Ayurveda is the indigenous medical system of India that views health through an all-encompassing lens. The practice itself focuses on the body-mind-spirit connection with nature.
Ayurveda means “the knowledge of life and longevity,” or “the art of living.” The roots of Ayurveda are deeply established in centuries of oral and written lineages of practiced medical science, with eight branches of specialties.
The eight branches of Ayurveda are:
- General medicine
- Diseases of the head, neck, and face
- Fertility/reproductive science
Together, these eight branches work together to support health at different times of need, using both preventative and curative methods.
The Benefits of Ayurveda
The essence of Ayurveda is to connect everything we do back to nature. “Ayurveda gives us a language to know ourselves in relation to nature and the ever-changing world around us,” says Claire Ragozzino, the author of Living Ayurveda. “When you’re born, your constitutional makeup is shaped by a unique personal balance of the elements. This is known as your Prakriti—your unique body type—which is established at conception, takes root at birth, and shapes your proclivities throughout your life. Prakriti is the reason why you can sit down at the dinner table to enjoy the same meal but have completely different experiences with how you each digested the food and how the food impacts each of you. Knowing your individual Prakriti helps you to understand yourself—why you favor certain foods and activities over others, and how nature’s seasonal influences will uniquely affect your body and mind. It helps you know yourself better and what actions you need to take to stay in balance.” This knowledge and deep understanding help you stay connected to your mental, physical and spiritual self and better manage your needs.
Practicing Ayurveda in Modern Day
While Ayurveda has traditional, ancient roots, the basic foundations of this practice can still be carried out in the modern-day. “Establishing a daily routine that moves with nature’s rhythms is one of the simplest ways to apply Ayurvedic principles to your life.” This can be as simple as waking with the sun, supporting your body’s natural cleansing functions with self-care practices in the morning, moving your body in a mindful way, eating meals that are freshly cooked from whole food ingredients, taking time to rest, and practicing a healthy night-time ritual to support a good night’s sleep.
Why is a Daily Routine So Important?
Dinacharya is the word for daily routine. In Sanskrit, ‘Dina’ means “day,” “sun” or “flow,” and ‘Charya’ means “practice” or “conduct.” Ayurveda calls for a daily routine that takes into consideration your biorhythms and how to work utilizing these natural forces. By listening to your natural body, you are able to better understand what foods to eat and yoga practices or asanas to try. The act of listening to your natural body and providing it with what it needs is a sure way to align your doshas.
“Dinacharya particularly emphasizes morning as our most sacred time, as these hours create the foundation for the rest of the day and help clear wastes (malas) to bring us back to a neutral state before the start of the day,” says Ragozzino. While morning time is crucial, your routine should follow the whole arc of a day. “In the overstimulated world we live in, a daily routine provides a helpful outline for keeping us on track with the rhythms of the day.”
How to Create Your Ayurvedic Routine
“Simple shifts can have profound effects on how you feel,” explains Ragozzino. When designing your daily routine, begin with your diet and eating patterns. Try these tips to help your overall digestion, mood, and energy levels:
Establish a regular meal routine and stick to it. Avoid skipping meals and snacking or grazing all day. Space meals out by 4–5 hours to give time to digest and rest before eating again.
Don’t gulp liquids while eating, instead, sip warm water throughout the day to stay hydrated and wait an hour after eating to drink again. Skip the icy drinks and other cold beverages that diminish your digestive fire.
Make eating the main event. Try eating in silence without conversation, technology, or other distractions. When ready to eat, take 5 deep breaths to prepare your body to receive food. You can even say a small prayer of gratitude before your first bite.
Getting Started with Ayurveda
If you’re just diving into Ayurveda, don’t get hung up on your body type alone or the results you may have read from an online quiz! An online quiz can be a fun way to begin to explore the doshas, but the best way to determine your Prakriti is to work with a trained practitioner who can identify this for you.
Before you get too caught up with identifying yourself (“I’m Vata,” “I’m Pitta,” “I’m Kapha,” etc.), take a step back and remember that you are composed of all the elements and doshas working in a harmonious, interdependent union within you.
Prakriti is important, but it is not everything. When we attach ourselves to one static idea of who we think we are or what diet we need, we miss out on the beauty behind Ayurveda’s wisdom—the wisdom of awareness. Learning how our body types are affected by the seasons, the times of day, and the different cycles of life is key to maintaining that inner balance that shapes our health.
About Claire Ragozzino
Claire Ragozzino is a certified yoga instructor and Ayurvedic counselor. She began her health journey in her early teenage years, struggling with chronic digestive problems and searching for the answers to healing. Armed with a good knife and a passion for those quiet moments spent creating in the kitchen, Ragozzino began to recover her health through purposeful cleansing and eating a plant-focused diet. She knew sharing this passion for food was her calling. Ragozzino studied International Development and Sustainable Agriculture and worked at the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development. She traveled to India with an Anthropology research grant and deepened her studies in Yoga while in Mysore. When Ragozzino returned home, she found herself making a bigger influence in the local community, teaching yoga and meditation, and opening minds one good meal at a time. She went on to focus her studies on Ayurveda, yoga therapy, and women’s health. Ragozzino now makes an impact by sharing her knowledge in Vedic living and empowering women to reconnect with their inner wisdom through food, breath, movement, and meditation.
She is the author of the popular site, Vidya Living, and also writes and photographs for online and print publications surrounding topics of food, culture, and our relationship to nature. Her first book, Living Ayurveda, offers a comprehensive Ayurvedic cookbook and lifestyle guide. Claire works with clients around the globe and leads immersive workshops and retreats.