The go-go-go of the holiday season can leave you feeling exhausted and ready to drop, like the New Year’s ball in New York's Times Square. All the fun and frenzied activity finally catches up, and you find yourself welcoming the new year feeling depleted and in need of some serious TLC.
Realign with nature's rhyhm. Although hibernation might seem like a remedy, according to Ayurveda, the most effective way to get back in balance is to realign with the enlivening rhythms of nature. Science tells us that everything in the environment, including our mind-body system is governed by predictable patterns of rest and activity. What’s really amazing is just how much our overall health is linked to these cycles of circadian medicine. Unfortunately, modern technology often supersedes nature with 24/7 activity leaving us plugged in long after the sun goes down. With the help of some simple, consistent Ayurvedic lifestyle routines, known as dinacharya, we can effectively sync our physiology with the daily ebbs and flows of nature, helping us gracefully ride the tides of the day instead of struggling against them.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, everything in our bodies (as well as in the entire world) is comprised of space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements combine to create the three prevailing doshas, each with specific characteristics and qualities: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Doshas govern the patterns of nature, including the circadian rhythm, which gives us our 24-hour cycle of day and night. Ayurveda maintains that we experience two 12-hour cycles daily, each of which includes a Kapha phase, a Pitta phase and a Vata phase. In essence, we experience a cyclical dosha clock each and every day.
6am...balancing early morning Kapha time. The first cycle begins at sunrise, or around 6am, which is the ideal time for waking up. (If you aren’t an early bird by nature, ease in by setting your alarm back 15 minutes every week until you reach 6am. Kapha time is associated with heavy, calm, earthy qualities, so your morning rituals should correspond, and in some cases, counter balance these qualities. According to vedic tradition, practices like meditation, pranayama and yoga are best done in early mornings hours when the mind is naturally most quiet, rested and relaxed. However, since an abundance of Kapha can lead to drowsiness, lethargy and lack of motivation, 6am-10am is also a great time for vigorous workouts that get you moving and energized. Seeking a balance of an energizing and calming morning ritual is essential to this Kapha phase.
10am to 2pm...Pitta peak digestive time. The sun is at it's highest point during the second phase of 10am to 2pm. This Pitta time is associated with the qualities of heat, fire and transformation; and it’s when our digestion is strongest. Contrary to how most of us eat (lunch on the go), the middle part of the day is actually when we should consume our largest meal. In fact, eating less at dinner has been shown to lower blood pressure and help with weight loss, so it’s a healthy practice to have your main meal midday.
2pm to 6pm...creative, innovative Vata time. Vata dominates in late afternoon. The hours of 2pm-6pm are when we’re most creative and innovative, and since Vata controls the nervous system at large, this is when people perform best in mental tests. According to research, you are most likely to ace your math test at 3pm, and to exhibit your greatest manual dexterity at 4pm.
6pm to 10pm...return to relaxed Kapha energy. The second dosha cycle begins early evening with a repeat of Kapha time from 6pm to 10pm. As in early morning, evening Kapha ushers in a more relaxed and easygoing energy, but now the sunset signals end of activity and a return to rest and stillness. As nature begins to quiet, we too should wind down during this second Kapha phase, minimizing vigorous activity and tech time while opting instead for light reading, restorative yoga or self-reflective journaling. Keep in mind that the word supper comes from supplemental: the food you consume in the evening is meant to get you through the night, so consider eating before 7pm and enjoy easy to digest soup or cooked vegetables and digestive-aiding ginger tea.
10pm...lights out for Pitta. At night, the heat of Pitta is needed to keep us warm and to fuel repair and regeneration of cells. If we’ve just eaten a large meal, all the energy goes toward digestion instead of optimal self-regulation and homeostasis (stable equilibrium). Pitta also has the important job of processing the experiences and emotions we’ve encountered throughout the day, assisting us to integrate or release them as needed. So it’s important to get to sleep early to allow these therapeutic functions to take place.
2am to 6am...Vata dream state. Similar to the afternoon creativity and ingenuity boost, Vata activates brain impulses between the hours of 2am and 6am. During this state you can ride REM (rapid eye movement) or rise early: studies show that people who start their day before dawn are likely to be highly productive and inspired. Vata time is also ideal for meditation and spiritual endeavors: experiencing REM or rising before 6am for practice, can be super transformative.
When you ring in the year and all of its new possibilities, set an intention to take charge of your health by living in harmony with the daily rhythms of nature. The ancient Ayurvedic lifestyle practice of dinacharya will help you achieve optimal balance between rest and activity, setting you on course to experience a happier, healthier you.
Susan spent more than fifteen years sharing holistic lifestyle approaches through her New Jersey pilates practice. Since relocating to the Bay Area in 2013, she’s embarked on a dedicated path of Ayurvedic living, focusing on yoga, meditation, nutrition and realigning with the rhythms of nature through daily dinacharya routines. Susan completed comprehensive Ayurveda teacher training at the Chopra Center. With private consultations and group workshops, Susan empowers her students to get in touch with their inner healers and to make incremental lifestyle shifts for optimal mind-body balance using the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. www.wisesoulayurveda.com