A year consists of six Ayurveda seasons. Ritucharya is a Sanskrit word that literally means seasonal regimen. Ritu- means seasons and Charya means regimen. Each season has different features and effects on the environment as well as on the human body. Ayurveda believes that man is a miniature version of the universe, hence the changes which occur in nature, the human body reacts and adapts to those changes naturally.
Each living organism follows a natural, internal process that regulates the action and rest activities, and human beings are no exception. This natural process is regulated in a 24-hour cycle which is commonly known as the circadian rhythm. It is known as dinacharya in Ayurveda which is recommended to change and adapt based on the changes in the environment. This natural periodical transition and adaption yet keeping the daily routine set is known as Ritucharya.
The Correlation of Ayurveda Seasons and Doshas
There are commonly three ayurveda seasons based on geographical location, viz, Summer, Winter, and Monsoon. These seasons also have transitions that have subcategories such as Autumn, Fall, Spring etc. As per Ayurveda, the three Doshas or functional energies; Vata, Pitta and Kapha have a natural tendency to aggravate in certain ayurveda seasons.
- Vata – Vata accumulates in summer as the temperature is high and air is dry and dehydrating. It gets aggravated in the rainy season when the atmosphere is humid.
- Pitta – Pitta tends to accumulate during the rainy season due to acidic conditions of the atmosphere, and it gets aggravated in autumn when the climate becomes hot again.
- Kapha – Kapha accumulates in the winter season due to cold temperature of the atmosphere. It reaches its peak and gets aggravated during the spring season. The warm and pleasant weather in spring causes the Kapha to vitiate.
Seasons in Ayurvedic texts and modern-day season interpretation:
Ayurveda has mentioned six seasons which can be correlated and interpreted in today’s day and age accurately. These are the main classifications of Ayurveda seasons and thus there are specific diet and lifestyle recommendations based on these seasons. Each season has different properties, and it impacts an individual based on their Ayurvedic body composition known as Prakriti. The general seasonal recommendations are as follows:
1. Shishira – Winter
Extremely cold climate, even snowfall is seen at various parts of the world. Kapha accumulates in this season.
Diet – Food dominant in Madhura rasa, that is, the sweet taste is recommended to be eaten in moderation. In this season, the Agni or the digestive fire is the strongest and hence even heavy food items are digested well. Sweet, Salty and Sour and Bitter tasting foods are advised. Consumption of meat, poultry, jaggery, wheat flour, milk and dairy products should be regular, but portion-controlled is included in this season.
Lifestyle – regular self-oil massage, especially with sesame oil daily is recommended. It helps to alleviate Vata and improves circulation. Cardiovascular exercises are also beneficial like running, brisk walk, and aerobics.
2.Vasanta – Spring
It is defined by pleasant weather, clear sky and blossoming of new leaves and flowers. Kapha aggravates in this season.
Diet – Intake of foods such as wheat, fermented foods like vinegar, pickles, warm soups infused with ginger, black pepper should be a part of the diet. Medicated warm water or herbal teas infused with herbs like lemongrass, ginger, chamomile etc are beneficial. Avoiding heavy to digest foods such as bakery items and dairy is useful.
Lifestyle – Moderate exercise is recommended, self- care routine consisting of oil massage, bathing with lukewarm water is indicated. Nasal administration of medicated oil is also advised. Panchakarma procedure called Vamana is advised under supervision in this season.
3.Grishma – Summer
Extremely hot, dry climate, scorching heat and depletion of water in the natural resources. Vata accumulates in this season.
Diet – The appetite naturally reduces in the summer season. Staying hydrated is the key to sustain summer, hence intake of plain water, infused water with herbs like lemon, chia seeds, mint, and fruit juices such as coconut water, is advised. Light and easy to digest food, with a sweet taste such as cooked rice, Ghee, milk is recommended.
Lifestyle – Exercise leading to exertion is best avoided in this season due to naturally low body strength. Swimming is a good physical exercise this season. An afternoon nap after lunch is recommended in the summer season only.
4.Varsha – Monsoon
Cloudy weather with humidity and moisture, extreme rainfall in certain parts of the world. Vata aggravates in this season.
Diet – Vata pacifying diet is ideally recommended in this season, especially having well cooked and warm food. Wheat, Rice, Green gram, meat, and chicken soup, Ghee are easily digestible recommended foods. Raw salads and sprouts are best avoided in this season due to naturally poor digestive fire. Water should be consumed in a boiled and then cooled state.
Lifestyle – Avoiding sleeping in the daytime and exertion, drinking cold water, self-oil massage followed by the sauna is recommended. Panchakarma procedure called Basti is also advised under supervision in this season.
5.Sharad – Autumn
The post rainy season is characterized by clear sky yet warm weather but not as hot as summer. Pitta accumulates in this season.
Diet – Pitta balancing foods are advised, such as Ghee, milk, sugar, honey, rice products, ragi etc. Infused water especially with Black Manuka (dates) is recommended. Herbal jam known as Gulkand made of rose petals and sugar is also recommended in this season. Avoiding fermented foods, pickles, alcohol is beneficial.
Lifestyle – Avoiding sleeping during the day and staying awake late at night is advised. Improper quality of sleep increases the vitiation of Pitta. Exercising in moderation is also advised. Panchakarma procedure known as Virechana can be done under the supervision of an Ayurvedic physician.
6.Hemanta – Pre-winter
The temperature begins to cool down, chilly breeze but not extreme cold weather like in winter. Pitta aggravates in this season.
Diet – Food rich in sweet taste, especially having nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats are to be eaten. Dairy products, wheat and millets, fermented foods, and beverages such as mulled wine is also advised. This same diet is to be continued during the winter season.
Lifestyle – Self-massage with herbal oil, mild steam inhalation, exercises such as strength training is beneficial.