Sync your schedule with nature
According to Ayurveda, our bodies have a much easier time coming to balance – and therefore HEALTH – when we are working WITH nature rather than against it. One of the ways we can synchronize our bodies with nature is by adjusting our schedules. Two obvious (but not necessarily easy) ways to get into synch is with our eating schedule and our sleeping schedule.
Ayurveda talks about the body’s digestive fire, or agni. This fire is in charge of digestion of food, among other things, and extracting nutrients. When we are in balance, our agni – which I think of as my appetite – starts waking up around 10am, is full blast at 12pm, and slows down again around 2. Because of this rhythm, it is suggested that we eat our largest meal at lunch, and much smaller meals at breakfast and dinner.
When I first heard of this concept, it made SO MUCH sense intuitively, but putting it into practice proved to be a different story. In the United States we value the big family dinner. Most of us – children and adults – are out of the house and on the run for most of the day. So we are hungry and ready for a big meal by then. I certainly don’t have this as a solid habit yet, but I wanted to give it a try and do it slowly. So, over the past year or so, I find opportunities to eat a bigger lunch when I can. On those days, I still make the big dinner for my family, but I serve myself a much smaller portion than I used to. And guess what? It feels really good! I’m not starving at dinner time after a big lunch. And when I eat a small, light dinner, my belly feels lighter, yet satisfied, and I sleep better.
Agni ramps up again between 10pm and 2am. Except at this time of day, the fire is responsible for burning fat, detoxing, fighting pathogens, and other immune boosting functions. If we eat late at night before bed, it much harder on our body to take advantage of this fat burning fire overnight because instead it has to digest all that late night food. For this reason, we want to be finished eating for the day by 7pm.
The other piece of synching up with nature is sleep. Going to bed by 10pm and rising before 6am is how we are designed to work. This way we can take advantage of the biological processes that need to happen overnight, and will have an easier time waking earlier to take advantage of the beautiful day ahead. Ever notice how you get a second wind after 10pm and can stay up a little later? That’s agni (or Pitta energy) firing back up again. If we can be asleep by or before 10, Pitta can do its night time job, but if we are awake, it gradually throws us out of balance. Similarly, Kapha dosha, begins its time of day at 6am. Kapha energy is heavy and slow, so if we are still in bed after 6am, we are fighting that natural energy of rest. However, if we wake BEFORE 6am, the Vata energy of that time of day (2am – 6am) is light, quick, and full of movement – making “waking up” feel more natural, and less of a struggle.
I’ve been experimenting with my schedule for a couple of years now, and slowly but surely, these new adjustments are starting to stick and I really love how it feels! My advice – go SLOW!! Small changes have been shown to stick much better than big overhauls in diet and/or routine. Pick one thing, experiment and have fun with it, and after a while see if it feels good for you!