In the modern world, there are plenty of things that drain our energy. We are constantly on the move, we are glued to electronics, and have information overload. We spend less and less time on self-care and the things that give us energy, like freshly prepared meals, moderate exercise, and uplifting company and conversation.
One of the main complaints I hear as a physician is that people are fatigued. And after ruling out medical conditions we look to lifestyle and stress as the root cause. Often the root cause of our exhaustion is overdoing and overthinking. When we stress over things that are happening in our lives, and engage in too much thought, we can actually lose more energy than we do with physical activity.
In Ayurveda, creating energy in the body is a function of agni, or our digestive fire. This includes the digestion of food into nourishment, as well as the digestion of our daily life experiences into nourishing thoughts and emotions.
When our agni is strong, we take everything we ingest, ahara, and create energy. When our agni is weak, we can turn the same things into ama, or toxicity. Ama has the qualities of heaviness and sluggishness and can make us feel fatigued.
How the Doshas Experience Low Energy and Fatigue
There are also imbalances in the doshas that can create fatigue. Each dosha can get out of balance and lead to fatigue. Here’s what this may look like for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vatas enjoy movement and activity, but need to also balance this natural energy with rest. Too much interaction and talking can drain energy. And skipping meals does not give the body the sustenance it needs. Vatas can seem to have a lot of energy for short spurts, but then crash later on to the point where they even are too tired to sleep.
Pittas tend to overdo, whether it’s too vigorous of an exercise regime, too much work, or too much planning and thinking. Pittas may initially get energy and excitement from all their projects, but soon pile too much on their plates. They burn out and their fatigue can also come with irritability.
Kaphas are best at preserving their energy by not overdoing it, however, their inactivity can, at times, be the root cause of fatigue. They can also become complacent and experience the ‘blues’ with their fatigue. Although food gives us energy, with a sluggish digestion, Kaphas need to be careful not to overeat and cause heaviness and fatigue.
7 Tips to Increase or Preserve Your Energy
Here are some tips for creating energy and maintaining the energy you need to thrive every day:
- Wake up early and meditate every morning to tap into your energy stores for the day.
- Do some movement to get the fires burning for the day. If it is cold and heavy outside, as in the winter, consider a few minutes of more vigorous exercise. If you live in a climate that is hot, some more gentle movement may be best.
- Eat for your hunger level in the morning. For a Vata or Pitta, that usually includes a hearty breakfast, but for Kaphas may only include some warm tea or coffee.
- Eat your largest meal in the middle of the day and only eat to your hunger level. This may vary throughout the year, so don’t be attached to eating the same amount, or foods, all year.
- Eat seasonal, fresh foods as much as possible.
- Do some light movement and calming breathing at the end of the day to restore the energy that you used during the day.
- Be asleep by 10:30 to maximize recovery overnight so you feel energized in the morning.
Dosha-specific Energy Boosts
Here are some quick tips for energy boosts for each dosha.
- Spend some time each day in stillness and silence
- Eat regular meals of warm, cooked foods with warming spices like black pepper to kindle your internal digestive fire
- Have an evening ritual that allows you to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Take short breaks between meetings or activities
- Drink CCF tea throughout the day to kindle your inner fire without overheating
- Forego the vigorous workout a few days a week and replace it with restorative yoga, tai chi, or qi gong
- Wake up early, as you will feel more sluggish the later you sleep in
- Drink warm teas throughout the day with spices to keep your digestion and metabolism fired up, like ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and other spices
- Do a little more vigorous exercise than you may feel like doing
Increasing or Preserving Energy During Seasonal Transitions
At certain times of the year, such as winter, we need to give ourselves permission to slow down and re-energize. For all of us, during and towards the end of winter season, we can feel sluggish and tired if we don’t adjust our lifestyle to accommodate for the cooler and shorter days. Just as nature slows down, we can allow ourselves to slow down as well. This time of rest gets us ready for activity when the days get longer. There is, in fact, evidence that our gene expression varies depending on the season.
A study published in 2015 showed that approximately 23% of our genome shows significant seasonal differences providing evidence of unique summer and winter gene expression profiles. The researchers found that there are seasonal variations in our immune system and metabolic systems according to the season, including genes that control energy production, fat metabolism, and insulin resistance. They observed opposite gene expression patterns in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as one population is going through summer and the other through winter. By adjusting our diet and activity, we work with nature as opposed to against it.
During the winter or early spring months consider a light detox to reduce any ama that has accumulated over the cold months. This includes a detox from electronics, processed foods, overstimulating or draining conversations, and any substances such as alcohol or caffeine that you may be overdoing. Instead, favor light, natural foods, do some light reading with heartwarming stories, and talk to people that uplift your spirit. By adjusting your choices, you can ‘lighten up’ and regain access to your energy.
We are all unique individuals and part of our journey toward better health and wellbeing is paying attention to the things that drain us, and the things that fill us up with energy. When we take the time to ask ourselves these important questions, and honor the answers we hear, we can access the abundant energy that is available to us at all times of the year.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.