Many people are convinced that they have no time to allot to creating and following good habits. My teacher Vimalananda used to say, ‘Westerners wear their gods on their wrists.’ By this he meant that we allow an artificial, arrhythmic version of time to regulate our lives. All organisms require rhythm for proper functioning, but most of us ignore the natural internal and external rhythms that secretly influence us. We try instead to create our own, unnatural time. Our dedication to arbitrary schedules robs us of our natural rhythms and weakens our ability to adapt to stresses. Fortunately, introducing additional routine into our lives can regenerate these rhythms. The human organism loves routine and thrives when it is fed, exercised and rested regularly. - Dr. Robert E. Svoboda
Most of us follow the clock with little thought given to our own body rhythm and how it aligns with the daily cycle of nature. In fact, your personal rhythm may be radically distorted so you have no clue what would actually be natural and normal for you.
The Benefits of Daily Routines Rooted in Nature
You can tell you’re off-balance if you find it hard to wake up in the morning, your energy dips in the afternoon, or you’re suddenly alert at bedtime. Irregular elimination and digestive woes also signal a body out of whack. Popping pills might bring short term relief, but it won't necessarily address the root of the problem.
Creating a healthy daily routine and tapping into the natural rhythms of nature can harmonize your bodily functions and bring balance to your life. For example, routines rooted in the patterns of nature can help you reset and regularize your body clock, aid your digestive and eliminative functions, build your resilience to stress, extend your longevity, and bring a greater sense of inner calm.
Daily Routines from Ayurveda
Recently, I’ve been following selected Ayurvedic principles to improve my health. Ayurveda is the classic 5,000 year old medicine of India, which is now followed by people all around the world.
There’s a substantial list of recommended daily routines, but some are already on your program like brushing your teeth. I've got that one set in stone!
Some aspects of these routines may vary depending on your mind-body type or current dysfunction. Ayurveda works with the idea of three main constitutions (doshas): Vata, Pitta, Kapha, which combine to form your unique being. For example, I'm a Vata-Pitta.
Naturally, a quiz like this is limited. I personally feel it's best to work with an Ayurvedic practitioner to determine your body type, especially because current dysfunctions may obscure it or require a different treatment.
I’ve started with just three new routines because I know it's important for me to refrain from overwhelm. These routines are generally recommended for everyone, however you should always consult with your physician before beginning any new practice.
These are the three Ayurvedic principles, I’m gradually putting into place.
1. Rise Before Sunrise
When you rise before sunrise, you naturally align your body to the rhythms of the sun. You’re able to tune into the peaceful qualities that abide in the pre-dawn hours, a time when it’s easier to wake up.
The energies of the day become heavier after sunrise. As a result, you're likely to feel groggy and find it harder to wake up after sunrise.
Traditionally, Hawaiians also woke before sunrise to greet the sun at the start of the day, according to Kahuna Harry Uhane Jim who recently took the photo above at Ahalanui Park. I'm a big fan of this naturally heated pond, which sits adjacent to the ocean. The temperature changes from day-to-day, but some days you feel like you're stepping into a warm bathtub.
Dawn is the perfect time to recognize and feel grateful for the miracle of a new day ahead as well, which itself will brighten your life.
When I go to bed at the right time for my constitution, I naturally wake around sunrise. It takes discipline to get in bed by 10 pm. I never fall asleep right away, but at least I’m allowing my body to begin to rest. I think it will be easier to fall asleep as I become more balanced through using these routines.
Note: The time after waking is usually spent on self-care and practices like meditation and yoga rather than rushing into work early, checking your email or phone messages, or other types of busy activity.
2. Self-Massage with Warm Oil
Self-massage with warm oil moisturizes the skin, stimulates detoxification, increases circulation, and calms the nervous system.
I do a 10-minute self-massage from my toes to my face, using warm oil. I let the oil seep in for 10 -20 minutes and then shower. Be careful so you don’t slip in the shower. I don’t massage my scalp with oil everyday, although I know that would very be good.
Since I’m almost always cold, I use a warming oil like almond or sesame, which is good for Vata types. If you tend to be hot, you can use a cooling oil like coconut or sunflower, ideal for Pitta types. Safflower is recommended for kaphas. Jojoba can be used for all types.
Check out these step-by-step instructions for Ayurvedic self-massage including a short video. Frequency of self-massage, which depends upon your constitution, is explained in these instructions.
3. Follow Regular Mealtimes
Eat at the same time, more or less each day. Eat your heaviest meal around noon when your digestion is at its peak. Eat lighter meals in the morning and the early evening. If possible, don’t eat after sunset.
Ayurveda recommends eating with the seasons as well. Eat lighter meals during hot periods of the year and more substantial food during cold periods.
Your actual diet will depend on your constitution and the interplay of any dysfunctions. The number of meals you eat each day also depends upon your constitutional type.
I used to eat 3 same-sized meals a day. It feels better to eat lightly in the morning and early evening times. Eating early in the evening allows more time for your body to complete digestion and regenerate itself during the night.
I’m sure you know what it feels like to try to sleep with a full stomach. Ugh! That’s a good indication that eating late at night is not ideal at all.
Empower Yourself with Nourishing Daily Routines
I'm applying these three routines regularly but without become rigid about them, which would only increase pressure and stress and thus be counter-productive.
I find waking up at sunset the hardest one! I wake up but tend to fall back asleep. I definitely feel more sluggish when I finally wake up. I know with time and practice, this positive habit will slowly stick just like the other ones.
I find it empowering to take control of my health instead of feeling like a victim of circumstances and plugging along with low energy and pesky symptoms. Following healthy routines like these improves my self-esteem, cultivates my sense of self-sovereignty, and creates a feeling of balance in my life.
I could have suggested other Ayurvedic routines, but I think these three can be so fundamental to how you live and whether you thrive. They could be a good place to begin if you would like to experiment with bringing more balance into your life.
[Note: I'm not a medical doctor, Ayurvedic practitioner, or psychotherapist. Always consult with your health care provider before trying new routines.]
Thank you for reading! I appreciate your presence. Have you signed up for my monthly note – Wild Arisings – yet? Learn more and join here – you’ll get free goodies too like my 50-page e-book, 21 Simple Stress Tips. May you be well, happy, and safe – always. With love, Sandra