MY MORNING ROUTINE
Dinacharya is the Ayurvedic daily routine. It corresponds to a series of self-care rituals to be performed at specific times of day according to the Doshas. It also provides us with a ready made structure a swell as support - by utilising the more optimum times of day to eat, sleep we can reap multiple benefits. This is my morning Dinacharya…
It’s hard to nail down my exact day-to-day routine as it varies very much depending on the season, what my work schedule looks like, what time zone I’m in and everything else life throws my way! There are however a few things that I have happily worked into my routine for keeps because the commitment to the rituals offers me so much more than the time and effort that they take. I explain in more detail below how these rituals flex with my day and schedule, it would be way too stressful to be militant about them — and that would negate their purpose!
Ayurveda teaches us to move with the rhythms of the Earth, following its natural ebb and flow instead of fighting it like our fast-paced lives encourage us to do. That means that there is an optimal time to do things — something that in the West we know as the circadian rhythm, the cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, and eat, regulating many physiological processes, and that can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperatures. So during the summer, I woke much earlier and enjoyed longer mornings. As we approach the colder months I am naturally waking up a little later each day, just as the sun rises a little later which means the gap between rising and starting my working day is reduced. I tend to make porridge or kitchari in my slow cooker the night before so that that part of the routine is taken care of and I have a bit more time to do everything else.
MY MORNING ROUTINE
6.30am: Wake-up - Now that’s it autumn I can feel the difference between my energy in the morning. Where in the height of summer I was waking up as early as 5am (or earlier!), now as the days begin to get shorter, and the sun rises later, it’s more like 6.30am or even 7.
6.35am: Tongue scraping & oil pulling - Straight after waking up I tongue scrape (this is a non-negotiable for me — like brushing your teeth!), brush my teeth and then oil pull for 15 minutes while I’m in the shower to get rid of Ama, the build-up of toxins and bacteria your body has ridded itself of whilst sleeping.
6.50am: Hydrate my skin - I apply body oil or body lotion/cream depending on how I’m feeling. In summer, I lock in the moisture from the shower with a light layer of jojoba or sweet almond oil or, if it’s really hot, coconut oil, which is more cooling. If I need to get dressed and out the door at speed then I might go for a natural body lotion like Burt’s Bees or Green People which will absorb faster and be less likely to get on my clothes. In winter, or when travelling I opt for something thicker and more nourishing to my dry skin like argan oil or sesame oil.
7am: Hydrate my body - I drink hot water or, if I feel like it, a herbal tea — maybe a blend of spices to help flush the body like Detox tea by Pukka, a fusion of aniseed, fennel and cardamom, or something refreshing like peppermint, or energising like Yogi Women’s Energy tea.
Somewhere during the above I do my number 1s and 2s. Yes, it’s worth mentioning — this is an important step to get right in the day!
7-7.45am: Sun salutations and meditation - Depending on what my day consists of, how tired or refreshed I’m feeling, I tailor this part. It’s usually 5 minutes of sun salutation, one round which moves both sides, wakes up my whole body and usually inspires me to go for longer (by telling myself it’s only 5 minutes means I keep it up everyday!), but if I know I’ll be going to a class later that day or doing something very active I might stick to the 5 minutes. I try to do 20-30 minutes of meditation in the morning as it’s usually the only time I can guarantee a decent meditation. If I have a long tube, train, car or plane journey that morning then I’ll save it for that.
Getting into Nature - Having dogs means that I get to spend a lot of times in the local parks. Spending a few moments in nature before you start the day can really help to ground you, especially if you’re in a busy city, have a sometimes overwhelming job or find that your get stressed easily. When I lived in Central London it was an absolute saviour. I’ve recently moved out of and have my own garden, which is really convenient now that it’s getting colder and my mornings are shorter. I can still get some fresh air and have a walk about with the dogs without it eating into my day so much. On those days when I know there’s a really convenient time to meditate once I leave the house for the day then I’ll swap the morning meditation for a trip to the park with the dogs.
7.45am: Cooking breakfast - I put a warming breakfast such as kitchari, milk rice (page 82 in East by West), golden milk or stewed apples on the hob. In the winter or days when I know I don’t have a lot of time I’ll put the ingredients for a congee like the one from my book (page 50) or kitchari into my slow cooker the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning. If I’m in the mood for tea that contains caffeine like matcha or black tea, or even the odd coffee, I have that in the morning.
8am: Breakfast - I eat breakfast, trying to do so without distractions so that I can really set the tone to be present in the moment for the day by taking care to enjoy each bite and express gratitude. As someone with a Vata mind living in the city, this is some feat! But the intention is always there.
A couple of times a week, I will do a quick 1-minute body brush all over my body using a natural bristle brush to boost circulation, lymphatic system and soothe skin before showering. I only ever do this in the morning, as body brushing can be overstimulating in the evening. During the autumn/winter or whilst I’m on a hectic schedule (like when I’m travelling) I will make time to do an Abhyanga (hot oil self-massage using a specialist oil such as a Vata blend oil or sesame oil) as often as possible. On days when I am washing my hair I will do a complete all over oil massage or just body or feet depending on how much time I have. This usually takes place in the morning, which grounds me and sets the right tone for the day. But I will also do it before bedtime on evenings when I feel like I need to properly wind down.
So that’s my morning, more or less. It’s my ideal but not an all or nothing — just using some of the tools from the toolbox of Ayurveda is better than not using any. Having an understanding of this “knowledge of life” definitely makes it all easier.
Ayurveda helps us to understand why we might feel like we do, and then how to work with it if it’s a feeling that needs remedying! Following the natural rhythms and cycles of nature rather than creating an artificial timeframe for our lives makes our choices easier and more beneficial overall. We can act more efficiently while leaving more time to be. Once we get into this natural routine and rhythm we are able to easily come back to it time and time again after any disruptions or difficult periods in life. Remember, these are not rules so much; think of it more as many paths — and this one is the easiest and most chilled!