’One Day’,the Sun King, and why timing is everything

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If you’re one of the millions who’ve read the novel or streamed the series ‘ One Day ’, you’ll know timing in life is everything. And as Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley discovered, timing isn’t just necessary on July 15th St Swithin’s Day, but every ordinary day. And key to getting our timing right is the star that gives life to all things, the Sun, our prime energy source. Just as solar panels harness energy for electricity, the Sun’s movements create an array of bio-energies within us that we can learn to synchronise with, so as to maximise our own energy supply in the same way. And the Doshas hold the key to understanding exactly how we can ride this Diurnal Cycle. 

The sun is a giant clock requiring no battery or recharge, that can be relied upon to rise and set each day. This is why sun dials were the clock of choice in days long gone. But nowadays, reliant on our phones and watches, many of us have forgotten the power this celestial body wields, and become largely disconnected from the solar cycle as a result. Man-made clocks are integral for many wide-ranging reasons, but when it comes to our health, nature is nature, and she can’t be toyed with. Life is all about rhythm and flow, and the sun moves according to its own rhythm, no matter what our clocks might display. And this rhythm of solar time produces an internal body clock that regulates our metabolism and cognitive functions, known as our circadian rhythms, that determine the best time for us to eat, sleep and be active.

Ayurveda’s simple explanation for these rhythms, is that each Dosha is the dominant energy ruling 2 four hour bands of time during the day and night of each 24 hour cycle. And once we begin to analyse the elemental personality of each Dosha in charge in any hour, it becomes very straightforward why there are certain hours of the day when it’s best for us to eat, sleep and be active. It also becomes very clear how we can ride these Dosha waves of energy, and make the most of their power. All we really need do is apply a little common sense. 

Following are a rough indication of the Dosha times of dominance, but it’s always best to use the sun where you live as the ruling yardstick rather than a clock. As a general rule, when the sun is rising and setting over the horizon, at dawn and dusk, a Vata / Kapha changeover is taking place, and when the Sun is high overhead or sound asleep, Pitta is in full swing. 

Vata, being made of Space and Air, is the energy of movement, and rules from 2am to 6am during the morning, and from 2 pm to 6 pm in the evening. If you want to maximise your energy, wake during these early Vata hours of dominance, and her movement will automatically increase your energy levels for the rest of the day. This is why anyone you know who gets up early, always seems to be filled with so much energy. If you want to more easily evacuate your bowels or move into a deeper place in meditation, these early hours of her’s will also help. Equally, after a long day being buffeted by the storms of life, finding time for some stillness and quiet during her afternoon hours, will go a long way towards helping soothe your Vata run nervous system. And trying not to overload her by running around with too many activities during this window is also a good idea for the same reason. 

Pitta, being comprised of Fire and Water, is the energy of digestion, and rules from 10 am to 2pm during the day, and 10 pm to 2 am in the night. If you consume your main meal around midday during Pitta’s hours of dominance, she’ll help maximise your digestive capability in a big way. So if you’re trying to lose weight, eating your main meal at this time will be hugely beneficial. And if you also consume the bulk of the data you need to take in and focus on any problems needing to be addressed during this time, her incisive intelligence and fiery power will help you no end. Equally, eating a light meal in the early evening, will give her maximum latitude to expend her midnight hours digesting all you’ve taken in during the day, above and beyond just your dinner. This way she can focus her energy on cleansing your channels while you sleep, and become far more effective at the task as a result.

Kapha, being made of Water and Earth, is the energy of lubrication, and rules from 6 am to 10 am in the early hours, and 6 pm to 10 pm during the evening. If you exercise and move during these morning hours, you’ll be able to enliven Kapha’s heavy earthy energy, and she’ll help you feel lighter for the rest of the day as a result. It’s also a great time to make the most of her lubricating strength, by setting up the earthy structure for the remainder of your day. And in the early evening hours, take advantage of her slow heaviness, by unwinding and getting ready for bed. This way she can become your great sleep enabler. 

If your day consists of waking at 10am, eating your main meal at 8pm and going to bed at midnight, then you’re structuring your daily routine in direct opposition to the Sun’s cycle, meaning you’re forgoing the use of a natural energy supply that’s good for you and dirt cheap. You are surfing against the tide. If this is you, you’ll be searching for other energy sources. You’ll probably find you’re needing caffeine to kick-start your morning, a chocolate hit at 4 pm to get you to the finish-line, and alcohol, sleeping tablets or something stronger, to get you to sleep at night. When one of my daughters was returning home at 1 am from holiday shift work, our family dog, who by chance is called Dosha, would never dream of getting up to welcome her home. Like most animals, her innate wisdom told her 1am is time for sleep, if possible!

One of the most obvious ways we’ve started to play with the Sun’s cycle in recent history, is through Daylight Saving Time (DST). Forty percent of the world mask time by switching clocks for DST. The UK, European Union, USA, Canada, and parts of Australia, are some of the over 70 countries who do this, affecting well over a billion people each year. In the more populous countries of India and China, where daylight hours are fairly consistent due to proximity to the Equator, this change of time isn’t implemented. Unsurprisingly, Germany was the first country attributed with enacting DST, after implementing it during WW1 to save of all things electricity. And surprisingly, one of the first people to be credited with the actual idea of Daylight Saving, is the great great grandfather of Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin! (1)

In recent years though, there’s been mounting evidence suggesting DST clock changes are actively harmful to our health. Scientists have said they fuel a rise in heart attacks and cardiovascular incidents, traffic accidents, and gastrointestinal and sleep issues, and claim it should be ditched entirely. Studies have also shown that those living in the west of a time zone, who get light later in the morning and the evening, and where the mismatch between the sun and our clocks is greatest, have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and many types of cancer, as well as lower per capita income. (3) Other research has linked a lack of morning light exposure for children with a decrease in academic performance.

Dr Jennifer Evans, professor of biomedical sciences and circadian researcher at Marquette, has said “ Everything from cell division and cell metabolism to protein synthesis and the utilisation of fuel-all these bodily changes are changing throughout the day. You could name anything your body does and there’s a high probability that it’s not static all day long”.(2) Ayurveda concurs with this analysis, with an understanding that each organ holds sway and does the lion’s share of their work, at certain hours within each Diurnal Cycle.

As Elizabeth Klerman a Harvard sleep researcher has pointed out though, DST ‘is not just a health issue’, as it involves energy, crime, business, government and communications. And it’s for this reason, despite recent research, debate about DST still continues. In 2018 the European Parliament began discussions proposing the discontinuation of DST. And in the United States, debates about DST still persist, with states and territories still able to opt out of DST, despite the Senate recently passing the Sunshine Protection Act, in a bid to make DST permanent, which has since stalled before becoming legislated.(4)

Cast your mind back to the last time the clocks changed for DST, and remember the fatigue, moodiness, fogginess, loss of appetite or lightheadedness, you may have experienced when they did. I know when I had young children, parenting over this changeover was tricky, as it took a good couple of weeks to settle the girls after the clocks changed.

Our bodies rely on a cue of bright light in the morning, to bring our body clocks into line with the normal 24-hour solar cycle, and if we don’t get that cue first thing then our bodies begin to lag. This is because that morning burst of sunlight stops the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. And when DST gives us fewer hours of light in the morning, we’re more likely to miss that bump of daylight that’s so integral in helping us to realign our body clocks in this way. As Carter a DST researcher wrote “ Morning light plays a critical role in synchronising our internal clocks and daylight saving time leads to a misalignment between our social clocks (i.e., the clocks on the wall), and our internal clocks, which are synchronised to the sun”.(4)

It’s no co-incidence ‘Salute to the Sun’ is one of the best-known sequences within yoga. Not only does this series of asanas acknowledge the all-encompassing power of the Sun-the original source of Pitta’s energy, but if we face East while performing them, as the sun rises over the horizon, it allows for sunlight to fall on our foreheads. The pineal gland, responsible for producing our melatonin, is located behind the forehead, deep in the brain in an area known as the epithalamus, where the two halves of the brain join.

The quickest way to jump-start synchronisation of your circadian rhythms with the sun is to go and sleep in a tent, at a camp site far far away from any light pollution. This way, you can have a canvas of starry sky above you rather than electric lights, and with no Wi-Fi you’ll have no screens tempting you to stay awake as the sun sets, along with a chorus of noises from the animals as they wake, early morning. The good news is many Gen Z’s have now started realising they feel so much better when they get to sleep at a reasonable hour, and have started to head out earlier as a result. Many bars in the East Village of New York have decided to play into the growing trend, and have started hosting ‘matinee’ dance parties, with one bar holding their ‘recent New Year’s Eve countdown at 8pm so drinkers could get settled in bed by 11pm’.(6)

Amid the growing space race, the White House has recently directed NASA to establish a standard time on the moon, provisionally called “Coordinated Lunar time”, to ensure communications between the more than 30 time zones on Earth, lunar satellites, bases and astronauts can be synchronised effectively. Gravity differences, meaning moon seconds tick faster than those on Earth, has made this necessary. No-where in the cosmos is safe from our timekeeping! Kevin Coggins, deputy associate administrator at NASA has said “It makes sense that when you go to another body, like the moon or Mars, that each one gets its own heartbeat”. (5)

The heartbeat of Earth, is the Sun’s Diurnal cycle. The sun is our North Star, our Pied Piper-calling us to synchronise our timing with his power and force. He is our ‘King of Clocks’. And depending on how effectively we ride this wave each day, over time a distinct life story will be formed. When we don’t live in obeyance with nature’s master timekeeper, all manner of problems can unfold, too numerous to mention here.

Ayurveda teaches us if we live in harmony with nature, wellness will result, and a wonderful place to start is living in rhythm with the Sun King. Are you riding nature’s waves of energy by living in sync with the sun? Release your inner Elizabeth Zott, and analyse your body’s response to the choices you’re making throughout the Dosha windows of time. For as this Diurnal Cycle unfolds, each day, your body is taking part in one long series of ‘Lessons in Chemistry’. Then begin to tweak your lifestyle, and slowly but surely get in rhythm with the sun. Make decisions that ‘chime with time’, so not only one day, but every day, you’ll be able to enjoy the time of your life. 

KNOW YOUR DOSHAS

References:

  1. https://www.insureandgo.com.au/travel-hub/history-daylight-saving-time/
  2. https://today.marquette.edu/2024/02/three-ways-daylight-saving-time-affects-your-body/
  3. https://theconversation.com/springing-forward-into-daylight-saving-time-is-a-step-back-for-health-a-neurologist-explains-the-medical-evidence-and-why-this-shift-is-worse-than-the-fall-time-change-197343
  4. https://www.drugtopics.com/view/how-daylight-saving-time-increases-health-risks
  5. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-moon-will-get-its-own-time-zone-called-coordinated-lunar-time-under-nasas-lead-180984076/
  6. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13040585/generation-z-sleep-schedule-early-nine-hours.html