Reclaiming the Union of Ayurveda and Yoga Through Dinacharya
Introducing clients to dinacharya is one of the most important parts of Ayurvedic healing. Too often, people allow their days to be defined by external factors, missing the opportunity to define it for themselves.
When I ask clients about their daily routines, I find that many people choose to wake up late, rush through their mornings, and eat breakfast while driving to work or reading emails on their computer. The rest of the day (and weeks and months thereafter) follows a similar schedule, leading to vata imbalance, stress, and a desire to engage in tamasic activities, such as watching television to "relax." This cycle also encourages activities that are steeped in rajas, such as consuming caffeine and sugar to maintain energy. This pattern soon results in forgetting about connection to the divine and all the joy that comes with that knowing.
A dinacharya with the foundation of sattva is a powerful way to take ownership over one’s day. Daily yoga practices, including pranayama, meditation, and asana, practiced in a sattvic manner, support this direction. Practiced first thing in the morning, they provide an opportunity for inner connection, which sets the tone for the day. Through yoga we regulate our prana and develop discernment, which is necessary in order to take action that brings us toward balance. Regular yoga practice enhances mental, emotional, and physical health, allowing life to unfold with grace and ease.
Yoga as Part of Dinacharya: A Case Study
A 38-year-old, overworked executive recently came to me for an Ayurvedic consultation. His primary concerns (heartburn, emotional shutdown, burning and loose bowel movements, shortness of breath) demonstrated a pitta-vata vikriti with a pitta prakriti. He had a strong attachment to spicy foods, daily restaurant meals, and a tendency to overwork.
His busy career had led him to overlook his health and his family, but he was ready for a change. I spoke with him about the importance of dinacharya as a way to cultivate awareness and maintain health and introduced him to a series of simple asana to guide him toward his goals of losing weight, improving digestion, and managing stress.
I taught him the series below, with emphasis on smooth, even breaths throughout the practice, and I invited him to hold each pose for twenty breaths. The aim was to encourage the flow of prana, calming samana and apana vata in particular, as well as pitta.
Digestion and Stress Release Morning Sequence
- Thunderbolt (Vajrasana or diamond pose) to awaken vajra nadi to support digestion.
- Come to standing without using the hands to strengthen the hips and focus on breathing.
- Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) with bent knees as needed.
- Downward Dog (Adho muka svanasana), with bent knees as needed. Practice three times, moving into child’s pose (balasana) for three to five breaths in between each one.
- Locust pose (Salabasana variations) for back strength and digestion. Practice three times.
- Half Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha matsyendrasana) for digestion.
- Wind-relieving Pose (Pawanmuktasana) to support agni and the digestive process. Practice five leg circles in each direction.
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) with a strap and spinal extension.
- Corpse Pose (Savasana) with natural curves in the spine to learn deep relaxation and integrate the total practice.
After practicing this sequence daily, he experienced a tremendous improvement in his digestion and elimination in a matter of weeks. The conscious breathing improved the flow of prana in his body, awakening him to his emotional state and increasing his awareness. He began to notice immediately when food did not agree with him, where before he didn't make this connection. This encouraged him to look for simple food that agreed with his digestion, which led to greater healing.
Building a Sattvic Practice
It’s not enough to ask our clients to simply include yoga as part of their dinacharya. A mechanical approach to yoga practice breeds unconsciousness that leads to tamas. As practitioners, we have the responsibility to guide others to health by increasing sattva. A conscious, sattvic practice leads to inner connection and true health.
Sattvic yoga practices include qualities such as a calm, peaceful atmosphere, moderation in effort, and focus on the breath. This allows prana to move, which creates a transformative experience. Even a very short sequence, practiced regularly with a sattvic attitude, will result in progress.
When practitioners combine the wisdom of Ayurveda and yoga, the results are enhanced exponentially. Whether you choose to teach from your own yoga studies or refer clients to a trusted teacher, I encourage you to reclaim the divine union of Ayurveda and yoga.