Nature and doshas

The ancient Indian medical system known as 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 doshas is crucial to health.

We can stay in sync with nature by studying the nature of the doshas.

Pitta relates to the element fire, 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 the expression of these energies keeps us in sync with nature. Observing nature we understand the system.

The daily cycle: dincharya 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 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. Mid-pitta is the best time to take in fuel, when we should eat our main meal of the day. 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. (Observe siesta time in some cultures.)

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 high-energy and fiery, but now as outflow. As we sleep, our temperature is a little warmer and we metabolize 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.

Even though we describe the day in terms of hours, the dincharya cycle is not based on arbitrary time but on nature. When we mess with that cycle by moving time and our response to it around, our bodies are impacted.

Technology de-syncs us. 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 any time. 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.

Ayurveda teaches clear guidance that can help us live in accordance with nature.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for past articles.

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