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, or did it? 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. However, if we are not thinking about these questions then we must have already found an answer, so where did that answer come from? If you were fortunate to be born into a family of knowledgeable parents then you probably received most of your guidance from them. Yet many people are not so fortunate, and receive guidance from their parents that steers them away from health. Besides our parents, if we are not actively asking questions on how to live then we are likely to receive guidance from our media, which seems to have displaced our culture. The media saturates our senses to a level that dilutes whatever remnants of traditional knowledge there are remaining in our society. Who are the village elders passing down their wisdom in modern America, McDonalds, Coke, Monsanto? I guarantee that if you are not actively asking questions on how best to operate your body through life then you are receiving answers from a constant stream of corporate advertisements and television shows. Don’t fret, because I’m here to tell you that there is a reliable source of knowledge available to all, but only if you are willing to open your mind.
Ayurveda = Knowledge of Living
Assuming you already know what Ayurveda is, let’s summarize by defining it as one of the oldest systems of medicine known to humans. Sure, there are plenty of books on the market today explaining how to eat, but who to believe? Butter was good then it was bad, and now it is good again, depending on whom you talk to. Perhaps you place all your trust in science, but even this powerful tool can produce some conflicting results depending on how the research is performed and who funds it. I find comfort in receiving guidance from a system of medicine that has survived the test of time, especially when it is supported by modern science.
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 promoting optimal health, and that the source of this knowledge was not contaminated by the influences of money. Pure knowledge that is presumably free of ego, profit, confusion, or other forms of interference. So if you are asking the question of how best to live for optimal health, and you trust Ayurveda as a reputable source of traditional knowledge, let’s begin with a very brief introduction to Dinacarya. The following list is from sunrise to sundown.
Awaken: early is best, before sunrise, usually between 3-7.
Evacuate waste: with regular digestion this should be first on your list.
Drink: warm or room temperature water, up to 750mL.
Cleanse the mouth, eyes, nose, and throat: Techniques include scraping the tongue, brushing the teeth, filling your 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: no, this is not an excuse to smoke cigarettes, 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 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 2 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, winter and spring are the best times.
Sleep: between 7 and 11 is best, especially if you’re waking between 3-7 in the morning…
Unlearn all you’ve learned
Well, I had to be concise as each of the above topics could easily fill an entire page, or in the case of eating, an entire book. Consider this an introduction to a subject that you can dig deeper into later if you are interested. 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 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 self massage with oil every day, but once per week is more reasonable. To my young readers, remember that you don’t have to live like everybody else. Instead of working 60 hours per week to buy a huge house and fancy car, have you considered working less and using the free time to focus on your health and happiness? We really need to examine our priorities in life. And to the busy single mothers with small children, it only takes 15 seconds to scrape your tongue!
“Instant quick, new improved, hurry hurry rush rush, world on the move, marijuana illegal, but cigarettes cool, I might look kind of funny, but I ain’t no fool”
-From Synthesizer, performed by Outkast