The Significance of Routine in Ayurvedic Self-Care
Observing principles of health in our daily lives
At the core of Yoga’s sister-science – Ayurveda – are concepts including the individual as a microcosm of our surroundings, and the balancing & harmonising of this relationship. Ayurveda teaches us to better listen to our inner-wisdom and the messages our body is telling us, and to establish routines that keep us feeling balanced and in harmony.
The word ‘routine’ can get a bad rap. We might associate it with something resembling boredom. But routines sit snugly between a conscious choice and a habit and serve as a valuable bridge to reaching new habits. Just as young seedling vine crops (such as beans and peas) need something to climb on to establish themselves, routines form a structural trellis for our conscious choices to climb up on, helping us reach and entrench habits.
Now let’s face it, habits can either make or break us, depending on whether they serve us well or not. One long exercise session wont make a huge difference to our health, but a little sustainable exercise on regular basis most certainly will. One late night wont make a big difference to our health, but skimping on proper restful sleep over and over will take a big toll. It all comes down to routine and habit.
In other words, we become that which we repeatedly do, for better or worse.
We can make conscious choices to develop routines and patterns that serve us well.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success lies in your daily routine” – author John C Maxwell.
The Role Of Doshas
Doshas refer to the energetic or motivating principles that flow within the natural world, and within our body and mind, and are derived from the five natural elements: air, earth, water, fire and ether.
Air + Ether = Vata Dosha
Fire + Air = Pitta Dosha
Earth + Water = Kapha Dosha
Each dosha plays a different role in the natural world, and in the body.
Vata is responsible for movement and is associated with qualities such as cold, dry, rough and light.
Pitta is responsible for change and is associated with heat, sharpness and intensity
Kapha is responsible for structure and cohesion and is associated with qualities of cold, heavy, oily and dense.
We all comprise a combination of these elements in varying ratios, meaning the 3 doshas are within all of us too. It is the combination and interplay of each person’s doshas that influence our physicality and personality traits.
Our in-borne constitution (referred to as our prakruti) can be dominated by one or more of the doshas, influencing body and mind, and therefore how we need to care for ourselves to stay balanced. Our prakruti is who we were before we fell under the spell of our own stories and without the impact of certain external forces (such as weather). It can quite easily be knocked into imbalance. The principle of ‘like-builds-like’ means that without conscious choices we can unknowingly aggravate the qualities of our in-borne dosha, particularly our most dominant dosha.
For example, a Vata-dominated person once in imbalance, may find themselves rushing about, eating cold, dry food and other activities that push us further out of balance. Pitta people may find themselves eating lots of chilli and doing overly-strenuous or aggressive workouts. Kapha people may find themselves being overly-sedentary. These are all examples of unconsciously leaning in towards our dominant dosha, pushing it further out of balance. Our conscious choices can intervene to help placate our dominant dosha.
A qualified ayurvedic practitioner can help you select food, activity, self-care and other lifestyle choices to suit your personal needs. The importance of ‘what’s right for one person not necessarily being right for another’ cannot be over-emphasised. But we can outline some helpful approaches and practices that may serve us all well.
Ayurveda & Self-Care
Swasthvrtta refers to establishing healthy habits that serve us well. This can be cleaning and caring for oneself, our house, and our surroundings.
Dinacharya – Habits on A Daily Basis
Dinacharya aims to base daily practices around the cycles of nature. Healthy principles in our daily lifestyle may include habits such as:
- Rising early
- Emptying our bowels and bladder
- Oil pulling and tongue scraping to remove toxins
- Nasal rinsing
- Appropriate exercise and movement
- Eating nourishing foods
- Self-massage (especially with appropriate oils)
- Fresh air and walking on grass
- Meditation or quiet time
Ratricharya – Evening Habits
Ratricharya refers to establishing helpful patterns in the evening to help you wind down and rest well, and may include things like:
- Avoiding devices and television a few hours before bed
- Dimming lights (or using candles) and doing less stimulating activities like watering house plants, simple tidying of our bedroom, reading or gentle stretches
- Giving yourself a foot massage
- Quiet time with a pet
- Enjoying a warm drink
Ritucharya – Seasonal adjustments
We’ve all heard of seasonal eating, which aligns with the principle of living in harmony with nature, but you may not have thought of how seasons may prompt tweaks to how we do our daily practices, how we exercise, and which herbs we use.
For example, did you know that aromas such as rose and jasmine can have a cooling effect in hot weather, while the aroma of cinnamon or patchouli can have warming and energising effects.
Ayurveda teaches us that no two people are the same, and how one person eats, exercises, and carries out their daily life, may not be helpful for another, and may even exacerbate imbalances. Ayurveda honours the individual needs of each person and their own innate intuition.
The more we practice routines that serve us well, the less we need to rely on discipline or willpower to do the things that are good for us. As neural pathways deepen, we move from having to make conscious choices to simply letting good habits serve us well.
Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute
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