of the sun and get charged for the day ahead. Drinking a glass of lukewarm water helps to flush out any toxins that may have accumulated in your body overnight.
The Vata dosha rules the last portion of the night and is involved in the process of elimination. For the body to function properly, sunrise is the best time to get rid of your body’s physical waste. Proper elimination also helps to remove Kapha dosha that occurs naturally while you sleep. Defecation is ideal once or twice a day. If you notice any changes that indicate poor digestion during this process, fasting is a good way to correct the imbalance. Try to avoid suppressing any physical urge for elimination as this can lead to discomfort, and in some cases, even disease.
Many diseases and imbalances start with an infection, so thoroughly cleansing your body daily purifies your sense organs and is the first step to living a healthy life. Brush your teeth after every meal, and clean your tongue — it is a breeding ground for bacteria. Occasionally, gargle with salt water with a pinch of turmeric to keep your gums, mouth and throat healthy. Saliva is known to be very good for the eyes, so start by holding lukewarm water in your mouth and then washing your eyes with it. Keep your nails and hair well-maintained, and always wear clean clothes. Being clean can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself.
There are two types of exercise: Active and Passive. While both are helpful, it is the combination of the two that will keep you healthy and strong — both mentally and physically.
Active exercises include running, swimming, yoga or just about anything that raises your heart rate and causes you to sweat. Passive exercise is a massage that can help in blood circulation and waste disposal. When done regularly, exercise will reduce anxiety, increase your stamina and allow your body to be more resistant to disease. Exercise depends on age and even body type. Those with a dominant Kapha can handle more intense exercise routines, while Pitta works well with moderate exercise. If you have a dominant Vata, yoga works best for you.
A regular self-massage works wonders for everyone, and can be supplemented with professional attention on occasion. It makes your skin supple and controls Vata by reducing its cold, dry, light, rough and erratic qualities, and also enhances blood circulation, encourages quicker removal of metabolic waste and relaxes the body. Use an herbal oil and follow the direction of your natural hair growth keeping the pressure comfortable. Massage your scalp at least once a week, and if you’re pressed for time, just massage the soles of your feet.
Meditation is ideal to calm and discipline the mind. It eliminates daily stress and strain and works best when done straight after a bath when your body is thoroughly cleansed. Meditation is critical in satisfying the mind’s hunger and when done correctly, it can even be nourishing for the body. It helps to control desire and is the key to longevity and immortality. The simplest and healthiest way to meditate involves the sun and its golden color, which is nourishing and productive for your body and mind. This practice acts as the first line of defense against the destabilizing influences of an external environment and will improve the condition of your total health.
The material you wear should always be light and airy, and as far as possible, made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, linen or silk. In Ayurvedic philosophy, one should always wear clean clothes and never share, unless it is clothes that belong to a saint. Energy is brought into the body through the crown of the head and exits through the soles of the feet. This extracts abnormal heat from the body and the polluted energy collects in your footwear. Avoid sharing shoes with other people, as far as possible walk barefoot, and try not to take shoes into your home. Wooden sandals are preferable and a healthier option as opposed to animal skin and rubber.
Using natural scents, essential oils, or perfumes brings freshness, charm, and joy. It gives vitality to the body and improves self-esteem.
Vatas prefer sweet, heavy and acidic scents like basil or amber.
Pittas like cooling, sweet scents like khus, sandalwood or jasmine.
Kaphas prefer spicy, sharp, bitter and warming scents like frankincense or musk.
Our jobs take up approximately one-third of our lives and success or failure in our work affects self-confidence and self-worth. Keeping this in mind, it is best to match your nature of work with your prakriti as far as possible.
Vata people love work that requires sudden bursts of intense energy. But it also tends to exhaust them. To balance this, they should opt for jobs that give them a routine, and are somewhat repetitive. They need a soothing home and work environment to smooth out their rough edges. They need adequate rest, especially in the afternoon, and should avoid places where the air is exceptionally cool and dry, e.g. temperature-controlled warehouses and mills. Their ideal job will have enough excitement to hold their interest, and sufficient routine to avoid imbalances.
Pitta people are very practical, making good administrators; however, they are not very original in their thinking. By nature, they are aggressive and self-promoting and see most things as a contest that has to be won. Insisting on being in the forefront of all activity, they take on as much work as possible, which demands for their bodies to function perfectly at all times. They do not take delays and obstacles in their plans well, and have to work hard to be fair and keep their professional and private lives separate. They should avoid work that is physically irritating or involves heat, such as welding or metal casting. They should ideally have sufficient challenges to keep them occupied without the stress of severe competition.
Kapha people make great administrators due to their stability and balance. They must make a conscious effort to bring in change and variety to their otherwise routine lives. They should ensure that even though their work might not be physically active, their leisure time should be. They are slow to get going in the morning, and competition is good for them even though they might find it a little stressful.
Often an extension of their owners’ personality, pets should ideally be chosen so as to have a therapeutic effect on your doshic imbalances.
Vatas get along famously with dogs. A canine's loveable, sloppy open-heartedness is reassuring and stabilizing for their cold, fearful, fickle nature. Some do well with small, furry high-strung animals like guinea pigs that arouse the maternal instincts in the owners.
Pittas are cat people. With strongly held opinions on most subjects, the feline presents continuous challenges with its limber movements.
Kaphas prefer birds. The light chirpiness helps to offset some of this dosha's natural heavy weight. For some, large dogs prove beneficial as the canine encourages them to exercise.
Ayurvedic wisdom suggests that like types make better mates because of similar mental processes, attitudes and sexual inclinations. Unfortunately, two people of similar dispositions are likely to have the same imbalances too. Choosing the right partner who will stimulate, and inspire you to evolve into a better individual becomes very important.
A state of physical inertia with mental relaxation, sleep promotes proper growth of the self. Night is the natural time to sleep and naps during the day should not exceed 15 minutes, except for those who are very young, old, weak, intoxicated, diseased, exhausted or traumatized. Avoid having a big meal just before going to bed.
Sleeping on the right side is the most relaxing. On the left, it is most digestive and increases interest in food, sleep and sex. Sleeping on your back indirectly and on the stomach directly encourages disease. Sleeping with the crown of the head facing east and feet to the west promotes the best meditative sleep.
Washing your hands, feet and face just before bed to improve the quality of your sleep. Six to eight hours of sleep per night is essential for the optimal functioning of your body. Practicing yoga is ideal as it leads you into a state of complete physical relaxation with retention of mental alertness and awareness.
Disclaimer: Always consult a professional before making any changes that might affect you physically or mentally. Never exert yourself to the point of exhaustion, and don’t exercise during any illness, just after a meal, and without rhythmic breathing.
Given that the term ‘prakriti’ denotes both body constitution and nature, it is only expected that with the changing seasons of nature there will be corresponding effects on the bhutas (elements) and thereby the doshas of the constitution. Cold, dry weather for instance enhances Vata, hot humid climate increases Pitta, while cold, wet weather aggravates Kapha.
To avoid such continued aggravation leading to imbalance of the doshas, Ayurveda prescribes a seasonal routine to preserve the doshic balance as the seasons change. For each season there is a unique diet (ahar), a distinct mode of living (vihara), and routine living (karya). These keep your doshas in a state of equilibrium and help you cope with the stresses and strains of changing seasons.
In Ayurvedic literature, the year is divided into six ritus (seasons): Varsha (monsoon) Sharada (autumn) Hemanta (winter) Shishira (late winter) Grishma (summer) Vasanta (spring)
The effects of these ritus on the three doshas, and the suggested lifestyle for each is indicated below:
Read more about the seasonal clock here.