Organize your day according to your Ayurvedic body clock


Do you ever wonder why you get the munchies at 10pm? Have you noticed that you feel sleepy in the afternoons and don’t know why? Or perhaps you often wake up around 4 am with your head full of anxious thoughts? Ayurveda offers answers to these questions and precious insight into how our bodies and energies change throughout a 24 hours of the day.

Kapha aliveEach day, we cycle through the three doshas– Vata, Pitta, Kapha– in 4-hour increments. Each time period is dominated by one dosha, and thus influenced by the qualities of that dosha. When you have this information, you can organize your day so that your activities are supported by the dominant energy inside and around you. This allows you to be more in tune with your natural rhythms and to experience more ease and harmony in your life.

Mornings between 6 and 10am are dominated by Kapha dosha, and Kapha is all about the body. Instead of sleeping during that part of the day, get up and move your body. This is a time of day when rigorous exercise is particularly beneficial, and even more so if you have excess Kapha (which can manifest as laziness, sluggishness, excess weight, heaviness, stagnation, difficulty moving forward in your life…). If you feel tired, get up anyway, and catch up on sleep by taking a nap later in the afternoon. It’s really worth it to make that effort, because if you sleep in the morning you will feel off all day, and your internal systems won’t run as smoothly and optimally as they could.
So get up at (or before) 6am, stretch, do some vigorous breathing exercises (Breath of Fire is a great one at this time of day), and move your body– practice yoga or martial arts, dance, go for a run, do some strength training, whatever makes you feel awake and alive. Make sure you move your legs and pelvis, as this is where Kapha is located in the body and tends to stagnate.
Despite what the prevailing”wisdom” will tell you, morning time is not the best time for a huge meal. The dominant energy is already Kapha, so eating a big meal full of fatty or heavy foods will only make you feel more sleepy and sluggish. Quite the contrary, to make the most of this time of day, eat lightly; and if you’re not hungry, it’s better to skip breakfast altogether. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day! Remove that belief from your mind. Ayurveda (which is a 5000-year old science) teaches that lunch is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is optional.

Lunchtime is between 10am and 2pm. In that time period, Pitta dominantes. Pitta is the transformative fire; it’s what allows us to digest. So this is the time of day when you want to have your biggest meal, because your body will be able to transform the food you give it into fuel and energy more easily than any other time. Lunchtime is when you can eat whatever you feel like, as much as you want(always listening to your body’s cues, of course). Unfortunately, the way Western society is organized, lunch is often eaten on the run, in a meeting, or quickly. People tend to have small lunches like a sandwich or a salad, and compensate by having big dinners. But this is not the way your body is designed to function. Have a big meal around 11 or 12, which gives your Pitta fire a couple hours to digest it, and then eat more sparingly the rest of the day.
Another thing to note is that because your body’s energy is focused on digestion at this time of day, naturally there is less energy available for exercise and mental or creative activity. Instead,this is the best time of day to get things done (when you aren’t eating, of course!). If you observe yourself, you will notice that you feel more inclined to check things off your to-do list at this time of day than any other. You are literally “on fire”, and can go through tasks quickly and effectively. The Pitta fire gives you that competitive edge that compels you to move forward and take care of business. It’s another form of”digestion”, if you will.
Some people use that fiery energy to fuel exercise (especially if they are naturally competitive), but be aware that if the weather is hot and sunny, and therefore already very Pitta, then you will over heat your system, especially if your constitution is already predominantly Pitta. Avoid stoking your pitta fire with vigorous exercise during the pitta time of day when the weather is Pitta-like, or you may just combust.

Next, between 2 and 6pm, comes Vata time. Vata’s speciality is mental and creative activity. This is a good time to work on a math problem, to write, to compose music, or anything else that requires brain power and/or creativity. If you already have a tendency to be overly vata– if you process things with your mind a lot, tend to over analyze things, easily feel ungrounded and excited, change your mind a lot or move quickly from one project/activity/relationship to another, then this time of day may be too much vata for you to handle, and you may actually feel sleepy(and if you do fall sleep, you may have vivid dreams). This is particularly true if the weather is hot and dry.
To make the most of this time of day, stay grounded, warm and calm.
man sunrise meditatiionDo things that feel nurturing to you. Drink hot tea, get cosy, slow down, do some long deep breathing if you feel inclined. By pacifying vata in this way, you are in the best state to take advantage of this vata time of day to be creative, find solutions to problems, reflect,process… without feeling overstimulated by your mind or like you are going crazy. Vata is the most delicate of the doshas, the one that is most prone to imbalance; but if you can pay special attention to it in the afternoons, you will reap its wonderful rewards.

From 6 to 10pm, we cycle back to Kapha time. Where the morning Kapha period is for waking up, the evening one is for quieting down, releasing the day’s activities in preparation for a restorative night’s rest. It’s a good time to exercise, but not too vigorously; choose a type of exercise that will help you shake and stretch the stress out of your body without compromising your sleep. Aim to cool yourself down, as opposed to heating yourself up. Yoga, walking or swimming are good options.
A shower or, better yet, a bath, will also help you relax and relieve stress. Eat dinner early and keep it small(which is easy if you were able to go all out for lunch), and avoid overly fatty and spicy foods, as this will impact your sleep. The lighter you eat in the evening, the more refreshed you will feel the next morning.
Spend these last hours of the day indulging in your favorite quiet, calming activities like reading, listening to music, meditating, relaxing with your loved ones. Most of us finish our days in front of a tv, movie or computer screen, but that flickering screen is very stimulating for the brain. You will sleep much more soundly and efficiently if you shut your screens down before 8pm (bonus points if it’s even earlier than that).
If you play your cards right, you should start to feel sleepy right at the end of Kapha time, and be sound asleep by 10pm. If you are too stimulated or force yourself to stay awake, it might be a few hours before you are able to go to sleep.

Indeed, at 10pm we enter the second phase of Pitta, the fire energy, which lasts until 2am. This time around, Pitta is not intended to digest food, but to clean our system. It basically “digests” everything that happened in our bodies during the day, gives our insides a good housecleaning, and resets our bodies for the following day. This is why it’s crucial to be asleep between 10pm and 2am, so that we don’t hinder the purification process. If you are awake, it’s very likely that you will want to eat, as a reaction to the dominant Pitta energy.But if you eat, you force the Pitta fire to digest your food, and divert it from its vitally important cleaning job. You will wake up the next morning feeling groggy, tired, and like you still have undigested food in your belly(which you likely do). Not a good way to start the day.
So if you only take away one lesson from this article, it’s this: don’t eat after 10pm.

The last phase of our 24-hour body clock,which for some of us is the first phase, is from 2 to 6am. This is Vata time once again, but don’t confuse it with the first. This early morning Vata is not for being creative; it’s for being receptive. This is by far the best time of day for meditation, contemplation, prayer, chanting or other spiritual practices. If you are asleep, you will have dreams; if you are awake, you may receive very valuable insights and understandings. If you have a general tendency towards excess Vata, you might notice a lot of anxiety and mental agitation in the early morning hours, which makes for very frustrating meditating.In this case, make sure to pacify your vata by grounding your body through movement, stretching, yoga, chi gong. Take a hot shower, drink some hot tea,make sure you are warm and cozy. Do things that you enjoy; if you feel frustrated because you can’t clear your mind, try Osho meditations, kundalini yoga, chanting, free-form dancing, or other meditative activities. The main idea is to use this Vata time of day to open yourself to higher energies, to practice mindfulness, and to feel connected to yourself.

In summary:

ayurveda body clock

(Credit: http://pathways4health.org)

Enjoy each phase of the 24-hour day, each unique and beautiful in its own way.