Ritucharya – Ayurveda Seasonal Lifestyle
Namaste from HemaVeda,
Ayurveda, the age old science of life, is a way of life that emphasizes maintaining good health and preventing diseases by following proper diet and lifestyle over treatment and cure of diseases. According to Ayurveda our bodies are affected by multiple factors like our food and lifestyle, including seasons.
Understanding how these seasons affects our bodies and adjusting the recommended lifestyle helps maintain the balance within our bodies and with nature around us.
Ayurveda has recommended routines (charya) at different times of a day viz. the Dinacharya (daily regimen), Ratricharya (Nightly regimen) and for the seasons Ritucharya (seasonal regimen). With the change in season, the change is very evident in the environment we live in. We see various changes in life around us, such as flowering in spring and leaf-shedding in fall in the plants, cool temperatures or snow in winter, and so on.
As we are also part of the same ecology, our body is greatly influenced by external environment. Many of the exogenous and endogenous rhythm have specific phase relationship with each other; which means that they interact and synchronize each other. If body is unable to adapt itself to stressors due to changes in specific traits of seasons, it may lead to Dosha imbalance which in turn may render the body highly susceptible to disorders.
Adapting to changes around us is the key for survival, the knowledge of Ritucharya (regimen for various seasons) is thus important. We need to be aware of suitable types of food, clothing, and other regimen to be followed in particular season. Our choices may lead to derangement of homeostasis and cause various diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and so on. Lifestyle diseases are a result of an incoherent relationship of people with their environment.
What is Ritu Charya?
The word Ritu means the Seasons and Charya is the lifestyle. The definition of Ritu Charya according to the Ayurveda scripts is as follows:
Each season brings about many changes in our surroundings and also our bodies, and hence there is a regimen of food and activities to be followed for each season; this process is Ritucharya ऋतुचर्या
Source – (अरुणदत्त (aruṇadatta) commentary on अष्टांग ह्रुदय सूत्र ३/१ (aṣṭāṃga hrudaya sūtra 3.1)
Late Winter, Spring and Summer make the आदान काल ādāna kāla (उत्तरायण uttarāyaṇa – tilt of northern hemisphere of earth away from the sun) where the digestive power and overall strength of a human being is weaker.
Early Spring, Fall and Winters are a part of विसर्ग काल visarga kāla (दक्षिणायन dakṣiṇāyaṇa – tilt of southern hemisphere of earth away from the sun) where the digestive fire becomes strong and the overall strength of a body is more.
Now – let us see the Ayurveda lifestyle, food recommendations for the seasons for balanced health
Summer (April – Aug)
Who isn’t looking forward to Summer? No School, all those pending outdoor projects and yes vacations!
Hence its even more important to maintain good health and make the best of summer. Ayurveda scriptures has recommendations to seek a balance between our activities and diet regime for optimal health.
Hot and dry summer leads to loss of moisture in one’s body resulting in the dryness of tissues, exhaustion and loss of physical strength. Additionally the excess heat increases the deposition of Vata Dosha and the pacification of accumulated Kapha Dosha.
This imbalance, reduces our digestive capacity and hence it is best to follow the following diet regimen:
Recommendations for Summer
Diet regimen – Sweet, naturally cooling and foods that are not dry are the best for this season. Consumption of sweet fruits with water and sugar is a good choice – cantaloupes, watermelon etc. Ghee, milk, rice can be a part of the daily diet.
Drink plenty of water and other liquids like sweet fruit juices, fresh buttermilk, meat soups, milk at bedtime is suggested.
Avoid – Salty, pungent, sour taste foods should be avoided as they overheat the body
Lifestyle – Staying in cool places, applying sandal wood and other aromatic herbal pastes over the body, wearing light cotton dresses and day time nap is helpful in balancing the doshas. Also, alcohol consumption should be less.
Excessive exercise or physical hard work is to
be avoided. During nighttime one can enjoy the cooled moon rays with breeze.
Fall to Winters (Late August – March)
Fall season comes with low temperatures, cold winds, chilliness and dryness! Cold naturally causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels in the periphery leading to more blood supply to the core, which helps the body to remain warm and also improves our digestive fire. Hence it is also important to eat food that would not cause any imbalances in our doshas.
A disease per Ayurveda is an imbalance of dosha. Any diet or lifestyle that is not in tune with our own unique health needs and the seasons may cause this imbalance and hence the need to understand and practice the different charyas – Ritu Charya, Dina Charya and Ratri Charya.
Dosha – In the fall season strength of a person remains on highest grade. Pitta dosha is pacified this
season giving a well working digestive fire. Vata dosha is aggravated which may contribute to irregular
digestion, muscle and joint pain. Therefore Vata dosha balancing regimen works best to attain a healthy
Diet regimen – Ayurveda recommends fatty, sweet, sour, and salty foods this season. Among cereals and pulses, rice, flour preparations, green gram should be consumed. Various meats, fats, milk and milk
products, Tila (sesame) are also to be included in the diet.
Avoid – Vata aggravating foods, such as light, cold, and dry foods are to be avoided. Intake of refrigerated
drinks should be avoided.
Recommendations for Winter
Lifestyle – Exercise, body and head massage, use of warm water, sunbathing, warm clothing, and residing in warm places is recommended.
Avoid – Exposure to strong and cold wind, habit of day sleep, etc., are mentioned to be avoided this season. It is recommended to wear a winter hat or suitable gear to protect our head being exposed to the cold.