When we were born, our bodies didn’t come with an owner’s manual that gave us instructions on how to operate this new vehicle. What should you eat, how much should you exercise, and when is the best time to sleep? These are all questions that some of us may be thinking about if we want to recover from poor health, or if we are striving for optimal health. So where do we find the answers? Sure, there are plenty of books on the market today explaining how to live, but who do we believe? For example, in the food communities we hear advice coming from the Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Raw Food, and Weston Price advocates. In addition, our governments, corporations, and researchers also have advice to give. I believe that there is some truth coming from each of them, but making sense of it all can still be a challenge. Butter was good, then it was bad, and now it is good again, depending on where it’s from, and whom you’re talking to. I like to learn from diverse sources, but to avoid getting lost I rely on my compass to steer through the confusion. My compass is called Ayurveda; it comes to us from India and is one of the oldest systems of medicine known to humans that is still practiced today.
The Daily Regimen
In Ayurveda the term Dinacarya refers to the daily regimen. I find it fascinating to know that a daily regimen exists for the sole purpose of avoiding disease, and that the influences of money, ego, confusion, or other forms of interference did not contaminate this traditional source of knowledge. So if you are asking the question of how best to live for optimal health then let’s begin with a very brief introduction to Dinacarya. The following list is from sunrise to sundown.
Awaken: early and consistent is best, before sunrise, usually between 3-7am.
Evacuate waste: with good digestion this should happen effortlessly.
Drink: warm or room temperature water to flush the system, up to 750mL.
Cleanse the mouth, throat, eyes, and nose: Techniques include scraping the tongue, brushing the teeth, filling the mouth with oil, gargling, using herbal rinses for the eyes, nasya and neti pot for the nose.
Breathe: deep-breathing exercises known as Pranayama.
Therapeutic smoking: not smoking how we imagine; rather medicinal herbs are used in small doses. Vaporizers could provide a healthier alternative.
Exercise: people may be surprised to learn that you should only perform to one half of your strength. Stop when perspiration, dryness and heavy breathing begin.
Massage: full body self-massage using plant based oils, though dry massages are sometimes appropriate.
Bathe: minimize or eliminate soap, instead soak in fragrant waters, remove massage oils with bean powders, and clean your hair with herbal rinses.
Yoga: remember, this is not a form of exercise; it is preparation for meditation.
Meditate: to attain mindfulness.
Eat: diet is at the core of Ayurveda and can’t possibly be summarized here, but every factor related to eating is considered. Eating two meals per day is recommended.
Duties: finally, you can begin the duties of your day, while practicing the mindfulness attained during meditation of course. Naps should be avoided.
Sex: before bed is the best time.
Sleep: between 7 and 11pm is best, try to be consistent.
The Dinacarya appears to be very time consuming doesn’t it? To be honest, I am definitely not completing a full daily regimen every morning. However, I include as many practices into my day as possible, and some days are better than other. For example, on days when I don’t work it is possible to complete much more of the regimen. Before you dismiss the daily regimen as being impractical in this busy modern world, think of it as a goal you strive for, but recognize that you may never fully reach. Perhaps you can’t do a full body oil self massage every day, but once per week is more reasonable. At least now you know what a healthy routine truly looks like, and how different it is from what our society defines as healthy. For example we often confuse professional athletes with healthy people, yet we now know that NFL players are often destroyed by mid life. Examining the Dinacarya is a great reminder of where our priorities are in life. If you don’t have time to dedicate to your health then ask yourself why not? To the young readers, now is a great time to think about what you want your life to look like before you make any major commitments. And to the busy single mothers who have already made their commitments, it only takes 15 seconds to scrape your tongue clean in the morning!