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Ritucharya – Lifestyle Adjusted to Nature

1When seasons transit, the change is very evident in the environment we live in. We see various changes in bio-life around us, such as flowering in spring and leaf shedding in fall, hibernation of many animals with the coming of winter, and so on. Because the human being is also part of the same ecology, our body and mind are greatly influenced by external environment as well.

To stay in tune with this natural change, Ayurveda employs the Dinacharya (See Dinacharya-daily routine) and Ritucharya (seasonal regimen).

The world rhythm was derived from the Sanskrit word “ritu” which can be found in many modern languages. Ritucharya means living in rhythm with the seasons; making intelligent adjustments to cope with the nature.

Vedic knowledge talks about six seasons, they indeed are very distinct in India.

Extreme winter – Sisira.
Spring                 – Vasantha.
Summer              – Greeshma.
Rainy season      – Varsha.
Fall                       – Sarath.
Early winter        – Hemantha.

Ayurveda has detailed recommendations for diet and lifestyle in all the six seasons.

What we can start with is to pay attention to two major parts of a year: the Northern Solstice and Southern Solstice.

The progress of the Sun to the North of the equator is a period of extraction. It takes away human strength day by day.

When the Sun traverse to the south of equator, it is a period of discharge. It gives back vitality and strength.

The body has maximum strength during early winter and extreme winter, moderate in spring and fall, and minimum during summer and rainy season.

Nothern Solstice (Uttara yana) – mid-January to mid-July:

In this period, the sun and the wind are powerful. The sun takes away the strength of the people and the cooling quality of the earth. It increases the bitter, astringent, and pungent qualities, respectively, which bring about dryness in the body and reduce its strength. Warmness and dryness in weather increase, which has an overall debilitating effect on environment, as well as to the human being.

Southern Solstice (Dakshina yana) – mid-July to mid-January:

In this period, the wind is not very dry; the moon is more powerful than the sun. The earth becomes cool due to clouds, rain, and cold winds. Unctuousness sets in the atmosphere and sour, salty, and sweet qualities are predominant, so the strength of person enhances during this period. The cool sets, making anabolic activity dominate over the catabolic activity in the environment.

The Classic Ayurveda lifestyle recommendations for different seasons:

(The six tastes is one of the basic concepts of Ayurveda. To learn more about it see: Spice therapy-six tastes; and Sweet or bitter).2

  • Mid-January to mid-March. During this season, the environment remains cold, along with cold wind. The predominant quality is bitter. The strength of the person lessens, deposition of the Kapha dosha occurs and Agni (digestive fire) remains in a higher state.

Diet:

Choose foods with sour taste.

Avoid foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent taste, and light and cold in quality.

Lifestyle:

Indicated: Massage with oil/powder/paste, bathing with lukewarm water, exposure to sunlight, wearing warm clothes.

Avoid Vata aggravating lifestyle like exposure to cold wind, excessive walking, and going to sleep late at night.

3a

  • Mid-March to mid-May. This is season of flowering and origin of new leaves. The predominant quality is astringent. The strength of the person remains in medium degree, vitiation of Kapha dosha occurs and Agni (digestion) remains in high state.

Diet:

Choose bitter, pungent and astringent, easily digestible food.
Avoid cold, viscous, heavy, sweet, sour, and hard to digest food.

Lifestyle:

Indicated: Massage with herbal powder, bathing with warm water, exercise, gargle with warm sesame oil, steam baths, and eyewash. Evacuative measures, such as Vamana (emesis) and Nasya (nasal drops) can be prescribed.

Avoid day-sleep.4

  • Mid-May to mid-July. Environment is prevalent with intense heat and unhealthy wind. The river-bodies dry out and the plants appear lifeless. The predominant quality is pungent. The strength of the person becomes less, deposition of Vata occurs, while Kapha becomes pacified. Agni remains in mild state.

Diet:

Choose foods with sweet taste, unctuous, cold, and liquid. Drink plenty of water and other liquids along with soups. At bedtime, take milk with sugar candy.

Avoid salt and food with pungent and sour taste.

Lifestyle:

Indicated: Staying in cool places, applying sandalwood and other aromatic pastes over the body, adorning with flowers, wearing light dresses. During night, one can enjoy the cooling moon rays with breeze.

Avoid excessive exercise or hard work; too much sexual indulgence and alcohol.5

  • Mid-July to mid-September.

The sky is covered by clouds and rains occur without thunderstorm. The ponds and rivers are full with water. The predominant quality is sour. The strength of the person again becomes less, vitiation of Vata dosha and deposition of Pitta Dosha occurs. Agni (digestive fire) is also suppressed.

Diet:

Choose foods with sour and salty taste, unctuous in quality. Drink medicated water or boiled water.

Avoid intake of river water, churned preparations with a lot of water, excessive liquid and wine, and heavy and hard to digest food.

Lifestyle:

Indicated: Use of boiled water for bath and rubbing the body with oil properly after bath. Medicated Basti (enema) can be prescribed as an evacuative measure to expel vitiated doshas.

Avoid getting wet in rain, day-sleep, exercise, hard work, sexual indulgence, wind, and staying at riverbank.6

  • Mid-September to mid-November.

The Sun becomes bright, the sky remains clear and sometimes with white cloud, and the earth is covered with wet mud. The predominant quality is salty. The strength of the person remains medium, pacification of vitiated Vata dosha and vitiation of Pitta dosha occur. Activity of Agni increases.

Diet:

Choose sweet and bitter taste with light and cold quality to pacify Pitta.

Avoid hot, bitter, sweet, and astringent foods.

Lifestyle:

Indicated: eat only when there is a feeling of hunger; use water purified by the rays of sun in daytime and rays of moon at nighttime for drinking, cooking and bathing. Wear flower garlands, and apply sandal paste on the body. Medical procedures, such as Virechana (purging), Rakta-Mokshana (bloodletting) can be prescribed during this season.

Avoid day-sleep, excessive eating, and excessive exposure to sunlight.7

  • Mid-November to mid-January.

Blow of cold winds starts and it feels chilly. Predominant quality during this season is sweet. The strength of a person remains on highest grade and vitiated Pitta dosha is being pacified. Activity of Agni is increased.

Diet:

Choose unctuous, sweet, sour, and salty foods. Include fats, milk and milk products, sugarcane products, fermented preparations, and sesame in the diet.

Avoid Vata aggravating foods, such as light, cold, and dry food. Intake of cold drinks is also contraindicated.

Lifestyle:

Indicated: exercise, body and head massage, use of warm water, sunbath, heavy clothing, and residing in warm place.

Avoid exposure to strong and cold wind, and day sleep.

TODAY’S TIP: The ancient sages set up the regimen for various seasons to stay healthy and prevent diseases. The examples set by them stand as a hint to fine-tune our basic diet to these natural environmental changes.


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