AYURVEDA literally “the science of life”, seeks to support a rich, flavorful life on all levels. The Sanskrit word rasa translates as “juice” or “flavor.” It is also the name of the primary nutritional substance of the body that is associated with plasma and lymph. If rasa is healthy, the entire body is likely to have vitality and the mind will feel satiated, content and find enjoyment in life. If we want to support healthy rasa, Ayurveda has taught that we need to have appropriate daily routines. We need to develop habits that support balance and health within shifting environments. A fundamental tenet of Ayurveda is that “like increases like.” For example the relative heat of midday will increase the heat in the body and mind and increase the power of agni, the digestive fire. This means that we will have greater digestive capacity in the middle of the day and so this is the best time to eat our main meal. The early morning, being cool and a time of change, is a beneficial time to create internal heat through exercise and to engage in a routine that centers the mind. Each time of day comes with inherent qualities. While morning and evening tend to be cool and are related to change, midday is a time of action and appetite.
If we are interested in maintaining a healthy equilibrium, it is incumbent upon us to recognize these qualities and learn how to respond in a manner that maintains balance. How we respond will, in part depend on our individual constitutions. What will feel good to one person may cause irritation or anxiety in another. If we understand a little bit about our own constitutions, we can better understand how to develop daily routines that support health. While each of us has a unique constitution, Ayurveda describes three main constitutional forces, called doshas.
According to the Law of Microcosm and Macrocosm, everything that exists in the vast external universe, the macrocosm also appears in the internal cosmos of the human body, the microcosm. When the individual becomes aligned with the universe, the lesser cosmos functions as a harmonious unit of the greater. If everything that exists in the macrocosm exists in the microcosm, then the reverse must also be true: that everything that exists in the microcosm exists in the macrocosm.
In the human being, as well as in the universe, there are five creative elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—and three forces: one that governs movement, one transformation and the third governs structure. In the Universe these forces are called anila, surya and soma, respectively. In the human, they are the doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha, respectively. The microcosm will always reflect the macrocosm. For example, in the fire of summer— governed by surya—we may have more of a tendency to suffer from internal Pitta conditions, such as ulcers, anger or skin rashes. The macrocosm of the seasonal environment is affecting the microcosm of the human environment. There is the 24-hour cycle of night giving way to daytime. This daily rhythm goes on and on and on, mimicking the grander cycles: The cycles of seasons, where the winter with its cold, lifeless months melt into the new growth of spring. The cycles of a lifetime, where a man goes from death into birth and from birth again into death. The cycle of 84 lakhs (8.4 million) births and deaths before the soul arrives in the human body with its unique opportunity to reunite with the Divine. The cycle of age upon age moving from dissolution into manifested reality; from wisdom to ignorance and back to wisdom. While we may have little or no control over the grander cycles of the ages, the 84 lakhs, (one lakh equals 100,000, so 8,400,000) of births we are said to cycle through, our birth into the human body this time around, and the yearly seasonal cycles, we have a chance every day to take advantage of a new cycle, be reborn and act wisely. If we overlay the 24-hour cycle microcosm over the cycle of a lifetime, we see that predawn through early morning roughly corresponds to pregnancy, birth and early childhood.
Morning corresponds to later childhood, midday to midlife, and late afternoon through twilight equates to old age or the twilight of life. Nightfall signifies death and nighttime resonates with the mysteries encountered by the unembodied soul between lifetimes. If this law of Macrocosms and Microcosms is valid, then it stands that we can affect the macrocosm of a lifetime via the microcosm of a 24-hour cycle. If we can affect our lifetime by how we live a day, it follows that it is therefore important how we pass our days. The sages who first delivered the precepts of Ayurveda were well aware of this and outlined a daily routine, called dinacharya, which serves as a guideline for us to follow. It provides a structure that we can adjust according to our various needs and constitutions.
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