Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dinacharya: The basics

In my last post I discussed my desire to follow a daily routine that is in harmony with the daily cycles and rhythms of nature. I believe that Dinacharya, or the daily routine based upon Ayurvedic principles, is a great guide for cultivating such a routine.

Dinacharya is a Sanskrit word, which, like many Sanskrit words, is made up of several related parts, each with their own meaning. Here they are:

din = day or daily
cha = to walk forward
acharya = the learned teacher, walking their students forwards towards knowledge
charya = practiced wisdom through routine

Thus: Dinacharya refers to the wisdom of cultivating a daily routine where one lives each day well.*

This idea of living each day 'well' is focused upon following and being in harmony with the daily cycles. In Ayurvedic thought, there are five natural elements, including space, air, fire, water, and earth. In human beings elements are represented in three doshas, or biological energies of body and mind. These include Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).** 

In addition to human beings, doshas have also been assigned to specific times in the day, when each of the corresponding elements is said to dominate. Here are the times:

Vata: 2am - 6am and 2pm - 6pm
Kapha: 6am - 10am and 6pm - 10pm 
Pitta: 10am - 2pm and 10pm - 2am*** 

That's where Dinacharya comes in. The fact that certain elements dominate specific parts of the 24-hour cycle means that certain activities are better suited to specific times. For example, it is beneficial to wake and meditate in the air-dominated Vata hours before 6am, while it is best to eat our largest meal (lunch) during the 10am and 2pm Pitta time, when the fire element (and digestive fire) are strongest. 

Other emphases of the daily routine outlined by Dinacharya include: 

Before rising from bed:
Waking with a positive intention for the day
Assessing the body for any imbalances, being mindful of the body
Mind/memory exercise: Without judgement recalling the previous day's events from morning to bedtime

Scraping the tongue with tongue scraper to remove toxins (called ama) deposited overnight
Drinking a glass of warm water (perhaps with some lemon and a little honey)
Morning ablutions: Washing face, brushing teeth, gargling
Emptying the bowels
Dry brushing the skin

Morning routine:
Light exercises such as sun salutations, yoga, walking, swimming, etc. 
Oil massage (Abhyanga): Massage the body (or at least the ears, forehead, and feet)    

Breakfast ~ 7am
Lunch ~ 12pm
Tea ~ 4pm
Dinner ~ 6-7pm

The time between 10am and 2pm is the best time for productive work, after 2pm for creativity, and after 6pm for dinner/light exercise/relaxation/intimacy. 

Another meditation session can be done before dinner, around twilight/sunset.

Spend the evening relaxing and free from major stimulation. 

Retire between 10 and 11pm. 

So how will all this relate to me, someone who lacks discipline, has a hard time keeping a schedule, and feels perpetually out-of-whack? Well, I am hoping that by being mindful of these natural cycles, I can slowly allow myself to become in tune with them once again. My intention is that this process is a gentle, non-judgmental one, as I allow myself to experience the joy of discovering the rhythms of nature, instead of fighting against them. I am excited about this new adventure, but unlike the past, not in a frenzied, impatient way, but with soft, open-minded anticipation. 

As of now, I have only been able to do a small fraction of what is outlined above, but that's okay. Like I've said before, I've been out of sync for such a long time, so it is only natural that it would take some time to get back into the rhythm of things. Although I am instinctively drawn to each of the practices recommended by Dinacharya, I also have to test each one out, to make sure the sequence, timing, and the activity itself is right for me. 

Of course my blog here at BCB will not focus on this process, but I will keep you updated now and then. As always, I look forward to your comments about what you think of the ideas in this post, and welcome any insight or experience you may have had.

May all beings be happy!


 *Note: This definition was provided by the Dinacharya Institute's website. The Dinacharya Institute is a school dedicated to teaching students how to embrace and cultivate this ancient daily routine in our modern world, and is located in New York, NY. 

**This information was obtained from the Ayurveda 101 page from the Eat.Taste.Heal website, which is dedicated to teaching people to use Ayurvedic principles and diet to better their lives.

*** Information about the times and recommended activities outlined by Dinacharya was obtained from the Ayurveda Place website, which has a blog dedicated to informing people about Ayurveda, and also sells a variety of Ayurvedic products. 


  1. thanks for sharing.

    1. You're very welcome. I hope this information helps you in some way.

      With Metta,


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