As the seasons change, there is a period of transition in nature. As well as the external changes that occur in our environment as the seasons change, we too experience a period of transition in our mind-body system.
When the seasons change, we are more susceptible to sickness. This is because the doshas that govern the season are also changing. Ayurveda recommends that we adjust our diet and lifestyle not just according to our own dosha (our unique mind- body constitution) but also from one season to another for optimal health and wellbeing.
Our bodies become accustomed to the routine, food, and lifestyle of the previous season. Without awareness of how seasonal shifts can affect the mind-body system and making changes to our diet and lifestyle accordingly; transitioning to a new season can be a shock to the system affecting our immunity and sense of wellbeing.
How Does Ayurveda Affect the Seasons?
In Ayurveda, the three doshas govern specific seasons as follows:
Vata: Autumn through to early winter
Kapha: Late winter through to spring
Knowledge is power! Having awareness of what dosha governs each season is valuable information as it enables us to proactively adjust our diet and lifestyle to optimise our health and wellbeing to avoid getting sick.
In summer, we crave light and cooling foods, which balance Pitta’s heating nature. In the winter, we need heavier, oilier comfort foods which balance Vata’s cold and light qualities. In the spring, when it’s damp and cool, we need dry, light and spiciness in our foods.
Makes sense right? That’s the beauty of Ayurveda. At the heart of the one of the most sophisticated and effective holistic health systems in the world today is the fundamental principle of living in harmony with our environment.
The visual below illustrates how the energies increase and decrease as we transition through the year. In Ayurveda, this is known as Ritu Sandhi (pronounced RIH-doo-SAHN-dee), meaning the ‘joining’ of the seasons.
Notice that when the curve dips, the previous dosha is low while the next dosha is beginning to come into effect. This is known as Ritu sandhi and is the time when we should start preparing and making changes for the upcoming season.
How do you do that? Here are some tips to help you transition through the seasons:
1) Start weaning yourself off foods from the previous season and incorporate foods that are seasonal and regional. Nature helps us to do this! Each season brings new fruits and vegetables that should form the basis of our diet in that season. By eating foods which are seasonal and regional, our diet is in harmony and balance. In Autumn, an accumulation of Vata energy can make us feel ungrounded. Eating lots of root vegetables in warming soups and stews supports us to feel more grounded. In autumn and winter, we should choose warm over raw foods and salads.
2) Adjust your exercise routine to match the season, if necessary. Cooling exercises including cycling, swimming outdoors, and surfing should be done in warmer months. Whereas in the winter, more invigorating exercise, ideally outdoors keeps us warm and helps us to feel grounded. Yoga is good for all seasons!
3) Keep in mind your dosha! If you are a Vata, drinking icy water and drinks should be avoided since they diminish Agni (digestive fire). If you are a Pitta, you’ll want to avoid foods that are very spicy or fermented. If you are Kapha, you will always want to avoid over-indulging and stay away from sweets, biscuits and cake, substituting healthier choices to avoid weight gain.
4) Stick to a daily routine. As sunrise and sunset times shift, think about how your daily routine might need to change. Be sure to prioritise time to move your body daily, preferably outdoors, as well as breathwork and meditation practices to support your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing and boost your psychological immunity. This can be even more important as we transition into winter when the number of daylight hours are reduced which can leave us feeling lethargic and low in mood.
5) Get into the habit of checking in with yourself and asking whether your routine and practices are serving you. Do your practices uplift and nourish you? If the answer is “no”, this is your innate wisdom signalling to you that you need to make changes. If your routine remains unchanged across the seasons perhaps it time to change things up!
6) Consider doing a whole system cleanse for 3-5 days to lightly detoxify, reset and rest the digestive system. In Ayurveda, this is recommended at least once a year. It’s the cheapest and most effective way to give our body a well needed “tune up” at home.
The process starts with cleansing and purification of the intestines, done at home using a series of exercises known as Shank Prakshalana. The cleanse phase is followed by a diet of Kitchari for several days before gradually re-introducing other foods. Kitchari is traditionally made from either yellow lentils or split peas, basmati rice, a mixture of digestive spices and ghee, although vegetable oils can be used to substitute the ghee for a vegan friendly alternative. A mono-nutrient fast over several days gives our digestive system a much-needed break as well as eliminating toxins from our system to enhance our health and wellbeing.
If you wish to incorporate detoxing into your routine and are looking for guidance, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to discover the benefits first-hand.