Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Hitaahitam Sukham dukham aayusthasya hitaahitam
Maanam cha yatcha tat prokto Ayurveda sa uchyate ll
As defined in the treatises of Ayurveda, the one that is pleasing to the body & mind, which also explains the contra indicated measures and deals with the Science of life is called Ayurveda.
Ayurveda doesn’t only focus on physical entities of life but is a wholesome source of knowledge dealing with the physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual construct of life. Therefore it is the most rational and scientific knowledge which aims at treating the disorders of distressed/diseased as well as promotes the health of a healthy individual.
With this regard Ayurveda has certain basic concepts which when followed rightly protects and nourishes body and mind. This includes the conduct and pursuits of life derived from the five elements of nature- the Panchamahabhuta. The routine and regimen are based upon the natural factors mentioned under the context of Dinacharya (the daily regimen) and Rtucharya (the seasonal regimen) in the treatise Ashtanga Sangraham/ Ashtanga Hrudayam written by Vagbhatacharya. The manifestation of diseases depends upon the external environmental factors when it is not in sync with the internal components of the body. Therefore following seasonally conducive regime play an important role in the context of health.
Some basics before the bigger concept; now let us understand the structuring of the year according to Ayurveda.
One day consists of 24 hours. 7 days put together makes it a week which is called "Vaara" or "Saptaaha". 2 weeks i.e one fortnight is called one "Paksha". Two paksha together makes it 30 days which is one month "Māsa".
So how many Māsa are there in Indian Calendar? 12. What are they? Caitra, Vaisāka, JyeSTa, āSāDa, SravaNa, Bhādrapada, ĀSvija/ ĀSvina, Kārtika, MārgaSira, PuSya, Māga, Phālguna.
These 12 months are classified under 6 Rtu (ritu/seasons), with two Māsa under one Rtu.
They are Vasanta, GrìSma, VarSha, Sarad, Hēmanta, SiShira.
The whole year is divided into two parts with 3 Rtu for each.
The 3 consecutive seasons of SiShira, Vasanta, GrìSma comprise "UttaraayaNa" - the period when Sun is traversing to the north of equator, though it is the equatorial inclination of the earth, let us just assume that the sun “travels” for simpler understanding as we can see the directional reference. This period is called "AdānaKāla i.e. period of extraction/taking away strength.
The seasons of VarSha, Sarad, Hēmanta comprise Dhakshinaayana - sun traversing to the south of the equator. This period is called VisargaKāla i.e period of discharge, it gives back strength and vitality.
Why do we need this knowledge? Isn’t it religious/superstitious/orthodox/too uncool for modern times?
NO!!! Rather, this is scientific, rational, logical and eternal!!!
The basis for health is Hita Bhuk, Mita Bhuk, Rtu Bhuk, eat mindfully, which is conducive and only what is needed and what is "SEASONAL".
In order to maintain health, following the nutrition & regime as per season is important. It is interesting that in Ayurveda diseases are treated considering all these factors attributing to the seasonal regime.
Every season has important characteristics and specific regime to be followed. To be able to follow the necessary seasonal activities, following a daily routine helps to understand the biological rhythm and composition of the body. This in turn has its influence over the mind. These play a vital role in ascertaining the regimes to be adopted seasonally and a few of the practices are to be followed irrespective of the seasons. Therefore Dinacharya – the daily regime plays a vital role in terms of health, nourishment and to attain longevity. These regimes are called as Dinacharya.
Dinacharya begins with how/when we wake up and extends till we sleep. Thereby it constitutes the daily activities and takes care of the biological changes that the body undergoes.
“Brahma/Braahmi Muhurtam” is the last segment of the night or one part of the three hours just before Sunrise. There are different school of thoughts regarding the exact timing however the duration of the last segment of 4th Yaama of the night (one Yaama is 3 hours) is said to be the apt time to wake up.
This is the period of time when awareness level is at its best. Brahma means Knowledge and Muhurta means Time of Perception. It is the most suitable time to perceive knowledge and wisdom.
According to the International Journal of Yoga and Allied Sciences, during the pre-dawn period, there is the availability of nascent oxygen in the atmosphere. This nascent oxygen easily mixes with hemoglobin forming oxyhemoglobin, which has the following benefits:
- Boosts the immune system and increases energy level
- Helps maintain the balance of blood pH
- Relieves pain, soreness, and cramps
- Enhances the absorption of minerals and vitamins
There are also certain restrictions regarding who shouldn't wake up in Brahmi Muhurtam. That includes Pregnant Women, Children, aged people, People suffering from Physical and mental illness.
After mindful analyzation of one’s own body and assuring the digestion of the food consumed the previous night, one needs to evacuate the excreta and should attend to the oral hygiene by cleaning the teeth.
Ayurveda has specific suggestion regarding brushing the teeth. The soft ended herbal brushes are well advised which is atleast 9 inches in length and has a the diameter of the tip equal to one’s little finger. The brushing material should always have the taste either of Kashaya( Astringent), Katu (Acrid) or Tikta( Bitter) rasa. Contrast to present day tooth pastes, Vagbhatacharya doesn’t advise using Madhura(Sweet) Amla (sour) or Lavana (Salt) Rasa materials for brushing unless it is used as medicated drugs in certain conditions.
Next regime to be followed is application of Sauviraanjanam or Rasaanjanam, which is an application to the eyes which helps in cleansing the eyes and also promotes the sharp vision. Thereafter Nasya or Navana is adopted. Naasa hi Shirasodwaarah – meaning Nose is the gateway to the head. Thus cleansing the nose and keeping it clear from secretions promise lightness in the head and promotes health. Nasya in Panchakarma(the 5 purificatory practices of Ayurveda) is a different procedure, but in Dinacharya the small quantity i.e. 2 drops of nasal drops are instilled. This is called Prathimarsha Nasya. This removes the excessive mucous in the nasal channels and cleanses the para nasal sinuses. This also provides nourishment to the brain. Anu Thaila is best advised for daily regime.
This is followed by Gandusha, Kavala and Dhuma vidhi. Gandusha is the holding of medicated liquid orally, Kavala is the gargling method and Dhuma is the inhalation of herbal smoke. Contrary to the ongoing trend of oil pulling procedures, the practice of Gargling(Kavala) or Gandusha vidhi is to be followed according to classical requirements giving importance to the signs of completion of the practiced method. The medicated liquid in the mouth is to be held till the eyes starts lacrimate, water oozing from the nose, or salivation and to be thoroughly washed. Not every person is advised to always to Sesame oil or coconut oil for this process, and seasonal exceptions are to be observed. Although these are mentioned in the daily routine, the contraindications are to be well aware of before practicing.
Abhyanga or daily application of oil on the body is highly recommended. This reduces ageing, annihilates effects of aggravated vata due to stress and fast moving lifestyle. It also improves clarity of vision, skin health, reduces pain the joints, renders longevity and nourishes the muscles.
Now comes the practice of physical exercises which renders lightness and increases efficiency in the activities of the body. Yoga and Pranayama with mindful concentration of breathing is the most beneficial way of exercises. Exercises are to be performed to the half of one’s strength or till half of an individual’s total energy reserve in the body is utilized and not in excess, to reap the maximum benefit of the activity. The perspiration in the forehead, nose, joints and armpits indicates the utilization of optimum energy. The concept of exercise is misinterpreted in the present day scenario which when done in excess results in unwanted effects like physical and mental fatigue, emaciation etc. Strong individuals with routine activities can practice vyayama/ exercise in the Rtu of Hemanta, SiSira and Vasanta which are the colder seasons but are characterised to increase natural strength. Simpler exercises are to be adopted in the remaining Rtu.
Next is the Udvartanam or powder massages to obtain clarified skin, followed by Snana. Snana is the cleansing of the body by bathing or showering. Snaanam Shramaharaanaam which means Snana alleviates all the fatigue. It kindles Agni, provides health and enhances liveliness, sexual contentment, reduces stress, improves energy and strength. It tackles lethargy, itching, dirt, fatigue, burning sensation and ill feelings. Pouring warm water below the neck while showering renders strength to the body, while pouring hot water to the head is detrimental to the eyes and hair.
The golden rules of hygiene like trimming of nails, beard, moustache, hair and cleansing the excretory orifices are given immense importance.
These are predominantly morning rituals which sets up the day in a brighter way and aids mindfulness. Thereafter induces right mindset for the consumption of food, which is the root of healthy lifestyle. Dinacharya focuses on wholesome and moderate food intake and to observe the digestion mechanism before consuming the next meal. This way Ayurveda doesn’t advise the timely pattern but gives importance to listening to the body. However when the right routine is followed body naturally sets its rhythm. Daily regime also states the evacuation of enlisted natural urges like micturition, defecation, yawning etc. without suppressing them. This concept is dealt in detail in a separate chapter of Ashtanga Hrudayam. It also advocates social behavior of do’s and don’ts in a reasonable way under Sadvrutta.
The Evening regime consists of restoring calmness and being grateful for the day. Ancient practices include immersion in divine chanting, reading and meditation, which is relevant even now to focus on selfcare and to stay away from the disturbances caused by social media etc. This enables us to relax and bring the mind to a calm state before the body falls asleep. The food consumption in the evening should be limited to light and easily digestible food which should be consumed early facilitating a gap between intake of food and sleep to aid the digestion mechanism and provide the body with complete rest while sleeping.
The main content of Dinacharya is not just physical practices but the mental, spiritual and social practices of righteousness. The physical attributes are just the catalyst to think rightly. It is opined that the entire activities of all the organisms are aimed at comfort. However, there is no comfort without Dharma. Dharma is the virtue that holds the world, hence it is a prioritized concern to be virtuous.
This, in short is the regular etiquettes to be followed on daily basis. The practice of this is customized according to the seasons which is explained in terms of Rtucharya- the seasonal regimen. It is understandable that to follow all these regime in the present day situation seems difficult owing to time constraint, but to initiate the routine is all what it takes to notice the changes. Determined small steps adopted leads to bigger results. The concept acts as a ready reckoner and helps us to understand our body and mind in a better way, as this understanding is the ultimate aim of any great Wisdom in the world.
Author: Dr Anoosha N Shastry
Consultant for Ayurveda and Yoga,
Founder (Sanatana Akademie, Munich, Germany)
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