Ayurveda teaches that living out of harmony is one of the foundational causes of illness and chronic health issues. But what does it mean to live in harmony? To begin with, living harmoniously means tuning in with the rhythm of the seasons. It also means living according to your dosha—making choices that keep any excess dosha in check. Also, there is something we can all do on a daily basis. Creating a daily routine that lines up with the ebb and flow of the doshas throughout the day will help keep your body and mind in balance.
Ayurveda Times of Day: The Daily Dosha Cycle
In order to understand the Ayurveda times of day, it is important to have a sense of which doshas predominate during various phases of the day. Here is a summary of what that pattern looks like:
Vata: 2-6 am
Kapha: 6 am-10 am
Pitta: 10 am-2 pm
Vata: 2 pm-6 pm
Kapha: 6 pm-10 pm
Pitta: 10 pm-2 am
You can see from this summary that the doshas rise and fall with the turn of the earth on its axis. Each dosha has the opportunity to take a central role during two periods over the course of 24 hours.
Let the Doshas Guide Your Routine
So what do the Ayurveda times of day mean for our daily habits and practices? In much the same way that one should eat considering the season, during each time of day, there are ideal activities that are in balance with the doshas and their subsequent qualities.
Vata dosha, being characterized as subtle rather than gross, relates to the breath and spiritual practices. The vata time of the morning, 2 am- 6 am, is the ideal time for pranayama, meditation, and yogic practices. Ayurveda recommends awakening with the sun, and setting aside time in the wee hours of the morning for such practices.
The practice that best suits the interests and mindset of one individual to the next will vary. However, whether it is a walk in the fresh morning air, a yoga practice, chanting, or pranayama, the vata hours are an ideal time for such practices.
Vata also rules our creativity and capacity for expansive thinking. Remember that vata is composed of the air and ether elements and ether relates to possibility. Therefore, the vata time of the afternoon (2-6 pm) is an excellent time for creative thinking. Highly analytical tasks and number crunching are best left to the pitta time of day. The afternoon hours are good for a cup of vata-soothing digestive tea (such as cinnamon, ginger, or herbal masala chai) and for letting one’s imagination run a bit.
As the influence of vata fades with the passing of dawn, kapha dosha steps into its starring role from 6 am-10 am. Excessive kapha dosha can make a person sleepy, groggy, and lethargic, so that is why it is best to awaken a bit before the kapha time of day. You can experiment with waking up at different times and you may discover that awakening later in the morning actually leaves you feeling more tired than waking up with the sun. Of course, be sure to get enough hours of sleep—Ayurveda recommends getting to bed by 10 pm and getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep.
Kapha dosha brings strength to the body, so if you are looking to establish a vigorous exercise routine, the kapha period of the morning is ideal. Also, kapha likes routine, so if you are determined to establish a good habit, the kapha time of day is a great place to start. This period of the day is also great for a spoonful of nourishing Chyawanprash followed by a light meal.
Also, kapha dosha thrives on a sense of family and social connections, so this is a great time of day to check in with your family and colleagues before diving into the hard work of the day. Furthermore, kapha dosha also rules the hours from 6 pm -10 pm, so this is a good time to connect with family and friends. A shared meal at around 6 pm is the perfect way to begin the evening.
The fire element predominates in pitta dosha, so choosing a smart daily routine according to ayurveda is all about managing that fire. The influence of pitta dosha peaks as the sun comes to its zenith in the sky. Midday (10 am- 2 pm) is also the pitta time of day. This is period in which our agni (digestive fire) is the strongest. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends eating the largest meal of the day at midday.
Furthermore, pitta relates to logical and analytical tasks, so if have some accounting to do or some serious planning, take advantage of pitta’s discerning nature! 10 am – 2 pm is the perfect time for such tasks. Just be careful that you don’t get so caught up in work that you work through lunch! The flames of pitta need fuel, so skipping lunch will likely leave you feeling irritable, snappy, and cranky—especially if you have a lot of pitta dosha in your constitution.
Live in Harmony According to Ayurveda Times of Day
In addition to respecting the flow of the doshas, there are a number of ayurvedic daily routines, known as dinacharya, that can become daily supportive habits. You can read more about these daily routines according to Ayurveda here and we will explain more about the best morning routines for each dosha in upcoming posts. However, taking the big picture view, it is helpful to understand the ebb and flow of the doshas throughout each day so that we can all learn to live in greater health and harmony.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.