Ayurveda & Nature As Your Guide To Perfect Health
Time to read 10 min
Time to read 10 min
Juggling work, family, friends, exercise, maybe a side hustle and wondering how on earth you can still have time to prepare nutritious meals and get enough sleep? Or maybe you're so busy trying to schedule your health and self-care activities (gym session, yoga class, acupuncture appointment) to the point where this is also a source of stress and exhaustion?
If this sounds all so too familiar, then I want to tell you that there is another way. You can support your health without trying to control everything. Instead surrender to the body's natural rhythms, and trust that it will guide you.
Written by Shivani Reddy - Intuitive Health Mentor and Ayurvedic Lifestyle & Nutrition Consultant
If you consider yourself a high achiever in life, chances are you're approaching your health in the same way - you want to smash your fitness goals or obliterate that shoulder pain which just won't go away. But when you're constantly pushing and trying to do everything according to a certain schedule or timeline, you end up feeling more stressed. More stress means you produce more cortisol (the stress hormone) and over time, elevated cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, high BP and increased blood sugar and other imbalances in the body. So basically you're shooting yourself in the foot.
But when you go outside in the morning at sunrise, the combination of infrared and blue light received by the body signals to our mitochondria (the powerhouses of our cells) what time of day it is and sets our body's circadian clock so we get a nice increase in cortisol at the beginning of the day when we need it and our clock is also set to produce melatonin around 12-14 hours later which will make us sleepy at night. Aligning with natural light cycles is a great way to both manage stress and energy levels, and getting sunlight for at least 2 hours a day helps organically boost serotonin and dopamine levels which, when balanced, result in better mood, motivation, sleep and sex drive.
In a survey with 1000 participants, 77% of men polled said they experienced some level of symptoms for common mental health problems such as anxiety, stress or depression. The top-three causes for these problems were work (32%), finances (31%) and health (23%).
Ayurveda (which translates to “knowledge of life”) is the ancient wisdom and science of how to live well, keep our bodies in balance to prevent disease, and restore balance. It is all about alignment between the mind, body and soul. It is centred around the 5 elements (air, ether, fire, water, earth) which are present everywhere including in our bodies. The presence and relative dominance of these elements manifest as different energies or 'doshas' in the body.
Vata (air + ether) is the energy of movement and sensory motor function. In the body, it is responsible for the inhalation & exhalation, stimulation and function of the nervous system, hearing, touch, stimulation of digestion, elimination & urination, conception & implantation, creation of body tissue (dhatu).
Pitta (fire + water) is the energy of metabolism. It corresponds to metabolism and driving the functions of digestion, absorption, assimilation, body temperature, skin colour, lustre of the eyes, intelligence and understanding.
Kapha (earth + water) is the energy of growth and repair, and is associated with functions like lubrication, providing moisture to skin, supporting memory retention, giving energy to the heart and lungs, providing substance and support to bodily tissues, healing wounds, filling spaces in the body, stability, maintaining immunity.
When there is too much or too little of these energies, this imbalance contributes to the development of disease. For example, too much Kapha can result in obesity. At the root of this is your digestive fire - if this is reduced, working overtime or impaired, then you can guarantee these energies will be out of balance.
But these doshas or energies are also dominant at different times of the day, regardless of what your own constitution is. Ayurveda breaks the day into 6 four-hour zones - 1 day zone and 1 night zone for each of the 3 doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Keeping our daily rhythms in line with nature and the "Ayurvedic dosha clock" helps us to achieve mind-body balance, good health and ultimately to be more efficient. If we go against natural cycles, we experience imbalance and deterioration of our health.
Through dinacharya (daily routine), Ayurveda can help to support a range of health issues affecting men including gut health, stress, sleep, hair loss, prostate health and sexual virility. Of course, it isn't about trying to overhaul our routines all in one go, but if we are mindful of the supporting energy which is naturally present, we can optimise both our productivity and wellbeing.
Early to bed, early to rise…that old adage was probably thought up before the invention of the snooze button, but in repeatedly hitting it, we may actually be doing ourselves a disservice. Have you ever noticed that if you wake up at 6am or earlier it is actually easier to get out of bed whereas when you rise at 7am or later you tend to feel more groggy?
Ayurveda says we should rise with the sun in the summer and before the sun in the winter. This helps set the body’s circadian clock to optimise metabolic and hormonal processes, and also helps you counteract the cold, heavy and sluggish energy of Kapha dosha.
It’s a good idea to be awake in the Kapha hours so you can start to draw prana (life force) into the body. It’s also a good time for self-care rituals and nourishment. Self-massage with Ashwagandha oil can help to nourish the tissues and energise the body for the day. Gentle movement or exercise is also important to counteract Kapha’s static energy. If possible, try to avoid an early morning workout under artificial light (blue light) as this will disrupt your circadian clock.
You should aim to eat breakfast - ideally something light and easy to digest - within 30 minutes of sunrise - this is key to ensuring your mitochondria feel safe and know that there is energy available. Focus on getting protein (eggs, fish, cheese) and healthy fats (full-fat yogurt, nuts, ghee) into your breakfast to nourish you at the start of the day. Ashwagandha (sometimes referred to as “Ayurvedic viagra”) is now commonly used as a supplement by men to increase libido, nourish body tissues and boost energy - but it can be addictive because of its stimulating qualities so should be used in moderation.
Pitta’s productive, focused and sharp energy come into play between 10am and 2pm making this the best time of day, according to Ayurveda, to get work done because you have the Pitta fire to ignite you and keep you motivated on the task or project at hand. So if you have any tasks involving a lot of physical work or analytical work including planning, taking action, and organising, then these are most easily handled at this time of day.
Whilst this is most likely a busy time of day, don’t let the busyness take over. Try not to suppress natural urges - use the restroom when nature calls as this is key to maintaining good Vata energy (downwards and outwards flow) and a healthy prostate for men.
At midday, your agni (digestive fire) is the strongest so Ayurveda recommends eating the largest meal of the day at this time to ensure optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients. If your fire is feeling a bit low and you haven’t got much of an appetite, try stimulating it by chewing on a piece of ginger with salt and lime juice about 30 minutes before eating to get those digestive juices going. But if you’re already feeling worked up from that meeting or under pressure, try to avoid spicy, sour, salty and fermented foods, all of which increase Pitta. Instead incorporate cooling foods such as coconut oil, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.
When the fire starts to settle, then Vata kicks in. Mid-afternoon slump? Struggling to keep your eyes open during that meeting?
Cold and airy Vata means your body temperature drops and your mind may be less alert so you feel sleepy and a bit scattered. Rather than reaching for the caffeine or sugar, try going out for a brisk walk to get your circulation going and warm the body. If you’re sitting down for most of the day, then this will also counteract any stagnation in the lower part of the body including the prostate by helping circulation down there.
Or if you can find a quiet space, you may want to even try a short meditation for 10 or 15 minutes which will leave you feeling refreshed and helping you to get the most out of creative and brainstorming activities - Vata’s ethereal energy means that this is a great time of day to focus on these.
This is the time to start winding down - so allow yourself to give into Kapha’s lethargy and prepare for sleep. Eating your evening meal before sunset will ensure that your body has enough time to digest it before you go to bed. Undigested food can result in ama (toxins) which can then circulate to other parts of the body, and over time this can lead to disease. Try to steer clear of any stimulating food and drinks in the late afternoon and evening. Taking Triphala tablets or powder at night can help support the body’s detoxification process.
After sunset, try your best to avoid or block artificial light - this is a major cause of hormonal imbalance along with lack of exposure to natural morning light. Use candle light wherever possible and if you must use a screen, wear blue light blocking glasses.
Ayurveda emphasises that in order to get quality sleep, we should be asleep by 10pm - so we should be shutting down any screens at least 1 hour before. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. To relax the body, you can try Abhyanga (application of oil) - be sure to use a towel rather than letting it get all over your bedsheets - your child or significant other will thank you! Gently massage warm oil into the soles of the feet for general relaxation. If you’re concerned about hair loss, try massaging Kumari or Neelybringadi oil into the scalp and leaving overnight - it will calm any Pitta heat from stress and overthinking. Hair loss can also be related to a deficiency of calcium, magnesium and zinc, or to excessive salt consumption, so it’s worth checking levels to identify if dietary changes or supplements could help.
For prostate health, try coating your finger with castor oil and gently massaging the perineum. And of course, enjoy sex when your body wants it but not excessively as this can worsen certain Vata imbalances as ejaculation depletes ojas (the essence of vitality and immunity). To replenish the body or to improve low libido, you can prepare almond milk: soak about 10 raw almonds overnight in water; peel and blend with 1 cup of warm milk, a pinch of ginger, nutmeg and saffron.
By now, you should hopefully be tucked up in bed, dreaming sweet dreams whilst your body restores and regenerates itself. But have you ever noticed that you get a “second wind” around 10pm if you’re still up?
Pitta peaks your interest in something and off you go on a train of thought or strategising about the best way to give feedback to your boss tomorrow. If your head is spinning and you’re finding it hard to switch off, try to have a notebook by your bed and write down everything that is on your mind. You’ll be surprised how downloading will help you to switch off and calm the nervous system down.
Ashwagandha also has a sedative effect by reducing stress and anxiety levels so can be taken in the evening - it is best to consult with a practitioner to ensure the correct timing and dosage.
You may find yourself stirring around 3 or 4am - this is Vata’s light, subtle and mobile qualities starting to prepare you for the day ahead. Early morning before sunrise is the best time to access the ether and spiritual connections and so it’s ideal for meditation and intention setting. Setting intentions in the morning improves the likelihood of you actually following through and reaching your goals. A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91% of people who planned their intention to exercise by writing down when and where they would exercise each week ended up following through.
When we understand that there are optimal times for sleeping, eating and exercising, then the obvious next step is to try to align with this. But remember it’s not about being perfect - start slowly and when introducing something new or different, maybe try “stacking” it with a routine or ritual you would do on any given day. Of course, there will be times when we have that occasional late night or we give in to a sugar craving to keep us going, but the main thing is to get back on track straight after. Better physical and mental health is truly a given when we synchronise with our body’s natural circadian rhythms and the type of energy present at different times of day. Nature and our body does the scheduling for us effortlessly...we just need to stop interfering with it
 Lad, V, (2002) Textbook of Ayurveda - Fundamental Principles, Volume I, p. 148.
 Lad, V. (1999) The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies: A comprehensive guide to the ancient healing of India, p. 127.
 Orbell, S., & Sheeran, P. (1998). “Inclined abstainers”: A problem for predicting health-related behaviour, British Journal of Social Psychology, 37(2), p.151–165.