The Yoga MD

Summertime always throws me off the wagon. Not alcohol — I don’t drink. I mean, off the wagon of routine. The higher temperatures and humidity of summer, the laissez-faire days, create a heaviness that seems to block my daily intentions. It is one reason I welcome September, with its cooler days (hopefully) and the momentum of “back to school,” bringing us all back to the necessity of a daily routine.
In Ayurvedic practice, a daily routine is essential for the maintenance of health and wellness. But not just any routine, a routine that tunes our body into the natural cycles of the day, which in turn regulate our body’s own biological clock. The term for this routine is Dinacharya. Dina means daily
and Charya means to follow. Alternatively, in Hindi, Din means day and Acharya means teacher. So to me, dinacharya has a double meaning — the daily routine is the teacher, and its guides us for self-care.
Dinacharya intends to set the individual in the right direction for the day. It involves noticing the cycle of the day — from morning to night, and tuning your energy and activities to match the biological circadian rhythm (marked in Ayurveda by the doshas — Vata, Pitta, Kapha).
Traditionally, this meant waking up with the sun, washing and eliminating from the body that which accumulated overnight, followed by exercise and meditation to warm up the body and focus the mind. Then proceeding with breakfast and on to the work of the day, taking a break at noon for lunch, and resting prior to returning to end the day’s work. As the sun begins its descent, having dinner, and taking the opportunity to wind down with family and friends, relaxing in some way, before the nightly bedtime routine and sleep.
The practice of Dinacharya has been particularly helpful to me in managing my migraines and in recovery from concussion. Unfortunately, suffering the two together has been synergistic in terms of symptom severity. Observing my bedtime routine and getting to sleep on time (which for me is before 10 pm) has been helping me sleep through the night. Then waking early ensures I have time to get the key exercises in to strengthen my neck muscles, which I incorporate into my morning yoga practice.
The problem is that I am my own worst enemy. I fight sleep, and I enjoy the comfort of my warm bed in the morning. I have to admit, I have been, putting off my morning practice. So this has become my tapas, the effort I must put in and the actions I must perform to take care of myself. It is not easy, and I feel like I fall off the wagon every summer and I have to start over every September. They say it takes twenty-one days of repetition to form a habit, so I am going to be gentle with myself and re-start with the first step being putting my feet on floor to get out of bed, then taking one step at a time.
As the kids get ready to go back to school, I am harnessing that energy to fuel my daily routine — exercise, meditation and getting to bed on time. I encourage you to do the same. It is our daily patterns of actions that become the habits which set us up for a life of wellness. We are in this together. Every year. Bring on September!
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