The Ayurvedic Daily Calendar: Following the Cycles of Nature

As Australian Shepherd helping its owner in the garden.

By: Laurie Dohmen, VMD, MS, RH (AHG)

Ayurveda orders the ways we manage our health: first is dietary changes, followed by lifestyle changes, then herbs and pharmaceuticals.  Lifestyle changes are possible for our pets as well as for us humans. These changes are great for not only physical ailments, such as obesity, but also for behavioral issues. Many of the behavioral issues that our indoor pets have (and even our barn animals) are often due to lifestyle. For example, I have a Norwegian Elkhound.  Her innate job is to herd elk; she is built to be a farm dog. Fortunately for her (and possibly unfortunately for the barn animals!), we have a farm, and she is great at herding the flocks. Our dog has the lifestyle she needs. However, put her or a border collie in a suburban or urban house where they have no job, and often we see behavioral issues, such as chewing the furniture. 

The Ayurvedic Daily Clock

Our pets need structure. That is why there are so many memes about pets waking humans on weekends when the human is trying to sleep in. I had a dog who made himself dinner out of the cats’ litterbox only if I wasn’t home on time to feed him. In Ayurveda, we use a clock based on the doshas to schedule the day. Vata time is from 2-6 (am and pm, it is a 12 hour clock). This is the time to stimulate the senses and be creative. It is a great time to take your dogs on a leisurely walk so they can sniff their environment. Next is Kapha time from 6-10, this is the best time to exercise, eat and relax.  Pitta time is from 10-2, it is the best time during the day to work and at night to sleep (so your internal organs can do their work). Have you noticed that your pets sleep in the middle of the day? They sleep during the end of Kapha time and into Pitta time. The clock is based on our innate biorhythms, so our pets instinctively know to follow this flow. So on your weekend to sleep in, get up and feed your cats and then go back to bed. Try to walk your dogs at the same time every day. It will make them much more settled.

The Environment’s Impact on Our Pet’s Rhythms

The weather and seasons also affect behavior. That’s why human doctors have diagnosed “seasonal affective disorder” in humans.  Dogs that are bred for cold climates (like Bernese Mountain dogs) are happiest in the winter, and my heat-seeking 14 year old cat just started perking up as the weather is warming on the east coast. It rained here all day Saturday and everyone slept. Usually my dog is always outside guarding the farm. I actually knew when the rain was abating because she asked to go out for the first time all day. Whenever possible, it’s always important to consider your local climate and what is best to support and balance your pet’s unique constitutional needs. 

Parinama: Understanding Imbalance

We as humans often pick animals based solely on our desires, but it is so important to consider the animal as well. Parinama is the Sanskrit term for imbalances of nature and imbalanced doshas. If we don’t consider the animal, we cause them parinama. This leads to behavioral issues, and even aggression. Rather than putting our pets with these issues on pharmaceuticals, let’s adjust their lifestyles so that they are in appropriate and healthy situations for them as well as us humans. If you have that apartment-bound border collie, find a park with a pond and let your dog chase the ducks a couple of times a week. If you have a cat that wakes you for food, get on a consistent feeding schedule.  If you are picking a pet, think about your lifestyle and theirs before you settle on the specific animal.

Additionally, if a stressful or unusual situation for a period of time is unavoidable, reach for your herbs to aid the occasional stress.  Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), which I have discussed in a previous blog, is a great herb to support your pet staying calm and healthy. 

Ayurveda teaches us how to be happy and healthy in our lives, achieve balance, and how to support happy and healthy pets. Lifestyle and diet are the tw o main factors for good health and are enhanced following the daily and seasonal cycles of nature. As one of the most classic medical texts in Ayurveda states, “One who is established in self (svastha), who has balanced doshas (samadosa), balanced agni (samagni), properly formed tissues (dhatus), proper elimination of waste products (malas), well functioning bodily processes, and whose mind (manah), soul (atma), and senses (indriya), and are full of bliss (prasanna) is called a healthy person.” - Sushruta Samhita