The Ayurvedic practice of Dinacharya refers to daily self-care routines. This routine is a set of self-care practices which are cleansing and rejuvenating. These small simple daily actions can help to remove the build-up of ama or toxins from the body and so help bring our whole system more into balance, regulate our body clock and our digestion. When we follow the same routine each morning we are setting ourselves up for the day. We know that every day will begin the same and this is beneficial for the mind because it takes away a set of decisions – reducing what’s called ‘decision fatigue’.
Dinacharya is suitable for everyone but you can tailor it to suit you by choosing different oils and yoga practices depending on your Ayurvedic dosha (mind-body type): Vata, Pitta or Kapha. The routine below is what I practice myself each morning and what I teach on my retreats and workshops. However, there are other things you can add to the Dinacharya such as using a Neti pot and practices for different times of the day.
Ayurvedic morning self-care routine – Dinacharya
1. Body and mind scan
When you first wake up, spend a moment checking in with how you feel both physically and mentally before doing anything else. Scan your body for any aches or areas of tension. Are you feeling any particular emotions? How are your energy levels, do you feel rested or tired? Use this check-in to help you decide what and when you want to eat later.
2. Head to the bathroom
Go to the toilet and try to move your bowels. When we get into the habit of doing this each morning it helps to regulate our digestive system. It can help to raise your feet on a step so that your knees are higher than your hips and you are more in a squatting position.
3. Oil pulling
Afterwards, brush your teeth and use a tongue scraper if you have one. You can also try oil pulling to remove ama (toxins). One minute of oil pulling is perfect. Choose either sesame oil for Kapha and Vata, or coconut oil for Pitta dosha. Take a tablespoon of the oil and slosh it around your mouth like mouthwash. When you spit the oil out you can spit it out onto paper or tissue and put it in a bin to avoid clogging your sink pipes with the oil.
4. Body scrubbing or dry brushing
Depending on what feels best for your skin type, choose either dry brushing or use a natural body scrub. If you’re dry brushing, follow this with an oil massage and then a shower. If you choose a body scrub, do the oil massage first (step 5) then scrub, then shower. In either case, you’ll be stimulating your circulation. Brush or scrub towards the centre of your body.
5. Oil massage
Spend at least five minutes massaging your body with oil. Again use sesame oil if you are Kapha or Vata, or cooling coconut oil for Pitta dosha. Try to feel your body from the inside out – for example, when you massage your arm, try to feel your hand with your arm instead of your arm with your hand. This helps to ground you and bring awareness into your body. If you can only choose one part to massage, make it your belly. This is where we often hold a lot of tension, it’s also the area of intuition in the body. Follow the direction of your digestive organs using a circular motion: starting at the right side of your belly, circle up towards your ribs, then to your left side and down towards your lower belly and then back to your right side.
You can either follow the oil with a shower or leave the oil on your body and shower after your yoga practice. Depending on how you feel this could be a warm or cool shower, but not a cold one as this goes against Ayurvedic thinking.
Next, take at least 5 minutes to sit in meditation. This could be simply sitting comfortably, closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breath. Or any other type of meditation you prefer. Here are some short meditations if you are looking for inspiration: 5-minute meditations playlist.
7. Yoga or movement practice
Follow your meditation with yoga, or something that gets your body moving. You can tailor your practice to your dosha These are a few recommendations:
- Kapha – you’ll benefit from moving quite actively to lift your energy. Something like 10 Sun Salutations at a fairly quick pace, or try this class: Move! – An activating and warming Kapha Dosha class
- Vata – slow flow classes or moving slowly through 10 Sun Salutations will help to ground you, or this class: Get Grounded – A sweet and gentle Vata Dosha class
- Pitta – something cooling and calming such as Moon Salutations will help to balance your energy, try this class: Calm down – A cooling and balancing Pitta Dosha class
8. Eat nourishing food you love
Choose foods that will support your body and that you enjoy. Again, this could be foods that support your dosha type. You can watch the classes in my Ayurveda: Yoga and Diet program and the Seasonal Cleanse with Ayurveda and Yoga program for some ideas, but the main thing is to choose foods that make you happy!
Build up gradually
Maybe you’ve read all this about Dinacharya and thought, ‘that’s all fine but I don’t have time’. Whenever people are trying to start a new routine I always advise them to start by introducing one or two new things at a time and build up from there. Make it manageable and be kind to yourself. Don’t try to do everything at once. For example, begin with the body scan and the belly massage. Try these for one week and the next week bring in one more element to your routine. Keeping a journal can help to motivate you to keep up the habit.
Self-care starts with self-love
For a lot of people, self-care feels like a luxury – they feel uncomfortable with spending time on themselves or feel that they are not worth it. That’s why, for me, self-care has to begin with self-love – welcoming and accepting all aspects of myself, the good and the bad. I’ve made a playlist of classes to support and encourage the practice of self-love and acceptance – Self-care & Self-love. These classes include yoga, movement, breath work, and classes about Ayurveda, diet and yoga.