Dinacharya: A Yogi’s Routine for a Long and Healthy Life
“A daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring radical change in body, mind, and consciousness." - Vasant Lad, ayurvedic physician.
How can yogis in India commonly live to be 120-150 years old? “It’s simple,” says Medha Garud, Director of Ayurveda Programs at the Shankara Ayurveda Spa. “By following a daily routine in harmony with nature — dinacharya.”
Dinacharya is the “law of nature” and the key component to living a long life, ripe with vitality and complete mind/body health. This routine is based on the sun and moon’s energetic effect on digestion, mental focus, creativity and the potential for spiritual awareness and growth.
A dinacharya sets timeframes each day when we should sleep, wake, conduct self-care, eat, work, and do our spiritual practices like yoga and meditation. These times center on the three doshas — vata, kapha, and pitta (find more about the doshas here)— assigning each dosha two separate 4-hour periods where these qualities are most present.
Doshas and the Ayurvedic Clock
- Vata time: 2 a.m. – 6 a.m.; 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
During vata time, we’re creative and inquisitive, and attuned to the more subtle energies present in the Universe and within ourselves. The morning hours are best for our spiritual practices and inner focus, and the afternoon is best to work and socialize. Both periods are ideal for creative expression.
- Kapha time: 6 a.m. – 10 a.m.; 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
During kapha time, our digestive fire is more slow and our and minds are in a restful state. In the morning, we should decrease kapha’s sluggishness through being awake, exercising, and eating foods that are stimulating yet easy to digest. In the evening, we should allow our bodies to wind down through a light, nourishing meal, gentle exercise, and self-care.
- Pitta time: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
During pitta time, our digestive fire is at its peak, in terms of both our ability to digest foods and to digest emotions and experiences. The midday period is when we should eat our largest meal of the day, and ideally we will be sleeping before the nighttime period begins so that we can properly digest and assimilate everything from the day.
- Before 6 a.m. — Wake, do tongue scraping and oil pulling, rinse face and eyes with cool water, and drink large glass of warm water (with lemon if you like). If you’re already awake before this time, meditate, pray, and do other spiritual practices after the waking routine.
- 6 a.m. - 10 a.m. — Morning exercise (yoga, pranayama and meditation ideally), self-massage with oil and bath or shower. Eat a light but nourishing breakfast appropriate for your dosha.
- 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. — Eat your largest meal of the day between noon and 1:00 p.m., followed by a short walk outside.
- 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. — Brainstorm and be creative — this is a great time for your most productive work. Socialize.
- 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. — Eat a light but nourishing supper between 6 and 7 p.m. (supper is short for supplemental, so think of your evening meal as nutrition to supplement what you took in earlier in the day). Take a walk outside or exercise for at least 15 minutes shortly after eating. Start your nighttime routine by 8:30 p.m. Evening self-care like a bath, self-massage with oil, gentle or restorative yoga, or light reading are good ways to wind-down.
- 10 p.m. — Bedtime. Sleep for 6-8 hours a night, depending on your dosha (vata types should aim for 8 hours, pitta for 7 hours, and kapha for 6).
Should you still be awake in the overnight pitta time, avoid snacking, working, or doing other energy-intensive tasks. Your fire will be lit again but it’s a key period for digesting the day, not taking in additional stimuli.
If you’re unable to commit to this routine fully, simply try the best you can. Ayurveda is not all-in or not-at-all — each step we take toward living an Ayurvedic lifestyle will improve our overall health and happiness, so take it slow but be make an intentional effort to change.
If you can make just two changes to your current routine, Medha recommends performing a daily self-massage for at least 5-10 minutes in the morning or evening, and eating your biggest meal of the day at lunchtime.