Create a Vata-Balancing Daily Routine
Establishing a supportive daily routine is a crucial part of the Ayurvedic lifestyle, but it is particularly essential when vata is provoked. Our physiology is very much adapted to—and supported by—a sense of routine. Vata is highly mobile and active, so when it is elevated, we are very likely over-committed, stressed-out, and exhausted. Our bodies may feel fragile and run down, our minds flighty and ungrounded. And as much as we may resist it, a sense of routine is potent medicine for balancing vata because it creates a number of anchor points throughout the day that serve to ground one’s energy, calm the nervous system, and disrupt the self-perpetuating cycles of stress and busy-ness that have become the norm for so many of us.
It’s important to note that following an Ayurvedic daily routine does not mean that you should schedule every moment of every day. Instead, it’s about creating consistency with a handful of habits that are repeated each day at similar times. This invites the body to relax into a sense of safety, normalcy, and ease. While the traditional Ayurvedic daily routine could easily require several hours, we recommend that you start with a few simple commitments—things like going to bed and getting up at the same times each day, eating three meals at roughly the same times daily, and pampering yourself with one or two quiet, nourishing practices that calm the mind and soothe the nervous system. Below, you’ll find several ideas and suggestions. They are nothing more. Please keep it simple at first. You can always expand your routine once the initial elements become second nature to you.
Your Evening Routine
Where vata is concerned, getting adequate rest is exquisitely important, so focusing on your evening habits is always a useful starting point. And in truth, a successful daily routine begins the night before. Choosing to be intentional about the flow of your evening ensures that you are grounded at the end of your day, that you get enough rest, and that you sleep as soundly as possible.
Create an Evening Self-Care Ritual
A sense of routine can be built around even the most mundane aspects of the day. What makes a routine distinct is that we do it consistently and use it as a means of reminding our bodies that all is well, that we are safe, and that we can relax. To this end, take a few minutes to pamper yourself before bed. Doing so has the potential to bolster your sense of well-being, and will likely improve the quality of your sleep as well.
Your evening ritual need not be complicated. In fact, it will most likely consist of hygiene and self-care practices that are already quite familiar to you. Still, the more you can embrace a sense of ritual, and infuse it with nurturing self-love, the better. Be mindful of keeping your ritual simple and doable—especially at first—and follow your own inner guidance around what to include. Consider any or all of the following, alongside any additions that would feel luxurious and relaxing to you:
- Take triphala. About half an hour before bed, take 2 Triphala tablets to nourish and rejuvenate the tissues, support the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms, and to encourage proper digestion and elimination.
- Brush your teeth. Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of good oral hygiene, which Western medicine has firmly linked to our overall health.
- Floss your teeth. Evening is a great time for this daily oral hygiene essential.
- Wash your face. Make this an act of love and devotion to yourself.
- Apply moisturizer to your face, body, or both. Remember not to rush through your practices, but to do them with deep reverence.
- Massage your feet, scalp, or both with oil. This Ayurvedic practice helps to calm the mind and ground the energy before sleep. You may use the herbal oil included in your bundle recommendation.
- Practice Bhramari Pranayama. This yogic breathing practice helps to soothe the mind, calm the nervous system, and is very supportive of sound sleep. Even five minutes can have a tangible impact.
Honor Your Bedtime
Next, choose a bedtime and stick with it as best you can. Remember, receiving adequate rest is deeply rejuvenating and vata-pacifying. If you have an intention to awaken at a certain time each day, it can be helpful to work backwards from then (based on how much sleep you need in order to feel fully rested) to establish an appropriate bedtime. We recommend that you budget a minimum of seven hours for sleep, preferably eight or more, and you may find that you sleep more soundly if you retire by or before 10 p.m.
If you tend to have trouble sleeping, you will find additional resources and suggestions in our guide to Balancing Insufficient Sleep.
Your Morning Routine
The first step in creating a morning routine is to choose a consistent time to wake up. Because rest is essential, please give yourself permission to sleep later than you normally might if your schedule requires you to stay up late, or if your bedtime routine is disrupted for some reason. Otherwise, vata does best to awaken in time to take full advantage of the peaceful stillness surrounding dawn—ideally around 6 or 7 a.m.
Upon waking, it is best to begin the day by taking care of your personal hygiene. We’ve included the most vata-pacifying Ayurvedic hygiene practices below. But remember, you do not have to commit to doing all of them.
- Eliminate. Ayurveda recommends that we eliminate upon waking every day. If you are not already in the habit of having a bowel movement first thing each morning, simply relaxing on the toilet for a few minutes can encourage the body to develop a sense of regularity. Cleaning the tongue and drinking warm water (see below) will also support this habit.
- Clean your tongue. In Ayurveda, scraping your tongue with a metal Tongue Cleaner is considered as indispensable as brushing your teeth. Doing so gently cleanses and awakens the digestive system for the day. It also removes accumulated toxins and bacteria from the tongue that can contribute to foul-smelling breath. If you are new to this practice, please see our resource on How to Clean Your Tongue.
- Brush your teeth. Again, good oral hygiene is intricately linked to our overall health. Take your time with this practice, and be gentle.
- Swish with oil. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that helps to nourish and rejuvenate the teeth and gums, balance oral bacteria, and relax the muscles of the neck and jaw. You may use our specialized oil pulling formula, Daily Swish, which is a cleansing and refreshing herbal oil blend. If you are new to this practice, please see our resource on How to Do Oil Pulling.
- Drink warm water. Drinking 1–4 cups of warm (or hot) water after your oral hygiene routine helps to stimulate and gently awaken the digestive tract, hydrate the tissues, and also promotes peristalsis—which can encourage a healthy morning bowel movement.
A successful and supportive daily routine is all about consistency and finding what is feasible for you. After all, this is your routine! Try integrating one new practice every week, building your daily routine over time. Use this weekly check list to get inspired and help you stick to your goals, but remember to stay flexible and listen to the needs of your body.
Even more impactful than your morning hygiene practices is the energy with which your day begins. Taking a few minutes of quiet time to get the day off to a calm and grounded start can literally change your life. This is an extensive list of suggestions, but again, the idea is not necessarily to do all of them. In fact, committing to just one fifteen-minute morning practice is often a perfect place to start, and can make a world of difference in how you experience the rest of your day.
- Quiet meditation or prayer. If you have an established practice, feel free to stick with that. If you are new to meditation, try Empty Bowl Meditation.
- Pranayama. Yogic breathwork is a potent means of balancing both the mind and the physical body. If you are new to pranayama, start with Full Yogic Breath. Once that feels comfortable, Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is deeply vata-pacifying.
- Abhyanga. Lovingly massage your entire body with oil before a shower or bath. This ancient practice is incredibly calming, nourishing, rejuvenating, and stabilizing. Use the herbal oil included in your bundle recommendation.
- Nasya. This is the practice of applying medicated oil to the nasal passages, which soothes their delicate tissues, promotes unobstructed breathing, relieves accumulated stress, and supports mental clarity. If this practice is new to you, please see our helpful resource on How to Do Nasya. Nasya should not be performed by pregnant or menstruating women.
- Rejuvenating herbs. Rejuvenatives help to rebuild the body’s natural strength and stamina and counter excess vata’s tendency to leave us feeling depleted or run down. In addition to your recommended herbs, consider taking a teaspoon of Chyavanprash each morning before breakfast, to nourish and rejuvenate the tissues.
- Digestive herbs. About twenty minutes before breakfast, take two of your recommended digestive herbal tablets to help balance agni (the digestive fire) and encourage proper digestion.
- Breakfast. Complete your morning nourishment with a nutritious and healthy breakfast. Starting your day with a healthy meal is incredibly stabilizing for vata.
Throughout the Rest of Your Day
Though morning and evening are the most important places to focus your attention when you are first establishing a daily routine, there are a few other things to be mindful of as you navigate your day.
Eat Three Square Meals Daily
Make sure that you have three nutritious meals each day, taking one or two of your recommended digestive herbal tablets about twenty minutes before each meal. Do your best to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at consistent times as well. Excess vata can easily leave us feeling spacey and forgetful—so much so that we may forget to eat. Whereas eating regularly stabilizes the body, grounds the energy, nourishes the tissues, and helps to strengthen the digestive fire. Therefore, we want to avoid skipping or delaying meals whenever possible. Even if you don’t feel hungry, err on the side of sitting down to eat, giving yourself time to receive your food slowly and mindfully. Your body will thank you.
Honor Your Energy Levels
Because excess vata can leave us feeling tired and run down, honoring your energy levels is truly one of the most important things you can do to balance vata. Leave space in your schedule for down time, rest, and relaxation. Maybe take some time to pamper yourself, even (think massage, steam bath, or something similar). It is equally important to pace yourself in your activities so as not to wear yourself out. Practice saying no to new commitments that don’t feel fully aligned, and be willing to take a stand for your own self-care. Do your best to slow down and really enjoy your day as it unfolds.
Movement and Exercise
When vata is high, we want to be very slow and intentional about physical activity. Too much intense exercise can actually be quite vata-aggravating. So if you are going to be active, take it easy, follow the principles of the Vata-Pacifying Approach to Fitness, and consider including the following in your daily or weekly routine:
- Yoga or gentle stretching. Vata-Pacifying Yoga is best for vata, and any gentle stretching will usually be supportive. Take care to listen to your body and to move slowly. Focus on cultivating fluidity in your movements. Avoid moving quickly, and see if you can foster a relaxed, restorative relationship with your activities.
- Gentle exercise. The best forms of exercise for vata are those that are relatively slow, gentle, and grounding—things like walking, gentle cycling, tai chi, chi gong, or swimming (be sure to avoid becoming chilled). The best time of day to exercise is when kapha predominates the atmosphere, between 6–10 a.m. and p.m.
Be sure to establish times to take the formulas in your recommended herbal bundle, as well as any herbs you might be taking to manage more specific conditions. If you are unsure when to take your different herbs, here are some useful suggestions:
- Rejuvenating herbs and formulas. Take formulas such as Healthy Vata, Healthy Pitta, or Healthy Kapha upon waking (other rejuvenatives like Ashwagandha and Chyavanprash are also generally taken at this time).
- Digestive herbs and formulas. Take formulas like Vata Digest, Pitta Digest, or Kapha Digest about twenty minutes before meals.
- Triphala (or amalaki, bibhitaki, haritaki). Take these herbs about half an hour before bed.
- Other therapeutic herbs and formulas. Take these after meals.
Herbs can only support us effectively if we take them regularly, so the most important thing is to actually take your herbs. If you forget, take them whenever you remember. Please keep in mind that consistency is far more important than the timing of when you take what. Ultimately, the most important thing is to create an herbal regimen that will work for you on a consistent basis, even if it means you do something different than what is suggested above.
Less is More
Because vata is so deeply supported by a sense of routine, following a vata-pacifying daily routine can be a turning point in your path toward balance. Remember to keep it simple. It’s best to start with a few consistent touchstones throughout each day, work with those for a couple of weeks, and then re-assess your capacity to stick with them. At first, you may actually find that you need to simplify even further in order to be successful. You can always expand your routine as the initial elements you commit to become second nature. Until then, it is far better to keep things doable than to over-commit. When you are ready to deepen your commitment to self-care, we have a far more comprehensive resource on creating an ideal Ayurvedic Vata-Pacifying Daily Routine. But please establish a basic routine first. Even a minimalistic routine can offer profound benefits that you will notice every day. So celebrate simplicity, embrace taking time for yourself, and enjoy easing yourself into a sense of routine.