By Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
A shared sense of time is recent in human history. Before that, people lived in accordance with the rhythms in the land and sky around their homes. They looked at the sun, the stars, the land and the moon to calculate when to plant seeds, when to travel, when to harvest, and when to make certain foods. Time zones were unknown, and local areas decided their time intervals based on their common sense of sunrise and sunset.
Clocks only became accessible to the common man in the past century. Before that, western countries used bell towers to chime 7am, 12noon, and 7pm. People could get a sense of the day passing. Common gatherings for festivals and prayer were the indicators for days of the week. While a common calendar of months was attempted, consensus on the use of the Gregorian calendar for international purposes only occurred in the 1950s.
The consensus on Time and Date allows people of different locations to agree on meeting points. As societies began to idolize city living and modern technology, they created scales that looked down on people living in rural areas, dependent on farming, and less aware of elite society’s conventions. City folk vs. country folk became a new division between people, as cities grew to facilitate the desires for trade, commerce, money, and status.
Ayurveda tells us that health is wealth, and that health is only achieved when we are aligned with Nature. In the practical realm, it means that we must remain aligned with the cycles of the earth, moon, and sun, pivoting our schedules around the natural cycles and the changes they bring on daily, fortnightly and seasonal rhythms.
This past week, the summer solstice occurred, indicating the longest daylight period of the year. People celebrate long evenings with late sunsets and longer hikes in the mountains.
Ayurvedic calendars celebrate the passing into dakshina-ayana. From this date for six months, the sun will move from your northern-most point in the sky toward the south, landing at the northern-most point in the sky in late December and then rest at the same point for a couple of weeks before its cyclic movement again toward the north.
From the ayurvedic viewpoint, one that always considers the health impact of any factor, dakshina-ayana is an important annual shift toward recovering health. In the six months when the days get shorter and shorter by a few seconds to a minute per day, the nights get longer too per day. Soma, the moon’s effect on the body, allows the body to recover more water and more robustness. Exercise is encouraged, daily walks, sports, and time in the moonlight especially on the full moon nights.
As the days shorten toward the halfway mark or equinox, in which the days and nights are approximately equal, the Autumn Equinox brings a time of rejuvenation for the healthy body. This season is known as Sharada, as hot moves toward cold, bringing opportunity for deep healing for the human physical body. Water and oil begin to accumulate, allowing the heaviness of muscle and bone to amplify.
As Hemanta, or early winter approaches and the cold weather arrives, all people in the northern hemisphere experience less sweating and thus less dissipation of heat through the blood and out through the skin. The heat thus centralizes in the core of the body, promoting strength and fire in the belly. This heightened fire allows us accelerated opportunity to get rid of undigested waste, and supply new fresh and clean building blocks, if we know how to eat, what to eat, and where to source our foods. The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House. [email protected] | www.drbhaswati.com