What Are the Seasons of Ayurveda? Ritucharya Explained
Seasons of Ayurveda, or, as I have come to identify Ritucharya, is in tune with the philosophy’s age-old scientific description of life. Ayurveda emphasizes the need to maintain human health and curb diseases by turning to a healthy lifestyle and diet regimen rather than constantly falling back on treatment and medicines. The basic principle therein is Swasthyashya Swasthya Rakshanam, or maintaining the health of the healthy.
With changes in seasons, we will also notice changes in the environment around us. Bio-life undergoes transformations, for instance, flowering during spring and shedding leaves during autumn, not to mention hibernating animals during winter. As human beings, we are also part of this same ecology, and our bodies are therefore influenced by the external environment around us.
The endogenous and exogenous rhythms of the world around and within have specific phase relationships with one another. If the body cannot adapt to the stressors that rise from changes in seasons, it can lead to Dosha Vaishamya, which can make the body very susceptible to a number of disorders.
At the onset, therefore, it is important to understand what the seasons of ayurveda are.
What Are The Seasons Of Ayurveda?
You may consider a bowl of raw salad to be life-giving. I, for one, certainly do. I love the textures, colors, and tart-sweet dressing that I make at home with balsamic, olive oil, and a dash of demerara. It’s nutritious and packed with minerals and vitamins. Additionally, even after a full serving, you feel light. So, there shouldn’t be any harm if we eat a salad every day, right? As it turns out, wrong. The same nutritious serving of greens, reds, yellows, and whites can risk the vitiation of the air element orvata dosha, particularly if you consume it during the seasons in which vata is afflicted. This can lead to roughness, flatulence, irritation, and an overall sense of tiredness.
The beautiful thing about Ayurveda— something I truly believe all of us should learn and internalize in our own lives— is that, as human beings, we exist in tandem with the forces of nature around us. No one is isolated from these forces, and nothing operates solo. Our very moods, temperaments, emotions, and actions are influenced by the changing heartbeats of life external to us. We are an integral part of the natural world, and we rely on it for our well-being and health.
Our bodies are influenced by everything around us. In turn, they influence the manner in which we relate to nature, the environment in which we love, and what we see, eat, feel, and touch. Our bodies are impacted, therefore, by the different seasons and the changes that are intrinsic to them. And this is important because it is the key to understanding why so many of us feel so miserable in the contemporary world. During ancient times, people were completely aware of the connection with external forces, and they lived while respecting and acknowledging its potency. Today, however, Western medicine has a complete stronghold over what we do and how we define health.
While the world of contemporary medicine is good for many reasons— particularly when we think of ease of access, the problem therein is that western medicine may stop at the apparent issue, for instance, stomach ache, rather than looking at the root cause that has led to this issue. In other words, far too many of us have lost our instinctive, natural knowledge of listening to our bodies and understanding the ways in which nature influences them with the change in seasons.
Opposing current conditions in ayurveda and the seasons therein means that we are constantly waging war with ourselves. And why not? We think it’s easier to flout the ways of nature because technological advances have made everything possible— seasonal fruit and vegetables are available year-round (with zero concern for their nutritive degradation). We prefer being indoors whenever we can because our jobs drain our social energy and our desire to spend time out in nature. Given the way the climate is changing, seasons themselves seem to be out of whack. what are the seasons of ayurveda ritucharya explained
However, the sooner we stop opposing current conditions in ayurveda and return in alignment with ritucharya or the ayurvedic seasons, the more our health will stand to benefit. Going by ayurvedic literature, the year has two periods (kaal). Each kaal comes with different seasons. These are the following:
Uttarayana, or the cold months. These are the seasons of autumn, late autumn/pre-winter, and winter.
Dakshinayana, or the warm months. These are the seasons of spring and summer.
The human body is a wondrous organism. When it is left to its own ministrations, it will adapt naturally to changes in the seasons. In doing so, it will choose vitality, good health, fitness, and freedom from illnesses. This is intrinsic to the concept of ritucharya. Ritucharya is comprised of two words, Rita meaning seasons and Charya meaning discipline.
There are significant mental and physical impacts associated with seasonal lifestyle changes. Ritucharya helps us increase our mental capacity and build physical strength so we can fight the ailments that happen because of changes in seasons. In other words, ritucharya helps balance doshas, and keeps us healthy and fit.
The changes in seasons influence the three doshas that are the core of our Prakriti. A simple principle therein is that when you follow a seasonal routine aligned with your prakriti, and keep making slight changes with every switch in seasons, you will stay healthy, have a long life, and have more vigor and vitality. There are three alterations that occur in the constitutions of our doshas, with alterations in seasons. what are the seasons of ayurveda ritucharya explained
Natural accumulation (Caya), which happens when one dosha becomes heavily accumulated in its main location. For instance, the vata dosha may get over-infested in the intestines.
Aggravation (Prakopa) which is the accumulation of doshas in other parts of the body, for instance, the vata dosha becoming too concentrated in the pelvic region.
Pacification (Prasama) which happens when doshas come back into a state of balance.
The doshas will manifest in the following order in respective seasons.
So, the Vata dosha will accumulate in the intestines during the summer and the lower back region (pelvis) in the monsoon before it gets pacified in Autumn. For those of us who can live by the rules of each of these seasons, these stages occur naturally, and the doshas settle down on their own. But if our immunity is poor, or if we go against the norms of the seasons, the doshas refuse to settle down, wreaking havoc on our systems. They may accumulate or get aggravated in the months when they’re supposed to settle down, causing us health issues that can manifest as diseases and discomfort. what are the seasons of ayurveda ritucharya explained
Doshas And Seasonal Advice
Food and diet are an intrinsic part of how we handle changes in the seasons. There’s a reason why so many of us won’t consider a bowl of frozen yogurt as an ideal winter dinner or a dish of scalding hot soup as a perfect summer lunch. Different kinds of food influence our bodies differently. This is based on ritu, or the seasons of the year. This means that there are certain fruits, cereals, drinks, and herbs that should only be consumed during specific times of the year.
Ritucharya is the seasonal regimen that helps us understand the changes that occur in nature every season. It guides us and prescribes appropriate lifestyle and diet changes, so we remain vital and balanced regardless of the changes in the external environment. Before we wrap up this discussion, let’s look at what each of the seasons embraces in terms of the food we eat.
Autumn/ Fall (September to Mid-November)
Autumn is the season of transition, the very breath of life itself. The air has a slight nip, and you know you should be keeping warm clothes handy for the incoming colder months. This is the sharath ritu, characterized by moderate vitality and energy. The vata dosha, which has hitherto been aggravated, returns to a state of balance. On the other hand, pitta dosha becomes vitiated. The movement of the agni (fire) element in the body gains gusto. The predominant taste element is salt.
Ayurvedic Seasonal Food List
During this season, given the aggravation of pitta, there is a chance of incurring acidity, diarrhea, ulcers, and indigestion. You may experience a fall in appetite. Prepare the digestive system by having sweet and sharp food items that are astringent, easy to process, and light. Avoid fatty or overly-salty food items. Your main concern is to pacify pitta. Choose items like jaggery, wheat, dry meats, tomatoes, root vegetables, plums, tomatoes, clarified butter, fresh veggies, and pineapples.
Mid-Autumn To Early Winter
The next season is the hemanta ritu, which begins during the middle of Autumn and lasts till early winter. Here, agni is at its strongest, making you hungry more often than not. Kapha dosha is dominating at this time, along with the vata dosha. Pitta is now pacified. The rasa dominating this season is sweet (madhura).
Ayurvedic Seasonal Food List
Choose salty, unctuous, and sour food items, and fuel your digestion with warm food. You can supplement your natural immunity with gooseberry juice, sesame, fermented items like kimchi, and dairy (if you can tolerate it) like cottage cheese, clarified butter, and whole milk. Avoid dry and cold food. For veggies and fruits, choose cabbage, potatoes, pumpkin, onions, apples, beets, and dates.
Sisira, or the deep winter, occurs from the middle of January and the middle of March, or even April and May in certain places. It's chilly, damp, and tedious. You'll need to put in more work to get the agni going now that Kapha is rising. The current time period is favorable for those with kapha prakruti, but it may not be so great for those with vata prakruti. At this time of year, your body heat is at an all-time high, and the cold, windy weather will strip any moisture from your skin.
Ayurvedic Seasonal Food List
You can keep eating the same kinds of sweet, salty, fatty, and sour or fermented foods you did in the last ritu. Include some toasty spices in your meal. Don't eat anything cold or astringent. You may consume as much milk, potatoes, beans, grains, rice, fruit, and juice as you want.
After a long and dreary winter, one of the year's most enjoyable moments is spring, when the first blooms appear along the streets. The days should become longer and brighter from here on out. Mood swings may be explained by the release of endorphins and serotonin when one is exposed to sunlight. Your strength and vigor are about where they were before; your digestive Agni is weak; and your kapha dosha is vitiated, albeit the buildup from the previous season has been lessened. In addition, this is one of the ideal periods to cleanse your body.
Ayurvedic Seasonal Food List
Since agni is depleted, a diet of soft, easily digested meals is recommended. Eat bitter, astringent, and pungent foods to reduce the kapha in your body. Honey-sweetened water, neem leaves, coriander, turmeric, garlic, ginger, wheat, barley, rice, lentils, onions, and garlic and ginger. But stay away from greasy, fatty, sugary, sour, salty, fried, or cold meals.
Finally, we have hot and balmy summer. Both pitta and vata are aggravated at the moment because of the dynamic character of the fire and air components. Your energy and digestive agni are both at rock bottom.
Ayurvedic Seasonal Food List
During this season, vata dosha builds up while kapha dosha is calmed. Eat more mineral-rich foods that are sweet, unctuous, light, and chilly. Get your fill of antioxidant-rich foods like fresh fruit juices, herbal drinks, fruit salads, buttermilk, veggies like celery, asparagus, cucumber, and other leafy greens and soups now. Curd with pepper is also available.
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