"Early to bed, early to rise makes a man happy, healthy, and wise." We're all pretty well-versed on importance of ample sleep. But how exactly does this habit keep us happy and healthy? I always considered myself a morning person; waking up before the rest of the world to read, check emails, or just enjoy my coffee on the patio in silence. Until I learned about Ayurveda, did I realize that my morning routine didn't quite measure up to the natural circadian cycles of nature. If you suddenly lost me at Ayurveda and circadian cycles, fear not and read on. But, first—note to self—waking up early to sit down and sip caffeine, as it turns out, is not very wise.
Ayurveda originated in ancient India over 5,000 years ago as holistic system of natural medicine, striving to create natural harmony between body, mind, and spirit, through diet, herbs, exercise, meditation, yoga, and massage/bodywork. As it made its way to the West, Ayurveda continued to have a strong presence in the world of alternative medicine. Serving as an integrated practice of self-care, Ayurveda is used to achieve optimal health by reconnecting our bodies to the natural circadian rhythms: morning, midday, and evening routines of self-care, or dinacharya.
Imagine your body's internal clock moving with the rising and setting of the sun. Sounds a bit surreal, right? Yet, modern research has been proving the importance of our bodies living in sync with the natural circadian cycles-- and the benefits it has to enhance our health and vitality.
You may be thinking such a concept sounds bizarrely impossible, considering most of us are on-the-go all day long; rushing to and from work, eating in the car, running errand in between, and squeezing in a half-ass workout before getting home to--ugh--make dinner from scratch because we were too tired to prepare the night before. And the viscous cycle continues.
However, there is nothing natural about this routine; rushing, forcing, and eating our way into exhaustion. And, unfortunately, the chaos of everyday life feeds into this pattern. Luckily, there is a way to beat the system—with a new system. An Ayurvedic daily routine—living in sync with nature's cycles—gives us the energy we need to both start and end our day with the same amount of stamina and motivation (think: swimming downstream instead of upstream).
In nature, there are two 12-hour cycles (6AM-6PM and 6PM-6AM) that are each separated into three sub-cycles. Each of these 4-hour cycles is linked to certain functions of the body controlled by the following three elements:
Vata (air), which governs the nervous system
Pitta (fire), which maintains digestion and metabolism
Kapha (earth and water), which controls immunity and physical strength.
The practice of Ayurveda beings by understanding how to connect to a daily routine that is in tune with these cycles. Again, imagine moving with the rising and setting of the sun. Check out the following flow to get a better idea:
FIRST 12 HOURS OF THE DAY: 6AM-6PM
6AM-10AM: Kapha increases
- This is the best time for exercise and other forms of physical activity
- The sun is at its peak heat
- Kapha is heavy and supports greater muscular strength
10AM-2PM: Pitta increases
- This is the best time of the day to eat your largest meal
- Pitta (aka digestive fire) is the strongest in the middle of the day
2PM-6PM: Vata increases
- This is the best time for mental and creative energy
- The nervous system is more active
- We often crave highly-processed snacks at this time, indicating exhaustion, blood sugar fluctuations, or poor digestion
SECOND 12 HOURS OF THE DAY: 6PM-6AM
6PM-10PM: Kapha increases
- This is the best time to begin settling down for sleep.
- Kapha is heavy, causing cortisol levels to drop during this time
- This explains why you begin to feel tired around this time-frame
10PM-2AM: Pitta increases
- This is the best time to be sleeping
- The liver (pitta) starts to detox your body
- If you are consistently awake or toss and turn during this time, the detox can be disturbed
2AM-6AM: Vata increases
- The nervous system starts to activate during this time
- This is the best time to sleep deeply and naturally wake up before sunrise
While our personal agendas may not always run on time, the earth's schedule is constantly on the same wavelength with how it functions. By creating a daily routine in tandem with the natural circadian cycles, we can use our minds and bodies, collectively, to live a more balanced and productive life; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our lives really can be less stressful and more enjoyable when we move with the current, not against it.
Think about your day from start to finish. How did you practice self-care? What would you like to improve about your daily routine?
To learn how to kick-start your morning by incorporating an Ayurveda routine, stay tuned for next week’s post. You can also schedule a FREE 30 minute consultation with me. Just head to www.natashawellness.com/appointment and pick a time!