Yesterday I was speaking with a coworker whose mother had recently passed away. Even though she is still deeply grieving, and probably will be for quite some time, she said she was relieved to be back at work. I nodded, appreciating the value of routine. Waking, dressing, exercising, working, cooking dinner, going to bed… the rhythm of day-to-day living has been very stabilizing during the times of my life that seemed the most tumultuous.

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Humans need routine. Those who love spontaneity require a certain amount of structure in their lives, even if it is just enough for them to rebuke! We need something to ground ourselves in so that we can grow. Rtucharya is a concept from Ayurveda (Yoga’s sister-science that focuses on medicine and nutrition). Specifically, it refers to natural cycles such as the seasons. Rtucharya is like a map that indicates where we are in our day, in our week, in our month, in our year, and even in our lives.

Balancing our individual rhythms.

Time is a learning tool. Every individual would benefit from cultivating an understanding of themselves to determine what rhythm would allow them to best navigate their time. For example, someone who is ungrounded or experiencing a great deal of stress or anxiety could greatly benefit from a more detailed schedule. According to Ayurveda, this person might be experiencing a Vata imbalance. Vata refers to the elements of air and ether.

On the other hand, sometimes we become overly attached to our routines. We may become upset or agitated if our routines are disrupted! This may stem from lethargy or feeling stuck-in-a-rut. In this case, our attachment to our routine is so great that it is actually hinders our ability to live in with life’s cyclical nature. Rtucharya is rhythm and rhythm moves!

Getting into the swing of things.

It is not difficult to find a routine that works for us. Living in alignment with the natural world is a wonderful place to start. We can take our cues from Mother Nature. In the winter things wither and hibernate. This is a time for rest and reflection. In the summer the world is in full bloom. This is the most advantageous time to create, generate, and pursue new endeavors! When we listen to our intuition, Rtucharya guides us to make optimum seasonal decisions regarding rest, activity, and nutrition.

Dinacharya refers to our daily routine. Again, a combination of the natural cycle and our personal rhythm can inform us as to how we might best utilize our time. According to Ayurveda, the time just before sunrise is sacred, and therefore, the best time to pray and meditate. In fact, many of the great spiritual traditions emphasis the importance of pre-dawn prayer! Does this mean that this ritual is barred for those of us whose schedule or natural rhythm does not allow us to rise so early? Not at all! The spirit of this practice is that we take time as soon as we begin our day-whether that is eight o’clock in the morning or eight in the afternoon! – to clear our minds and connect to the Divine. Like yoga, the practitioner should not be made to “fit” Ayurvedic practices. That would create further imbalance! The practice must be accessible to the individual, wherever they are at on their life’s journey.

The art of routine.

Begin to notice how you structure your day. When you wake up, do you feel rested? When you go to bed, do you feel wired, exhausted, or pleasantly tired? One at a time, consider other aspects of your day such as eating, bathing, when you do your spiritual practice, etc. Notice if your current daily routine is working for you. How you feel will indicate if your routine is serving you in a positive or negative way. If you are unhappy with your routine, what steps might you make to change it?

Take small steps. Get up earlier or go to bed later. Resist the urge to take work home with you, or if you work from home, make a commitment to only work during the hours you set for yourself. Make a point to take time every day to do your spiritual practice, even if it is only five minutes of prayer and meditation when you wake up in the morning. Practice the art of cultivating a fluid rhythm that allows you to move through your life with more joy.