If you're like me, you get bored very easily. That's why the idea of a routine makes my eyes glaze over. And during this time of social distancing and staying closer to home, a routine feels a lot like Groundhog Day over and over. I like the term "practice" better and if you tune in to your body's circadian rhythm your practice can actually be life changing.
Unfortunately, our modern lives completely take us out of our natural rhythms and can wreak havoc on our body. Anyone who gets up early, works out, gulps down a smoothie, dashes to work (either physically or online), crams down whatever you can grab for lunch, sits for hours at a computer, scrambles to get dinner on the table, plops down on the couch OR goes back to work into the wee hours on the night is a victim to our insane schedules (and that's pretty much everyone I know).
We've gotten so far away from our circadian rhythm that it's no wonder why we can't lose weight, can't sleep, and can't maintain our energy levels.
May I suggest trying for five days to shift your routine/practice/schedule to follow something that looks more like this:
Basically, our circadian rhythm operates on a 24-hour cycle resetting itself every morning when we first experience daylight. The important thing to remember is that your body is preset to follow this rhythm, which directs the body on when to digest food, how to prepare for sleep, and how to regulate everything in your body including blood pressure, metabolism, hormone production, body temperature, and cellular repair. Your body is always trying to coordinate all of its systems on this central clock using available natural light. Because we live in climate controlled environments when light is available to us 24/7, our bodies get confused.
The Ayurvedic Day
In yoga, many practice ayurveda, which is a form of holistic medicine that’s focused on promoting balance between your body and mind. The ayurvedic day looks like this:
6:00 to 10:00 a.m.
Dominated by kapha (kah-fah) energy, which has the qualities we associate with water. This means that the body may be a little bit dull and heavy, prone to retaining water or generating congestion. The mind and body are still waking up with the emergence of daylight, and it needs a jolt of exercise, meditation, and food to synchronize itself with the new day. When balanced with a little bit of exercise and food at this time of the day, the kapha energy stops being dull and instead becomes a steady, calming influence on your morning work.
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Dominated by pitta (pih-tah) energy, which has qualities we associate with fire. During this time of day both the mind and the digestion are going full steam. It’s a good time for your largest meal of the day, and to do your most intense work. Your body doesn’t need exercise at this time of the day because you are already wide awake. Moreover, the body needs to keep the blood flow concentrated around your digestive tract so your body can do the work of converting food into energy.
2:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Dominated by vata (vah-tah) energy, which has qualities we associate with air. It’s a time for quick reflexes and quick thinking. This is also a time of day that leads some people to get distracted or dehydrated. It's a good time to ground yourself with food and exercise earlier in the day, or this lightness will carry you away, making it impossible to concentrate. The body’s natural energy comes in fits and starts in the late afternoon, and you may find that you need more rest between tasks. Stay hydrated and minimize distractions.
6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Energy to switches back to kapha, when the body gets to be a little bit dull and heavy again, preparing for sleep as the sun goes down. Digestion is slowing down by six p.m. so this is the wrong time to overload your body with calories. The mind is moving from a quick and distractible thinking style into something more steady. It's best to eat a very light meal early in this period and spend the rest of the time doing only light work. By the end of this period, you want to be ready for bed.
10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Pitta energy returns and the body is on fire, but in a very different way than it was during the day. Now the brain wants to generate ever deeper sleep cycles in an effort to rest and cleanse itself. While daytime pitta energy focuses on digestion, the nighttime pitta slows the digestive process. Instead, your liver and your adrenal glands go to work. The body is turning that raw nutrition into the hormones and enzymes it needs to function the next day. If you go to sleep early in this cycle, you can get that pitta energy working for your body. But many people stay awake working until midnight or later, and many more people would cure themselves of insomnia (as well as many other health problems) if they would just get to bed by ten thirty. If you do this, your body will thank you in countless ways.
2:00 to 6:00 a.m.
Another vata period where sleep becomes lighter and dreams become more vivid. The body is preparing for the active day cycle. If you’ve ever been awakened in these early hours, you know that you wake up instantly, feeling light-headed instead of groggy. It’s the time of quick reflexes and quick thinking again, and some people have the kind of insomnia where they wake up during this period with racing thoughts. The thing to remember is that it’s easier to wake up in the morning before six a.m. than it is after six a.m., when the kapha energy takes over again.
I have been suffering from bad insomnia, constipation, and general exhaustion. I have tried everything from melatonin to aroma therapy to natural laxatives, and more. Nothing really seemed to work. I discovered this ayurvedic day practice and have been doing it for about five days. I'm sleeping MUCH better and things are moving through me much easier. I might suggest that you pick up the book, Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar. Try it. See if it works for you.
Peace, love & yoga,