In part 1, I discussed Dinacharya (See link HERE) which involves daily practices according to Ayurveda that helps us to remain in balance. It is also important to note that this understanding of the importance of the daily rhythms coincides with the current science around Circadian Rhythm. By aligning with this natural rhythm there is an increased level of success regarding well-being and balance. Ayurveda and Yoga both emphasize the importance of being connected to nature for health and well-being. The practices around Dinacharya (daily practices/rituals) and Ritucharya (seasonal practices) is a sacred practice because it reminds us of and aligns us with the nature on many levels. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine both state that it is generally the result of being out of touch with nature that disease has an opportunity to express itself and by reconnecting with this we can regain a significant amount of our health, if not potentially fully restore it or at least come close.
Ritucharya is defined in Ayurveda as “Seasonal Practices”. What does this mean? We know that there is a general rhythm, regardless of where we live, that seasons/times of the year change. When we pay close attention, we can see how one season gives way to the next. Winter transitions into spring, spring transitions into summer, and summer transitions into fall. It’s a natural cycle. In Ayurveda, we are aware of what I like to call “windows” where there is a small period just before the full onset of a given season that thing’s get a little unstable as the season transitions from the previous one to the next one. There are “three windows.”
In observing the current season of summer and as it is slowly transitioning into fall, September is a “window” whereas the summer is ending, and the heat starts to lighten up, the cool breezes of autumn slowly start to creep in. The qualities of dry and cool start to infuse into the atmosphere. This tends to be the time of year when people get sick because they are still acting as though it is summer rather than prepare for the next season. It is important to treat each day uniquely as the season transitions because by not doing so a stress occurs and the body is compromised. Common ailments are allergies, colds, flu, and similar conditions. Anxiety is common and increases for some during these upcoming months.
As Fall enters into the winter months, the next window consists of the period around the month of January where the qualities in the atmosphere are heavier, denser, and colder. This is another time of year where individuals are getting sick/sicker with the common conditions like asthma and upper respiratory infections. Seasonal Affective Disorder also plays a role for some during this time of year due to the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D deficiencies. Anxiety may still be present for some and/or it may become depression of sorts around this time of year.
The following window occurs around the month of May where the qualities in the atmosphere consist of warming up and lightening up, as we transition back into the summer months that bring either dry heat or humidity. Allergies are common, colds, flu's, other types of viruses, and even rashes or other inflammatory conditions may increase for some during this period and as we continue into summer.
This is a breakdown of how a season appears according to Ayurveda:
Vata Season → Fall/Early Winter
Qualities = dry, cold, light
Pitta Season → Summer
Qualities = hot, moist, light or heavy (depending on geography)
Kapha Season → Late Winter/Spring
Qualities = Heavy, cold, moist
It is important to note as part of being harmonious with nature that the lining of the digestive system, that is amazingly rich with numerous microbes, sheds its lining and prepares for the next season. Indigestion can typically occur when we eat foods and take in beverages that are not aligned with the harmony of digestion/constitution. According to Ayurveda, it is understood that disease manifestation generally begins with digestive disturbances. It is understood in Ayurveda that there are four many types/qualities that define and describe digestion/metabolism/digestive fire (jathar agni).
These four are Sama Agni (Balanced Digestion, Vishama Agni (Variable Digestion), Tikshna Agni (Sharp Digestion), and Manda Agni (Sluggish Digestion). Balanced Agni is when there are minimal to no digestive symptoms. Variable Digestion involves an imbalance of digestion that typically consists of gas, bloating, distention, mild to moderate constipation. Sometimes the person with this appetite wants to eat, forgets to eat, doesn't eat much, eats a lot, eats on the go, eats inconsistently and at inconsistent times (aligned with Dinacharya practices). This category of digestion is associated with Vata Digestion. Imagine cooking on a low flame, with the fan blowing. What happens? Food is not cooked properly.
Pitta Digestion is that of Tikshna, which is sharp. Sharp means that the fire is very high and metabolism is basically too much and breaks down food faster than the body can process. Imagine cooking on a really high flame. What happens? Food gets burned. Kapha Digestion is Sluggish. Imagine cooking on a really really low flame, a large pot of stew. It takes forever to cook and is much heavier in quality.
To follow Ritucharya Practices, here are some things that can be done.
WHAT TO DO?
1) PRACTICAL On hot days, still, dress and eat accordingly. What does that mean? Generally, lighter and shorter, cooler clothing, along with juicier and cooler foods. On cooler days, dress and eat accordingly. This means generally dressing warmer and eating warmer foods.
2) DIGESTION: Know what your constitutional tendencies are and how they correlate with the seasons. Does your digestion feel a little better, as a Vata type, in the summer? Worse in the fall/winter/spring? Does your digestion feel better, as a Pitta type, in the fall/winter/spring? Does your digestion, as a Kapha type, feel worse in late winter/spring and better in the summer? There's no coincidence. The elements know themselves and it is typically the opposite qualities that bring harmony to a digestive system out of balance. By watching this relationship with food and seasons you can get a pretty good idea of what your digestion is like and what it needs in order to feel better. If you're willing to listen, that's a different story.
3) SUN, MOON, AND SEASONS: Remember the sacredness of the changing seasons in general. It is truly a treasure to be living in a human body and experiencing life and our connection as part of it. The seasons, the rise and fall of the sun ((solar cycles that include the yearly calendar and the sun going from shining longer in the sky to less in the sky (such as equinoxes), as well as sunrise and sunset), and, the moon (lunar) cycles. Meditation on such concepts, taking time to reflect and really notice what is changing and what remains can be a powerful practice that helps us to connect with nature and balance our well-being.
4) HERBS: Here are some herbs that are great for balancing changes/stresses and can be generally beneficial when transitioning from seasons. Adaptogenic, circulatory stimulants, immune tonics, even nerve tonics. It is also important to note that checking with an Ayurvedic practitioner can make sure which ones are best based on your constitution. These herbs are Ashwagandha, Ginger, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Guduchi, Amalaki, Triphala, and Brahmi/Gotu Kola. Some vitamins such as Vitamin D with K3 and Vitamin B Complex can be helpful. In fact, Vitamins A, B, C, D are great! but definitely Vitamin D and B Complex.
5) SEASONAL COOKING: To add to point # 1 above, Eastern traditions such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, emphasize eating according to the seasons. Within this, Ayurveda adds that we should eat according to not only the season but also with the understanding of what our individual constitutions and quality of digestion in mind, as mentioned in #2 and the above note discussing the four types of digestion. Knowing this in and of itself is a profound hallmark contribution of Ayurvedic medicine in understanding not only disease management but healthcare and disease prevention.
6) OIL THERAPY: Ayurveda takes pride in understanding how important the skin is for health and immunity. Certain practices involve massages and application of oil to various points on the body are conducive to health. See this LINK for more details.
DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.