If you have ever experienced jetlag or if you have stayed up late all night to complete a work project, you know that you can feel completely off the next day and actually for even a few days. That’s because your circadian rhythm has been disrupted or desynchronized! That’s why you feel really tired the next day or you might feel a lot of brain fog or difficulty concentrating or lack of focus.
What exactly is circadian rhythm?
Let’s understand it in simple language. Our body is doing several jobs in a day. It is producing enzymes for digesting the food we eat. It is making hormones and neurotransmitters. It regulates what comes in and out of the cells, its regulating intake of nutrients and elimination of wastes. It turns genes on and off and the list goes on and on, and so it needs a proper daily schedule or a time table so that everything gets done on time, in an organized manner and this is called the circadian rhythm.
Circadian simply means 24-hour cycle!
Rhythm means a repeated pattern!
Circadian rhythm is a regular repeated pattern on a 24-hour cycle or a schedule that repeats every 24 hours or every single day!
There are physiological, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark cycles of nature (in other words- The day and night!) and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes.
Doctors are only now beginning to understand exactly how important it is for the body to stay in rhythm with nature. Three American Scientists won the Nobel Prize in 2017 on their research on the explanation of circadian rhythm. Before this, it was not very clear whether it was because of the external or internal signals! Researchers knew that it was controlled by genes but the mechanism was not very clear. It was known that there is a central clock in the brain that controls the body’s rhythm. Later, it was found that every cell has a biological clock of its own.
In our modern high-tech world, it is becoming a challenge to align our body with the laws of Nature. Our genes may have, over time, lost their ability to hear the natural circadian rhythms of nature. Our priorities have shifted from being existential to being very concerned with to-do lists, deadlines, work schedules, finances, etc. Many times, we are so bent on our daily activities that we ignore our health and well-being in order to achieve what we believe is of utmost importance at that particular moment. With social media and cell phones giving us instant access to anyone in the world, these distractions may take us out of balance and we lose alignment with the rhythms of nature. The misalignment between our internal and external clocks continues to be cited as a risk factor for various diseases.
So, how do we re-align our body’s circadian clock?
From an Ayurvedic perspective, following a proper daily routine (“DINACHARYA” as it is called in Sanskrit) aligns us with nature’s rhythm.
Here’s an outline of “DINACHARYA” – Ayurvedic Daily Routine that could bring us back into balance: –
A daily routine is absolutely necessary to stay balanced in all areas of life! Routine helps to establish balance in one’s constitution. It also regularizes a person’s biological clock, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.
While the concept of having a daily routine is at the heart of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, no single prescription is right for everyone. This general template can and should be adapted to meet the needs of each individual’s constitution and current state of balance. And that’s the beauty of it, because the right daily routine can dramatically improve your life.
1. Wake up Early every morning with the rising SUN: –
As per Ayurveda, you should wake up 96 minutes before sunrise. It is called Brahma Muhurta in Ayurveda. However, the time of sunrise may vary according to season and country. So, you should fix your time for waking up for supporting the rhythm of your biological clock.
For example, if you live in India, then 4:30 am is a perfect time to wake up for healthy people. If you cannot get up so early, you should try to wake up as early as possible, but you must wake up at least before sunrise. This is the time when there are sattvic qualities in nature that bring peace of mind and freshness to the senses. Vata people can get up around 6 a.m., pitta people around 5:30 a.m., and kapha by 4:30 a.m.
Don’t sleep for long after sunrise, as there is kapha dominance in the universe between 6:00 am-10:00 am, things are just waking up, it is slow and sluggish time of the day, your bowels could also become slow and sluggish. It will be harder for you to eliminate, which could increase the toxic load on the body.
2. Say a Prayer
Right after waking, look at your hands for a few moments, then gently move them over your face and chest down to the waist. This cleans the aura.
Express your gratitude toward the supreme power, the mighty god by reciting its name immediately after waking up or saying a prayer in your own words!
The most important thing while doing these rituals is that you should feel peaceful and have a smile on your face. Starting your day in this way will give you the strength and confidence to go through the day!
After this prayer touch the ground with your right hand, then the same hand to the forehead, with great love and respect to Mother Earth.
3. Clean the Face, Mouth, and Eyes
Splash your face with cold water and rinse your mouth. Wash your eyes with cool water and massage the eyelids by gently rubbing them. Blink your eyes 7 times and rotate your eyes in all directions. This helps improve vision and reduces tension and tiredness of the eyes. Dry your face with a clean towel.
4. Drink Water in the Morning
Then drink a glass of room temperature water, preferably from a pure copper cup filled the night before. This washes the GI track, flushes the kidneys, and stimulates peristalsis. It is not a good idea to start the day with tea or coffee, as this drains energy from your kidney, stresses the adrenals, causes constipation, and is habit-forming.
Honor those natural urges of urination and bowel movement early morning. Do not stop or delay! This is an autonomic reflex. These urges should initiate on their own. Do not force to evacuate the bowel. Sometimes, you may need to walk a few steps before getting this urge. Alternate nostril breathing might also help!
If you suffer from constipation or you don’t get the natural urge in the morning, you must do something about it or take ayurvedic help. Triphala is a great ayurvedic formulation for helping with constipation.
After evacuation wash the anal orifice with warm water, then the hands with soap.
6. Scrape your Tongue
Gently scrape the tongue from the back forward, until you have scraped the whole surface for 7-14 strokes. This removes the dead bacteria and toxins on the tongue that have accumulated overnight and also stimulates the internal organs and helps with digestion. Ideally, Vata can use a gold scraper, pitta a silver one, and kapha copper. Stainless steel can be used by all people.
7. Clean your Teeth
Always use a soft toothbrush and an astringent, pungent, and bitter ayurvedic toothpaste or powder. The traditional ayurvedic Indian toothbrush used to be a neem stick, which dislodges fine food particles from between teeth and makes strong, healthy gums. Licorice root sticks were also used.
8. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic ritual. It has become famous in the West due to its huge beneficial effects in oral hygiene. It helps strengthen teeth, gums, and jaw, improves the voice quality and prevents wrinkles. Hold the oil (sesame oil or coconut oil) in your mouth for 5 minutes, swish it around vigorously, then spit it out and gently massage the gums with a finger.
9. Nasal Drops (Nasya)
Putting 2 – 3 drops of warm ghee or oil into each nostril in the morning helps to lubricate the nose, clean the sinuses, and improve voice, vision, and mental clarity. Our nose is the door to the brain, so nose drops nourish each and every neuron in your brain.
10. Oil Drops in the Ears (Karana purana)
Conditions such as ringing in the ears, excess ear wax, poor hearing, lockjaw, are all due to vata in the ears. Putting 2-3 drops of warm sesame oil in each ear can help. First few times, it is recommended to do this under the supervision of a certified ayurvedic practitioner.
11. Oil massage (Abhyanga): Apply Oil to the Head & Body
As per Ayurveda, morning massage helps to delay aging, reduces fatigue, prevents Vata disorders, nourishes the body, increases lifespan and improves sleep quality. In fact, Abhyanga is the most important recommendation for keeping vata dosha balanced.
Massage the whole body with warm oil. You could also do a gentle oil massage of the scalp. This reduces stress, as well as prevents headache, baldness, graying, and receding hairline. Also try and take out some time to do abhyanga before bedtime if you suffer from insomnia. This will help induce sound sleep and keep the skin soft.
For vata use warm sesame oil.
For pitta use warm sunflower or coconut oil.
For kapha use warm sunflower or mustard oil.
After the massage, take rest for a few minutes (around 10-15 minutes). Then you can take a bath/shower. In ayurveda, the bath is termed “Snana”. It improves vigor and strength.
Bath Water should never be too hot. Warm water is suitable for the lower body – below the neck. Water that is too hot or too cold should never be poured on the head. According to ayurveda, hot water head bath diminishes the strength of your hair and damage hair follicles.
Your body is not made for a sedentary lifestyle. Due to the current scenario, most people are suffering from lifestyle disorders. These diseases are a result of a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating. You eat more than you require and do no physical activity that produces sweating. Therefore, daily exercise becomes more important for everyone.
Regular exercise, especially yoga, improves circulation, strength, and endurance. It helps one relax, and improves digestion and elimination. Exercise daily to half of your capacity, which is until sweat forms on the forehead and armpits.
Vata dominant: Slow, gentle exercises such as Sun salutation, done slowly.
Pitta dominant: Calming exercises such as Moon salutation, done a little faster. i.e. moderately fast.
Kapha dominant: Vigorous exercises. Minimum 12 rounds of Sun salutation, done rapidly.
Note: Whatever the recommendations, you must listen to your body and stay within your limits and exercise according to your physical capacity. Normally, 45 minutes of daily exercise helps in the prevention of lifestyle diseases. If you never did any exercise or physical work before, you should gradually increase the duration of exercise to 45 minutes over several weeks.
After exercise, sit quietly and do some deep breathing exercises as follows:
Vata: 12 rounds of alternate nostril breaths.
Pitta: 16 rounds of shitali breaths (curling up your tongue lengthwise and breathing through it)
Kapha: 70-100 rounds of bhastrika breaths i.e. short, fast breaths.
After following above routines, the next step is meditation or chanting a mantra for 108 times. You can recite the name of any God or any mantra that gives you feelings of joy and peace!
It is important to meditate morning and evening for at least 15 minutes. Meditation brings balance and peace into your life and has been shown to provide excellent results in the prevention of neurological disorders and psychosomatic diseases. Several research studies have shown positive effects of meditation and mantra chanting in the prevention and treatment of stress disorders, depression and anxiety.
In breathing meditation, you just need to watch the process of inhaling (breathe in) and exhaling (breathe out) for a couple of minutes.
If you cannot do this, you can practice deep breathing. Take a deep breathe in and hold it in the abdomen for a few seconds and release the breath out.
While meditating, express your gratitude toward Mother Earth by saying thank you for a wonderful life, thank you for a wonderful day or anything that you want to say to express your gratitude.
During meditation, chanting mantra or deep breathing or while expressing your gratitude toward mother nature, keep a smile on your face and feel the joy and peace in your mind.
This morning routine will set you up for the rest of the day with the ability to do your daily activities with full energy and focus!
16. Now it’s time for a light/healthy well-balanced breakfast!
Your breakfast should be light in the hot months i.e. when your Agni (digestive capacity) is low and more substantial in the cold months when your Agni (digestive capacity) is high.
17. After breakfast you may start your work/study:
Enjoy the rest of the day doing work that is aligned with the purpose of your life!
18. Mid-morning snack
You may take a short 15 min break for a Mid-Morning snack such as fruit or a cup of herbal tea as per your Prakruti!
19. Set at least 1 hour for Lunch in the Afternoon
Lunch must be your largest meal of the day when your digestive capacity is at its peak just like the sun is at its peak. 10:00 am – 2:00 pm is a pitta dominant time of the day when pitta rises in our body as well. That is why digestion is also at its peak in the afternoon. Enjoy A well-cooked lunch consisting of balanced meal as per your Prakruti (mind body constitution). Take a brief rest after lunch for about 10-15 minutes, away from work and stress.
20. Get back to work/ study for the rest of the afternoon
21. Mid-Afternoon tea
If you feel the slump in the mid afternoon, you may have a soothing Vata pacifying herbal tea. 2:00 – 6:00 pm is a Vata dominated time of the day.
22. Evening exercise
Go for some kind of Physical exercise of choice for 20-30 minutes before dinner. Brisk Walk or Yoga. Leave an interval of 30 minutes between exercise and dinner.
23. Early Dinner
Dinner must be light and consisting of balanced foods as per your prakruti. Try to have your Dinner i.e. your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before bedtime.
You may go for a light walk for 15 minutes after dinner (or take at least 100 steps in your house itself) followed by relaxing recreational activities.
24. Early to bed: 9:30-10:00 p.m.
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm is kapha time of the evening. If you try to sleep before 10:00 pm, kapha energy will help you fall asleep faster and better! And if you ate a light dinner at least three hours prior to sleep, it will aid in better digestion and allow for a deeper restful sleep.
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M.Sc., R.H.N., Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant
The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.