Ayurveda and the Seasons
Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India dating back thousands of years, is alive and well! Today it is recognized as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and as an effective system of holistic health care by the World Health Organization.
According to Ayurveda, good health and illness prevention are directly related to the degree of mind-body balance we achieve. Furthermore, we all fall under one of three "body type" categories, or "doshas," which are a conglomeration of various physical, mental, and emotional traits and characteristics. Each body type comes with inherent tendencies, likes, dislikes, and other defining features. By learning more about your body type and about which lifestyle activities and habits promote balance or create imbalance, you can take the reigns in your life, maximize your potential, and achieve optimal health.
Understanding Your Body's Natural Rhythms
In the Ayurvedic Science of Life, everything in the universe is interconnected. Hence what transpires in nature and in the environment influences us - including the weather, the four seasons, the time of day, colors, and more. Therefore in addition to improving common wellness factors such as diet, exercise regimens, sleep patterns, work habits, and more, we want our body's natural cycles or 'circadian rhythms' to flow with the smooth rhythms of nature.
Adapting Your Ayurveda Routines to the Seasons
In the Ayurveda calendar, summer is represented by Pitta. Fall is represented by Vata. Vata continues into the beginning of winter, followed by Kapha in late winter and spring.
Like many people, you are likely unaware that the very changing of the seasons can cause dosha imbalances! Whether your dosha is Kapha, Pitta, or Vata, you can benefit from a set of common corrective strategies.
One general way to adjust your Ayurveda routines to the changing of the seasons is to think 'opposites.' For example, during the hot summer, think 'cool' foods and activities; during the cold and wet winter, think 'grounding,' 'warm,' and 'dry.' In addition, you want to eat seasonally as well, so for optimal balance, think: spring cleansing foods, summer cooling foods, Fall grounding foods, and winter warming foods.
Ayurveda Recommendations for Kapha Season
Kapha season runs from March through June. The weather is typically cold, damp, and wet and it's the season when you are most likely to catch a cold and feel a sense of lethargy. On the other hand, depending on where you live, Kapha season marks the beginning of spring as April showers bring May flowers, and is the time of year when seasonal allergies may occur.
To counterbalance the season's temperament and bring Kapha back into balance, Ayurveda advises:
- Stay warm
- Eat light meals consisting of grounding, easy-to-digest foods
- Add zest to your diet with spices such as cinnamon
- Minimize dairy and sugar
- Start your morning with a natural stimulant such as ginger tea
- Get plenty of regular exercise (learn about Kapha-balancing Yoga practices and other activities)
Ayurveda Recommendations for Vata Season
Vata season runs from November through February. The weather is typically windy, cold, and dry.
To minimize Vata imbalances, here is what the Ayurveda experts recommend:
- Choose warm foods such as soups over cold foods such as salads
- Choose cooked over uncooked foods
- Minimize caffeine
- Drink herbal teas
- Sip warm beverages throughout the day
- Dress warm!
- Take warm baths
- Treat yourself to a sesame oil (Abhyanga) massage
Ayurveda Recommendations for Pitta Season
Pitta season runs from July through October. The weather is hot and the doshas are fiery. Pitta season is when you are most likely to experience indigestion, ulcers, heartburn, irritability, anger, skin rashes, or acne.
To correct imbalances during Pitta season, Ayurveda recommends:
- Think cool
- Keep cool
- Avoid excessive sun
- Wear sunscreen
- Eat cooling foods, i.e. cold salads with leafy greens
- Add cooling spices, i.e. mint, anise, fennel
- Choose ingredients with bitter, sweet, or astringent tastes
- Drink cool but not ice-cold beverages
- Drink plenty of purified water and sweet fruit juices
- Minimize carbonate beverages
- Take walks in the cool evening breeze or under the moonlight
- Engage in water-based activities/sports
Pacifying Your Doshas by the Season
In summary, to balance your doshas according to the seasons, supplement your body's chemistry with the opposite tastes and your behaviors with counter-balancing activities. In this way you will be pacifying Kapha season, Vata season, and Pitta season, and optimizing your health.
Finally, you might also be interested in learning about the Ayurvedic clock and how to keep your body's rhythms in sync with nature's time cycles. Simply learn which doshas are dominant throughout the 24-hour day and how to maximize their effects to your benefit.
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