- Clear away brain fog
- Ignite your digestive fire
- Rev up your energy
For the Ask Dr. Sheila column, Dr. Sheila Patel, Chopra’s Chief Medical Officer, answers questions from our community. If you have a general question for Sheila around health and wellness, please send an email to email@example.com, and your question may be the one she answers next.
In this article, Dr. Sheila answers a question about how to determine the best daily routine for your dosha, or mind-body type, according to Ayurveda.
I often get questions about what is best for each dosha, from food to activity to daily routine. As we are all unique individuals, the ideal practices and routine will vary according to dosha and our individual life circumstances.
That being said, there are several things that are good for all of us to consider when it comes to our daily routine. Ayurveda gives us the foundation to understand how to set up a daily routine. Ayurveda recognized thousands of years ago that our physiology is intimately connected to the time of day and that the time in which an action or activity is performed has significance.
We can look to the teachings of Ayurveda and its understanding of nature’s elements to guide our daily activities and routines. The term used for a daily routine is dinacharya, literally: Dina- meaning ‘day’ and acharya – meaning ‘activity.’
First, let’s explore the qualities of various times of the day, also known as the Ayurvedic clock. The qualities expressed in nature, as well as in everyone’s physiology, correlate to the qualities of the doshas during different parts of the day. When we align our daily routine to balance and coincide with what’s happening within us and outside of us, we experience the best health.
The Ayurvedic Clock
Let’s look at Ayurveda’s daily rhythms:
- Kapha time is the time between 6:00-10:00, both am and pm. This is the time when there are more of the qualities of earth and water: slowness, coolness, and calm, both in nature and in our physiology.
- Pitta time is the time between 10:00-2:00, am and pm. This is the time when we experience the qualities of fire and water both in nature and our own physiology: heat, metabolism, focus.
- Vata time is the time between 2:00-6:00, am and pm. This is a time when there are more of the qualities of space and air – lightness, dryness, cold, movement.
Recognizing that morning, from 6:00-10:00am, is Kapha time, we can all benefit by maintaining routines that help us easily awaken and get our energy and circulation flowing to begin our day. When we do this, our body and mind are ready to experience and fully metabolize the day’s experiences.
An ideal morning routine for everyone includes practices that optimize our metabolism for the rest of the day and help to balance the heavy Kapha energy that we may be feeling in the morning. This is especially important if one of your primary doshas is Kapha, or if your Kapha is out of balance.
Here are general principles for a good daily routine:
- Awaken just before, or close to, 6 am before we go further into Kapha time, where we may not feel as alert.
- Meditate first thing in the morning to awaken and clear the mind. A morning meditation is good for all the doshas.
- Adding in some breathwork also gets the energy flowing through the body and gets us ready for the day. If you wake up sluggish, some energizing breathwork is helpful. If you notice you wake with a lot of energy, as can happen with Vatas and Pittas, then start with some relaxing breathwork to get calm and grounded for the day.
- Continue your daily routine with oil pulling and tongue cleaning in addition to your brushing and flossing routine. By swishing oil in your mouth, and cleaning your tongue, you cleanse the tongue and mouth and enliven the digestion for the day.
- Vatas and Kaphas may choose a warming oil such as sesame oil for oil pulling, while Pittas may choose coconut oil for it’s more cooling qualities.
- Clearing and cleansing the nasal passages with a neti nasal rinse optimizes your breathing for the day. It also awakens the mind as the energy gets flowing in the head and neck.
- Drinking warm water or tea in the morning will start to ignite your digestive fire and get movement going in the digestive tract for healthy bowel functioning. For Vatas and Kaphas, some lemon and slices of ginger in the water add extra support for the digestive fire.
- Movement first thing in the morning, whether it is a walk outside for Pittas and Vatas or some invigorating yoga for Kaphas, will give you energy to start the day.
Where the early morning is Kapha time, the late morning and early afternoon is Pitta time, which is from 10:00-2:00pm, when the sun is highest in the sky and also when our digestive fire is the strongest. We then enter Vata time from 2:00-6:00pm. No matter what our primary dosha, or prakruti, if our day has been busy, we may notice an excess of energy and stress in the body.
A good afternoon routine would be:
- For all doshas, eat your largest meal of the day at lunchtime. In fact, studies validate this practice, as we most efficiently secrete acids and enzymes to digest our food more optimally. We are active so we are metabolizing the food we eat into energy.
- Do your most focused work during Pitta time, as the mind is sharp and focused during this time.
- As we enter Vata time around 2:00, it can help to reset with 5 minutes of slow deep breathing or a little stretching to stay calm and focused for the rest of the day.
- As Vata energy builds over the late afternoon, the body may feel a need to move, especially if your primary dosha is Vata, so a short walk can also help. In addition, we may find our minds are most creative during this Vata time and we can schedule time during the later afternoon for creative endeavors.
- After a busy day of Pitta and Vata activity and movement, a meditation at the end of the day will ‘turn off’ the stress response that has been activated during the day’s activities and will calm the system down as we enter the evening.
- End the day with a relaxing meditation to transition from activity to rest. We signal the system that the day is done and we can begin to slow down.
We have used the energy of Pitta and Vata during the day to maximize our daily activity and are now ready to move into a restful evening.
One of the most important aspects to good health is getting natural, restorative sleep. Our modern lives keep us in a state of activity, therefore it is important for all of us to have an evening routine that sets us up for restful and rejuvenative sleep.
In the Ayurvedic clock, from 6:00-10:00pm we are in Kapha time. The day is ending and the sun is setting. It is getting darker so we can transition to sleep.
After a calming meditation at the end of the day, there are other Ayurvedic practices that support the physiology to slow down and be ready to fall asleep by 10:00. Kaphas usually don’t have trouble sleeping, but if you are not sleeping by 10:00-10:30, you may notice a ‘second wind’ as the fire of Pitta time lights up after 10:00, especially if you are a Pitta. You may feel tempted to answer emails, eat, or do some work, and then find it hard to get to sleep. Therefore, it is best to utilize the Kapha energy of the late evening to align with our natural desire to sleep by 10:00. Even if you are a good sleeper, you will get the deepest and most rejuvenative sleep with a good evening routine.
Set yourself up for a good night’s sleep with the following routine:
- Begin to dim the lights about 2 hours before bed to encourage natural melatonin production. The brighter lights suppress our natural melatonin and we may find it harder to fall asleep. When we dim the lights, we are letting the body know that it is night.
- If you are on your computer in the evening, you should also consider glasses that filter out blue light, as this can interfere with natural melatonin production.
- Also be aware of the sounds around you in the evening. It is best to avoid loud noise, such as a blaring TV.
- Limit the activating conversation if you notice that interferes with your sleep.
- Using sound as a balancing tool, you can play some soft music to relax instead, or try silence in the evening to limit stimulation of the nervous system.
- Use the power of touch to help us sleep. Especially for Vatas, who naturally have the hardest time settling down to sleep, a self-massage with oil can be very calming and grounding and facilitate falling asleep. Pittas may also benefit from this practice with a cooling oil, such as coconut oil, massaged into the feet and onto the scalp. This cools and calms Pitta’s focused mind.
- Prepare for bed by using aromatherapy which can help us relax and fall asleep. Vatas and Pittas may especially benefit by having a lavender oil diffuser at the bedside, as lavender is particularly calming and soothing,
- Lastly, you can lay in bed and focus on your breath. By doing this, you calm the nervous system and give the final signal to the body and mind that it is time to sleep.
If you’re a Vata, you may find your mind is still quite active from the day.
Pitta mind may still be analyzing the day and reviewing conversations that occurred.
For all doshas, we may still feel the Vata and Pitta energy that accumulated throughout the day so journaling in the evening can help us to let go of the day.
Reflect on Your Daily Routines
I invite you to take time each day to stop and connect to nature’s rhythms.
Reflect on what is happening outside in nature and how nature is reflected within you. Ask yourself how you feel when you are not aligned with these rhythms.
When our daily rhythm is in harmony with nature’s rhythms, we experience our best health and well-being.
Choose the practices that work best for you, and make it a routine. Enjoy your daily routines by remembering that it connects you to nature’s rhythms and feel the difference this makes in your life.