Biorhythms and Ayurveda

Understanding the cosmic dance
By Dr. Vijay Jain M.D.


Health is a harmonious relationship of mind, body and spirit with our extended body, i.e., the environment. Health is also a harmony of all the rhythms in our physiology. As the rhythms influence the physiology of the universe, so do they effect the physiology in our body. As is the macrocosm, so is the microcosm. Universe operates in biological rhythms and so does our body. The rhythms of nature, music of nature and dance of nature are all reflected within our body. When our internal rhythms are in synchrony with those of the environment, we experience well being. Every cell, organ and system in our body operates according to predictable rhythms, with periods of dynamic activity and times of quietness. These same patterns of rest and activity can be found within the cycles of nature: the sun rises, shines brightly and sets; the seasons flow one into another; and the tides rise and fall in response to the moon’s influence.

Likewise within our bodies, the fires of our digestion rise and fall within our mind and body. Our hormones (specifically, secretion of cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, and prolactin) fluctuate according to a 24 hour rhythm, and our moods, mental agility and motor skills cycle through relatively predictable highs and lows throughout the day. Diseases tend to occur at certain times of the day or in a particular season. For example, incidences of heart failure tend to increase in the morning hours when platelet aggregation has been observed to increase. Allergies tend to occur in certain seasons. A tooth is more likely to begin aching between 3 and 8 in the morning, and least likely to begin aching between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. A dose of corticosteroids will control a patient’s asthma and improve the ‘peak expiratory flow’ significantly more if it is injected at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., instead of 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. In our modern society, many of us are unaware of the natural rhythms of our body and are guided instead by habit and convenience. We tend to ignore internal signals for external ones. The result is compromised health, fatigue and the accumulation of toxicity in our mind and body. In Ayurveda, attuning the patient’s lifestyle to natural biorhythms is considered a crucial element of prevention and treatment. In addition to the obvious internal bio-rhythms of hearbeat and respiration, there are at least four primary rhythms that take place in accordance with distinct patterns within the human body. Let us now explore the effects of these rhythms on our bodies and mind and how we can adjust our routines to be in harmony with them.

1. Circadian Rhythms: the 24 hour cycle of night and day
created by earth spinning on its axis

2. Seasonal Rhythms: the 12 month cycle caused by the
rotation of the earth around the sun

3. Lunar Rhythms: the monthly cycle of the moon revolving
around the earth

4. Tidal Rhythms: the gravitational influence of the moon on
the waters of the earth

Adopting a regular daily routine helps us to be in synchrony with our environment, creating greater energy, happiness and well being. When there is disharmony or disruption of rhythms in nature, it leads to imbalance in the body with signs of fatigue, lack of sleep, etc. Early signs of disease are reflected by disruption of biological rhythms in the mind-body level.
Daily Cycles and the Doshas:
One way to view these cycles is through the dynamic interaction of the three principles of life, which are vata, pitta, and kapha, or motion, transformation, and structure, respectively. Each of these represents a bundle of qualities that describes a style of action or functioning. For example, vata is said to be light, cold, dry, rough, moving, pervading, clear, and subtle. Any time we experience something that can be described by one or more of these qualities, then vata is said to be at work, governing and influencing.

Ayurveda says that during the course of a day, the principles of motion, transformation, and structure increase and decrease in an orderly and repetitive way. This means that at a certain time of day, we would expect the physiology to express certain qualities more than others, thus promoting certain functions or processes. At noon, for example, the quality of heat is more lively than its opposite, cold. Heat is involved in digestion, metabolism, and all forms of energy transformations. Knowing that heat is lively at noon and that it is the basis of digestion leads to an important fact, which is digestion is strongest around the noon hour. In summary, the physiology attends to different needs at certain times of the day.

There is a purpose for the changing qualities of the day, month, and year that affects health. Recall that vata and kapha are cold while pitta is hot. Vata and pitta are light and kapha is heavy. Vata and pitta are mobile while kapha is static. Vata is dry while pitta and kapha are oily and liquid. As the heat of pitta reverses the cold of kapha, so are the other qualities increasing and decreasing as time passes. Therefore, what we see is a cycling which permits a quality in the environment to build then release or reduce. Nature provides for this over time as a way of restoring balance of quality and action. It purifies itself in an ongoing way. In the body the same ebb and flow of qualities is taking place and is always providing for balancing.

Ayurveda advises that life is easier, smoother, and more fulfilling when we acknowledge, honor, and make use of these biorhythms of nature. There are two themes of activity:

Activity which goes against natural tendencies and is balancing
(This is more important and common )
Activity which goes with the direction of nature and is balancing
There is an important understanding of Ayurveda: It is not enough to do the right thing; one has to do the right thing at the right time. This makes sense from the angle of limited resources. The energy from food can be used to digest, to breath, to work, etc., but if we work and eat simultaneously, then energy resources will be diverted to the work and away from digestion, causing digestion to suffer.

Let’s explore the first kind of activity, going with nature’s tendencies and balancing. We are familiar with the cycle of change associated with the rotation of the earth on its axis, day and night. This is an important cycle because the rising and setting of the sun in large measure dictates the qualities that predominate at different times of the day, as suggested above. Rest and activity take place during the night and day, respectively. Also, we know that the revolution of the earth around the sun causes seasonal variations of daylight periods, for example, longer days during the summer and longer nights during the winter. Thus, in the context of seasonal variations of day and night hours, we should experience and honor a tendency of the body-mind to want to go to bed earlier and even to sleep longer in winter months. This expresses the dynamic interaction of the environment and body-mind. The body reflects what is happening in all of nature because the body is never separate from nature. We point out, however, that the intellect dictates to the body the nature and timing of activity, which does influence what takes place in the body-mind. Therefore, it is important that the mind always be aware of the body’s needs so that the body-mind can function most effortlessly by not being compelled to do things excessively or at the wrong time. The concepts of Daylight Saving Time and “time zones” are unnatural because they direct our attention away from the internal signals of nature to the external fiction of “hour.” We force our bodies to ignore natural tendencies in favor of economic considerations, etc.

So let us now look at the daily cycle of vata, pitta, and kapha and discuss what nature suggests will make life fuller and happier, or in other words, balanced. Loosely described, the times of increased activity or influence in physiology for the triad, vata, pitta, kapha, are excerpted from Chart 1.

Vata 2 – 6 a.m. or p.m.
Pitta 10 – 2 a.m. or p.m.
Kapha 6 – 10 a.m. or p.m.

These periods may extend or shorten according to season, longitude, and latitude on the globe. The body-mind will “know” these variations and will adjust its own functioning accordingly if we “don’t allow” the intellect to interfere. It is important to understand the concepts of sunrise and sunset to relate to the times above, 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. They are not merely clock times but natural times based upon the observation that the sun is, in fact, rising at 6 a.m. and setting at 6 p.m., varying according to the seasons, longitude, and latitude.

Vata is responsible for elimination, movement, locomotion, speech, enthusiasm, creativity, breathing, and nervous system functioning. Recent research has confirmed that the vata period is more about mental activity than about physical work. The Russians discovered that muscle strength is weakest during the vata (afternoon) period. On the other hand, researchers have found that mind-body coordination (dexterity) is greatest about 4 p.m. During the early morning vata time, nature is alert yet quiet, so this time is the best time for profound meditations. Also, because vata controls elimination, this period favors elimination of wastes removed from the tissues and accumulated in the bladder or colon during the night. It is important to void the bowels and bladder first thing each morning for this reason. Because vata is about lightness and motion, it is really an essential ingredient of achievement in life. If we get up during the hours when the body is alert, rested, clear, light, and energetic, then the entire day will take on the theme of these qualities and activity will be more effortless and productive. Many people report that their creativity and mental clarity are especially lively during these early morning hours. Ayurveda supports the aphorism: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Pitta functions to control digestion, metabolism, transformation, intellect, courage, enthusiasm, skin and other tissue colors, and vision. At noon digestive capacity is greatest, therefore, the noon meal should be the largest. Above we noted that the afternoon period is best suited for mental activity, and we can see how nature provides for this by calling for the main meal at this time, which when digested, nourishes discriminative and creative mental effort. It is interesting to note that many cases of high blood pressure are attributed to skipping the noon meal. The habit of eating a large evening meal forces pitta to become active during a time when the body wants to slow down, and this degrades both the quality of digestion and sleep. On the other hand, the evening pitta period is more about house cleaning than digestion. Research shows that liver activity and small intestine activity increase around 1am – 3am. Many people report that mental clarity increases after 10 p.m. and this is natural because pitta is about the intellect. However, forcing the body-mind to be dynamic at this time compromises its internal cleansing efforts. Ama (stress, toxins, etc.) accumulates if this function is disturbed.

Kapha governs structure, fluid balance, secretions, binding, growth, potency, patience, heaviness, compassion, and understanding. Because its qualities are heavy, dull, slow, etc., the evening period of kapha is particularly suited to sleep. Research confirms that if sleep starts in the hour or two after sunset, then rest will be improved, probably because sleep is deeper and longer. Rest is about rebuilding, cleaning, etc., so it makes sense that we should honor this aspect of our biorhythm by getting to bed early (especially before 10 p.m.). Ayurvedic practitioners often report that getting a person to go to bed before 10 p.m. can cure an individual’s chronic insomnia.

The second theme of activity is also important, and is that which goes against natural tendencies but is balancing to physiology. There are many strategies including diet, herbs, exercise, as well as daily routine. The principle is to counter an undesired bodily tendency with opposite instructions. Remember, instructions to the physiology are given by every experience we have, mental, emotional, and physical. The qualities we experience are the keys to the kinds of actions produced in the body. Thus, for an imbalance or predominance of vata’s qualities, we could use an oil massage during its time because the qualities of oil balance the vata qualities. One could eat heavy, warm, and oily foods. We could take more rest in our daily schedule to counter jittery nerves. We could incorporate more regularity in our routine also. For pitta imbalances, we would want to avoid exercise during the mid-day time, the time of maximum heat. We should choose cooling foods or activities at this time also. For considerations of kapha, recall how its qualities of heavy, dull, slow, hard, (stiffness) etc. increase around sunrise. If one rises during this time, these qualities will grow and become the theme of the day. One will feel less inclined towards activity, mental or physical. The habit of “sleeping in” may be viewed as digging a hole (stiffness, dullness, etc.) from which one has to climb out each morning before one can become really effective in activity. Therefore, the morning kapha time is the best time for dynamic activity. Activity at this time balances the body’s tendency to be slow, heavy, dull, etc. Because the body-mind has rested, it is most able to perform at this time. Exercise is especially useful for eliminating ama, producing lightness, building capacity for work, and promoting balance.

Daily Routine Based on the above discussion


Awaken without an alarm clock
Brush your teeth, clean your tongue and massage your gums
Drink a glass of warm water (it signals your digestive tract to eliminate toxins)
Empty your bowels and bladder
Massage your body with oil
Perform yoga exercises
Eat breakfast with awareness
Perform your morning work and activity

Eat lunch: noon – 1:00 PM (the largest meal of the day)
Sit quietly for 5 minutes after eating
Walk 5 -15 minutes to aid digestion
Perform your afternoon work and activity
Meditate around sunset

·Eat dinner 6 – 7:00 PM (light to moderate)
Sit quietly for 5 minutes after eating
Walk 5 – 15 minutes to aid digestion

·Perform only light activity in the evening
Minimize reading, eating or watching television
Try to be in bed with the lights off by 10:30 PM
The Daily Oil Massage – Abhyanga
Massaging your body with oil is an important aspect of the daily routine that provides a stabilizing influence all year long. Massage nourishes the tissues, stimulates the skin to release health-promoting chemicals, improves the circulation, increases alertness, facilitates detoxification and improves immunity.

The purpose of the Ayurvedic daily massage, as part of the daily routine, is to prevent the accumulation of physiological imbalances and to lubricate and promote flexibility of the muscles, tissues and joints. The classical texts of Ayurveda indicate that daily massage rejuvenates the skin and promotes youthfulness.

Choosing and curing the oil
Unless a specific oil has been recommended for you, sesame oil should be used for the daily massage, as it settles all three doshas. If you find sesame oil unsuitable in some way, try olive oil or coconut oil as alternatives.


Always heat on a low setting
Never leave oil unattended
Once the oil reaches the proper temperature, remove from heat and store in a safe place till it cools
How to do your daily massage
· Warm 1/4 cup of cured oil to slightly above body temperature. Place a small amount of oil on the fingertips and palms and begin to massage vigorously, using the open part of the hand rather than the fingertips.
· Start by massaging the head. Cover the entire scalp with small circular strokes. The head is said to be one of the most important parts to emphasize during the massage.
· Next, apply oil gently with the open part of the hand to your face and outer part of your ears. You do not need to massage these areas vigorously.
· Massage both the front and back of the neck, and the upper part of the spine. Continue to use your open hand, in a rubbing type of motion.
· You may now want to apply a small amount of oil to your entire body and then proceed with the massage to each area of the body. This will allow the oil to have maximum amount of time in contact with the body.
· Next, massage your arms. The proper motion is back and forth over your long bones and circular over your joints. Massage both arms, including the hands and fingers.
· Now apply oil to the chest and abdomen. A very gentle circular motion should be used over your heart. Over the abdomen a gentle circular motion should also be used. Ayurveda traditionally advises moving in a clockwise direction. A straight up and down motion is used over the breast bone.
· Massage the back and spine reaching whatever areas you can without straining.
· Massage the legs. As with the arms, use a back and forth motion over the long bones and circular over the joints.
· Last, massage the bottom of the feet. The feet are considered especially important, and more time should be spent on the feet than on other parts of the body. Use the open part of your hand and massage vigorously back and forth over the sole of the foot.
Washing off the oil
· Wash yourself with warm, not hot water and mild soap, which will keep a small undetectable film of oil on the body even after the bath. This is considered beneficial.

Ideally, about 10 – 20 minutes should be spent each morning on the massage. However, if the time suggested is not available on a particular day, it is better to do a brief massage than to skip the massage altogether. The most important parts to cover are the head and feet. (excerpts from Deepak Chopra..Perfect Health)

We have discussed the Ayurvedic notion of biorhythm and how qualities and functions increase or decrease in a regular, rhythmical manner. By honoring these biorhythms, we facilitate proper physiology. Also, by understanding the nature of the ongoing changes in the body-mind, we can select activities that promote balance when done at the proper time of day.

Health is a harmonious relationship of mind, body and spirit with our extended body i.e., enviornment. Health is also a harmony of all the rhythms in our physiology. As the rhythms influence the physiology of the universe, so do they effect the physiology in our body. As is the macrocosm, so is the microcosm. Universe operates in biological rhythms and so does our body. Rhythms of nature, music of nature and dance of nature is all reflected with in our body. When our internal rhythms are in synchrony with those of the enviornment we experience well being Every cell, organ and system in our body operates according to predictable rhythms, with periods of dynamic activity and times of quietness. These same patterns of rest and activity can be found with in the cycles of nature: the sun rises, shines brightly and sets; the seasons flow one in to another and the tides rise and fall in response to the moon’s influence.

In Part I we discussed the Circadian Biorhythms and their effect on our physical and mental bodies.In Part II we will discuss the other biorhythms namely, Seasonal rhythms, Lunar rhythms and Tidal rhythms.

1. Seasonal Rhythms: the 12 month cycle caused by the rotation of the earth around the sun

2. Lunar Rhythms: the monthly cycle of the moon revolving around the earth

3. Tidal Rhythms: the gravitational influence of the moon on the waters of the earth

Seasonal Rhythm

According to Ayurveda, seasonal rhythms have important influences on our biological cycles, and each season expresses characteristics of a specific dosha. Autumn and early winter is Vata time with the cold, dry and windy weather. The hot, moist summer expresses the qualities of Pitta, while the cold and wet weather of late winter and spring are expressions of Kapha in the enviornment.

The body needs to adjust to the outside environment and food is one way to help the body accommodate the changes in season. Every season brings about nurturing qualities and the body needs to plug into nature for its rejuvenation. In the absence of this, the body tends to compromise its natural defenses that the system needs to build up. The other way to achieve balance is through life style modification and preventative measures.

During summer,( June through October)* which is a pitta season, individuals are prone to skin ailments like sunburn, acne etc., and so it is recommended that cool, light fruits and salads have to be consumed to calm and correct the imbalances caused by excessive pitta.

Ayurveda teaches that routine detoxification can be invaluable for maintaining good health during seasonal changes. Summer is the season where pitta dosha accumulates in the body. Particularly if an individual’s constitution is pitta predominant, the increase in excess heat can become reactive, settle in the tissues, and manifest as an imbalance if it is not properly eliminated. Ayurveda offers solutions to help the body dispose of toxins as nature intended before they have a chance to take hold and cause disorder.

When there is an excess of pitta dosha and a health problem arises, toxins usually accompany it. Common toxins are bacteria, viruses, drugs, heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, and other environmental pollutants. Toxins are also formed when we eat foods that are difficult to digest or of poor quality. Ayurveda defines this type of toxic material as ama, a heavy, sticky, undigested residue that can weaken digestion and disturb proper tissue formation.

Excess pitta can manifest in the body as:

Indigestion, constipation or diarrhea
Skin rashes, sores or ulcers
Fungi, parasites
Bad breath and body odor
Excessive sweating
A person’s complexion may also be an indication of whether or not there is a toxic overload in the body. Excess pitta in the blood can result in breakouts on the skin such as hives, acne, and red rashes. Cleansing the body, particularly the liver and blood, through diet and herbs can result in clear, radiant skin and more balanced pitta dosha.

There are many causes that contribute to an excessive amount of pitta in the body including:

Eating a pitta-provoking diet
Exposure to chemicals
Too much sun exposure, sunburn
Emotional stress

As with any imbalance, Ayurvedic treatment involves first removing the cause and then applying the therapeutic remedies necessary to bring the body back into balance. Ayurveda offers simple and gentle dietary, herbal, and lifestyle guidelines to assist the body in removing excess pitta dosha and cleansing the body of toxins. The therapies to balance pitta are both cooling and reducing.

The stomach and small intestine are two common sites for pitta dosha to accumulate. Ayurveda uses a pitta-soothing diet as the first line of action when addressing excess pitta. When it comes to reducing pitta, choose foods that will be cooling and cleansing to the body.

Simple dietary guidelines to help your body detox:

Choose sweet, juicy fruits like melons, plums, and peaches.
Include vegetables that are bitter and astringent such as collards, kale and asparagus.
Add digestive spices to your food such as cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric.
Limit hot, spicy, fermented, salty, oily, fried foods.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine. These substances are both sharp and hot, provoking to pitta dosha.
Drink plenty of cool, fresh water. Staying well hydrated helps the body to flush away toxins.

Summer Routine:

Favor cool, sweet, bitter, asringent, and oily foods; minimize hot, spicy and slaty ones.
Appetite may be reduced; don’t overtax it.
Reduce exercise and sunbathing.
Swimming is a good exercise in summer, as is walking in the moonlight, forests, mountains,or gardens.
Wear a hat and sunglasses outdoors.
During autumn and early winter,( October through February)* which is the vata season, people are prone to arthritis, rheumatism etc and so it is recommended that people eat warm, oily and hearty meals like beans, whole grains and meats to lubricate the system against dryness of the Vata season.
When vata dosha predominates, there is an increase in the dry, rough and cool qualities of our external and internal environments. In excess, dryness can begin to disturb various tissues and organs. Most noticeably, dry skin and lips are examples of excess vata. An internal drying can also be occurring particularly in the colon or large intestine, where vata is prone to first accumulate. Though we all notice the seasonal effects of autumn, people whose constitutions are vata-predominant and the elderly, who are in the vata stage of life, are most susceptible to this change.

Symptoms of vata-aggravation are:

dry skin and lips
little or low appetite
scattered mind


Foods that are in season such as root vegetables and winter squash will help nourish and balance the body. Try carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, acorn, butternut, delicata and buttercup squashes. These have the qualities of sweet, heavy, smooth, dense and moist and are most balancing for vata. To help pacify vata dosha, favor the tastes of sweet, sour, salty in your diet, while limiting bitter and astringent tastes.

Some sweet grains to include this season are basmati rice, wheat berries, brown rice and sushi rice. Also, whole wheat pasta and or buckwheat udon noodles can be especially grounding for vata. Include ghee and other healthful oils such as almond, sesame or sunflower for internal oleation, kindling agni and increasing absorption.

When preparing food, use warming spices such as black pepper, dry ginger, cinnamon and asafoetida to help to stoke the digestive fire. Casseroles, soups and stews are easily digested and can be very nourishing for vata, warming the body from the inside out.

Other important dietary guidelines for balancing the body:

Eat at routine times each day, having lunch be the largest meal.
Take time to lovingly prepare and enjoy nutritious meals.
Avoid ice cold drinks, particularly taken with meals or immediately after.
Limit raw, cold foods such as salads and raw vegetables.
Minimize caffeinated beverages and other stimulants. These increase vata, aggravating the nervous system.
Include warm milk spiced with a pinch of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. This is a nutritious way to soothe the nerves and, when taken before bed, will promote sound sleep.
Our daily activities have a profound effect on our health. A routine, practiced daily, is stronger medicine than an occasional remedy. Consistency is of particular importance as we enter into vata season. When the cool, fall weather arrives and the holiday season is upon us, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain a peaceful, grounded state of being. Having a routine to follow restores balance throughout the day, everyday, safeguarding against the anxiety and stress associated with increased vata.

According to Ayurveda, abhyanga, or oil massage is an essential component to a daily routine. This practice nourishes and strengthens the body, encourages regular sleep patterns, stimulates internal organs, enhances blood circulation and can significantly reduce vata.
During spring, which is the kapha season, people are prone to bronchial ailments and common colds etc. Ayurveda recommends foods like honey, millet and greens to be included in the diet.
Additional lifestyle tips for balancing vata:

Stay warm and avoid drafts.
Avoid excessive exercise or physical movement.
Eliminate sources of emotional stress.
Get enough restful sleep each night. Most people require 6-8 hours

Autumn ( October through February)* is predominantly a cool season where Vata predominates. If it’s windy or dry or you live in a high altitude this increases Vata further. The time surrounding seasonal changes is governed by Vata too, as Vata is associated with movement or change in general. So, more Vata. Remember that emotions associated with increased Vata include fear, a scattered feeling, spacey feeling and anxiety.

As we move into winter,( March through June)* a season in which Kapha predominates strongly, all the doshas must work together to preserve health. Kapha is the endurance which enables us to move through this season, but it needs the qualities of light and movement (Vata) and initiative (Pitta) to do so, else we are likely to simply crawl into our dens and sleep away until spring!

When the weather warms in the spring, the pitta ‘liquifies’ the accumulated Kapha, which is then eliminated from thbody. As a result, in the spring seasonpatients are more prone to colds, nasal allergies, coughs, sinusitis, and other respiratory congestion syndromes- all signs of Kapha aggravation.

Fot these reasons, routine for spring involves steps to reduce Kapha. A Kapha pacifying diet in cludes more bitter, spicy and astringent taste groups, all of which reduce the qualities of Kapha. For Kapha Prakriti, it is extremely important to use the pacifying procedures.In addition, one should drink warm fluids only.Warm sunshine and excercise reduce Kapha also.

Among the strongest health measures when spring come is Panchakarma,Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy. Ayurveda regards PK as the best method of removing backlogged imbalances and impurities at this time of the year.

Spring Routine:

Minimize cold, sweet,sour,salty or oily foods, and avoid cold drinks; favor warm foods and drinks, and favor spicy, astringent and bitter tastes.
Minimize daytime sleep, which increases Kapha.
Excercise regularly.
Undergo Panchakarma.

During the times of change and transition, it is wise to pay special attention to the basics of good health; meditation, regular exercise, sensory nourishment and emotional healing.
Lunar Rhythm

The monthly Cycle of the moon revolving around the earth. Full moon signifies Kapha season.

Tidal Rhythm

The gravitational influence of the moon on the waters of the earth. When the tide is high, it is Vata time.

Above all, we should never forget that the enviornment is our extended body and that nature has already provided everything we need in the appropiate place and at the appropiate time in order to sustain us. The more we are in tune with natural internal and external rhythms, the more we can accept and metabolize the nourishment that is so readily available.

* Seasons vary according to the geographical Locations.