Nearly everywhere we look in nature, there are creatures engaging in some sort of consistent daily routine. The natural world at large is deeply influenced by the rhythms of nature – the rising and setting of the sun, the cycles of the seasons, and the underlying impulses directing the broader community of life. While there is often some degree of seasonal variation, many plants and animals embrace a predictable daily rhythm and, as a rule, live by it. As humans, we have largely gotten away from this habit. Modern forms of energy allow us to heat and cool our homes and businesses, light the darkness, and engage with life at all hours of the day and night. Many of us even have jobs and other obligations that require us to keep irregular schedules. The increasingly erratic nature of our lives is inherently taxing. Layer that on top of the busyness and stress that pervades modern life, and it is no wonder that so many of our nervous systems now exist in a chronic state of high alert – hyper-vigilant, increasingly unable to relax.
But at the most fundamental level, our physiology is very much adapted to – and supported by – some sense of regularity. Actually, this is precisely why the daily routine is such potent medicine. In effect, having a daily routine offers the grounding, stability, and predictability that are largely absent from our hectic modern lives. The routine itself creates a number of familiar and comforting reference points throughout each day that send a resounding affirmation to the deep tissues of the body that all is well, that we can be at ease. And so, when the body becomes accustomed to – and learns to count on – a daily routine that includes things like adequate rest, appropriate exercise, and a nourishing spiritual practice, the nervous system can finally begin to relax. As a result, a daily routine can elicit profound rejuvenation throughout the body without requiring any conscious awareness of the healing process.
But adopting a daily routine is also a very purposeful and enduring act of self-love. Each day, our routines provide us with a tangible opportunity to prioritize our own health and wellbeing, regardless of what else might be going on in our lives. They quickly become poignant reminders that we are in fact worthy of a healthy dose of loving attention every single day. The cumulative affect of caring for ourselves in this way is quite powerful. And for many, committing to a daily routine results in a greatly improved sense of wellness in a very short period of time.
Creating A Manageable Routine
Some aspects of an Ayurvedic daily routine are very quick and easy to incorporate into your day, regardless of your schedule. Other practices require some concerted effort and a strong level of commitment. If establishing a daily routine is entirely new to you – and even if it isn’t – it’s important not to get overwhelmed. As you can imagine, taking on too much too soon tends to cause more stress than it relieves, so it’s important to be realistic about how much you should start with. A good strategy might be to add as many “little things” as you feel truly inspired to do, and then to take on only 3-5 more significant commitments. If you tend to overextend yourself, start with just 1-2 substantial new additions to your day.
And no matter how appealing each practice may sound, it is far more important to be able to stick to your commitments consistently than to try to do everything. A routine can have a soothing effect on your entire organism, but much of the benefit will be lost if you can’t do it regularly. In this respect, less truly is more.
Remember, the idea is to facilitate a sense of predictability in certain aspects of your life so that your being has a place to come home to throughout the day – regardless of what other curve balls might crop up as your day unfolds. You will always be able to add to your routine later. In fact, as time goes on, you may notice that your routine becomes almost effortless. Instead of pouring a bunch of energy into making it happen every day, it simply becomes habit and you no longer have to think about it. This is the time to think about layering in new practices.
Where to Begin?
If you read the classic texts of Ayurveda, one thing stands out about the recommended daily routine: it is heavily focused on the early morning hours. Most of the recommended practices are done upon waking and are completed before breakfast. Consider the cosmic peace and serenity that is accessible in the hours just before sunrise. This time of day embodies an inherent stillness. It is as if the entire atmosphere is imbued with the qualities of tranquility, peace, compassion, and love. As a result, the early morning hours are an especially powerful time to engage in loving self-care, reflective practice, and the intention to heal or re-pattern the physiology. Beyond that, this is the timeframe that sets the tone for our entire day. Which is to say, the early morning is a great place to start when establishing a routine. When we care deeply for ourselves every morning, we create enormous potential for positive change – truly transformational potential. Changing your morning really can change your life.