Following the high energy that surrounds the summer solstice, July and August invite us to sit back, feel the energy of the crops ripening and wait for the harvest. August ushers in a settling or resting type of energy that connects us with the earth. Earth is our home and she provides us nourishment, support and life, as well as the cycles, rhythms and patterns of our lives. Learning how to adapt our busy lives to these cycles and rhythms can help us eat and sleep better and contribute to our overall health and well-being.
Understanding rhythms & cycles
Our bodies function like an orchestra, with millions of differentiated cells blended into a harmonious ensemble by the grand conductor—Nature. Nature composes the music, marks the tempo and creates the rhythms. Our bodies are impacted by these rhythms. There are the annual rhythms of the earth’s voyage around the sun and the rotation on its axis creating the different seasons. The summer solstice, full moon and high noon mark the highest “fire” energy of the year, 28-day moon and 24-hour day/night cycles. Yet we all experience the same rhythms day after day, year after year.
Ultradian rhythms relate to the periodic high and low cycles we experience throughout the day. Circadian rhythms refer to the daily routines our bodies are pre-programmed to follow—the rhythms of night and day.
Our natural circadian rhythm controls when we feel sleepy, alert, when hormones are released, etc. Circa means “around” and dian means “day.” Hence, “about a day.” Like a symphony that flows in a particular sequence, the body completes specific tasks and moves on to others. Nature provides an internal metronome to keep everything in tempo.
All plant life embodies messages composed of the sun’s energy about the regulating effects of light during the seasons and our daily cycle. This information is transmitted into the cells of our body when we consume carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables and grains. There is a chemical transfer of these messages from cell to cell. When animals eat plants, for example, information is transmitted through their reproductive systems to inform them of the change of seasons. This is how they instinctively know when to mate, migrate or hibernate.
Eating and sleeping
The work your body does in the morning requires raw materials provided by protein, which are important for consciousness and action. Nighttime chores need carbohydrates. When you sleep your body is engaged in energy consumption chores. Proteins, though vital for life, burn “dirty,” while carbohydrates (sugars) burn “clean.” Cells require sugars as a source of energy during the night shift, for detox, repair, restoration and heat.
Our knowledge about circadian rhythms is based on mainstream scientific research. These rhythms tell us when and what to eat, when to sleep and how long. Yet, most people in our culture do not honor them. Sidney MacDonald Baker, M.D, author of The Circadian Prescription: Get in Step with Your Body’s Natural Rhythms, has adapted this research and developed a simple program for his patients. The results are that his patients maximize their energy and vitality and overcome illnesses.
The program is very simple. Though we are all different biochemically, Baker says we are the same rhythmically. He prescribes a diet that emphasizes eating high protein in the early part of the day, for breakfast and lunch, and high carbohydrates in the evening. This is the opposite of the way most of us eat, with breakfast foods that are high in grains and sugars, and evening meals high in protein. He stresses, however, that one not be fanatical about consuming only proteins or carbohydrates in a meal.
Sleep has an important function in our daily life when the body’s cells are doing a lot of repairing. Not getting enough quality sleep can play havoc on our immune system and take a toll on our mind, body and overall health. The second part of Baker’s program stresses the importance of sleeping in total darkness for at least six hours. Otherwise the melatonin hormone, which is vital for repair and rejuvenation, loses its effectiveness. If you have to get up in the night to go to the bathroom, Baker suggests you use a pen flashlight or very dim night lights outside the bedroom.
While many factors can affect the quality of our sleeping patterns, sleep specialist Amer Khan, MD, has found that iRest® Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation that promotes deep relaxation, is highly beneficial to his patients. Many have even gone off their medications. iRest consists of a ten-step protocol that can be incorporated into one’s daily life, both as individual processes, as well as a mid-afternoon 20-30 minute break. Perhaps we should return to our afternoon nap routine of childhood! Mark Ehrman, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, encourages us to do just this.
Live in sync with Earth
In a healthy body, the members of the “orchestra” play in balance, harmony and rhythmic time. Our bodies’ chemistry operates in waves. When you live in sync with the earth’s rhythms, you ride the wave of time. Synchronize your body’s rhythm with the natural flow of time, and enjoy the harvest at the end of the day.
If you would like to get in sync with Earth’s rhythms, sleep better or learn more about iRest meditation, or come to one of my free iRest meditations on Sunday morning or Thursday afternoon.