One of the threads that have pulled together for me recently is listening to a Neurobiologist Professor from Stanford and an Ayurvedic expert from the Himalayan Tradition and hearing them say the same thing in different ways and for different reasons. Each explaining from their own model of reality but arriving at the same conclusion. I love it when that happens because just confirms that the bridge is building stronger. 

Here I will summarise just some of what they say and let you read or listen further by following the links. This is practical stuff that might be a game-changing for athletes.

Prof Andrew Hubermann is an opthamologist and he talks about current endocrine research on seratonin, melatonin, and epinephrine and other markers of the activation of the nervous system, generally watching whether it is stimulated, overstimulated or under-stimulated and he has a serious of tips for maintaining effective balance through the day.

He is also not opposed to revving up his own system now and again with legal performance enhancing suppliments so I guess he falls into the ‘Biohacker’ camp. Master Your Sleep & Be More Alert When Awake | Huberman Lab Podcast #2 – YouTube

He speaks about timing of our activities in the day, and refining awareness to be most productive. There are details such as when the optimum moment is to hit your system with exercise or caffeine. It seems it should be delayed a little rather than first thing in the morning. Knowing when to do creative thinking work and when to do admin. Traditional yogis would regulate their own nervous systems by opening or closing one or other of the nostrils as these are said to regulate the Sun and Moon channel in our bodies. Hence the balancing practice of alternate nostril breathing. This will be the topic of another blog

What is so interesting is that he explains that the morning waking up process also sets an internal timer for falling asleep and at minute 25 in the podcast, he explains that the ‘suprachiasmatic nucleus’, a part of the pineal gland, just above the roof of the mouth requires the suns early light to correctly arrange the function of ALL of the body’s systems. We can send the message to the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus by looking at the low sun. More than just a pretty light show, when the sun is low, it has particular light frequency which is just right for setting and adjusting our body clock.


Ayurveda (the science of long life) is the oldest documented system of traditional medicine informed Traditional Chinese medicine and several other forms. It is the “sister science” of yoga and has a lot to say about balancing our constitutions by being in synch with the times of the day.

Its fundamental concept is that we each have constitutional tendencies, described as Doshas, and understanding our particular needs helps us not to slip out of balance. An excess of either of the three doshas, fire, water or air can upset the balance and over time can create disease. Most people these days seem to have a sense of their Dosha- their natural tendency toward, Fire, Water or Air. This plays out in habits, personalities and dietary inclinations.

Get a sense of your Dosha with this simple survey.

Plenty has been written about diet for doshas, but the relation between times of day and the timing and dominance of these doshas may be another something to consider.

 What the Ayurvedic Folks point out is this. 

Kapha is strongest from 6 am to 10 am and pm Hence sluggish mornings for Kapha type people, and relaxing with movies after dinner sits well and fits perfectly there.

Pita is strongest from 10 am to 2pm and 10pm to 2am Hence there is a ‘second-wind’ for night owl students and writers. This may be a boon for the night owls but the small spike in epinephrine around 10pm keeps some insomniacs awake especially if do too much screen time. They miss the window of sleepiness that comes during the kapha period from 6 pm to 10 pm. During the day this middle of the day Pita window is a good time to be active in cooler climates, or to get things done if you are a Pita type person. (late morning or lunchtime yoga practice works well for a strong practice for some) But in a hot climate that is time to cool down.

Vata is strongest from 2 to 6 am and 2 to 6 pm which is probably why I sometimes find myself a bit lost and confused in the afternoon if I miss lunch. The best time to meditate traditionally is before the sun during the Vata window. Actually about an hour before the sunrise is the time period called Brahma Muhurtha. Brahmamuhurtha occurs during the Vata phase of the morning, between 2:00am and 6:00am, and Yoga masters state that the best time to meditate is one and a half hours before dawn, because the mind is inherently still at that time, enabling one to achieve a deeper meditative state.[11]

Brahma Muhurtha is the 14th muhurtha kala of the night. One muhurtha is equivalent to 48 minutes. And a whole night consists of 15 muhurthas. Each muhurta lasts 48 minutes, and therefore the Brahma muhurta begins 1 hour and 36 minutes before sunrise, and ends 48 minutes before sunrise. The time of sunrise varies each day, according to geographic location and time of year, thus the time of the Brahma muhurta also varies. For example, if sunrise is at 6am, the brahma muhurta begins at 4:24am. If sunrise is at 7am, brahma muhurta begins at 5:24am, and so on. [1][2][3][4] Lad, Vasant. ‘Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing’, ISBN0-914955-00-4, P. 104

Traditionally, both the day and the night was divided into 4 quarters called Prahar which is a ‘watch ‘ as in the period of duty of the night watchman. So the time would have to vary according to the season, with the winter Prahars being a little longer than the Summer and at the equinox they would all be equal at three hours.

Early birds and worms
Early bird yogis, joggers and surfers know all about the beauty of this early time and the way that it sets up the day. But it turns out that it isn’t just the delight of the sunrise, that does it. There are levels of the body’s chemistry like melatonin related to the light that shift and adjust constantly and can be brought into a steady routine that will effect our moods. According to Andrew Hubermann the podcasting professor, getting up and watching the sunrise today will make us much more likely to naturally wake up early tomorrow. And likewise the light of sunset has a regulating effect on us that will help us to power down for the night.
The old traditions of Surya Namaskar for hatha yogis or ringing of bells as the sun appears at sunrise are rituals that tie us in to the cycle and create order physiologically as well as externally.

According to the biologists studying sleep and circadian rhythm, it is essential, as Hubermann says, to ‘get sunlight in the eyes as soon after waking as possible’ and that the low angle of the sun provides just the correct type of frequency on the colour spectrum. People have been telling their teenage sons and daughters that ‘early-to-bed-early-to-rise’ guidance for centuries. The early birds that the saying refers to might be something much more profound than we initially thought.

I think of the Pro Cricket players that I worked with and many of them would literally sleep their day away in efforts to catch up on the grueling training and match schedule. Sleep is important for recovery. We all know that. This sleep was probably needed at times, but it could easily slip into a lifestyle habit of torpor, open the door for late night escapades.

The Yoga For Sports performance Book is a manual for coaches, therapists and athletes that helps to demystify yoga so as to bring them into the practice and at the same time the book speaks to the average yoga teacher giving some guidance on how to maximise the benefit for sports focused people.  

We will carry on providing more useful information through the YFS website and so please send me comments, questions and anything that you think is relevant and important to share for others. 

Thanks for reading