According to Ayurveda, an imbalance with the fundamental energies and rhythms of life and nature is the primary cause for disease.
We humans crave rhythm.
We delight in it.
But our busy modern lives tend to snap us out at every turn.
When was the last time you noticed the cycles of the moon? Really paid attention to the time of day or the seasons in terms of diet?
Being in sync with the natural rhythms cultivates inner awareness and teaches you to use outer resources wisely. It teaches you to recover, refresh, and refine the innate knowledge of who you really are. First you will need to take stock, re-assess habits, values, and patterns and then make it your business to change with the seasons of life.
Some Basic Facts about daily rhythms:
According to researcher Frank Scheer from Harvard Medical School, every cell of the body has an internal cellular clock that regulates the body’s metabolism. According to Ayurveda, these internal clocks are linked to the rhythms of nature. When we connect our cellular clocks (we have about 100 trillion of them) with the natural ebb and flow of nature’s cycles, it is easier to live a life of balance and vitality. When we ignore these cycles of nature, we disturb our inner clocks, and life becomes a struggle.
What follows are some simple ideas for developing some rhythmic balance – an enduring, fun and creative relationship with the rhythms of life.
Daily Morning Routine: Create a personal rhythm.
Set yourself up for the best possible day. Don’t let your day ‘happen’ to you. Take hold from the moment you open your eyes! Ayurveda recommends that we establish a personal rhythm and clear toxins daily to optimize health.
Incorporate some or all of the following daily practices for cleansing and clearing the senses.
1. Early to Rise:
Sleep before midnight is said to be twice as beneficial as after midnight so get to bed early and try to rise early. Waking past 7am contributes to that heavy feeling that can be hard to shake since there may be an increase in mucous congestion, bowel congestion and retention of fluids at that time. It is said that sleep before mid-night is far more beneficial than after midnight sleep.
2. Establish a personalized and practical Daily Morning Routine
3.Get rest at appropriate time (the hours before midnight are said to be hugely more valuable than the wee hours.)
Do not disturb natural circadian sleep rhythms by staying up too late, working with electronics or bright lights late into the night. Studies show that camping without electricity allows you to reset the circadian rhythms to nature in just a few days. most of us will not go camping, all of us can turn down the lights and turn off the machines!
4. Find time to be quiet and re-energize even if it is 60 seconds of breath practice while waiting for an appointment.
4. Pay attention to digestion. We each have a natural healthy rhythm to our digestion. When it goes out of wack, it is a clear sign that something has to change!
5. Stay connected to natural rhythms = Moon Phase (a fun way to stay connected)
Understand THE DAILY CLOCK:
Daytime “Get Active, Rise and Shine” Cycle:
The first cycle begins at 6AM and ends at 10AM. This is the kapha time of the day, during which the muscular and structural strength of the kapha principle naturally increases. This is the time of day for physical labor when the muscles are the strongest and the heat of the day has not yet set in. (Ayurveda call it a Kapha cycle)
To align yourself with the daytime “active” cycle:
• Be up at or before sunrise. Sleeping in only builds more tiredness and stiffness.
• Engage in some practice of exercise in the morning hours. It could be physical labor, yoga, or some sort of cardiovascular workout.
• Breakfast may be eaten, but be careful not to overeat at this meal.
Daytime “Fire it up!” Cycle
The second cycle is between 10AM and 2PM when the sun is reaching the middle of the sky. The fiery principle is strongest and the digestive fire is hottest. This is the best time to eat the biggest meal of the day. Studies have shown that when the largest meal is eaten at this time, there is significantly more weight loss compared to when the largest meal of the day is eaten later in the day or evening. (Ayurveda calls this a Pitta cycle)
To align yourself with the daytime “fiery” cycle:
• Make lunch the biggest meal of the day.
• Eat this meal in a relaxed fashion.
• Try your best to make the majority of the meal consist of seasonal foods.
• Rest for 10-15 minutes after the meal – even a short nap lying on your left side after this meal is okay.
Daytime “thinking and working” Cycle
The last daytime cycle is between 2PM and 6PM. During this cycle, the nervous system is most active. This is when the brain is demanding fuel from the previously digested large meal. If the fuel is not there because you skipped lunch or only had a salad, the brain will scavenge any available glucose or energy it can find and the blood sugar will fall. This can result in an afternoon lull, craving, or moodiness. If you find yourself reaching for a sweet, coffee, chips or a nap at this time, it may be that the brain is straining to get the fuel it needs to cruise through the afternoon.
In the later part of this cycle, between 5PM and 6PM, there is a period of stillness in nature. A lake at this time of day begins to calm down and flatten. This is a great time to meditate and sync up with nature’s still time (Ayurveda calls this a Vata cycle).
To align yourself with the daytime vata cycle you must:
• Evaluate how you feel in the afternoon.
• If you have cravings – try to make lunch a more satisfying and balanced meal.
• If you crash in the afternoon – be sure to eat lunch in a relaxed and calm fashion. Fast food eaten quickly will not digest and thus not deliver the fuel the brain is demanding at this time.
• Meditate during the last part of this cycle between 5PM-6PM. If this is not realistic for your schedule, carve out at least sixty seconds and try the One Minute Meditation.
Nighttime “slow it down” Cycle
The second 12 hour phase starts with a slower cycle, which lasts from 6PM to 10PM. This is the time of day when the body’s energy hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are decreasing. This is the natural time to start slowing down metabolism to prepare for sleep. Digestive strength is much weaker after sunset, which is why most traditional cultures always had a light supper. A heavy meal at this time will be inefficiently digested potentially contributing to weight gain and poor sleep patterns (This is another Kapha Cycle).
To align yourself with the nighttime cycle you must:
• Avoid eating late heavy meals. Eat light and early.
• Exercise is okay between 6PM-7PM, but not later as it may over-stimulate you and disturb your sleep cycles.
• Start settling down for the evening as early as possible. The habit of staying up late is difficult to change but essential for longevity and increased cognitive function as you age (3).
• If you have difficulty settling down, try an Ojas nightly tonic before bed.
Nighttime “Detox and transformation” Cycle
The next cycle from 10PM to 2AM is the time when fiery principle of pitta can be very stimulating and rev the mind into thinking you are a night person. Here is the rub: this is the time when the liver, which is the body’s major pitta or fire organ, is actively detoxifying and preparing the body for the next day. Late meals and late nights disturb this cycle and compromise the body’s ability to detox efficiently. Of course, this is no big deal when it happens on occasion. But when it happens for years, the liver can become congested and the body can build toxicity levels in the fat cells in the brain and throughout the body.
To align yourself with the nighttime pitta cycle you must:
• Eat early so you are finished digesting by the time this cycle begins.
• Exercise early so the body’s cortisol and adrenaline levels are not stimulated at this time, which can affect sleep and nighttime liver detox.
• Consider meditating or reading a relaxing book before bed. Good old fashioned bedtime stories work well!
• Get to sleep before 10PM.
Nighttime “Quiet” Cycle
The last cycle between 2AM and 6AM is the quietest time of the day. In the early hours before dawn, the mind slowly becomes more aware. If the body has gotten to sleep early and is not chronically fatigued, it is quite natural to wake up at this time before the sunrise. This is a great time for meditation, which will help to entrain the body with the silence of nature. This is the best time to reset your internal clocks. Since they are in every single cell, and we have 100 trillion cells in the body, this may be the most important time of day of all.
Note: The quieter the mind is during the day, the more the body naturally tends towards living in sync with these cycles.
To align yourself with the nighttime cycle you must:
• Over time, after getting to bed early and eating supper early, you will naturally begin to wake up earlier. This will happen without an alarm and, although we may still have to end the habit of sleeping in later, the body will no longer need that extra rest.
• This is a great time for yoga, breathing and meditation as a regular part of the daily routine.