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  • Writer's pictureHeather Johnson

Daily Habits and Dinacharya

What you do each day matters. The patterns, rituals, habits and routines you do the majority of the time create the body and mind you live with every day.

This is Heather Johnson and you're listening to the Ayurveda Life School Podcast, episode number 96, Daily Patterns and Dinacharya.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this beautiful morning and the podcast this week. Hope that you're having a wonderful week so far. We are almost midway through February as I'm recording this. And it's crazy how fast the wintertime has gone. We're getting so close to the spring.

I'm looking forward to our spring cleanse. It is going to be a beautiful experience. There will be information available next week on the website about this spring group cleanse. And I really encourage you to look into it. I think it'll be something that will bless your health, bless your life. And it's so much more fun to do it together because cleansing can be really hard. Even an Ayurvedic cleanse can be challenging.

I mean, you will be eating a lot of kitchari. If you don't know what that is, you haven't tried it before, you get to have a lot of kitchari during a cleanse. And while it's a beautiful experience, it can be challenging. I will admit it. My first Ayurveda cleanse was challenging, but doing it as a group is much more helpful. It's a lot easier to get through it when you're doing it together. And that is actually kind of pertaining to what we're talking about today.

Sticking with patterns as you leave home-a story 1:00

I'm going to start today with a story. I have a daughter who is a freshman at college. Any of you who have been to college or have sent your kids to college, know that when they suddenly have freedom things change. Schedules, patterns, rituals, routines that they kept at home, kind of go out the window when mom and dad aren't there encouraging and being an example and enforcing those.

My daughter happens to be a swimmer. And so she swims for the college that she attends. When she was in high school that was a big focus in her life. And it still is. But when she was in high school, she followed a lot of really good rhythms. She was to sleep at a good time at night, she was up at a good time. She ate very regularly scheduled meals, partly because when you are in high school, you have a set lunch time. And then she only had limited space between school and her swim practices. And then we would have a really good nourishing dinner available for her when she got home.

So she had a lot of good habits set in place. She was doing really well in all of these areas. And she went on her senior year to set multiple school records. She won state records and at the state championship meet and won multiple events.

And so it was a beautiful season for her. And a lot of it, she will attribute, to her routines, her patterns, the importance of how that gave her energy and the way she felt because of these patterns she had established.

Then she went to college and a lot of that went out the window. She's adding photos into our family group share at one o'clock in the morning and she's sleeping half the day and she's still swimming and has a lot of practices and school. But her schedule is very erratic and she has been having a little bit of struggle with the swimming part and with performance and her body working at its finest capacity.

So we talked yesterday because she has her big all conference meet, coming up. Because of COVID, they're not able to do nationals this year. And so this will be the highest level of competition that they get to perform in and they don't get to have spectators.

It's a much different experience than it would have been in the past, but it's still really important. She really wants to do well. And she's been building up to this point, she's worked through some injuries, so she's ready and wants to go in and just do a great job.

Shifting back to healthy patterns 3:30

When she came for dinner last night, we chatted with her a little bit. We are quite lucky that she lives close enough at school, that she can come home on occasion. And we were chatting with her about her patterns.

And we said, very lovingly, “We've noticed that your patterns have gotten a little bit relaxed since you went to school.” And we reminded her about what her experience was her senior year and what she went through with her patterns of sleeping, of eating, of working, of playing, of resting, of self care, compared to where she's at now. We compared the results she was getting then and the results that she wants to get now.

They haven't been able to do very many swim meets because of COVID. And so she hasn't had a lot of opportunity to actually test how she's doing, but based on the injuries she's received and just how things are going, she is definitely more rundown now than she was a year ago at the same time.

So we encouraged her with just a few weeks left until her big swim meet to maybe shift some of these patterns. Go back to some of her things that she knows work for her. Go back to her earlier sleeping time, her set routine meals and not feel victim to her circumstance.

She's living in the dorms. There's a lot of noisy kids who don't go to bed on time. She's eating food that's being provided by the cafeteria or through the sports team. So she doesn't have as many choices that way, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have the ability to shift.

So we just talked with her about that and I will keep you posted on how she does her meet. And if she followed any of our parental advice. Now that she's out of the house, she's kind of on her own. She's her own human being. She can listen to her own ego or her own divine voice. And we are always encouraging in the background for the divine voice side.

Connection between your health and daily patterns 5:00

But what's interesting is that we don't often make these connections, even if we know that when I sleep well, when I have a routine, I feel better. Often we'll get into stressful situations or we just get really busy and we think I can add one more thing in, and I can do this other thing, and that will be fine. And I'll just have this food that gives me more energy, or I'm feeling a little rundown so we'll take more vitamins.

And we're using these external sources to try to create health. We're not connecting the dots between nature and health. And the fact is all we have to do for health is to follow the rhythms of nature. That does not mean we have to be outside hugging trees, walking in the grass all the time. Although I think both things are excellent. It does mean that we're following natural rhythms instead of violating the laws of nature and expecting ourselves to be healthy.

How have we gotten out of touch with nature? 6:00

So why have we gotten so out of touch? That's something I've been thinking about. Why are we so out of touch with the world and with the earth. I've been reading a lot about my ancestors and about where they came from- they were farmers- and what they did and how they were in touch with nature. And they really had to understand the seasonal changes and the daily changes and how that affected their bodies.

But I think we've created such a distance between ourselves and the world that it's really easy to live separately. We have turned our health completely over to outside forces and lost that connection. We don't understand that following the sleep patterns of the sun is what brings us energy and vibrancy, not a particular food or an herb.

You are not the exception to nature's laws 6:40

And we also think, Oh, I can just do this exercise. And it will override this unhealthy food that I ate, not realizing that at a cellular level, our bodies are starving for nourishment. And we often think we're the exception. We think: I'm going to train myself to only need four hours of sleep, or we have trained ourselves to go 20 hours without eating and do this new fad of intermittent fasting, or that I can have an erratic schedule because I'm the exception. I have so much energy and so much reserves that I can go, go, go, go.

And I can keep adding things onto my plate. And we think it doesn't impact us. And maybe we're not seeing the impact because it is a longer term impact. What we're doing right now, or what we did 10 years ago is impacting where we're at in our health at this moment. We think we can be sleep deprived and still get up and go train for the marathon that we committed to run. And that we can still work all day long-an eight to 10 hour day, pushing hard on very little sleep without taking any breaks, because we have so much to get done. There's no way that we can slow down.

Human BEING not human DOING 7:45

And we've really created a society that thrives on DOING. That's even the question we ask our kids often when they come home from school.

So what did you do today instead of saying, what were you being today?

How were you showing up today?

Whose life did you change?

How did you create space so that you can be authentic and be who you truly are?

We have really started to create our worth based upon what we did. I love my dad for sharing this. At one point, he said, we're human beings, not human doings. And I try to remember that. He actually gave us a little placard thing, a little statue that just says BE, so it reminds me to be. Because I was always a doer and I still get caught up in that.

I allow myself to create space and then I suddenly start filling it with all these many things until I'm so overwhelmed. And I've created too much to do, too many things on my plate, too many responsibilities. Then you get into burnout or you get into overwhelm, or you might just start to get lethargic and not want to do any of it.

Dinacharya-your daily patterns for health 8:50

All of those are signs of DOING too much and not BEING enough. So we have a beautiful practice within Ayurveda that helps with this. And we call it Dinacharya, I've talked about this before about daily routines, but as we're starting to move towards spring and our cleanse and kind of a reset, it's a really good time to evaluate what our daily routine looks like.

What are your Dinacharya practices?

How are you living in a particular way that matches the rhythm of the world and the rhythm of nature, right? Not the world as in people, but the world, as in the way, the world, the natural world actually works.

Areas to focus your attention

Sun Rhythms: Here's a few things that you want to maybe start looking at. We want to really focus on the sun, the rise and fall of the sun, that pattern of movement from day and tonight, and nighttime is a beautiful time.

It's not a time that takes away from us being able to be productive. It's a time for us to restore and replenish. And from an Ayurvedic standpoint, it's actually the most important section of these 24 hours, because this is where healing takes place. This is where we're able to replenish the body process, what we've taken in during the day and start fresh that new morning.

Meal Times: We want to look at when we're eating. So when should we be eating? We've talked about Ayurvedic rhythms before, and the fact that the sun and our digestion is the highest in the mid-day. So that's the time for our biggest meal. That is a huge change for most people. And it can be a challenge. It can be a hard thing to do. We're used to maybe grabbing something small to tide us over until that afternoon snack or coffee break, and then dinner ends up becoming this feast.

So we want to start shifting that.

Work and Play Schedule: When do you work? When do you play?

Most of us don't schedule in time for play. This includes recreation. It includes reading and learning things that are outside of your career or your work. So things that enliven you, that bring you back to wholeness.

Night time rituals: We want to look at how the sun setting into the night affects us. Are you allowing yourself to surrender to the day, to make peace with what happened or didn't happen that day and to find that sense of wholeness and connection? Once again, whether you are single and live alone, or you have a family, this is a time for reconnecting.

Journaling is a really great way to do that. Winding down, taking some time in nature, going for a walk in the evening, having that lighter earlier meal with the people in your life or with yourself. You are a person in your life.

We kind of forget that. So if you live alone or if you're having to isolate at this time, it's taking that space to sit and make a beautiful meal, using some beautiful decor, creating kind of an experience with it. Even though you're not eating your largest meal at dinner, it can still be in beautiful surroundings, a beautiful experience.

Consequences of ignoring nature’s rhythms 11:30

When we start to ignore these patterns; the natural patterns of the sun rising and falling, the high time of digestion during the day, scheduling work and play, allowing yourself to kind of move into the evening.

Then we will be plagued with anxiety, with insomnia, with unprocessed food and emotions that just sit and are stored in our bodies. We get bowel issues. We have a restless mind and eventually all of this leads to chronic disease.

Why do we override getting good rest? 12:15

So many of my clients that I work with really value that middle of the night time to get stuff done. They like to put their kids to bed. They liked to put their husband to bed or their wife to bed. And then they like the quiet of the house so that they can do things.

And when I've asked them questions about it, I did have one client that said to me, well, I've always felt like,”I'll just sleep when I'm dead.”

You will be dead sooner, if you're not getting enough rest. So when we look at it from that perspective, we realize that that is not wasted time. That sleep time is really valuable, really important. And it's part of preventing some of these chronic diseases and even dealing with things like anxiety or insomnia.

I have a yoga student that I was visiting with this morning, and we were talking a little bit about sleep because she said she hadn't been sleeping very well. And I was just asking her a few, just real vague questions. Because it was in a yoga class setting after the end of class.

And she said, well, I don't like to go to bed really very early.

And her husband was there and he kind of outed her and said, well, she actually goes to bed at like 12:30 or one. So she loves to stay up late.

And I said, well, have you considered that if you'll move your bedtime back so that you're going to bed a little bit earlier, you'll actually sleep heavier and longer?

Her answer was, “I'm afraid to go to bed earlier because I don't want to just lay there for hours and not sleep.”

And we have gotten so out of touch with the rhythms of nature that our bodies are fighting what is natural-sleep. Because we have taught them that disruption is the way to go.

The importance of rest and sleep to manage Vata 13:31

So it does take a little bit of time sometimes to convert ourselves back to this good pattern, but we really need rest. Our bodies need rest. Our minds need rest.

Vata vitiation is at an all time high. This is that increase in air and ether, the movement in the mind and the body and the majority of diseases, over 80% in fact, come from Vata being imbalanced and being too excessive.

When we're living in contrast to the rhythms of nature, that is what is being vitiated is that Vata energy, because we're moving more than we need to be.

We're doing things at irregular times. We're not following good patterns and we're kind of violating the laws of nature. There is a reason that chronic diseases, autoimmune disease, cancer, diabetes, emotional disease, all these things are higher than they've ever been before. And it's this lack of connection with nature and with our higher selves.

The pull between the ego and the divine self 14:21

So it's important that we start kind of coming back to this one connection. One patient told me, “I feel like a defiant teenager, and I just can't seem to follow a routine or schedule.”

We work together. We create these good routines and patterns. We set things in place to help remind her. And then yet she comes back and says, I just can't seem to do it. I continue to defy my own decisions and I can't make myself do this.

Okay. That's really tricky. Right? The ego inside of us is very loud and it wants you to be the exception. It wants to say, you don't have to follow this principle that's been tested for 5,000 years because you are stronger than this. You do not have to listen to this. They like what you're doing right now.

Your ego is like, yeah, I kind of enjoy this. I like running the show here. Don't listen to the divine self. Just keep listening to me.

But often if we're quiet, the divine self will hear these words about how important it is for us to start improving our routines and following nature. And it will resonate. It will say, yes, that's exactly right. That is exactly what you need.

But it's going to whisper. And the ego is going to keep yelling, “No, you should stay up late and eat more cake.”

While the divine self will say, “No, go to bed, take a little bit of quiet time. Turn off your phone.”

All of those things are happening at the same time. You have to start to listen for those quiet promptings, that quiet voice that's sharing the information that you need, because truly you have your own innate wisdom. Many times when I share with a client that their health will improve by just doing a few simple things; by sleeping properly, by following a set daily routine, by eating at the proper times, they have a whole list of reasons why they can't do this.

Health requires sacrifice 16:03

I know that truly we do want to be healthy, but being healthy often requires that we give up things that we find pleasure from.

Pleasure and health. They're not always going to live together.

Oftentimes pleasure is simply the ego being gratified. Health on the other hand is listening to the divine voice. It doesn't have to be rigid. It doesn't have to be painful. It might be uncomfortable because changing habits is always uncomfortable, but there's a lot of things we can do and start creating change in our routines that are not painful. They just are different.

So if we can look at it as it's a different way to live, not a right way or wrong way, this is a different way to live. That's going to inspire you more. Maybe it will become easier. So here's some questions that you maybe can ask yourself to start looking at your daily routines.

Questions to ask yourself about your daily patterns 16:54

And I will include these questions in the show notes so that you can look at those and you don't have to write them down as you're listening.

When do you sleep?

If you were to look at a pattern of when you're sleeping, what is your pattern of sleeping?

What time do you go to bed?

What time do you wake up?

How rested do you feel in the morning? If you're going to give it a scale of one to 10, is it a one totally exhausted, 10 super rested. I feel awesome. Ready to take on the day.

Is it hard for you to get out of bed in the morning? Do you like to snooze the alarm?

Are you waking up often during the night?

Do you have structure in your day? That means you have a scheduled time where you're going to work. Where are you going to rest, where you're going to move your body, time with your family, when you'll have your meals, et cetera. And is it pretty similar day to day? Is there a little bit of variations based on your appointments and things, but overall, are you sticking to a pretty basic schedule?

Is there a schedule for your meals or do you eat whenever something looks or smells good? Do you eat randomly and erratically or just whenever you feel like it?

When do you move your body? It's important to notice, not just that you do it everyday, but when are you doing it?

How much time are you spending outside with the sun on your face and enjoying the outdoors?

Do you create boundaries for your work? Is there a shut off time? This is going to apply whether you work at home or if you leave the home. If you have an outside job, or if you take care of your home and children as your primary job, do you have a time that you are complete with your work every day?

Do you make self-care part of your day? This includes things like exercise meditation, quiet time to think, or journal, healthcare rituals. So things like tongue scraping, nasya oil in the nose, neti or nasal washing, oil pulling for the mouth, self massage called Abhyanga, yoga, dry brushing, et cetera. There's so many health habits that you could include in there.

So are you doing some rituals every day that help your body to be restored?

Are your health rituals nourishing you? Is your routine that you've created for self care, creating more stress, or are you feeling nourished after you do these things?

Side Note: The early morning time is for nourishment 19:10

A lot of people tend to get up early in the morning to get things done because they want to get ahead of the day and they will consider that their alone time or their nourishing time.

But just remember that when you get up early in the day, it's not to get more done, but it's to spend some time to connect with yourself, to connect with nature and that quiet space. So just, that's a little caveat.

Oftentimes when we start adding in rituals, we think, well, I'll just get up earlier and get all these extra things done. We only do that if it's a nourishing thing, right? We don't want to get up early and jump on a computer and be checking our emails and getting work done in those quiet morning hours. That's just going to increase aggravation of Vata.

Biggest question to ask yourself about your patterns 19:48

Biggest question here.

Do you have white space every day?

White space is that time in your day where you keep it empty, you create a little bit of space. This is very hard for Vatas to do. Or if you have lots of vata vitiation because you tend to avoid space, right?

You like things to be busy, but have you created white space in your day? And can you write it on a calendar?

If you look at your week, could you choose to add white space here for a couple of hours. Give an hour here or a half an hour here so that you have time to just be. It's really important.

You might feel like you don't have any ability to change your schedule. You might feel that with your work or with your family, that you just have no space. There's no opportunity to create space.

Mental exercise to create space 20:30

I want you to pretend for just a moment that you just got diagnosed with a terminal illness, not pleasant, but I want you to just play this out. You've been told that you have a limited amount of time to still be alive.

And I want you to think immediately, what would you take off of your plate?

What would you remove from your responsibilities?

How would your priorities change?

How might you think about your relationships a little bit differently If you knew that the time you had with those people was limited.

These are all really important questions to ask when we're not facing a terminal illness, or if we are facing something like that, because many of you might be dealing with something chronic that is affecting your daily quality of life. So all of these questions are important, right?

My morning routine 21:10

I thought that I would share with you kind of my typical morning routine, just as an example. And then we're gonna talk about one more principle.

So this is how my morning rolls out on a normal day. So probably 90% of the time. This is what it looks like. I wake up before six, somewhere between 5:30 and 5:45 am. I just like to wake up naturally. So I don't set my alarm.

I scrape my tongue, use the bathroom. My goal is to always have a bowel movement at that point. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but most of the time it does. I drink warm lemon water.

And then I go down into our basement. I practice yoga for about 15 minutes, some days, just a little longer. And then I exercise. So I kind of flow from yoga, into exercise. I like to do Pilates, some bar exercises, things that are a little lower impact because I've dealt with some back and knee issues, but I do make sure I sweat a bit, get my heart rate up.

And then I meditate and I'll meditate anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, just depending on the day.

Then I like to go sit with my daughter, she's 13, and we read scripture together, connect, talk for just a few minutes, pray. And then she goes to school.

Then my husband gets up. He and I take the dogs for a walk. We have those two cute golden retrievers. And we use that as a good connection time.

It used to be kind of a whining time where we would complain about things, but through working with a really awesome therapist, she's encouraged us to use that as a connection time. So we actually answer questions when we walk. So for example, our question today was: name an example of something that you plan together. And so we talked about things that we do well planning together and how we connect through that. So it provides a really good touch point for us each morning.

When we get back from the walk, I spend a few minutes with my other son, I guess my only son, he's 16, and we read a little bit of scripture together. He eats breakfast. Sometimes I'll cook him something. And then we connect for just a few minutes before he goes to school. So by now it's about 7:30 or so then I take 30 minutes for my morning practices.

So that's when I do my neti. I'll do my Abhyanga. If it's a day that I'm going to dry brush, because I don't do that every day, I'll dry brush and then I'll shower.

And so by around eight or 8:15, I'll wake up my youngest daughter, who's eight, and spend time with her and I help her get ready for the day. And, you know, she needs a little bit more attention for that than the other kids. I read with her for a bit. We read a little scripture and then we eat breakfast together by about 8:45. And then she leaves for school. I like to then take that time for about half an hour to get the house in order, get things tidied up so that when 9:30 comes around, I'm ready to be productive and create something in the world.

Create an intention for your morning routine 24:00

That's how my morning flows most days. I really like how that routine has rolled out and it took some practice and some time figuring out how to work all of the things that are important to me into the morning without feeling stressed and rushed.

So your morning could look completely different. But for me, I have some goals in the morning.

  1. I want to have some rituals that helped me feel grounded and stable for the day. So perhaps you look at your morning and think, what can I do that will create some grounding for me today? Meditation is always good for that. Abhyanga is good for that. A nourishing breakfast is really good for that.

  2. I want to connect with the people I love the most before we separate for the day. So I really intentionally chose how I could do that with each person before they're gone from the home for the day.

  3. I like to move my body in the morning. That's a beautiful thing to do early, get some sweat going, get some movement going. So I plan some time for that.

  4. I like to nourish myself through my food. So I have a good breakfast. Oatmeal is my go to most every day.

  5. I like to have an environment that creates spaciousness so that I can think. I don't do well in clutter. So I had to have some time in there for tidying up.

When you step back from your routines and think, why am I doing this? Was it because I saw it on an Ayurvedic list somewhere, or is there actually a benefit to it for me personally?

You can craft a morning routine that works really well for you by knowing if your intention is to move your body and to feel grounded, or is your intention to connect or is your intention to create some space for yourself for the day. So look at your intention first and then create that morning ritual around it.

Hinge Habits 25:47

One last principle I wanted to share with you that can really be helpful when it comes to setting routines and sticking with them. This kind of refers back to that comment that my client gave about feeling like a rebellious teenager. And I think we all do. There are definitely days that I don't want to get up and do all of my routine. And I would rather just sleep in until nine o'clock, but I know how much better I feel when I do get up. And so it keeps me motivated.

There's a principle called Hinge Habits. And this is something that I've developed over time, working with people and seeing how important it is to identify what is your hinge habit. Much like a door has small hinges on it that can move a very large door, here are habits that you have throughout the day that are creating your results. And if you can figure out what is that hinge habit that your entire door of life hangs on and shift that, then everything else is going to run more smoothly.

And for many of us it's mealtimes. My hinge habit might be when I eat lunch. Because if I eat a nourishing good size lunch at the right time, then it holds me really well. So I can have a small early dinner. And then I sleep really well, which means I'm able to wake up on time and I can do my exercise and my whole day runs nicely.

Okay. So it could be what time you go to bed. Maybe it all hinges on you making sure you get to bed by 10:00 PM. If you get to bed by 10:00 PM, then you're able to sleep and you don't have that insomnia that you normally would have.

If you push your bedtime back and then you're able to wake up at a proper time and make it to your yoga class in the morning, which then lays out your day to feel beautifully.

It could be that you eat breakfast. Many people skip breakfast. So perhaps when you eat breakfast, then you're able to have a little bit more stable blood sugar. So then when lunch comes, you're able to eat a more nourishing lunch and you're not having those mid-afternoon, munchies where you're reaching for things that are going to throw your balance out.

Everyone has a hinge habit. You might have two, but there’s typically one that really stands out. I know for me, it's dinner time. If I have a light early dinner, everything runs smoother for me. And that means eating by about six o’clock and having something that's about half the size of what I would have eaten at lunch.

And that holds me really well through the evening and into the daytime when I’m ready to eat again at breakfast.

Think about some of these things. I’ve given you a lot of ideas about routines, about the importance of them, some examples of my routine, and talked about hinge habits.

So start to go through those questions that I shared. Look at the show notes for those and start to really look at your routine. Many times I have clients that come in and that's what they want to work on. They want to create some better routines. Much of that has to do with you.

I can share as much as I can about what would be useful, what would be helpful? What could be good for you, but if you don't implement them, it's pretty much worthless, right? It's not even worth what the paper that it's printed on.

Choose a habit to focus on-join the spring cleanse 28:32

Work towards implementing what you're learning.

Choose one area to work on this week.

It could be sleep. It could be your eating patterns. As far as when you're eating your meals, it could be what you're doing in the morning.

Create an intention for the first couple of hours in the morning. That's going to set up the whole rest of your day.

Enjoy this. Enjoy moving into spring. I look forward to hopefully seeing many of you in our spring cleanse. Once we have that information available next week, I will let you know the link that you can go to and learn more about the seasonal cleanse that we'll be doing through the Ayurveda Life School.

Have a beautiful day. You totally got this. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and victims of our lives. But you are empowered. You can do it.

I'm totally there for you and standing beside you and encouraging you every step of the way.

Have a beautiful week. We'll talk to you soon. Namaste.

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