What are biologic rhythms? In essence, they're the rhythms of life. All forms of life on earth, including our bodies, respond rhythmically to the regular cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons.
Have you ever found how sluggish you reel if you sleep in, or if you stay up late you get the midnight munchies? Do you sometimes wake up at 4 am spinning and worrying about life and have a hard time falling back to sleep? Well, Ayurveda has a detailed and simple explanation for all of this.
There is a natural ebb and flow within nature, within our body, and within our mind. The doshas are the energetic forces that govern the tides of life and nature, internally and externally, and if you understand these forces and the qualities they hold, you can tune into the natural rhythms of nature and of your body based on the time of day. Knowing this will help you make an informed choice to help you steer your life in a healthy and harmonious direction, allowing for optimal health to blossom.
Our body is in a continuous state of searching for homeostasis. It is designed to find balance from what is happening in the eternal world, from processing experiences to the foods we eat. Learning to work with the bodies internal rhythms will allow us to go with its natural flow, instead of against it, ultimately reducing the stress on our tissues and overall degeneration process. Understanding the doshas and their influences upon us at different times of days is the key to unlocking the wisdom of sustainable health and vitality.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha have a respected time of day in four-hour increments through the 24 hour day. Every four hours is dominated by one dosha, and thus this time frame is influenced by the qualities of that dosha. Understanding this allows you to choose activities, food choices, etc. that will support the dominant energy inside and around you at that time.
Let's begin with the Vata time of day in the morning. Understanding the nature of Vata between 2:00 am to 6:00 am, will help you develop a strong practice that will bring balance for the entire day. When we think about the qualities of Vata, we see that it is clear and mobile, at this time in the morning, it is a time for receptivity. Yogis discovered long ago that when air and ether dominate, is the best time of day for meditation, prayer, chanting and other spiritual practices. By arising prior to 6:00 am, you are able to maximize this experience, spending this peaceful time for spiritual pursuits.
Devote some time in the early hours for yoga or meditation. Practice sun salutations or any meditation technique which nourishes the mind. If you are still in bed, you may find that your sleep is light and disturbed, or that you awaken and have a hard time shutting off your mind. Meditation at this time can be a challenge for some, especially if you have a lot of Vata in your nature or have a Vata imbalance. Utilizing mantra or affirmations can be very helpful for quieting the mind.
Upon waking, it is best to begin the day by taking care of your personal hygiene. See General Daily Routines Guidelines to find a supportive routine based upon the times of the day. Remember a successful daily routine is all about consistency and finding what is feasible for you. Vata is powerful and an active dosha. You can perform your activities with more energy throughout your whole day if you wake up in the Vata period. But if you are waking up late, the next dosha cycle of the day is Kapha. Kapha is generally in slow pace, and you will have a feeling of heaviness and drowsiness if you wake up in the Kapha period of the day.
Next is the Kapha time of day, Ayurveda teaches that it’s best to get up in the morning in the Vata time of day around 5 am, this is not only for the energy and clarity Vata brings but because at 6:00 am, Kapha becomes dominant. Kapha is the energy of water and earth, and this is heavy and sluggish. If you awaken during Kapha time, which is between 6:00 am and 10:00 am, these qualities will increase within you - and you get that “I overslept and am having a hard time waking up” feeling.
At this time of day, you want to eat a light breakfast that is well spiced. Despite prevailing wisdom, breakfast is NOT the time for a big meal, as this will only increase heaviness and sluggishness. Lunch is actually the most important meal of the day when the warmth of the natural world and Pitta supports digestive fire. Eating a warming, light and easily digestible meal for breakfast creates a tremendous amount of value in starting your metabolic functions in a way that provides sustainable Agni (digestive fire) all throughout the day. If you think of your Agni as a campfire, you will understand that your "campfire" fire has been burning all night. Waking up and eating cold or hard, heavy and a large amount of food, doesn't only go against the balancing qualities of Kapha, but it is like putting heavy logs on the coals of your fire. By doing this, you are putting the campfire out. What you want to do is give this campfire kindling, help the coals spark, and start the fire for the day in a way that will bring sustainable heat in the metabolic system.
Exercise every day, as part of your regular daily routine in the morning Kapha time. Kapha gives strength and stamina for exercising, helping you build healthy tissues without depletion. Exercising at this time also energizes you, preparing you for the day ahead. Exercising in the late evening or towards bedtime is not recommended, as it can elevate body temperatures and disrupt sleep rhythms. A light walk in the evening is fine. Also avoid exercise from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Pitta time of day when the digestive fire is burning high and it is time to eat the main meal of the day.
Kapha time flows into Pitta Time, beginning at 10:00 am and continues until 2:00 pm. Pitta governs the time of productivity, the time that the sun is highest in the sky, and there is more heat in the natural world. Pitta is the dosha of heat, as it is made of fire and water. During this time of day, heat will naturally predominate in our bodies and minds.
By harnessing this midday heat, we are propelled to be productive and accomplish our goals. However, it’s best to avoid spending time in the direct sun at this time of day, especially engaging in vigorous activity in the sunshine if you are predominantly pitta, since those with a pitta nature are likely to experience an increase of heat symptoms within the body at this time, including burning indigestion, skin rashes, or even flares of temper.
Ayurveda also encourages us to eat our primary meal in the middle of the day, when the fire of pitta dominates. Pitta supports our ability to digest all things—food, thoughts, and feelings. The metabolic aspect of digestion, our agni, does its best work midday. And as mentioned before, lunch is when you can most indulge in a big meal, as you are best able to digest it at this time, since digestion is a fiery process and will be supported by the heat in the natural world.
As the cycle continues, our day fades back into the Vata time of day, just as it is in the morning it is reflected at the same time in the afternoon, from 2:00pm-6:00pm. Vata, which is made of the elements air and space (ether), governs the time of transition. The naturally light, etheric qualities of this time of day allows creativity and expansive thinking to peak, making it a great time to engage in creative pursuits and problem-solving. However, it can also be a time when those of a Vata nature may feel agitation, exhausted and depleted, so it is important to take rest and choose a calm environment in which you can work while minimizing excess sensory input such as bright lights and loud noises.
At this time ground yourself in a peaceful environment, and grab a cup of herbal tea and a warm blanket or take a 15-minute nap. Restore your senses and calm the centeral nervous system. Vata is the most delicate of the doshas, and the most likely to become imbalanced, as it is the dosha of movement. By keeping it pacified at this time of day, it’s creative gifts can manifest and imbalances avoided.
Kapha comes once again, but this time we use its heavy qualities to wind down for the day, leading us into a deep and restful sleep. Eat a light, early dinner (don’t overeat at dinner - avoid heavy food), and settle in for the night. Eating later in the evening, and your body will have more difficulty processing your meal. The same holds true for eating a big meal in the evening. Ayurveda recommends a light supper instead so your body can finish digesting your food long before bedtime, and you’ll be able to transition from being awake to a more restful state.
As you move towards 10:00 pm, begin your soothing preparations for sleep. During the last hour or two before bed (from about 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm), only engage in calming activities that nourish and soothe you. Stay away from stressful conversations, violent tv shows, or activities that are stimulating. Instead, have a cup of warm nut milk with a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg, engage in gentle yoga, inhale soothing essential oils and listen to soothing music or enjoy a light conversation with loved ones. Allow the natural Kapha time of day ease you to sleep.
As 9:30-10:00 pm rolls around, please try to be snug in bed, sound asleep. At 10:00 pm Pitta becomes dominate, being asleep before this time of day is incredibly important as Pitta rules the act of resetting, cleansing and restoring the body at night through its metabolic functions. In fact, if you are still awake, you may find that the munchies kick in, since the digestive force will go looking for something to digest.
The internal cleansing process at night is critical for maintaining good health and balance. If you remain awake during this time, your body utilizes its energy to stay awake, and you miss out on the benefits of this cleansing and restoring time of day. Staying awake can lead to a build-up of ama (undigested matter), this build up with eventually will lead to multiple health imbalances.
By following the biologic rhythms of the doshas, your body will thank you! There have been many time-related medical observations that prove we are genetically "hard-wired" in the functioning of our cells, tissues, and organs. In modern medicine, medical chronobiologists have found that biologic rhythms can affect the severity of disease symptoms, diagnostic test results, and even the body's response to drug therapy. An improper lifestyle is a major cause most of the diseases in life, such as diabetes, obesity, insomnia etc. Therefore a proper biological rhythm ensures health to the body and mind. Ayurveda has been teaching this for years. Let this time-proven medical science support you in creating balance, harmony and good health by incorporating its understandings of the doshas and how they "rule" your day in your every day life.
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The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease