This post was updated on December 6th, 2020
Is my blog practical enough? 70% of my readers think it’s not. They are intimidated by the seemingly draconian rules of Ayurveda. The situation demanded a blog with not just the rules but tricks to break them with limited consequences. After all, the adrenaline rush (at least for us Indians) is not in falling in line, but to jump the queue.
1. Get up 90 mins before sunrise
One of the most difficult rules to break, because you break all others rules of Dinacharya (daily routine prescribed in Ayurveda) in the process, right from defecating to sleeping in the night. In short, shit happens.. in the wrong time. Modern lifestyle has violated this rule in urban India, while rural India still plays by the book.
The hack? Leave the country for better opportunities abroad! I know most of you cannot go back to the slow paced rural lifestyle even after you retire, but what about moving abroad? Almost every other country apart from India follows Dinacharya timings. Offices start early and wind up early (of course there will always be a few Indians lurking around in office after sunset). Even restaurants in most large cities close by 8pm, barring pubs. The next best alternative is to try to get as close to the prescribed routine as possible. Slowly change your sleep pattern. I used to sleep at 3am for almost 20 years. In the last 5 years, I have reached 12 midnight. I plan to reach the target of 10pm bedtime in another 3 years time. Before closing on the rule, here’s a final hack. If your employer provides an option of working in shifts, choose the morning shift. If you have to work in your client’s time zone, opt for an Australian client. Make this a factor on your next job search, apart from the salary, job profile and designation.
2. Eat with the sun
Our digestive fire burns in sync with the sun. While we are able to manage the breakfast & lunch timings (most offices break for lunch by 1pm or latest by 1.30pm), dinner is a huge problem. We break 2 rules, eat late, much after the sun has set & binge eat, mostly to counter the day’s stress. We are supposed to eat by evening and eat small portions.
The hack? Make the evening snack BIG. If you are still at office by sunset, order in a light meal. If you are able to bill it to your office, even better (you need to feel good while you are having your dinner). If you work in a big Indian city, there should be at least one healthy meal option that will deliver at your office. The longer you wait after sunset for your dinner, make the portions proportionately smaller. Post 10pm, your dinner should shrivel down to a warm glass of milk. Didn’t have that BIG evening snack? Well, there’s a list of items you can add to your late night glass of milk.
3. No water immediately after a meal
Water douses the Jatharagni, rendering the stomach unable to digest food properly. Wait for at least an hour before sipping on water. The same holds for drinking water before a meal. For atleast half an hour before a meal, stop drinking water.
The hack? If the food is spicy, eat a little bit of sweet as per your constitution. Eg. Honey for kapha, palm jaggery for pitta and cane jaggery for vata. Please note that Ayurveda does not support ending the meal with a sweet taste, not even a mango is recommended. You should end every meal on an astringent note. If your throat is too dry, sip a little bit of water in between meals.
4. No afternoon siesta
“What? Not even on Sunday? I thought Sunday is Siesta Day!” People sleep even in offices. Sleeping in the afternoon is so common in smaller cities and villages that thieves break in to houses mid day. In offices, workers barely manage to keep themselves awake after the lunch break.
The hack? Well, Ayurveda itself provides a few. Children & aged people get some respite. Vata people with an imbalance are allowed a mid day nap. Everyone is allowed a nap in the hot summer season (not if you have the AC on the whole day). People undertaking physical labor can take a nap too. Hard luck if you don’t fall into any of these categories. What could be causing the sleepiness is incomplete sleep at night, overeating or eating too much of processed sugary food. Trying to lose weight? Ditching the afternoon sleep can help. If you are so sleepy that you can fall asleep standing, here’s your last ditch hope, Vamakukshi. A cat nap for 15-20 mins is just about OK, but don’t overdo it.
5. No banana milkshake
Mixing various food pairs that were never mixed before is a fad in restaurants (or chefs) that want to create a unique identity for themselves. Some of these dishes become so popular that they end up becoming part of our regular diet. Banana milkshake is just one of many such examples. It causes congestion, colds, coughs, allergies, hives, and rashes. Some more common examples of “viruddha ahara” are beans with cheese (Mexican delicacy, could not verify its origin), omelette with cheese (original French omelette uses butter). Among “modern” food items, milk tea is a big culprit. If you have to drink tea, have it without milk. Ayurveda would rather prefer the opposite, dump the tea & drink the milk.
The hack? Ideally, this should not require a hack, just avoid these combinations. If you are stranded in an island with just bananas and cows, eat some bananas and wait for 2-3 hrs before drinking the milk (don’t eat the cow). Eat bananas again after 4-5 hrs. Get out of the island fast!
6. No raw veggies
Salads are a craze, but not according to Ayurveda. If it’s vegetables, it has to be cooked, period. “When cooked, vegetables lose their nutrients”, says science. It’s true in some cases, for example if you cook using a pressure cooker. If you cook without the help of modern gizmos, the resulting cooked food is easier to digest and has more nutritional value.
The hack? Well, do you have digestion issues? If not, you can ignore this rule, unless you have tapeworm phobia . If not, search the web for “cooked salad recipe”.
7. No cold food
Smart alecks reading this blog must be thinking “There were no refrigerators back then, so it’s a case of sour grapes. Ban what you can’t have!”. Although palatable ice was imported to India in 1833 , most powerful Ayurvedic remedies involve herbs found in the Himalayas, most of which is covered with snow. Ayurveda not only forbids you from consuming cold food & water, it is against the concept of preserving food by “refrigerating” it. Now you know why that cola drink is bad for you! Summer is when most people need a cool refresher, although some people fall into the habit of drinking cold water. It’s a double whammy of breaking Ayurvedic rules when you eat straight out of the refrigerator. You are eating cold food AND stale food!
The hack? Well, if you are hoping that microwave is the answer for warm food, you are in for a disappointment. From destroying micro nutrients to creating carcinogens, microwaves are part of a modern kitchen appliance group that act as slow poison  Eating freshly prepared food is ideal according to Ayurveda. If you cook once a day, try to use some technology (I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my readers urge me to be more practical all the time) like a cooker with a timer. You can use it to make moong dal khichdi for example. Moong dal is considered the king of pulses in Ayurveda & its khichdi is one of the most nutritious dishes. For cooling water, use an earthen pot at home during the summer. During other seasons, leave water in a copper vessel on a window sill or balcony. If you follow Dinacharya, you bring it back inside the house before sunrise & drink it. If you are extremely thirsty & sweating after being exposed to the sun in a hot afternoon, have a glass of milk instead of water. This last hack comes courtesy Lord Krishna, who advised Arjuna to drink milk instead of water when they were traveling incognito in a hot afternoon
8. Don’t multitask while eating
Talking while eating, eating while in stress, eating when absent minded or in a hurry is prohibited in Ayurveda. From the underlying logic, surfing TV channels, fidgeting with your smartphone or giving a piece of your mind to subordinates in office is a bad time to eat.
The hack? Respect what you eat. Concentrate on the six tastes or rasas of Ayurveda; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Plan how you can follow the order of tastes in a meal, starting with the sweet taste, moving on to sour and salty and ending with pungent, astringent and bitter tastes. Doing the opposite is easy, but ending a meal with bitter taste will require strong determination and effort. At least you’ll forget your worries for sometime! Note that sweet doesn’t mean gulab jamun & bitter does not mean just karela in Ayurveda.
9. Drink milk
“I don’t like the taste of milk” or “Milk does not agree with my constitution” are lame excuses for not drinking milk.
Here’s a better excuse:
“My milk has anti inflammation medicines, antibiotics, sex hormones, steroids, anti malarial and anti fungal drugs.  It is pasteurized, homogenized, has sodium citrate added to prevent curdling & finally the milk delivery team add gutter water to it before leaving it at my doorstep”
Wow, don’t drink that milk! Try to find a source for raw desi milk in your area. If you live in a village or a small town, you’ll find enough desi milk. If you live in a large city, find an app that delivers raw A2 milk. If you happen to live in a small city, wait for some more time.
The hack? Ayurveda prescribes drinking warm milk right at the spot where desi cows are milked. Not heated, but warm because it’s freshly milked. Till the time you switch your car with a cow in the garage, try to source A2 milk from a cowshed near you. If you have insomnia, do you just give up sleeping? In extreme cases, you might pop a pill, but sleep you will. Think of milk in the same league. A2 milk is easily digestible.
10. Follow a routine
Till the time you can’t follow dinacharya, make your own rules. Eat at a fixed time & go to sleep at a fixed time. Do not make sudden or drastic changes to your time table. There is no point in practicing dinacharya once in a week & then slipping back to your punishing routine. The only area where you should not follow a routine is the food you eat. Eat according to the season and do not stick to a single menu item for a meal. If you can easily answer the question “what do you have for breakfast?”, you are in for trouble. Pat comes the answer, “milk & oats”. You can be more creative than that. When Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan and allowed him only one of everything, he chose chana as his food,  thanks to his deep knowledge of Ayurveda gained from the royal bramhin cooks.
The hack? Make weekly and seasonal diet plans. List down ingredients require from the recipes & stock them accordingly. Without constant repetitions, you will start enjoying your meals, absorb nutrients better & create ojas for your body.
Can’t stick to a rule & don’t like the hack? Here are 3 scenarios where you can still pull it off:
- If your body is habituated to a certain diet, it would actually be harmful to stop eating it because it breaks one of my 10 rules above.
- If your digestive system has a six sigma certification; you had a stomach upset 3.4 times in the last one million meals, you can break any number of rules and carry it off.
- If you practice yoga rigorously, worldly Ayurvedic rules don’t apply to you. If you stick patiently to this blog till 2019, I’ll start covering some long lost yoga practices here