Since the invention of electricity, humans have moved further and further away from the natural rhythms dictated by sunrise and sunset. The seasons can pass without us really noticing and certainly without major shifts in how we structure our days, nourish ourselves or plan our activities.
A fundamental belief of Ayurvedic medicine is that if we ignore the cyclical rhythms of nature then we slowly create imbalances, that disrupt our doshic balance and, ultimately, cause ill-health.
However, a few simple adjustments can help us find greater synchronicity with the natural world and keep us in balance. Ayurveda believe that different doshas predominate according to seasons, times of day and even life-stage as follows:
|Dosha||Time of Day||Season||Age|
|Vata||0200 – 0600 hrs
1400 – 1800 hrs
|Autumn & Early Winter||55 years & above|
|Pitta||1000 – 1400 hrs
2200 -0200 hrs
|Summer||20 – 55 years|
|Kapha||0600 – 1000 hrs
1800 – 2200 hrs
|Late Winter & Spring||0 – 20 years old|
Waking and Sleeping:
Ayurveda is all about early to bed and early to rise; nowadays we understand the cyclical and diurnal rhythm of cortisol and can see that it is supported by this approach. Ayurveda believe that when we go to bed our sleep quality will be affected by the predominant dosha. After 10pm, Pitta is in charge and so not conducive to restful sleep. How often have you felt tired and nearly falling asleep on the sofa and then you find a “second wind” around 10pm? So getting to bed slightly before should help you get off to sleep more easily. Similarly, the time you wake will be affected by the predominant dosha. Waking during Vata hours is preferable to Kapha, which will set you up for feeling sluggish all day long!
When to eat during the day:
Ayurveda believes that our digestive fire is strongest at the middle of the day – this corresponds with Pitta, which is made up of the fire element! So eating your main meal at lunch makes sense and Ayurveda also recommends eating cold and raw foods at this time of day also, as they are thought to dampen the digestive fire and, consequently, take longer to digest. Similarly, heavier foods, including animal protein should be avoided later in the day. A plant-based evening meal is always recommended for all doshas.
This is actually quite easy to understand – we are often more drawn to eating salads on a hot summer day and drinking cooling liquids. Ayurveda sees this as cooling the “fire” of Pitta, which is dominant during summer. Similarly we rarely feel like eating lots of raw food in the middle of winter and, of course, this is when our digestive fire is at it’s weakest. Kapha is the Dosha of inertia and sluggishness!
Eating for our lifestage
Kapha is the predominant dosha in our early life; the body is forming and growing and actually needs lots of rest, playfulness and nourishing foods to support this process. Kapha foods include milk and creamy substances – baby food!
From early adult years, Pitta is the dominant dosha; the body is at its strongest during this lifestage but with Pitta in charge it is also the time when we can be the most prone to excess in all areas of our lifestyle, including diet. So often this phase will require us to consider moderating our diet. Being careful with spicy food and caffeine. Because there is naturally so much energy during this lifestage, alcohol can really cause imbalances such as aggression and more extreme behaviour, mood swings and even violence.
Vata increases with age – Vata is comprised of air and space; this is exactly what starts to happen as we age. Muscles around joints loosen and decrease in size, our bone density decreases and even our teeth become looser in the gums! So again, Ayurveda has some sensible recommendations including eating more nourishing foods including healthy fats, quality protein and complex carbohydrates. Caffeine is extremely irritating for Vata and oftentimes people will notice that their tolerance of caffeine has decreased as they age (this is most definitely my experience!)
Further Guidance on Eating.
- Finish eating before you feel full so as to allow space for digestion.
- Don’t eat until previous meal has been digested to avoid over-burdening the digestive system which can lead to a build-up of toxins.
- Eat in a calm environment.
- Avoid eating on the move, in front of the television or computer or when upset.
- Avoid drinking cold liquids with meals as this can diminish the digestive fire (as can too much liquid during a meal).