Living According to the Universal Rhythms of NatureNov 13, 2022
Whether we pay attention to it or not, every cell and organ system in our body is synchronized with the universal rhythms of nature. All layers of our being! Although our senses lead us to perceive that we are separate from the world around us, we are constantly exchanging energy and information with the environment. When our internal rhythms are in synch with those of the environment, we experience well-being.
Life moves in recurring cycles of rest and activity. Every cell, organ, and system in our body-mind operates according to predictable rhythms, with periods of dynamic activity and times of quietness.
These same patterns of rest and activity are found within the cycles of nature. The sun rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes. The tides approach and recede.
In the same way, the fires of our digestion rise and fall within our mind-body system.
And our hormones fluctuate according to a 24-hour rhythm.
Our moods, mental agility, and motor skills cycle through relatively predictable highs and lows throughout the day.
As the earth revolves around the sun, we cycle through the seasons.
And yes, over the course of our lifespan, we also move through seasons—the spring reflects our youth, summer our adulthood, and autumn the season of our older years.
In this day and age it’s easy to ignore the natural rhythms of our body and instead be guided instead by habit and convenience. We tend to ignore our internal signals and rely on external ones. But the result is often compromised health, fatigue, and the accumulation of toxicity in our body-mind!
According to both Ayurveda, and scientists studying Circadian Rhythms, it's important pay attention to these rhythms!
BTW, if you've missed the previous blogs on Ayurveda, then click on the "Ayurveda" tag to the right, and find all the blogs on this topic!
The Universal Rhythms of Nature
There are primary rhythms that govern distinct patterns within the human body. In today’s blog, I’ll be talking about the effects these rhythms have on us and how we can adjust our routines to be in harmony with them:
- Circadian rhythms: 24-hour cycle of night and day
- Seasonal rhythms: 12-month cycle of the Earth around the sun
- Lunar rhythms: monthly cycle of the moon around the Earth
- Tidal rhythms: gravitational influence of the moon on the water
- Celestial rhythms: rhythms of planetary movement
Adopting a regular daily routine helps us to be in synchrony with our environment, creating greater energy, happiness, and well-being. As we discuss suggestions for a balanced lifestyle in tune with the rhythms of nature, identify a few that you would like to begin weaving into your life.
Doshas and the Rhythms of Nature
From the Ayurvedic perspective, the daily rhythms of nature are governed by the doshas.
Every day, we experience two 12-hour cycles, from sunrise to sunset, and again from sunset to sunrise.
Each cycle has a Kapha phase, a Pitta phase, and a Vata phase, and the qualities that are dominant during that time will be the qualities of the respective dosha. This is reflected in both our external and internal environments.
The approximate times are as follows:
- First Cycle
- 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. – Kapha
- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Pitta
- 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. – Vata
- Second Cycle
- 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. – Kapha
- 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Pitta
- 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. – Vata
Every day the sun rises, the sun sets, and hundreds of different things happen in between. Nature is so beautifully arranged that no matter how different the things in between are, they fit into one rhythm.
Every day two waves of change pass through us. Each wave brings a Kapha cycle, then a Pitta cycle, and finally a Vata cycle. These three phases take place from sunrise to sunset, then again from sunset to sunrise.
We are meant to live in tune with the master cycles of the dosha clock—rather than fighting against them.
- Kapha – the body is slow and relaxed
- Pitta – digestion is strong
- Vata – the mind is active
For example, Ayurveda recommends that we eat our largest meal of the day at noon, when the Pitta principle is strongest and our digestive fire, or agni, is the most powerful just as the sun is strongest at this time of day.
Modern circadian research is validating the importance of aligning with these natural daily rhythms.
Ayurveda provides an optimal daily routine that helps us live in tune with nature so that we can experience our natural state of health and well-being. More on this next week!
As you begin to integrate these recommended practices into your daily routines, pace yourself, and above all - notice how these new, healthy habits make you feel!
Living in Harmony with the Seasons
The rhythms of nature include the seasonal cycles that affect every cell in our bodies. These cycles also influence our genes, as well as the genes of the microbes that live within our bodies. All of our senses and receptors within our body are taking in signals from our external environment, whether it's the length of the day, the barometric pressure, or the electromagnetic field, and our self-regulatory systems make adjustments accordingly.
By learning to live in harmony with the cycles of the seasons, we can create greater physical health and emotional well-being.
One practical way to align ourselves with the seasonal cycles is to recognize which doshas are prominent during different times of year. Each season expresses characteristics of a specific dosha.
- Vata season: late fall through winter
- Pitta season: summer through early fall
- Kapha season: late winter through spring
Although these seasons describe a typical four-season climate, no matter where you are on the planet there are seasonal changes as the Earth rotates around the Sun. Understanding the dominant dosha and qualities during that seasons helps you stay balanced all year
Thousands of years ago, the ancient Ayurvedic physicians recognized that seasonal rhythms have important influences on our biological cycles.
For example, during the cold, dry, windy months of Vata season, we all are particularly vulnerable to developing Vata imbalances, which can manifest in the body/mind as fatigue, constipation, anxiety, and dry skin or hair.
If your primary dosha is Vata, you are even more vulnerable to Vata imbalances during the fall and winter months.
Adapting our daily routines, including our diets, activities, and exercise, to stay in harmony with the changing seasons will help to prevent some of the disorders that are common throughout the various seasons of the year—colds and flu during the fall and winter, skin rashes during the summer, and allergies and congestion in the spring.
During the dry, cold, windy months of autumn, choose Vata-pacifying foods that are warm, cooked, and heavy, such as hearty soups, stews, and casseroles. Be sure you get plenty of rest and choose clothing that keeps you warm and comfortable.
During summer, when the fiery Pitta element predominates, choose cooling foods and beverages, such as fresh green salads and smoothies. Avoid getting overheated, instead focusing on activities that keep you calm and cool, such as swimming and taking walks in the early morning before the temperatures soar.
During the wet, cold spring season, favour lighter, warmer foods and spices that balance the earthy Kapha element. Get outside and move your body, to counter the heavy, sluggish tendency of Kapha. Wear clothing that keeps you warm and dry.
Transitioning from one season to the next with ease
When we are transitioning from one season to the next, the doshas are also transitioning. One dosha may be increasing, while another is decreasing. At these times, it’s natural for the doshas in your body-mind to become imbalanced.
For this reason, the transition between seasons is a good time to slow down and undertake a seasonal detox or cleanse! This will help you restore your balance, align with the rhythms of nature, and eliminate any toxins that have accumulated in the past few months.
Perhaps you might like to use this time to have a home-retreat for a few hours or a day – turning off all your electronics, and spend time in meditation and gentle movement.
Some simple and readily available cleansing aids can be taken on a daily basis to improve digestion and increase overall well-being:
- Sipping warm water throughout the day hydrates and cleanses bodily tissues.
- Eating homemade soup, broth, or stew can be soothing, especially if your digestion is feeling especially sensitive.
- Ginger tea, made by simmering one teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root in a cup of water, promotes detoxification.
The Life Cycle
Again, as we are part of nature and her cycles, our bodies have their own “seasons” that we experience as stages of life. Just like the climate and weather, different periods of our lives correspond with different doshas:
- Kapha dominates childhood.
- Pitta fires things up around puberty and lasts through middle-age.
- Vata arrives in our wisdom years and lasts through the end of life.
We can see the properties of the doshas in each stage of life—pudgy, soft babies, temperamental and rebellious teens, and the slowing down as we age.
Kapha is a time when babies and young children are growing at a rapid rate, establishing the structure of their bodies.
During adolescence, there is a surge of pitta dosha that often aligns with an increase in the robustness of agni or the digestive fire. There’s truth behind the cliché of the insatiable teenager who can eat anything and everything any time of day and still be healthy!
A similar shift happens when vata comes to dominate later in life. With its airy, ethereal nature, vata often results in diminished or irregular agni, and a simultaneous need for extra nourishment to buffer the depleting tendencies of vata. Realizing that what and how you ate for decades of your life needs to change can be a jarring part of the aging process. But heeding those new needs of your body is one way of practicing the bigger act of acceptance and fluidity that provides resilience against aging overall.
When we respect the state of agni, our whole body gets nourished evenly and consistently—including the end-result of digestion and source of immunity and vitality called ojas.
The Heart Cycle
One of the most important cycles to be aware of is that of our individual nature—the cycle governed by the life-giving rhythm of our heart. The heart sustains our bodies and affords us the deepest, most authentic source of wisdom.
Any change in circumstances--moving to a new house, changing jobs, or experiencing the loss of a loved one—might usher in a season of vata in your microcosm of a universe.
Or, a period of depression or stagnation in energy might result in more kapha-based qualities in body and mind.
Or, you might simply have a change in your values and beliefs around food, overcome an illness or sensitivity that restricted your diet, or be introduced to a new cuisine that changes the qualities of the foods you tend to eat regularly.
Following the cues of these personal “seasons” will result in a change in what we eat, whether it’s for a day or for a year.
Ignoring the heart’s wisdom repeatedly will inevitably strain agni, produce ama, deplete ojas, and result in imbalance.
In this way, the most important food—and medicine—we could ever consume, in any season of life, is that which feeds our heart and our ability to honour its needs: LOVE.
Try this Home Practice this week!
- From what you’ve learned of the Rhythms of Nature, begin by noticing when you’re in alignment with them – and when you’re not!
- Are there 2 or 3 ways you can bring yourself closer to alignment with these Rhythms?
- Try them out!
- Know that regular practice will increase the benefits, and remember, no judgment!
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