Hello, and a warm welcome to day one of my 30 Days of Ayurveda series, beginning with covering Rhythm and Routine! Throughout these blogs and videos, I will be sharing some upbeat thoughts and wellness tips, as well as some Ayurvedic tricks and food recommendations to help you lead a balanced life.
Rhythm and Routine
As Covid-19 and its subsequent lockdown continue to disrupt our once established routines, now is the perfect time to talk about the natural rhythm, harmony, and routine of the body. If you don’t like reading watch this video where I share what is written below.
In Ayurevda, we have a tradition called Dinacharya. The Sanskrit term for daily routine, it is a powerful tool for improving overall health and well-being. We will regularly practice specific activities at certain times of the day to establish rhythm, something we human really thrive on.
The first thing we consider is the time of day that we wake up. Classically speaking, Ayurveda texts talks of Brahma muhurta, a period one and a half hours before sunrise and the ideal time to wake up. However, in the twenty-first century, this many not necessarily be the best time for everyone. Our genetics have since evolved, becoming a mishmash from various countries, each with a different time zone. As a result, our bodies are genetically used to different sleep cycles for some generations preceding us.
Geography and Sleep Patterns
Another factor that may affect our sleep cycles is our geography. In the UK, where I live, there is a huge fluctuation in daylight from winter through to summer. However, the months of April through June are a fantastic time to establish a balanced sleep cycle; with sunrise and sunset at roughly 5am and 9pm respectably, it is the perfect to time to experiment and discover your natural biological sleep/wake cycle time.
So, how can you establish a balanced sleep cycle?
First, let’s take a look at what actually happens to our body during a good night’s sleep. Assuming you went to bed at a reasonable time, melatonin begins to rise as we go up into the middle of the night. It then starts to come down as we approach morning, where cortisol starts to rise. Therefore, waking up daily at roughly the same time tunes into and encourages our natural cortisol/melatonin cycles, bringing with it a lot of mental and physical wellbeing.
As dawn arrives and sunlight hits the photosensitive cells in the eyes, it sends a signal that it’s time to wake up. (This is assuming you’re not sleeping in a blackout room, which I wouldn’t recommend; it’s good to have a little bit of light coming through.) While this may get a bit more complicated in the UK as we move into our summer months, for now, this is the ideal time to work with your natural biological sleep.
During lockdown, a lot of life pressures have increased, while others have decreased. One of the big changes is the expectation we have over timings. Whereas before we would rush out of the house early doors for the school run or the work commute, nowadays time stretches out ahead of us as we spend the day at home. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s best for us as individuals to be sleeping in a long time.
Optimum Wake Up Time
Some people may already have an idea their optimum wake up time. This is when you wake up, get up, and feel good, with plenty of energy ready for the day.
However, some people may have no idea of their optimum time. In this scenario, you’re just getting up without necessarily feeling yourself or feeling that bright. Therefore, if you’re waking up post 8.30am (which is a little late), I would suggest that you start to bring that back a bit. Take it a half hour to an hour at a time, maybe to 8am or 7.30am; slowly, slowly, until you reach the point when you feel like you have more energy later in the day.
Many people naturally wake up at a certain time. For me, at the minute, it is 6am, sometimes earlier. There is this moment when you wake up, a split second that you should be grabbing onto and jumping out of bed. However, what often happens is, in that split second, you pull up your duvet, snuggle into the sheets, and sleep for another hour! It may feel good at the time, but you then wake up feeling sluggish afterwards.
In Ayurveda, we see this as suboptimal. Sleeping in often creates more mucus (or Kapha, as we call it) on the chest. Therefore, to keep the digestive system in tract (as this is all hormonally related), we need to harness this good energy and get up with that spark as soon as we feel it.
If you’re finding it a challenge to push back your wake-up time, I would recommend using an alarm clock. Even though you don’t necessarily need it for work, use it to experiment and discover the best time for you to wake up is. Find what feels optimal, and then stick with that to make it the first point of your routine. As for me, my current optimal time is 6.03am!
Over the next 30 days, I will be sharing lots of tips and tricks to help you build some great Ayurvedic routines. Hopefully, they will soon be imbedded in your life and you can progress with them. Be sure to let me know how you’re getting on, and why not share your optimal wake-up time? Find me on Instagram @anneheigham and YouTube.