Tick-Tock, Body Clock

The Time It is a-Changin'


Feeling a bit droopy, lately? Eh, Bunky? Finding it hard to get up in the morning and not sleeping like a baby at night? Maybe your appetite is off and you’re lacking energy to make ti through the work day? There could be a lot of reasons why your body is feeling off-kilter. One of the most common at this time of year is the rapid changing of the seasons.

As Mother Earth tilts farther back on her axis, the angle of the sun becomes more extreme as we drop into Fall. Daylight hours are shorter and we’re waking before the sunrise. Atmospheric changes, weather patterns, wildlife and plants, flora and fauna, are all telling us that the times are changing. Don’t think that your body doesn’t notice. Even though seasonal changes happen four times every year, the shift into winter is the most impactful. The body has its own internal clock and it takes more than just changing the batteries to set things right.

Few cultures have a better understanding of how time affects the human condition than the ancient ayurvedic tradition originating from the subcontinent of India thousands of years ago. In fact, the ayurvedic scientists of old, the rishi, had a pretty good handle on everything from atomic physics to sub-molecular biochemistry, cosmology to genetics. It’s just that they didn’t use the same technology that modern science is burdened with. Modern science is encumbered by the need for quantization. The rishis employed observation that bridged the gap between physical and metaphysical. What they came up with is a clear understanding of how the body’s clock interacts with the world of nature.

Ayurveda identifies three primary energies in nature, pitta, vata, and kapha. All existence is made of these three energies — bodies, planets, trees, foods — everything. Related to the body, these energies are called doshas. Balance of the three is crucial to health.

Doshas and Nature We can stay in synch with nature by studying the nature of the doshas.

Pitta is identified with the element fire, referring to anything that has a fiery, hot and high-energy nature. Summer is a pitta season, peppers are a pitta spice and we all know fiery people.

Vata is airy, dry, cool, changeable, mercurial, identified with the element wind. Vata people tend to be thin. Winter is a vata season.

Kapha is heavy energy. Identified with earth, dampness, growing, it is slower moving and deliberate. Spring is typically kapha and kapha people are heavier framed and even-tempered.

Each person has all three of these energies in various amounts at various times. Nothing is entirely one of the three. The parts make up the whole. Balancing these energies conveys health. Harmonizing with the overall expression of these energies keeps us in synch with nature. By observing nature we understand the system. That’s how the rishis did it.

Dincharya is the Daily Cycle In Sanskrit, “following the day” is called dincharya. Energy flow is obvious on a daily cycle. Acting in accordance with these cycles, wear and tear on the body is minimized. Health is optimized.

Each energy dominates certain daily segments. First, the days are divided into the twelve-hour (roughly) daylight and nighttime segments we call phase one and phase two. Within each phase, a pitta, vata and kapha period extends for about four hours then repeats a second time in the second phase.

Nature begins with a kapha stage around sunrise or six a.m. Even animals reflect that. Things grow in the early stages of kapha. It is productive. We should arise daily before the kapha period begins to prepare for the productive time. Notice around sunrise, birds and animals make a racket, are very active. An hour or so later, they are still. Stay in bed past that crucial switch to kapha, we get sleepy again.

By ten a.m. we enter the first pitta stage of the day. It is the “intake” version of pitta. We take in fuel best at this time. It’s a high-energy time when we should eat our main meal of the day, the peak of pitta period. The fiery characteristic helps metabolize food efficiently.

Near two p.m. we enter the first vata period. There is airiness to what we do and get done. This is not the time to be doing the heaviest work of the day but time to restore some of the energy of the day.

Around six p.m., nature enters the second daily kapha period. Our early evening meal should be light for the earth is growing heavy. You can feel it as the earth and animals grow quiet, preparing to rest. We should enter sleep near the end of the heavy period, around 9:30. Remain awake beyond and it is likely that you will catch a “second wind” and then won’t be able to sleep easily until the next period change.

By 10 p.m., the earth enters the second pitta period of the day. It is still high-energy and fiery, but as outflow. As we sleep, our temperature is a little warmer and we are metabolizing waste materials out of the body as the organs and breathing excrete. Being pitta, it is still high-energy but of a different polarity.

By two a.m. we are in vata, the airy time of the night, cooling. Now we dream vividly, our body cools. Nearing the end of this vata period, about five or six a.m., is when we should arise. From about 9:30 p.m. to about 5:30 a.m. we have gotten the sleep we need.

Synch or Sink Technology takes us out of synch with nature. Since seasons are part of pitta, vata and kapha cycles, nature provides foods that help balance the energies. In the hot, dog days of summer ( a pitta season,) nature gives us vata foods like melons and leafy greens to cool us. Fall, and nature proffers potatoes and heavier foods. Winter is the time of stored grains. But technology has disrupted natural food selection. We can deliver foods from around the world at anytime. We are seasonally indiscriminate in our menu selections.

Our undisciplined use of the electric light is probably the greatest obstacle to living in harmony with nature. We stay up later than nature, not because we should, but because we can. Within ayurveda there is clear guidance that can help us live in accordance with nature, which is, after all, mostly just common sense.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.


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