It's Not You, It's Your Schedule

Seriously, it's not your fault...completely.

In his book, "Change Your Schedule Change Your Life", Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar MD (world-renowned Ayurvedic physician and educator) talks about what modern science and chronobiology-based researchers are just now reinforcing, but what Ayurveda has been practicing and teaching for about 5000 years.

One of the main principles he shares is how Ayurveda sees when we do what we do as JUST (if not more) important as what we do.

Have you heard about CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS?

Surprisingly enough, many people have not. After years of teaching yoga and multiple yoga teacher trainings, I still had very little knowledge around Ayurveda - yoga's 5000-year-old sister science and body wisdom tradition.

Ayurveda is not JUST “alternative medicine". Instead, it encompasses a persons evolution in every dimension: physical, mental and spiritual. Ayurveda is sometimes referred to as the original lifestyle medicine. Literally translating to the "science of life", it is the precursor to all the other healing traditions, including Chinese medicine. Even the Greeks read the Ayurvedic texts and gleaned some of the wisdom to inform their own ideas about how the body works.

However, few other natural healing traditions explore the effects of natural light on the body. This is where Ayurveda stands alone in explaining that the body's systems operate on a daily cycle.

Physiologists know that the body has a natural rhythm- called circadian rhythm - that operates on a twenty-four-hour cycle, resetting itself every morning when you first experience daylight. As Dr. Kshirsagar states in his book, this rhythm directs the body on when to digest food, how to prepare for sleep, and how to regulate everything in your body including blood pressure, metabolism, hormone production, body temperature and cellular repair. Your skin cells also repair and regenerate on a daily schedule. Even the population of microbes in your intestinal tract changes throughout the course of a single day.

Your body changes its function every hour of the day. Depending on the time of day or night, your cells and systems are primed to do different things. For example we typically hit our deepest sleep cycle around 2 am, the body’s temperature is its lowest around 4 am. Your sharpest rise in blood pressure is around 6 -7 am. This is also when blood platelets are stickiest which explains why heart attacks are more common in the early hours. The first thing in the morning is also when the colon wakes and moves 3x its normal level of activity, which is why 7 -8 am is a common time for a bowel movement. Ever been constipated while in the midst of jet lag? An irregular eating schedule can also confuse the colon. Nobody wants a confused colon :(

By ten in the morning, your mental alertness peaks, and your digestion is operating most efficiently by noon. After 2pm your digestion slows down but your coordination, reaction time and cardiovascular strength begins to peak. After sunset, your digestion is gearing down dramatically and your blood pressure hits it’s highest levels, as does your body’s temperature. Around 9 pm your brain starts to release melatonin, and your digestion is moving at a turtle’s pace. By 10:30 pm your bowel movements are suppressed and digestion is fast asleep.

We all know what it feels like to eat a late dinner and wake up feeling as though your food from last night is STILL in your belly. That’s because it is…because your digestion was literally “off the clock” all night.

Long story short, what researchers are now studying, and what Ayurveda has known forever, is how our daily habits interact with this circadian rhythm and how our modern schedules profoundly disrupt it. When we stay up late watching Netflix, looking at iPhones or catching up on work, we're fooling our bodies into thinking that night has not started yet. When we eat a big meal later in the evening it's the same thing, we're delaying the cycle and disrupting sleep. Then, we shock the body awake in the morning when the alarm goes off ...and from there starts our day and the quality of the choices we make. Lack of exercise and natural light first thing in the morning further disrupts the circadian rhythm, which affects everything from our digestion and bowel movements to hormone secretion and our nervous system.

When we stay up late, working, snacking, and taking in the blue light from our screens, it's not surprising that so many of my members complain about not being able to fall asleep. (I see this in my 16-year-old daughter's world, where kids are doing just this. These are the habits the next generation is learning and it's freak'in scary). They then drag themselves out of bed at 6 am and wonder why they can't concentrate or eat in the morning. It may not seem like much if we deviate a few hours from our body's natural cycle but if we put it into perspective: if you're only sleeping for 5 hours (and missing the most important time of the night for the body to be housecleaning and detoxifying) it's like flying from California to New York in the evening only to fly back before work or school. It's not surprising you feel sick, ungrounded and exhausted.

So many of the most common physical complaints I hear are either created by or exacerbated by a modern schedule that is in conflict with the body's most basic needs.

Not only am I so grateful to have this amazing body of knowledge that Ayurveda teaches but finally physiologists are generating a lot of new research about the body's clock (called chronobiology) and how behavior, daily habits and routines can either strengthen or undermine our health, our overall wellness and the aging process.

To experience natural energy daily, to get the best quality of sleep our bodies require to function optimally, to feel grounded and deeply nourished and to show up in our lives on our A GAME - is 100% dependant on us plugging into the circadian rhythms that are ALREADY happening daily, seasonally, and throughout our lifetime.

This article is just a snippet of what is actually happening in our own bodies every moment of the day. The study of circadian rhythms, clock genes, Ayurveda and chronobiology dives DEEP into how we can optimize our health, our schedules, the seasons and the different stages of our lives through old age, to achieve holistic balance.

This requires that we have a deep trust in Nature, which begins with our own’s body’s connection to the environment, living a life that keeps the body/mind/spirit in balance while also evolving.

I don’t know about you but having this understanding of how we are a part of SUCH A BIGGER PICTURE and that every cell of our amazing body is operating within a system and rhythm that is happening with or without us is mind-blowing. We have the freedom to chose to go against it, march to the beat of our own drummer and suffer (if not immediately but definitely eventually) OR go with the flow, align and THRIVE.

Why go it alone when the universe literally has your back?