Making Sleep Count

According to Ayurveda, a large percentage of our health can be won or lost in how we live our day-to-day life. It is our patterns of eating, sleeping, exercise and what we do daily to rejuvenate ourselves that can determine whether we stay healthy throughout our lifetime.

Ayurveda recognizes the importance of our relationship with the universe around us: if we live in accord with the laws of nature that structure our environment, we can keep our mind/body system functioning efficiently with the least amount of wear and tear.

One key element in living in tune with our environment is when we go to bed and when we get up in the morning. There is a saying, “The day begins the night before.” Only by going to be early in the evening can the next day’s activity be fully in accord with the rhythms of nature.

When we are in bed by 10 P.M. we gain the deepest level of healing and rejuvenation from our sleep. This is because during the 4 hours before 10 P.M., kapha dosha is increasing in nature. This enlivens the qualities of heaviness and dullness in our mind and body and allows us to fall asleep more quickly and to experience deeper, less interrupted sleep.

sleeping_woman-at-a-hotelAfter 10 P.M., pitta dosha starts to become enlivened. Pitta is involved in metabolic cleaning. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that the physiology can focus its intelligence and energy on metabolic cleansing and rejuvenation. When we stay up past 10 P.M., many people experience a “second wind”. Instead of being directed internally, pitta creates an increase in energy, creativity and, too often, hunger. This accounts for the infamous scourge of midnight snacking. While many busy adults feel that they are grabbing valuable “me” time in the late hours of the night, they are, in fact, robbing themselves of a valuable opportunity to heal and rejuvenate. In the long run, night owls may find themselves with deep-seated imbalances and ill health.

Ayurveda recommends that one wake up before 6 A.M. Since it is ideal not to be startled awake by alarms, the best way to spontaneously get up early—and feel rested— is to go to bed early.

The period before 6 A.M. is the time when all of nature is waking up. At this time vata dosha is most lively in the environment. Starting the day during vata time means our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced vata throughout the day— increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

The longer we sleep past 6 A.M. the more we are asleep while kapha is dominating the environment. If we sleep in until 7:30, for example, we are lying dull and dormant for 1 and 1/2 hours of kapha time and we will wake up imbibed with those same qualities.

This simple adjustment in routine can make a huge impact on our health. If you are in need of extra “me” time, better to go to bed on time and wake up an hour earlier in the morning.

( Picture of woman sleeping. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules: This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Ayurveda Tips for Exercising in the Fall and Winter

nordic-skiingDuring the fall and early winter vata increases in our environment and within our own physiologies. Pacifying vata during this time is important for all body types because vata dosha can significantly affect both kapha and pitta doshas. Because one of the qualities of vata is movement, vata can move out of position, or out of balance, very quickly. Vata is usually the first dosha to become imbalanced. Vata imbalances are the most common causes of chronic disorders. If you are vata by nature or are prone to vata disturbances such insomnia, constipation, dry skin, and excess worry or anxiety, this is the season to be extra alert to activities, foods and other influences that increase vata.

Exercise is important and so is a winter exercise plan. Exercise affects bone density, muscle mass, aerobic capacity, strength and other key biomarkers of aging. According to the Charaka Samhita, the oldest, most complete and authoritative writing on Ayurveda, “From physical exercise, one gets lightness, a capacity for work, firmness, tolerance of difficulties, elimination of impurities, and stimulation of digestion.” It is important for all of us to stay active during the winter months.

Strenuous exercise, however, can increase the principle of vata in the body. While exercise such as jogging is generally fine for pitta and kapha types, vata types may suffer from the impact of such rigorous sports. A brisk walk is a better option. Cycling, cross-country or elliptical machines probably provide the best inside exercise. They give a good aerobic workout without harmful impact, and they work both the upper and lower body.

Combine cardio exercises with stretching exercises such as Yoga and Pilates, which are grounding and help develop strength and balance. Remember, qualities of vata include the words “irregular”, “moving”, “quick”, and “changeable”. Jumpy and erratic exercises, such as aerobic workouts, will increase these qualities in your physiology.

Avoid strain. Exercise should be joyful and make you feel energized. If you are feeling grumpy or tired after exercise, you need to ease up on the intensity.

The ideal time to exercise is after sunrise in the morning, when kapha dosha is lively.

If you do decide to exercise outside during the colder months, be sure to cover your head and ears and to stay protected from the wind and cold.

When you hydrate while exercising, always opt for warm or hot water. Carry a small thermos with you so that you do not have to drink cold water.

During this time of the year, healthy oils are your friends. Ghee, butter and olive oil help counter the drying effects of vata. Nuts are wonderful vata-pacifiers. Enjoy warm, heavy soups and stews. Avoid dry foods such as rice-cakes and cold cereals. Cooking oatmeal with apples and raisins is a wonderful and nourishing way to start the day.

The transitions from season to season put an extra strain on the body. This is the ideal time to visit an Ayurveda expert and get input regarding what your body needs to maintain balance and how best to address symptoms of imbalance.

The quality of vata which allows it to move easily out of position also allows it to move easily back into position. For this reason it is much better to address vata imbalances in their infancy, before they have gone on to influence pitta and kapha doshas—doshas whose imbalances are more difficult to correct.

For more information on consultations with Ayurveda experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:




( Picture of a woman skiing. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules: This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Are Night Owls Lazy Owls While Early Birds Stay in Shape?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to a new study from the Academy of Sleep Medicine, night owls tend to be more sedentary and feel that they have a harder time maintaining an exercise schedule.

“We found that even among healthy, active individuals, sleep timing and circadian preference are related to activity patterns and attitudes toward physical activity,” said lead researcher Kelly Glazer Baron, associate professor of neurology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Waking up late and being an evening person were related to more time spent sitting (particularly on weekends) and with difficulty making time to exercise… Even among those who were able to exercise, waking up late made it perceived as more difficult.”

To anyone who knows about Ayurveda, this makes total sense. From an Ayurveda perspective, sleeping into the Kapha time of the day allows the heavy, slow, lethargic qualities of kapha to influence our mind/body system. Let’s examine the mechanics of this phenomenon.Alarm_Clocks_20101107a

According to Ayurveda there are three time periods in every twelve hours: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The Vata dominated period is from 2 until 6, the Kapha from 6 to 10, and the Pitta from 10 to 2. The cycle repeats itself in the next twelve hours, so that there are two Vata times, two Kapha times, and two Pitta times each day, one during the daytime and one during the nighttime.

Quickly reviewing the qualities of the doshas:

Vata dosha is a combination of air and space. Vata’s qualities are light, mobile, dry, cold, erratic and subtle.

The Pitta dosha is comprised of fire and water. Pitta’s qualities are hot, sharp, light, and intense.

The Kapha dosha is comprised of earth and water. Kapha is heavy, steady, dull, stable, soft, and static.

We know that the doshas exist not only within our bodies but throughout all the world around us. Our bodies experience increased balance and ease of functioning when we follow a daily routine that is in tune with the natural rhythms of the day.

To stay in sync with the cycles of nature, we should go to bed before 10:00 so that we take advantage of the slow, stable and heavy quality of Kapha time, which is ideal for falling asleep. Following the same reasoning, we want to rise before or near to 6:00 am, taking advantage of the light, energetic quality of Vata time. If we extend our sleep into Kapha time, we bring that heavy, dull quality of Kapha into our waking hours. Sleeping as late as 8:00 or 9:00 am can make us feel sluggish —and it makes sense that exercise would be perceived as uninviting.

As we discussed in last week’s blog, increasing the influence of Kapha, especially during the spring and summer, can lead to an accumulation of ama throughout the body. If you are find that you have gotten into bad habits in terms of bedtimes and rising times, and notice any increasingly sedentary habits, it’s time to take steps to reset your daily routine before serious imbalances develop.

For tips on resetting your sleep schedule, visit our February post, Time to Wake Up.

For information on consulting an Ayurveda expert or information on the balancing and detoxifying treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center.



( Picture of sleepy owl. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules: This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

( Picture of alarm clock. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules: This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Time to Wake Up!

sunrise-226699_640With the onset of the kapha time of the year (the cold, rainy, and damp days of late winter and early spring) it is important to get in the habit of rising early in the morning. During vata season (late fall through early winter) we can get away with sleeping into the kapha time of the day. Vata has been increasing in our mind/body system and a little kapha influence can be grounding. But when we move into kapha season, hitting the snooze button can create imbalances that could open the door to spring allergies and colds.

Most of us already know the basic  24-hour cycle of vata, pitta and kapha. Every day there are two cycles of change, one from 6.a.m. to 6.p.m. and the other from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Within each 12- hour cycle there are three 4-hour periods that are dominated by one of the three doshas; vata, pitta or kapha.

Cycle 1

6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. is kapha time

10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. is pitta time

2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. is vata time

Cycle 2

6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. is kapha time

10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. is pitta time

2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. is vata time

As kapha season progresses you’ll notice that the sun starts to rise earlier and earlier. That makes it important to go to bed earlier at night so that you are falling asleep in the drowsy, heavy time in the evening, before 10:00 p.m.

While the evening kapha cycle is perfect for heading to bed—and falling asleep—the morning kapha cycle is not a good time for sleeping in. If you sleep too long into this time period your mind/body system gets suffused with the dull, slow, heavy qualities of kapha. You’ll find that you feel dull and tired throughout the day. This habit also results in a build-up of impurities (ama), which predisposes you to allergies and congestion. This is influence is magnified during the cold, wet, kapha season.

On the other hand, if you wake up at 6:00 am (or before) you will feel more vata qualities (energy, vitality and alertness) throughout the day.

Begin by adjusting both your bedtime and rising time 15 minutes every week. If you are an extreme night owl, start with going to bed one half-hour earlier. Remember the adage, “the day begins the night before”.

Even if you miss your bedtime target, maintain your new rising time faithfully. Use an alarm clock if necessary.

Continue this plan until you get in the habit of rising at 6 or 6:30. After a few weeks of rising at this early hour you will start becoming attuned to the cycles of nature and may find yourself yawning and thinking fondly of heading to bed at the proper time (during the kapha cycle of the evening). When we can attune our physiologies to nature’s rhythms we will fall asleep more easily, rest more deeply, wake up feeling light and refreshed, and enjoy energy and well being throughout the day.

The classical texts of Ayurveda suggest that the transition from vata season to kapha season is the ideal time to visit an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Panchakarma (Ayurveda detoxification and rejuvenation treatments). For more information visit The Raj website: