Take 3 slow, deep breaths. Did you do it?
Deep Breathing or pranayama as it’s known in Sanskrit is just one principle used for self-care in the ancient teachings of Ayurveda. It is so rudimentary and yet too often forgotten in a culture that favours speed, productivity, deadlines, competition, and so on. “Time is money.” “Burning the midnight oil.” “Keeping up with the Joneses”. There’s one big problem with this mindset, though: it is burning us out and throwing us way off our rhythms. Enter the wisdom of Ayurveda!
After reading this post, you will have acquired knowledge on the theory of this ancient holistic health system and will leave with some practical tools you can apply to have more ease and harmony every day.
A Brief History
Ayurveda is the 5000 year-old medical system out of India that seeks to create ease and harmony in your life by aligning your internal nature with the external nature and connecting the mind and body. It is known as the “sister science” to our beloved yoga. “Ayur” means life and “Veda” means knowledge. Early this year, I had the privilege of travelling to India to immerse myself in the ayurvedic culture and I was blessed to witness the omnipresence of joy, peace, and love. How they take care of their health and wellbeing….let’s just say we have a thing or two to learn! And learn we shall!
In nature, as you know there are 5 elements- earth, wind, air, fire, and water. As we are not separate from nature, our bodies also have these same properties. According to Ayurveda, everyone is born with a custom expression of these elements known as a prakriti.
Prakriti is further broken down into constitutions or doshas. There are 3 main types: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Most of us are dominant in just one dosha although we have all 3 within us. Knowing and understanding your dosha will help you achieve vibrant health and longevity by strengthening the body/mind connection.
If you’re a Curious Cathy or Colin and you’d like to know what your dosha is, click here to take the quiz.
Now, for the Doshas…
Kapha means earth and water; it governs the structure of the body.
Pitta means fire and water; it governs metabolism.
And, finally, Vata is expressed as air and wind; it is responsible for motion.
The doshas also operate in the 24-hour cycle.
Between 6-10 our bodies are moving more slowly, either waking up or winding down- this is Kapha time.
Between 10-2, we are at our most productive and our digestive fire is also at its strongest- this is Pitta time.
Between 2-6, we are at our most creative- this is Vata time.
A larger expression of Ayurveda is within the seasons: Kapha is from mid February to Mid June- it is cool and wet out; Pitta is from Mid June to Mid October where it is hot and/or humid. Vata is from mid October to mid February. It is dry and cold out.
Are you starting to see a pattern here?
The doshas are finally expressed in life’s stages: we are born into the Kapha phase as plump little grapes whose only mandate is survival, then we move into the Pitta phase of life in our early to mid adulthood: we are buying houses, climbing the ladder, starting families, then it is the Vata phase where self-reflection abounds and some of our most creative work is done!
Applying the wisdom of Ayurveda
Now that you have a basic understanding of how the system works, you can begin to take advantage of its healing powers. You see, there is a certain rhythm to life and the more we honour this rhythm, the more ease we have, the longer we live. To help you apply this system to your lives on a daily basis, allow me to outline a few tips in the context of a 24-hour day:
Upon rising, ideally at 6am, you are in the Kapha phase which means slower movement.
To gracefully wake the body up, begin with 5 slow deep breaths- after all, new life begins with breath.
Set an intention for the day in meditation or mantra. An example of a mantra might be “I will be unstoppable today”. Having a daily mantra is akin to having a tour guide in a foreign country.
Next, have a glass of warm lemon water to flush out the toxins that have settled over night.
Then begin a short movement practice to keep moving the sludge out and to work out any stiffness.
Have a MEDIUM-sized, protein rich breakfast such as warm steel cut oats with cinnamon or multigrain toast with an egg and avocado slices.
Between the hours of 10-2, your metabolic Pitta phase, get some exercise, get the hardest tasks done, and eat your LARGEST meal of the day at high noon as this is when digestion is at its peak. A nourishing whole-food plant-based Buddha bowl with lots’ of cooked veggies is an idea.
In the Vata phase of 2-6, take the time to read and create. This is a time when our brains are most active and ideas can flow freely.
From 6-10pm- back into the Kapha phase- have your SMALLEST meal of the day (a hearty soup and salad for example) because digestion is slowing down and a large meal is not properly broken down.
Turn off overhead lights in favour of head level lighting as well as screens- they tend to invigorate our adrenaline and cortisol levels, keeping us ‘artificially awake’.This is your time to reflect on the rhythm of your day. Start heading to bed around 9:30 so that you are ready to sleep by 10pm.
Back to the Pitta phase between 10pm-2am, it is vital that we are asleep as our bodies tend to get a second wind after the 10pm mark, impacting their ability to release the sleep hormone melatonin which happens around midnight.
Between the hours of 2am-6am, Vata phase once again, we are in full, imaginative dream mode and can sometimes be awakened with an excellent idea, rendering us incapable of getting back to sleep.
Ensure your sleep environment is not cluttered with work or televisions, computers, tablets, or smart phones as the frequencies from these are disruptive to rest and revitalization.
And…we’ve arrived back at 6am!
To wrap this all up
Take another deep breath. The more we are able to attune our internal body rhythms to that of our external environment the more we create harmony. We were meant to enjoy a long, purposeful life of giving to ourselves through self-care and further giving the best of ourselves to others. This is the intention of the ancient healing system of Ayurveda.
Yours in self-care,