Do you ever have those days where it feels like you’re productive and in the flow, and other days where it’s all you can do to make it through the day without falling asleep? There is a reason for this, and it has to do with way more than how many cups of coffee you drink. No matter the age, everyone is equipped with a system in the body that controls when one feels tired and when one has energy: the circadian rhythm. These ebbs and flows have been recorded in mammals since the 4th century BCE. Although this is old news, our modern lifestyle is structured in a way that doesn’t exactly make it easy for us to embrace our natural rhythms.
The circadian rhythm is what allows you to differentiate between being awake and being asleep. Without darkness, we would not know light. This is the same for our bodies; to survive, we must have moments of rest and moments of activity.
When imagining the circadian rhythm, think of the moon and the sun. The moon is dark, calming, and cool, while the sun is bright, energized, and heated. Many people refer to these moon and sun energies as yin and yang. The idea of yin and yang stems from a Chinese philosophy in which opposites attract and complement each other, and both exist within the other.
Yin and yang can be manifested in many ways, such as feminine and masculine, or seasonally by winter and summer.
Feminine (Yin) and Masculine (Yang)
Feminine: intuition, compassion, emotion, creativity, empathy, collaboration, spirituality, holistic thought, and right-brain thinking.
Masculine: analytic and rational thinking, competition, determination, linear thinking, logical thought, action, and left-brain thinking.
Winter (Yin) and Summer (Yang)
Winter: reclusive, cool, dark, slow.
Summer: hot, bright, external, fast.
Personal balance of yin and yang changes from day to day, year to year, and season to season. The circadian rhythms throughout the day mirror the sun and moon energies. Upon waking up, the body signals to us (through our hypothalamus) that it is time to rise. Body temperature rises, and the stress hormone cortisol begins pushing through the body. The peak of yang energy is 12 p.m. This is when something called the “digestive fire” is at its height. That being said, it’s no surprise many professionals often recommend lunch be the biggest meal of the day. After 12 p.m., yang energy starts to decrease, and at 6 p.m., yin energy takes over. At midnight, yin is at its peak, so people typically experience their deepest sleep at this time. By 6 a.m., the cycle has started itself over again. To truly live a vibrant life, it’s important to align your body with these natural cycles.
Embrace Your Natural Rhythms
Exercise in the AM: Cortisol levels are highest from 6 to 8 a.m. and decline throughout the day, reaching their lowest point in the evening. Push the cortisol through your system, giving you energy during the day, by practicing a more intense workout in the morning. At this time, set your intention for the day.
Relax in the PM: Because you want your parasympathetic nervous system to kick into gear at night, preparing your body for sleep, practice doing relaxing activities after 6 p.m. This could be a restorative yoga class, meditation, or a warm bath. As you settle into bed, wind down with a reflection of three positive things that happened that day.
Your pineal gland (also called your “third eye”) produces melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleeping and waking cycles. A major disruptor of the pineal gland is blue light, so unplug any electronics in your bedroom (or cover with gaffers tape) before sleeping. If you can’t get blackout curtains, cover windows with a blanket and sleep with a sleeping mask. Adding in a few minutes of silent meditation before bed greatly increases melatonin production!
Know Your Astrological Sign
For those who subscribe to astrology, half of the zodiac is feminine energy, and half is masculine. By learning which energy you have more of, you can seek to balance it with the opposite. The signs listed below are in order of how much yin and yang energy they hold.
Yin signs: Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio, Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo.
Yang signs: Leo, Sagittarius, Aries, Gemini, Libra, Aquarius.
Your body is like a guidebook, and by following its natural signals, you can live a truly balanced life—inside and out. Just like the ancient principles, yin and yang are all about that balance: the ebb and flow. So go easy on yourself and know that making changes throughout your daily schedule might be difficult at first, but it’s a huge step toward living a healthy and vibrant life.
Checkout more Body, Mind and Spirit feature articles!
Body: Gains & Losses (Transformation Stories)
Mind: Brrr… It's Cold in Hof! (The Hof Method), Keep in Mind (Mindfulness and Meditation), A Proper pH (The Body's pH Balance)
Spirit: Coloring Outside the Lines (Aura Photography), Interview with a Psychic Medium