I am a morning person. The best part of my day is between 4:30 and 7:30 am. I came to this conclusion yesterday afternoon as I headed home from work. At that time I was drained. I was tired, mentally exhausted, and hungry. I was driving home, aimlessly flipping through the radio stations, wondering what happened to all my energy and enthusiasm. The day had taken its toll on me.
This feeling was in total contrast to how I felt in the morning. There is something special about the morning for me. It is calm, quiet, and the world is just waking up. It is a time where I get to indulge in a personal ritual. I get up, walk the dogs, maybe run a mile or two, meditate, then begin getting ready for work. Actually, this all happens before 7:15. At 7:15, I am in my car heading to work. But this is also an enjoyable time because I get to listen to my favorite podcast as I drive. My positive association with the morning made me reflect on something that I learned years ago when investigating Ayurvedic medicine.
Full disclaimer here, I am not an expert in Ayurveda. I have read a few books and incorporated some of the practices in my life, but definitely not an expert.
In the Ayurvedic tradition, the day is divided into 4-hour blocks related to the various doshas. The doshas are the energetic forces that make up the natural world and are present in our bodies. The time between 6:00 and 10:00 (am and pm) is associated with Kapha. Kapha is predominated by the earth and water elements and governs structure and cohesiveness. The time between 10:00 and 2:00 (am and pm) is associated with Pitta. Pitta is predominated by the fire and water elements, and it governs transformation. The time between 2:00 and 6:00 (am and pm) is associated with Vata. Vata is predominated by the ether and air elements and governs movement and communication. Every day follows this cycle, and because of the changes in the predominate energy forces, different parts of the day are more conducive to different activities.
After a little more exploration I found that the Vata time differs between morning and evening. The California College of Ayurveda says:
The early morning Vata time is not a time of creativity, but rather of receptivity. Yogis discovered long ago that this time of day, when air and ether dominate, is the best time of day for meditation, prayer, chanting and other spiritual practices. By arising prior to 6:00 am, you are able to maximize this experience, spending this peaceful time of day in spiritual pursuits.
In contrast, the Vata cycle from 2:00 to 6:00 pm time marks the transition from day to night.
The naturally light, etheric qualities of this time of day allows creativity and expansive thinking to peak, making it a great time to engage in creative pursuits and problem solving. However, it can also be a time when those of a vata nature may feel agitation, so choose a calm environment in which you can work while minimizing excess sensory input such as bright lights and loud noises. Instead, ground yourself in a peaceful environment, and grab a cup of herbal tea and a warm blanket.
It seems that by the California College of Ayurveda’s description of the dosha cycles, my morning activities are directly in line with the Vata cycle, whereas my evening activities seem to indicate the agitation and sensory overload of a Vata imbalance. Vata imbalances may be a hard concept for some to grasp. But if you look at the symptoms as described by the Chopra Center, it may sound more familiar.
If excessive stress in your life leads to your Vata force becoming imbalanced, your activity will start to feel out of control. Your mind may race, contributing to anxiety and insomnia. You may start skipping meals, resulting in unintended weight loss, and your digestion may become irregular.
If anxiety and irritability are symptoms of Vata imbalance, count me in on that one.
Likewise, the Chopra Center has some basic recommendations on how to balance Vata when things become unbalanced.
If you notice these early symptoms of a Vata imbalance, slow down, take time to meditate, don’t skip meals, and get to bed earlier. A regular lifestyle routine helps ground Vata so you’re not carried away into the ethers. . . . To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life.
Whether you call it stress, Vata imbalance, or just plain irritability, it makes sense to slow down and pay attention to what your body is telling you. The concepts highlighted in the Ayurvedic tradition help frame up our daily existence and recognize that we are fluid and influenced beings. The structure of our days and the things that we surround ourselves with make an impact on our bodies and minds.
In Ayurveda, perfect health is defined as “a balance between body, mind, spirit, and social wellbeing.” In fact, the twin concepts of balance and connectedness echo throughout Ayurvedic texts, thought, and practice.