The daily rhythm
Time stands for movement and change and greatly affects the way you feel, behave and how your body functions. The days, seasons and also your life follow a certain natural rhythm. According to Ayurveda, this rhythm influences how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually by the way the energies of the different Doshas and the five elements fluctuate in time. The day, for example, is divided in six parts of four hours each, during which the energy of a particular dosha dominates. You can see rhythm in nature as well: the seasons all have their own charachteristics. Your own life too is divided in three phases (child - adult - old age), during each of which a specific dosha is more dominant.
Probably the best way to start feeling the influence of time and the changing Dosha energies is to observe your digestion and other processes in your body. They follow the same rhythm every day. The rhythm of modern society doesn't always follow the natural rhythm and will sometimes challenge you to find creative solutions. Still it's possible, and in this blog we're happy to offer you a few tips to live according to an Ayurvedic schedule.
The different Dosha energies
Let's first have a look at the energies that define each of the Doshas. You are made from a combination of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth), that is completey unique. Once you know this personal combination or constitution (the balance or Prakriti) as well as the present deviations from it (the imbalance or Vikriti), this will help you to arrange your life in a way that really suits you. In Ayurveda, the constitution is described in terms of the three Doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha:
- Vata energy is formed from the elements of ether and air. Its qualities are: dry, light, cold, rough, mobile and clear.
- Pitta energy is formed from the elements of fire and a little bit of water. Its qualities are: hot, sharp, light, liquid, mobile and oily.
- Kapha energy is formed from the elements of earth and water. Its qualities are: heavy, slow, cool, greasy/oily, liquid, slimy/smooth, dense, soft, static, sticky, turbid and rough.
When you also know that according to Ayurveda, equal qualities reinforce each other and unequal qualities balance each other, you can see how time, nature, food and lifestyle can influence your being. Just observe the effect of a spicy meal on a hot summer's day or a hot cup of tea in the winter. Then you understand why a person with a cold constitution or imbalance will feel even more cold during winter. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are affected by the rhythm of the day, the seasons and the phases of life.
Let's now have a closer look at:
- the Ayurvedic clock, the daily rhythm
In our following blogs we will look at:
- the impact of the seasons
- the three phases of life according to Ayurveda
The daily rhythm according to Ayurveda
Ayurveda divides the days in six parts of four hours each. By taking into account this inner clock when planning your day, you can make optimal use of the changing energies while eating, digesting, sleeping, relaxing, working, doing sports etc. It's important to have uninterrupted sleep for at least 7 hours when it's dark outside and to eat preferrably when it's light.
From 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. it's Kapha time. The sun rises and slowly climbs. These hours are characterised by Kapha, which is the earth energy. Your digestion is waking up, just like the rest of your body. Show your body that the day has begun by doing some light yoga or taking a morning walk. Breakfast is best taken between 7 and 8, but not later that 8.30. Since your digestive fire is not yet fully active, it is best to have an easily digestable warm breakfast, such as oats, rice with vegetables and herbs/spices or soup. The kind of breakfast that we are used to in the west - sandwiches, cruesli, yoghurt with fruits - is generally cold and will smoulder the awakening fire. If your breakfast is too much, too heavy or too cold, you will feel sluggish and heavy throughout the day.
At midmorning, Kapha time changes into Pitta time. This phase lasts from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Pitta gives mental and digestive strength. This is the best time for activities that require brainwork, concentration, organisation and structure. So it's good to do the most difficult tasks during this time. Just take care that you don't use up your whole energy for the rest of the day by your ardent enthusiasm. During Pitta time, the digestive is at its peak and you will start to feel hungry, light and hot. This is the perfect time for lunch, which should be the biggest meal of the day. Since your digestion is now working at its best, Pitta makes sure that your food is converted to nutrients for body and mind. You can experience the difference by having your biggest meal during lunch on one day, and having it for dinner on another. Do you feel a difference in energy and sleep? If you are not able to cook yourself during lunch time, try taking a morning cooked warm meal in a thermos.
From 2 p.m. till 6 p.m. it's Vata time, which has the qualities of air. This is the time for creativity or tasks that don't require much brainwork. Make sure to drink plenty. If your breakfast was too light, then during this time you may find yourself a little restless and having trouble to concentrate.
From 6 p.m. till 10 p.m. it's again Kapha time. Characterized by the elements earth and water, this is a period of heaviness, slowness and less energy. Time to slow down! From 6 p.m. or sunset, the metabolism in your body changes. Your physical and mental functions slow down, just like nature does. It's not a good idea to undertake many straining activities during this time or to have food very late. Your body goes into a resting state and will have difficulties to process everything. This can cause worrying, restless dreams, insomnia and a heavy stomache. Therefor, a light meal at 6 p.m. is the best option.
From 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., Pitta is again dominating. This time, digestion is low and another kind of fire is burning instead: your body and mind are processing the impressions of the day. It's best to go to bed around 10-10.30 in order to make the best use of Pitta. Your brain wil create deeper sleep cycles in order to get the necessary rest and 'clearing'. Around 10 p.m. you may feel an upsurge of energy due to the wave of Pitta, but it is best to not use this energy to engage in more activities. If you do, you're denying yourself the chance to regenerate for the next day. Did you know, by the way, that morning and evening people don't really exist? If you go to bed late because you can't fall asleep earlier, you probably missed the moment sleep sets in. When you are in your bed around 10-10.30 p.m. you fall asleep more easily. This can help you to get rid of insomnia and all sorts of other complaints.
The second Vata cycle lasts from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. Vata creates movement, lighter sleep and more dreams or thoughts. You may find yourself waking up every now and then and visiting the bathroom. Your body is preparing for the day to come. If you get up before sunrise or before 6 - still in the Vata time - you feel energetic all day because you are using the energy of the awakening nature that is supporting you to wake up. Rising early also makes it easier to follow the rhythm of nature during the rest of the day.
One hour and thirty-six minutes before sunrise is a special time called ‘brahma muhurta’. During this one and a half hour, the energy is particularly light and ideal for yoga practice, meditation or religious rituals because the thoughts are naturally more quiet during this time.
Click here to read about: the seasons according to ayurveda
- Textbook of ayurveda, fundamental principles of ayurveda, volume one, Vasant D. Lad, M.A.Sc., 2002, The Ayurvedic Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.
- Ayurveda, the science of self-healing, a practical guide, Vasant Lad, 2009, Lotus Press.
- Change your schedule, change your life, dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, 2018, Harper Wave.
- Ayurvedic healing, a comprehensive guide. Dr. David Frawley, 2013, Lotus Press.
- Idiot’s Guides – Ayurveda. Sahara Rose Ketabi, 2017, DK Publishing.
By Daphne Beek
Disclaimer 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. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Sri Sri Ayurveda. Check with your doctor before taking herbs, herbal food supplements or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing, or by young children.