Aligning with Nature’s Rhythms: A Review

by Melissa West on September 18, 2011

This past Friday evening, I attended a workshop at Downward Dog called “Aligning with Nature’s Rhythms” put on by Greg and Jackie Van Acker from At The Core. The workshop was about aligning our daily routines with the rhythm of nature from an Ayurvedic perspective. I liked the idea of certain times of day being more efficient for certain activities and was interested in putting that into practice. 

About half of the workshop was taken up with ayurvedic basics to give the people in attendance a foundation from which to work from. Jackie went over the five elements: ether, air, fire water and earth. She described the quality of each element. From there she used these descriptions to discuss the three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Although this material was review for me, I still learned a lot. Her discussion of each allowed me to more deeply understand the tri-doshic theory as it relates to nature and the five elements.

From there Jackie divided the times of day from sunrise to sunset and then from sunset to sunrise. I don’t want to give away all of their workshop so I will just go over some of the main points that really stood out to me.

First of all, I learned that even though I get up at 6 am for my sadhana (spiritual practice) it would be even better to get up earlier!!! Yikes! The time that is best for sadhana is between 2 am and  6 am. Since I spend about 45 minutes meditating, I guess I need to get up around 5 am. The more specific instructions are to meditate 90 minutes before sunrise. So the pitta perfectionist in my nature gets curious about the days that keep getting shorter at this time of year. Tomorrow morning, (September 18), for example, sunrise is at 7:04 a.m. and by the week it is getting close to 7:10 a.m. So I’m guessing that during the shorter days of winter you don’t have to get up quite that early.

Once we hit 6 a.m. it is a better time of day to engage in strong energies and endurance such as yoga asana. OK, so this is starting to make sense, meditate before 6 am, do my yoga practice after 6 am.

Contrary to the very commonly given advice, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” ayurvedic daily routines don’t encourage a large breakfast. That time of day your digestive fires just aren’t strong enough to be able to cope with a big meal. Instead they recommend a moderate breakfast.

According to ayurvedic principles, the time to eat your largest meal of the day is mid-day. This is when your digestive fires are the strongest. Actually Jackie recommended that if you are going to eat junk food, the middle of the day is the best time of day to eat it. That is because your digestive fires will be most capable of handling them at that time of day.

Another thing I learned is that our mental activity is the strongest in the afternoon. This was interesting to me, since usually my best writing takes place in the morning hours. I tend to feel more drained at this time, which might suggest an imbalance. Jackie also mentioned that if you feel drained in the afternoon it is because you didn’t eat a big enough lunch. The other cool thing that I learned is that the afternoon is another good time for spiritual practice – so, if you are not a morning person, the afternoon is a good time to pull out your meditation cushion again. Love that!

Oh, here’s another biggie. No forms of digestion (mental or physical) after 6 p.m. That is no consuming – food or media. This is your time to be winding down.

One of the biggest challenges that I have as a yoga teacher, is my super long days. I generally don’t walk back into my house until 9:45 p.m. at night. According to ayurvedic guidelines, one should be in bed no later than 10 p.m. (You are supposed to be getting up before 6 am after all!) I’ve found this a huge challenge as somebody who walks in the door 15 minutes prior to bed time. Jackie had some great advice for me. She suggested I head right to the shower to wash off all the energy of the day, lie with my legs up the wall and go straight to bed.

My major criticism of this workshop is that it is really hard to give workshops on ayurveda. So much of ayurveda is so specific to the individual that it is very difficult for the presentors to answer questions. For example I went in with the question of whether it is OK to nap. The answer was that napping can be very beneficial for some doshas but poison to others. Really they can’t actually give an answer to a lot of questions without a one on one consultation. So more than anything this workshop left me wanting a one on one consultation, not just for me, but for each person in my family.

Books recommended were 1) Perfect Health byDeepak Chopra, (I’ve read this one and it is a great introduction to Ayurveda) 2) Ayurveda: Nature’s Medicine by Dr. David Frawley (Can’t believe I haven’t ready this one yet!) and 3) Perfect Health for Kids by John Douillard.

Overall I found this workshop incredibly inspiring. I went home with some great ideas to improve my energy and spiritual practice. When “we align ourselves with the natural rhythms of nature we will find our choices become more effective and less energy is wasted.” Additionally we should experience better mental, physical and emotional health.

Jackie and Greg will be back in Toronto at Downdog on Saturday October 8th from 2 to 4 pm giving a workshop on A Woman’s Cycle: Nature’s Blessing.

 

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