That person, who always eats wholesome food, enjoys a regular lifestyle,
remains unattached to the objects of the senses, gives and forgives,
loves truth and serves others, is without disease.
—Vagbhata Sutrasthana, an ancient Vedic Text
At the core of Ayurveda, the science of life from India, is dinacharya, seasonal daily routine. This is the ultimate self-care regime. Think: home spa, meditation, yoga retreat with amazing food! Dinacharya is a daily routine that you orchestrate with the help of an Ayurvedic Practitioner, or on your own, and is based on the current season, how you are feeling holistically, your current digestion, where you are geographically.
Dinacharya is composed of many self-care techniques performed at relatively the same time each day to encourage balance in the body, mind, emotions and spirit and prevent disease by alleviating doshic accumulation (the five elements can build up and cause imbalance) in the many layers of the being.
Dinacharya is also called svasthavrtta, referring to healthy lifestyle habits. (Sebastian Pole, 2006) When one created a personalized healthy lifestyle, meaning one in balance according to nature, there is more opportunity for harmony inside and outside of the body.
Being in tune with outer nature also means being in tune with your inner nature, your constitution or prakriti: vata (air/ether), pitta (fire/water), kapha (water/earth). This means we are continually fine tuning our inner ecology by adjusting to our ever-changing environment and daily lifestyle.
There are many influences on us from nature: seasons, climate, day and night, life and death, aging. There are also many influences on us that are man-created such as traffic, stress, air-pollution, water-pollution, busy schedules, financial stress, and more. All of these influences that we come in contact with have an effect on us. If there are similar qualities that we are repeatedly in contact with, these can build up and cause imbalance in our body, mind and spirit.
For example, if we regularly expose ourselves to too much heat from multiple sources such as: spicy food, intense/heated conversations, soaking in hot water, a lot of direct sunlight, excess anger, it is the summertime, and we have a pitta (fire/water) type constitution, we can very easily go out of balance in pitta (fire/water). This means we may experience rashes, diarrhea, heartburn, inflammation, hot flashes, anger, frustration, feeling excessively critical, overworking, a desire to be on the go and accomplish and eventual burning out.
We are a sponge to our atmosphere and will retain the qualities that we are exposed to as we are presented with them.
There are many benefits to keeping a routine in harmony with our inner and outer nature:
- Balanced digestion (meaning no gas, bloating or heartburn, feeling light after eating, hungry at meal times, daily well-formed bowel movements)
- Proper absorption and assimilation of minerals, enzymes and vitamins from food
- Generation of positive self -esteem
- Healthy self discipline
- True happiness
- Mental clarity and ability to focus
- Restful sleep patterns
- A pain-free body
- Long life without major disease
- Fulfilling relationships
- Balanced work/family life
- Healthy Boundaries
Our personal nature has a rhythm that is communicated through our body’s biorhythmic clock. These bodily clocks synchronize with the sunlight, moonlight and temperature in the atmosphere, to name a few examples. It is also affected by what we choose to eat, think, when we sleep and when we rise.
What I most love about this practice of deep self-care from Ayurveda is that it is very common sense based. If we are in touch with our body, mind and spiritual life and the way it communicates with us, we can usually sense if something we are doing, eating and are involved with is beneficial for us or not.
Sometimes we get tricked, though. My beloved late-teacher Vaidya Mishra, would call this “the wild horses”. These “horses” are the senses. The senses love to be engaged in life and stimulated through taste, smell, sight, sound and touch. They quickly can become over stimulated by intense sensations. For example, if you eat too many hot spicy chilies, your tongue goes numb and essentially turns off. This is your sense of taste communicating with you that it is over stimulated and needs a break.
This is true of all of the senses. They all need a break from time to time. This allows us to come to a place of subtlety within the senses. Then from that subtle place, we can accurately hear, taste, see, feel and smell what is good for us and what is not. In the next section I will discuss ways we can “rest’ and deeply nourish our senses so that we can experience the subtlety of their messages leading us toward ultimate health and wellness.
Self Care Through the Senses
The sense of smell is the most primal sense. It is directly connected to our limbic brain and has an instant affect on how we feel. The sense of smell is associated with the element of earth in Ayurveda. This means that we can be nourished, grounded feel cared for and calmed instantly by utilizing the sense of smell.
One way of accessing this sense is through applying nasya oil. Nasya means nose in Ayurveda. Nasya oil lubricates and soothes the nasal passages. It is a beneficial practice that will relieve dryness in the nose and will prevent debris, viruses and bacteria from entering the bodily system. It will also bring the mind balancing herbal and essential oils directly to the brain allowing for clarity of the mind and engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system.
The nose is the direct entrance to the brain and to our cognitive functions; the life force of prana enters through the nose. Prana controls the vital cerebral, sensory, and motor functions of the body. Nasya therapy gives immediate relief to most disorders relating to these functions.
The result is that you will feel calm, connected to your heart and inspired to follow your dreams.
Calm & Uplift Nose Oil
- 1/8 cup Organic Brahmi infused oil
- 1/8 cup Organic Sesame oil
- 5 drops Jatamansi essential oil
- 3 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
- 2 drops Vetiver essential oil
- 2 drops Tulsi essential oil
- 1 drop Palo Santo essential oil
Mix well and pour into a 2 oz colored glass dropper bottle. Place 1-3 drops of oil in each nostril 1-2 times per day. Ideally in the am when you wake up and pm before bed. You can also use this oil anytime you need a little reset during the day.
In Ayurveda, the sense of sight is closely related to the element of fire. This means that everything we see is being transformed by the eyes and then being processed and assimilated by the brain and liver. This is a lot of work!!
Our eyes need a break. We are inundated with information coming in through the eyes via computers, small cell phone screens, the sun, air pollution, pollens, advertising, visual stimulus and more. By caring for the eyes we can cool the emotions (via the liver) and increase our inner peace and happiness.
Try this simple practice of applying soothing rose water eye drops and a mid day closed-eye meditation with a lavender eye pillow, if you like.
Rose Water Eye Drops
- 1/4 cup pure organic Rose Hydrosol
- ½ cup distilled water
Mix thoroughly and store in a dropper bottle. Please 2-5 drops in each eye as needed.
Air is an element that most people have in excess in our modern world. Air is present in all movement, talking, thinking, computer-work, exercise, travel, walking and more. It is easily accumulated in the body and in excess can manifest as worry, anxiety, stress, tension/pain in the body, circulating thoughts, dry skin and constipation.
In this luxurious self-care protocol, we will apply a warm oil compress to the forehead to soothe the mind and alleviate stress, worry and anxiety. It is an Ayurvedic Warm Oil Therapy called Pichu.
This powerfully healing oil therapy for the forehead is a form of snehana (Sanskrit for Oil Therapy). It is a very lubricating and loving therapy, and may be performed frequently at home to help maintain mental calm, emotional equanimity, and to balance the elemental build up. It is especially recommended for women and children. For severe anxiety, stress and other adrenal issues, this treatment may be done twice per day for 14 days from the time of the new moon to the full moon.
Ideal Time is the morning or early evening, during vata (air/ether) time of day (2am-6am and 2pm-6pm).
What you will need:
- A bowl- 6 inch diameter, 3 inch deep, one quarter filled with oil
Essential Oil of choice mixed with a base oil of Sesame oil:
- 4 drops Rose essential oil for grief, aggravation, headaches, heat/pain/burning in the eyes, nosebleeds, fatigue and to foster a deeper heart connection.
- 6 drops Lavender essential for deep relaxation, balance and clarity.
- 5 drops Palo Santo essential oil for spiritual connection and to clear negative thought patterns.
- 4 drops of Ylang Ylang to calm stress and anxiety.
- Plain Organic Sesame Oil
- A piece of cotton cloth- 12 inches square
- A clean cotton towel
Warm your oil of choice. Fold the cloth in 3 so that it is as wide as the forehead. Soak the middle portion of the cloth in oil. Lay on the floor or other comfortable location out of drafts, place the oil soaked, warm cloth over the forehead and gently press down to activate absorption of the oil. Breathe deeply and close eyes while relaxing with the cloth for 15-30 minutes. You can play relaxing music or enjoy the silence. Have your clean towel nearby in case you need to clean up a spill.
In Ayurveda, either is the ever-pervading element that allows all of the other to exist. It is the first expression of Consciousness and a basic need for every cell to live.
Sound is the elemental manifestation of this element. Sound Healing, through various techniques and technologies, is the educated and conscious use sound to promote wellness in the whole human system, including the expansion of consciousness.
The premise of Sound Healing is that all matter is vibrating at specific frequencies. With the use of specific sound, one can shift the vibration to that of a pure, healthy state. Any discordant energy of worry, stress, anxiety, disease and trauma will be affected and possibly alleviated instantly and/or with repeated exposure to sound. Science has proven that sound, or vibration, has a strong impact upon substance. Perhaps this is because sound reminds us of the most basic of the elements, truth, spiritual presence and purity.
Self-care through sound can come in many forms.
- You could sit next to a rushing river and listen to the sounds of the whooshing over the rocks and riverbank.
- Enjoy the stillness and luxurious nature of complete silence.
- Find a Sanskrit mantra (such as SO HUM) that resonates and repeat this 108 times to activate the healing within.
- Enjoy a Sound Therapy session with a practitioner who plays singing bowls, tuning forks and other instruments.
In Ayurveda, the element of water is expressed through taste. Choosing healing foods may be one of the most simple and nurturing ways of self-care. Some of the easiest to digest and most healing ways of eating is through a sattvic Ayurvedic diet. This means that the food is prepared with love and intention, often with healing mantras infused within. Only the most fresh, organic and locally sourced ingredients are used. No garlic, onion, nightshades or processed ingredients are added. The meals are made with attention to the season and needs of the person eating it.
This recipe can be adapted to suit your needs seasonally and personally. It is a classic Ayurvedic recipe that is used to soothe the digestion and reset the system.
Healing and Detoxifying Kitchari
By Radha Schwaller
This is the “chicken noodle soup” of India– minus the chicken, of course.
It is very soothing and healing for the digestion and is the basic recipe that is used for the Ayurvedic cleanse, panchakarma.
- ½ cup Basmati Rice (or other grains such as quinoa, barley)
- ½ cup split Mung Dal (split yellow) or red lentils if you can’t find split
- 3 cups (approx.) Water (more or less depending on if you like soupy or
- a bit of Salt
- 2 tsp (or more) Cultured Organic Ghee
- 5 fresh curry leaves
- 2 pods Sweet Tamarind with shell removed and broken into pieces
- Use 1 Tablespoon Bliss Alchemy’s Savory Magic Masala or ½ tsp. Cumin Seeds or Powder (not if constipated)
- 1 tsp. Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp. Coriander Powder
- 1 tsp. Fennel Powder
- ½ Fenugreek Powder
Rinse the rice and mung dal until water runs clear. If you would like to soak the mung dal to aid digestion, you may soak them for as few as 1 hour and as many as 8 hours.
Heat ghee in pan on medium heat and add curry leaves and spices, except turmeric (it burns easily). Let the spices toast until fragrant. Add turmeric, toast for 5 seconds. Add rinsed rice, mung dal, water and tamarind. You can also add chopped vegetables if you wish. Bring to near boil, turn to low, let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add salt near end.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. **Watch for tamarind seeds when you are eating.
Self-care is not just a buzzword. These rituals literally nourish and tonify your immune system, which in turn conjures your deepest healing wisdom from within.
Allow yourself the time, space and focus to create a system of healing protocols so that you may expand your consciousness to envelope the world with your true essence. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
About Radha Schwaller
Radha Schwaller is a devoted Mother, Certified Ayurvedic Educator and Practitioner, Certified Massage Therapist and Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula. Radha has incorporated holistic health into her and her families’ lives for almost two decades. Her Holistic Health journey began in 2001 during a herbal medicine apprenticeship in the deciduous forests of the Midwest.
In 2001, she became certified in Reiki levels one and two. In 2007 she completed her massage therapy training. Her Ayurvedic training began at Kanyakumari School of Ayurveda where she studied Ayurveda foundations, herbal medicine, nutrition, Ayurvedic Body therapies, Panchakarma and received her Certificate in Ayurvedic Education in 2008. Radha received her Wise Earth Ayurveda Practitioner certificate in 2012. The majority of the Ayurveda Radha practices today come from the beautiful and ancient lineage of Shaka Vansya Ayurveda from the late Vaidya Mishra.
Radha has studied aromatherapy for over 15 years. She has also trained with DONA and Sacred Doula to assist mothers during labor and childbirth. Radha is working to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree from Prescott College in Human Development and Transpersonal Psychology.
Radha is a gifted healer that weaves together her rich mixture of elements from sound healing, art therapy, aromatherapy, Ayurveda, herbalism, magic, laughter and energy work to create a healing journey that will bring balance to your mind, ease to your body and the light of BLISS to your spirit.