Charlie: What do you do when your world comes off its hinges? It’s a lesson we’ve all had to grapple with when stay at home became the norm. Even as we return and get moving again, finding our footing is a challenge. That’s why we’re joined by Lisa Bracken, the Ayurveda specialist at Tulsa Spine and Rehab. Hi, Lisa.
Lisa: Hi, Charlie, thanks for having me again.
Charlie: Lisa, let’s start by making sure we’re clear about what Ayurveda means.
Lisa: Absolutely. Ayurveda is a word that comes from the Sanskrit language. It hails from India. It can be broken down into two parts. Ayuh, A-Y-U-H, and Veda, V as in Victor, E-D-A. Veda means wisdom or knowledge. Sometimes it’s referred to as science. Ayuh is life. When you put the two together, you get A-Y-U-R-V-E-D-A, Ayurveda. It translates specifically as the science of life or the knowledge or wisdom of life. We can wrap our heads around it as an integrative way of living, an integrative way of dealing with disease prevention, as well as treatment. Ayurveda places most of the emphasis on food. Food is the mother of all medicine. Of course, Ayurveda also places a great deal of emphasis on living within the seasons. Ayurveda teaches us that we as humans are a microcosm of the macrocosm. As the external, so the internal. Whatever is happening outside in our world, in our environment, is bound to have an effect on us internally in our internal world and environment as well.
Charlie: We’re returning now from a land where it seems, Lisa, the time stood still and home and work became one. It’s kind of like those days, you remember when, on summer vacation, when you get out as a kid, and you had unstructured time with no routine? Therein lies the rub of the lack of routine and the impact that’s having on us.
Lisa: Absolutely. I’ve seen it in my household, I’ve seen it with clients and I’ve seen it with friends. It is, it’s very much like you said, that summer’s here, yay, and so a lot of people just checked out for the first couple of weeks and binge watched Netflix and Amazon series and just threw caution to the wind when it came to meals and sleep habits. A lot of people suffered from that and struggled through it. Yeah, getting back on our feet, if that means getting back to work, great, but for those who are still staying at home and choosing to practice social distancing or needing to isolate or quarantine for whatever reason, I strongly encourage you to maintain a routine. I teach my own clients that routine around three areas is really crucial: when you wake up, when you go to bed and when you eat. If we can set some parameters and place some structure around those three opportunities within a 24 hour period, we’re doing our bodies a huge service, not to mention what it does for our mind and our nervous system to have that rhythm to a 24 hour day.
Charlie: You’re talking about as basic as what time you get up and what time you go to bed.
Lisa: Absolutely. It really is that simple. I know it sounds super elementary and pedestrian, but honestly it is frequently in my work the simplest changes and maybe some of the most subtle shifts that we make in our lives that have the most profound and potent effect. Yeah, it really is that simple. Try to be in bed by 10. Try to be asleep by 10 for the win and get up by 6, or ideally get up a little before six so that you can actually be part of the natural rising of the sun.
Charlie: How would you organize your daily activities, even within that framework, Lisa.?
Lisa: Okay. First and foremost, I encourage everyone, as I said, to get up by six or before six. The very first thing we do after we take care of our personal hygiene, scraping our tongue, brushing our teeth, getting a glass of hot water with lemon, or maybe a little ginger root in the hot water, of course, evacuating our bowels and emptying our bladder, and then get outside. I think getting outside at the first light of day is really pivotal. In fact, circadian medicine absolutely validates this for us. Circadian medicine tells us that our circadian clock, which we have these little cellular clocks in every single cell in our body, and these little metaphorical clocks reset themselves at the first light of day. If my first light of day happens at 6:00 AM and it’s outdoors with the sun, or if my first light of day is at 10:30 AM and it’s the light of the refrigerator welcoming me, I’m going to have two very different experiences in my day.
Lisa: Studies show, Charlie, that if I get eight hours of sleep between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, I have a much different experience the next day than if I get eight hours of sleep, but I get it between midnight and 8:00 AM. Really, it goes back to these circadian clocks and this Ayurvedic rhythm of life. When we go to bed, when we wake up, when we meet the first light of day, it plays such a crucial role on setting our internal rhythm. It’s just really exciting for me because Ayurveda has been teaching this for 3 or 4,000 years. Now we have Nobel prize winning information and studies that are backing it up with the whole circadian medicine and chrono medicine.
Charlie: I want to talk about organizing your eating as well, but while we’re on this idea of the circadian clock, the same thing goes, you talk about dawn’s early light and getting out in the light. I think the light at the end of your day is important as well.
Lisa: Indeed, it absolutely is. I’m glad you brought that up because there’s a certain energy. Let’s look at the Ayurvedic clock. It mirrors the circadian clock very, very similarly, very, very few little exceptions. The Ayurvedic clock tells us that our 24 hour period is broken down into 4 hour increments. The energy in the early hours of the morning, between 5 and 9 or 6 and 10, the energy in the early wee hours is very different than the energy between noon and 4. What we want to do is harness that energy to be our best. Now, the energy in the evening between 6 and 10:00 PM is also an important energy to monitor and embrace because that, as the sun is going down, as the external, so the internal, as the sun begins to set, our rhythms and our metabolism also begins to set.
Lisa: Our metabolism is much slower in the evening, just naturally, than it is in the morning. In the morning between 6 and 10, we’re waking, we’re meeting the light, we’re getting revved up, we’re warming up, literally and figuratively. In the evening time, we’re beginning to cool down. I always encourage those that I work with and anyone who will listen to me that in the evening hours, start to wind down. Let your household darken just as the environment outdoors is beginning to darken. By seven, by eight ditch the overhead lights. Just use a floor lamp. Better yet, if you really want to go all in, just have a candle lit. It’s a little old school, but the … Also, I’ll say one more thing about that that I find really crucial, really key, is to eliminate your screen time at least 30 minutes before you go to bed, ideally an hour before you go to bed.
Lisa: You want to get a Netflix episode or two after dinner? Fine, go for it, but give yourself a 30 minute or a 60 minute window between your screen time, which is activating your pineal gland and telling your brain, “Hey, don’t let go of any melatonin just yet, because it’s obviously still daylight.” Letting yourself come down in your physical household and giving yourself that window of transition to let your own … I mean, I don’t want to sound too woo-woo, but let your own inner sun begin to set before you go to bed. People will have a much easier time getting, falling and staying asleep when they begin to adhere to that rhythm on a consistent basis.
Charlie: Now, in the minute we have left here, let’s touch real quick on routine for dining.
Lisa: Got it, so easy. Here you go. Here’s what you need to know. Breakfast like a prince, lunch like a king, dinner like a pauper. Eating consistent meals at consistent times of day also does our metabolism great wonders and it does our nervous system great wonders. First meal of the day, I always believed breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is important because it’s when we break the fast, but honestly, if you’re not hungry, go light. Just have an apple, a piece of fruit or a cup of tea. You don’t need to have your biscuits and gravy with sausage on the side. Your biggest meal of the day should be lunch. When the sun is at its peak in the sky, so too, hopefully, our inner fire, our inner solar system is also burning at its peak. We are better able to handle, digest and assimilate a larger meal. Evening meal, as I said earlier, our metabolism begins to slow down around 6, 6:30 at night. Keep it light. Evening is a great time for a cool soup, maybe some gazpacho, or just something light.
Charlie: It’s okay to be hungry.
Lisa: Oh, indeed, it is. In fact, I teach and I preach that the most important thing you can bring to the table is an appetite. Now, that said, after dinner, dinner should be light, it should be early, and then after dinner, no mas. No more snacking, no ice cream, no popcorn. Just let it go. If you’re a little hungry when you go to bed, that’s fine. Your liver will actually appreciate that. It’s a gift to your liver. If your body’s having to send all of this energy to the digestive system to break down that chocolate brownie sundae you had at nine o’clock at night, then the energy that should be going to your liver to detoxify and purify and regenerate your body overnight is … No. It’s lacking.
Lisa: Absolutely, allow yourself to be hungry. Actually, Charlie, that’s how we burn the fuel that most of us want to get rid of. The body’s going to burn the most readily accessible fuel that is available to it. If we continue to feed ourselves between meals, it’s not going to help us out, particularly if we’re wanting to shed a few additional pounds that we maybe have put on over the last couple of months, because we’ve been …
Charlie: That’s the COVID-19, isn’t it? Isn’t that the 19 part of it?
Lisa: I think that’s right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. If we’ll let ourselves get hungry, then the body’s going to actually start to work on the adipose, the fat. I refer to it as letting your body tap into the reserve tank, because that’s where the fat is stored. That’s the energy we’d like our body to really burn.
Charlie: That’s great advice. Now, whether you’re at home or work, many of these practices can help you get moving. Lisa can help too. You can reach her through our website or schedule time with her by calling Tulsa Spine and Rehab. Lisa, thanks for being with us.
Lisa: Hey, my pleasure, Charlie. Thank you.
Charlie: Tulsa Spine and Rehab is a collection of specialists all teamed together in one place, chiropractic and physical therapy, massage, cryotherapy, and a host of other specialties including Ayurveda, all with one goal, to help you get moving.