Daily Routine – Dinacaryā

The energies of vāta, pitta, and kapha are more dominant respectively at different times of the day, and influence our individual physiology and psychology accordingly. Though the energy of each doṣa peaks twice within the 24 hour period of our day, we engage with each of the six time periods in a unique manner. Sometimes we embrace and merge with the doṣas’ energy, and sometimes we incorporate the principle of opposites to bring balance.

Please keep in mind that these times are a basis for understanding, and that the actual times will fluctuate based on season and location. Think more about seasonal sunrise to sunset cycles, rather than actual clock-time. We use the clock-time numbers only as a reference point for communication.

The influences of VPK throughout the daily cycle give us the information we need to know how or what to do at these different periods. Living in this modern, fast paced world with so many demands, commitments, and unnatural forms of light, it can be a challenge to follow a routine such as this. The qualities of each doṣa provide information as to what we may experience throughout the day, and how to use the opposites to bring balance, when appropriate.

“The healthy person should get up (from bed) during brahmamuhūrta, to protect his life.”

Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam, Vol. 1, page 22

2am-6am – Vāta Time

Qualities – light, cold, subtle, mobile, clear, dry

This is a light and subtle time of day. Movement begins in the body-mind-spirit as we flow from deep sleep, to lighter sleep with more active dreaming and some awareness, and eventually into being fully conscious.

It is ideal to urinate and defecate first thing in the morning to clear out the waste and toxins that accumulate over night. As the nervous system activates so does the colon and the downward energy needed for elimination. In addition to clearing toxins through elimination, care and cleansing of the sense organs is beneficial upon waking.

What’s Happening In The Macrocosm & Microcosm:

  • sunrise
  • auspicious time (brahmamuhūrta)
  • nervous system activates
  • awaken from sleep
  • elimination of wastes
  • hydrate
  • sense care and cleansing
  • spiritual practice

Engaging With The Qualities:

  • Embrace the subtle and clear qualities for spiritual practice while encouraging stability in the mind.
  • Keep the body warm, especially during colder months of the year.
  • Utilize the mobile quality to support elimination.
  • Hydrate with warm fluids to balance the natural dry and cold qualities of the body that are present in the early morning. This is especially important during colder months.

6am-10am – Kapha Time

Qualities – heavy, sticky, stable, slow

This is the time of day when most bodies are at their strongest. It is a good time for physical activity, especially in the hotter months before the heat of the day sets in. Eating breakfast will be a bit different for everyone, based on constitution and the state of your digestive fire. We want to eat enough breakfast to get us through until lunch. Having warm, moist food for breakfast will help to re-activate the digestive system after sleep, and aid in proper elimination.

What’s Happening In The Macrocosm & Microcosm:

  • morning
  • peak physical strength
  • physical activity
  • eat breakfast according to your digestive fire (agni)
  • begin work, chores, projects, etc.

Engaging With The Qualities:

  • By waking prior to sunrise, we utilize the mobile, energetic qualities of vāta in order to bring us into the day with vigor and alertness. This is especially important for people with a kapha dominant constitution or imbalance, or anyone feeling dull or lethargic upon waking.
  • Break up the heavy quality by getting outdoors early in the morning, and engaging in more vigorous exercise or breath-work (prāṇāyāma).
  • Work with the slow quality to allow yourself not to rush in the earlier part of this kapha time by waking by or before 6am, and slowly build up to bringing more mobility and stimulation into the morning.
  • Embrace the stability and strength of kapha to do physical work or mental work that requires stamina.

10am-2pmPitta Time

Qualities – sharp, hot, liquid, oily

As the sun makes its’ way to the peak point of the daily rotation, so does our own digestive fire. This is when digestion is at its’ strongest. Eating your largest or most substantial meal at this time will give the body-mind-spirit the energy and fuel it needs to get through the day. And since digestion is strong at this time, the body is better able to digest and assimilate heavier foods like animal protein and fats.

What’s Happening In The Macrocosm & Microcosm:

  • late morning/mid-day
  • continue work, chores, projects, etc.
  • sun in the sky and digestive fire (agni) are at their peak, eat largest/substantial meal
  • heat is building

Engaging With The Qualities:

  • Take advantage of the sharp quality (of mind) to be productive and take care of tasks, especially those that require a sharp mind.
  • During this hot and penetrating time of day, engage with the opposite to keep yourself cool and stay shaded if outdoors. Participate in calming activities and incorporate cooling breath-work (prāṇāyāma) if feeling overheated in the body-mind-spirit. This is not a time for vigorous exercise.
  • Hydration is important, but do not drink too much right after lunch and avoid cold beverages during the meal time. This is a time to engage with the internal heat of the body in order to aid in the digestion of a substantial meal.

2pm-6pmVāta Time

Qualities – light, cold, subtle, mobile

This is the time of day where most of us start looking for a snack, usually something sweet and/or stimulating. The brain and nervous system are at their peak and need adequate fuel to continue working effectively. The body goes into a natural dip in energy around this time of day, but if we have eaten a substantial and nourishing lunch, this energy dip will not feel debilitating. If lunch has been adequate to our needs, hydrating, breathing, and simple movement may be all we need to move through this period with ease. In some cases, having an easy to digest snack such as fruit around 2 or 3pm, could be just what we need, especially for those with a pitta dominant constitution.

What’s Happening In The Macrocosm & Microcosm:

  • afternoon/early evening
  • nervous system is at peak and looking for fuel and/or rest
  • hydrate
  • finish up work, chores, and projects, but don’t make major decisions
  • move the body and breathe

Engaging With The Qualities:

  • Engage the light and mobile qualities in order to finish up the day by moving the body and breathing, while also considering the opposite stable and slow qualities by not engaging in very active or vigorous physical exertion.
  • If feeling tired or overextended, the first half of this period is a good time for a 20 minute nap, or a rest to the nervous system by stepping away from stimulation for even a few minutes of silence.
  • We want to tap into our needs and the reality of our schedule in order to finish up what needs to be done (mobility), while also starting to wind down around 5 or 6pm (stability).
  • Any time vāta is dominant, variability exists. And by this point of the day the clear quality we find in the early morning has dissipated. If you are confused about what you need, engage with opposite qualities of slow, dull, stable, and smooth. Pause and connect with the earth. This is not a time of day to make major decisions.

6pm-10pm – Kapha Time

Qualities – heavy, smooth, stable, slow, cold, sticky

As the natural world begins to wind down for the night, our body-mind-spirit craves the same. The birds are settling into their nests, the deer finish grazing and take shelter, and we should do the same. The brilliance of the sun slips away as cool, lunar energy begins to fill the sky and cool our minds in preparation for sleep. It is time to relax, find gratitude for the days’ events, and share stories with loved ones. Allowing ourselves to glide slowly into the night encourages restful sleep.

Āyurveda suggests that dinner should be the lightest meal of the day, and to be done eating at least two hours before going to bed. This encourages proper digestion, absorption, and assimilation. Eating too much, or too heavy soon before sleep can cause toxins (āma) to build, leading to dullness, lethargy, and myalgia upon waking.

What’s Happening In The Macrocosm & Microcosm:

  • evening/night
  • eat a simple dinner between 5-7pm, at least 2-3 hours before sleep
  • slowly wind down and invite sleep to come
  • avoid screens 2 hours before bed
  • get in bed with lights out before 10pm

Engaging With The Qualities:

  • Unlike the morning kapha time, we want to embrace the heavy and slow qualities to help us wind down for the night. Allow the dull energy of this time to slowly lull you into slumber.
  • If outdoors, especially in cooler months, dress warm. During the warmer months enjoy the cool evening as respite from the heat of the day.
  • Embrace the compassionate and nurturing attributes of kapha to enjoy time with loved ones as you cuddle onto the couch. We tend to become a bit more sticky in the evening, looking for physical and emotional connection.
  • Honor the slow quality that presents in the digestive system. Dinner should be a lighter meal, and eaten at least 2-3 hours before going to bed. This is especially important for those who do not experience hunger in the morning.
  • Though kapha is physically strong, vigorous exercise should be avoided during this time of day, especially between 8-10pm. Exercise in the earlier half of the time period, after work for example, is perfectly fine, but be sure to ground down afterwards with stretching and/or a longer relaxation (śavāsana).

“Due to proper and adequate sleep, dhātus (bodily tissues) and doṣas remain in a balanced state of health, both physically and mentally.”

Caraka Samhitā (Sū 21:36)

10pm-2am – Pitta Time

Qualities – sharp, hot, light

Āyurveda and western science agree that the hours roughly between 10pm-2am are the most restorative for sleep. The liver becomes active in order to cleanse and detoxify the body-mind-spirit. The sympathetic nervous system naturally becomes less active as parasympathetic activity increases. This is the time to “rest and digest”, or to be more literal, rest and purify. If the body is full from dinner, it cannot perform the cleansing ritual. The same is true if the body is not asleep. Therefore, going to sleep before this time of night rolls around, and not having just eaten, is an important piece in maintaining health and well being.

Staying awake late into the night is aggravating to vāta and pitta. Regularly being awake during this time of night can lead to insomnia, anxiety, digestive issues, lack of concentration, burning of the eyes, and hyper-acidity. If we utilize the heavy, slow, dull energy of kapha earlier in the evening and ease ourselves to sleep, we will not experience the “second wind” people often talk about, and our sleep will be more restful.

What’s Happening In The Macrocosm & Microcosm:

  • night
  • most restorative and important hours of sleep
  • no screens and least amount of artificial light as possible
  • liver is active, body is cleansing and detoxing (but only if asleep)

Engaging With The Qualities:

  • Allow the sharp and hot qualities of detoxification to do their job by being asleep and not impeding their actions with a full/heavy stomach.
  • We want to let pitta do its’ internal work (cleansing), rather than the external work of organizing, learning, and performing tasks. Embrace the heavy and slow qualities during kapha time in order to balance the more active pitta qualities.

“The health of those who are habitually used to working at night and sleeping during the day, is not affected as they get used to this abnormal sleep rhythm.”

Caraka Samhitā (Sū 21:50)

Regarding Night Shift Workers: Western science has done studies that show night-shift workers having a shorter life span and being prone to more illness. The classic texts of āyurveda state that this will not affect them as they get used to the abnormal rhythm. The key in maintaining health with a regular schedule opposite what is suggested above, is routine. Āyurveda gives us the concept of like increases like, and opposites balance. Creating routine and bringing in vāta and pitta pacifying practices will greatly reduce the effects of regularly staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. For people who’s constitution is kapha predominant, a lifestyle such as this will not be as challenging to the body-mind-spirit as for those with primarily pitta, and especially vāta doṣa in their constitution.