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The Yoga of Time

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Part of staying healthy and cultivating resilience is learning to align with Natural rhythms. Productivity hacks teach this when they support us in finding out when we're most focused, for example, and then using those hours to take care of the important tasks.

Ayurveda offers a good starting point for this inquiry into the energetics of time. Every individual is unique, but there are some good general guidelines we can use to take advantage of energy cycles within the day, year and lifespan to support the body and its many functions.

The Ayurvedic approach uses the five great elements: Space,/Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, and their qualities to understand natural cycles. These elements are considered the building blocks of everything in the manifest world. Our preferences are influenced by our personal constitution, a specific ratio of elements and qualities we call doshas.

Here's an image of the Ayurvedic clock, where the elements are correlated to the seasons and the day. In the center of the clock, the three doshas and their main elements are listed. While everything in the manifest world is made of all 5 elements, a few of them generally predominate at any given time, or in any given thing.

Regularity in daily rhythm (varying with the seasons and through our life stages, and to a smaller extent between constitutional types) is foundational to a well functioning body and mind according to Ayurveda. This regularity has a very relaxing and grounding effect on the body and mind, increasing a felt sense of ease and stability. Have you noticed this? Or it's opposite? Research into circadian rhythms (the rhythms connected to the sun) have born out this out. In fact, one theory suggests we have"clock genes" in every cell, and that syncing up these "clocks" is important for healthy bodily function and mood.

The central "clocks" are in the gut and brain, and when these are disconnected, like when we are eating at a time when the body wants to be sleeping, our organism shows markers that lead towards disease. When we live into a more regular rhythm, all functions of the body from sleep, to digestion, to metabolism to monthly cycle and mood improve. Each rhythm supports all the other rhythms, like regular sleep, supports daily elimination.

Using the framework of the Ayurvedic clock, we can align sleep, wake, meals (and other activities) to elemental prominence, taking advantage of the qualities that are strong at particular times of day (year, lifespan), to support what we're trying to do (wake up, digest a meal, build muscle, relax our mind). There are better and worse times to do certain activities.

An example is the recommendation to go to bed by 10 pm. This practice takes advantage of the heavy, dense qualities of prominent earth element between 6 and 10 pm, and also avoids the more stimulating fire energy that comes online again around 10 pm. The exact time will vary for an individual and with the seasons. It used to be around 10:30 pm for me personally, and is now closer to 9:30pm. When I am in bed lights off by 9:30pm or earlier, I tend to fall asleep easily. When I stay up past then, no matter how tired I feel, it takes me longer, and sometimes quite a long time to fall asleep.

Most of us over ride our bodily signals, not even noticing the first sign of fatigue (or hunger, or thirst, or needing to pee or...) but we can train ourselves to pay attention to this fatigue, and go with the energy, rather than ramping up. We all know that turning down lights, turning off screens, and making the evening more chill allows for an easier transition to sleep.

This week, I'd like to leave you with one inquiry. Notice when you begin to feel heavy, slow and tired in the evenings (how soon does this come on after sun set?) Turn lights down at this time, and finish up with screen time earlier. Complete your evening hygiene, so you can get into bed and prepare for a good night's rest.

You might already be an early to bed type, and reaping the rewards of good, sustained sleep. If so, this week's inquiry may be more of a refinement for you. Next week, I'll bring in a new aspect of working with natural rhythms using the Ayurvedic clock.

Here's to aligning with Natural rhythms and body wisdom.




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