According to Ayurveda, the principles of Ritucharya advocate living one's life according to the flow of the seasons. ‘Ritu’ means ‘season’ and ‘charya’ means ‘regime’. The energies of nature change along with the seasons. For example, flowers bloom in spring and shed their blossoms in the fall. We are also affected by shifts in the seasons and environment, and failure to adapt to these changes can lead to illness.
An Ayurvedic adage states, “As is the macrocosm, so is the microcosm.” This means, what happens in the environment also affects our internal milieu. Changes in seasons are represented by variations in lengths of daylight, levels of humidity, and temperature shifts. If our bodies adjust properly by desiring different types of food, altering our sleep/wake cycle according to sunrise and sunset, and changing our energy levels, we maintain homeostasis and all is well. It is to be expected that when autumn sets in, we desire warmer, heavier foods (soup anyone?) and have a tendency to sleep more. Summertime brings about a longing for cool drinks and light fare, staying up late and rising early with the sunrise. This represents ideal Richucharya.
As we have learned, seasons have Gunas that pacify one Dosha and aggravate another. Summer, which is Pitta season, naturally aggravates Pitta following the premise “like increases like”. Considering that Pitta is hot, dry, and mobile, it is possible summer will also increase Vata by the end of the season. Because autumn is the next season, this sets us up for excess Vata at a time when we need to decrease it, potentially causing problems like constipation, dry skin, joint pain, fatigue, anxiety, and inability to focus.
Taking two weeks to shift your diet and lifestyle into the next season is ideal, similar to changing out your wardrobe. Use one week to slowly transition out of summer, and the next to ease into fall. Unless you live in Minnesota, you don’t go straight from tank tops to turtlenecks. The same can be said for your vegetables, spices, and skin care.
The first step in shifting to the next season is expelling accumulated Doshas from the previous season. Excess Doshas is one factor that leads to disbalance and eventually disease. A very simple and effective way to do an at-home cleanse is to follow an ama reducing diet for as little as a week. Doing so is usually enough to restore Dosha balance without the need for Panchakarma, and you feel great to boot.
The second step is getting back on a good routine. Summer is a blast with backyard barbeques and beach bumming, but with fall comes the need to restore order. Dinacharya is the name given to daily routine and it couldn’t be more important than it is during Vata season.
- Try to go to bed at the same time each night (no later than 10pm) and set your alarm for no later than 6am each morning.
- Begin your day with deep breathing exercises (Pranayama) to stimulate the nervous system and energize your body.
- Take a look in the mirror and note the coating on your tongue. This may sound strange, but the coating on your tongue can tell a lot about what is happening internally. Is the coating white, gray, or yellowish? Is it thick or thin? Do you have cracks or crevices? Changes in your diet and lifestyle will affect the look of your tongue and you will begin to see these shifts.
- Favor warm, unctuous, nourishing meals over raw salads or astringent fruits. Eating grains, oils, root vegetables, avocados, spices, and dairy products (in moderation) and drinking warm beverages pacifies Vata.
- The dry and cool properties of autumn give rise to dehydrated skin. Indulge in self massage, or Abhyanga. Applying warm oil to the body, especially to the head and feet, is soothing to Vata Dosha and skin. Avocado or sesame oils, especially if infused with pacifying Vata herbs, such as dashmula, bala, or ashwanganda, are excellent choices.
- Exercise during Vata season should be restorative and done indoors, especially if you are of Vata constitution. Avoid wind, cold, and harsh conditions. This is a time for rebuilding and repairing tissue, working on strength and flexibility, and reducing cardio workouts.
This may seem like a lot of steps and effort, but none of it is difficult, complicated, or complex. Anticipating the changes and being knowledgeable is half the battle. Even more reasons to enjoy PSL season…