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Dr. John’s Ayurvedic Inspiration
When I was studying Ayurveda in India, back in the 1980s, I remember noticing that circadian rhythms were reflected in my pulse.
Ayurvedic pulse reading monitors all three doshas. During the morning hours, my kapha pulse would always be stronger, only to be over shadowed by a strong pitta pulse as I entered midday–when my digestive fire was ignited. After a main midday meal, my vata pulse increased, reflecting a surge in mental energy.
Once I realized that I could monitor my connectedness, or lack thereof, to the circadian cycles of nature, I was hooked on learning everything I could about Ayurveda—the science of life.
Now almost 40 years later, my daily routine still helps me connect to these rhythms. And it changes depending on the season and my short- and long-term health and wellness.
After years of competing as a triathlete and Ironman, I have replaced my desire to win with a passion to enjoy the road.
As I turn 65, I begin the transition from the pitta time of life, in which we raise our families and attempt to change the world, into the vata time of life, or the wisdom years.
During these years, we can all choose to be “wise” or “dumb.” Pushing and driving to succeed in the same way we did in our pitta years will prove to be dumb, while using our bodies to explore our own inner space and fine tune our ability to perceive subtle energy is considered wise. During this time, we can focus more attentively on a spiritual life and developing wisdom that we can share with our children and grandchildren.
I think that the keys to longevity are to aspire to a sattvic, or peaceful, life and to try to mimic, or live in synch with, nature! Instead of pushing and racing your way through life to reach that goal, consider slowing down and becoming the tortoise rather than the hare.
Here is my daily routine now to stay healthy, happy, and attuned to circadian rhythms.
Dr. John’s Morning Routine
Whenever possible, I try to greet the sun in a variety of ways—either with a meditation, sun salutations, or agni hotra (fire ceremony)—a new addition to my routine based on research I’m doing for a documentary.
Because of COVID, I quit my gym membership and bought my favorite workout machine, called the Concept2 SkiErg.
I spend about 20-30 minutes on the SkiErg working pretty much every muscle group in my body. While it’s designed for cross-country ski training, I use it in innumerable ways to work my back, legs, arms, chest, and trunk. It is the most fun, functional, and natural movement workout I have ever had.
After that, I do a series of yoga postures followed by a session with the Vyper vibrating roller to work out the kinks in my back and neck, while giving myself a visceral digestive organ massage.
Next I’m ready for my breathing practice, which includes pratiloma (or inspiratory muscle training), slow nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing with breath holds), brahmari (humming), and slow ujjayi pranayama (victorious breath). My breathing practice evolves into a meditation. If I don’t have time, I may just bang out a few rounds of Wim Hof breathing.
In a perfect world, I would prefer to eat a light breakfast before all of this but that isn’t always possible as I have patients to get to by 8 a.m. The science of eating breakfast is in and while I realize that most intermittent fasters skip this meal, I generally suggest otherwise.
On my days off work, I get up early and have breakfast shortly after sunrise, then go for a walk either outside or on our indoor walking machine before I hit the SkiErg, then do my yoga, foam rolling, breathing, and meditation practices.
If I walk outside, I try to spend some time in wild garden. I do my best in the summer to get some of my breakfast from the garden.
I also do my best to be a seasonal eater, following the recipes and guidance in LifeSpa’s 3-Season Diet Guide and eating more fiber and fat in the spring and early summer. I eat more carbohydrates and starches as summer turns to fall.
My favorite breakfast, in addition to some greens from the garden, is almond butter on oat bran Scandinavian Fiber Crispbread, which has six grams of carbs and four grams of fiber per cracker. I stick a bunch of berries into the almond butter and viola—I am in heaven.
I take most of my herbs in the morning.
I’m always trying new herbs and formulas based on my latest research, but I never stop taking supplements that support the inoculation of my gut with microbes that are carried by the season’s harvest.
In the summer, I take Neem Plus, Brahmi Brain, Manjistha, Liver Repair, and Shatavari. I also take Warm Digest before each meal, inspired by the science that shows spicy foods extend longevity by 14 percent.
I also take Mini Omega 3X fish oils, K2 Max to direct the calcium to my bones instead of my arteries, and Bacopa for cognitive support. In the summer, I take Vitamin D3 at about 8,000-10,000 IUs per week, B12 Boost 3 times a day week and Iodine HP once a month to maintain health thyroid function and to protect my body from the accumulation of the toxic halogens, including bromine, chlorine, and fluorine.
I don’t drink any caffeine, so I have either a cup of herbal tea (Dande Blend, Bengal Spice, or peppermint from my garden), or decaf black tea or coffee. Generally, I add either lemon or olive oil and blend. My wife thinks I’m crazy!
Dr. John’s Afternoon Routine
My breakfast typically holds me over until early afternoon, when I have lunch, which is commonly my last meal of the day. The timing can vary based on my work schedule. The meal varies too, by the season.
As for meat, I stick with fish, eating it with veggies. I don’t eat much grain or bread this time of year, but it’s not off the menu by any means. Sometimes I’ll have a very small glass of wine with some raw cheese, and if we are out, I’ll indulge in a dessert from time to time. I do eat birthday cake!
Dr. John’s Evening Routine
Make an attempt to get to bed early so you can naturally wake up with or before the sunrise.
One of my favorite Ayurvedic practices is my pre-bed routine. After washing, I take 2 capsules of LifeSpa Ashwagandha, and 3 drops of LifeSpa’s Low Dose Melatonin and then I sit up in bed and meditate for 20-30 minutes before sleep. I wear an Oura Ring when I go to bed, to measure my sleep mechanics.
As I have said for decades, we need energy to go to sleep and Ahwagandha (Withania somnifera) provides deep, rejuvenative support for the nervous system, so it can settle down and cortisol levels can gently subside.
Low Dose Melatonin has many benefits, but I use it as a reset of my circadian biological clocks. After 50, most adults start producing less melatonin. While new research has found that we actually need very little melatonin to reset our circadian clocks, we still benefit from supplementation as we age. Melatonin supplements simply encourage our own production. It’s a well-studied hack for the aging process.
Meditation before bed creates the peace that is needed to slip into deep regenerative sleep. It can help us rid ourselves of all the stress and activities of the day, so they don’t follow us into the first few hours of sleep, causing restlessness and obstacles to deep slumber.
Getting to bed early also supports deep rejuvenating sleep and helps us wake with the subtle circadian rhythms of the rising sun.
Just like you, I have days when I don’t do any of this and I just chill and break the rules. I don’t get upset about that at all because I know that the next day I’ll be back in the groove. The key is to follow a routine because you love it and look forward to it, not because you have to.
So, there you have it! Much of this will change as we move into fall and winter so stay tuned for a seasonal update!