Because Ayurveda originated in the Middle East, it divided the year into six seasons that best described their climate: early winter, winter, spring, summer, rainy, autumn. In most parts of the world, we are able to split the year into 3 seasons to align fairly well with the Doshas and their coordinating qualities:
- dry, cold -> Autumn
- hot, dry or wet -> dry summer or humid summer
- cold, wet -> spring
Seasons aren’t defined by calendars but rather the properties of the environment where you live. By mid-September it can be sweater season in the upper Midwest, but folks in the southern states want heat relief. Just as we eat with the seasons based on what grows naturally at each time of year, it is a good practice to transition with the natural progression of the climate where you live.
Fall Colds Now Explained
There is a precarious 2 week period when two seasons collide; it’s called Ritu Sandhi. Ritu means “season”, and Shandhi means “junction”. As one season comes to an end, let’s say Pitta for summer season, there is generally an accumulation of Pitta qualities that have built up over the last several months. Most likely you’ve been eating lighter, and consuming foods that are more cooling and wet in nature, like cucumbers, watermelon, and berries. While that is great to balance the hot, sharp, and dry properties of Pitta, once Vata season rolls around it is time to shed any excess “ cold and wet” qualities. For example, if you have been eating lots of leafy green salads - which are cooling and drying - you may notice an increase in Vata qualities. Starting off Vata season with an already elevated amount of Vata from summer sets you up for dry skin, constipation, a dry cough, and fatigue straight out of the gate. If you have excess Pitta on board in the form of oil/water, this may manifest as a fall cold.
Another way to clear your body of your end-of-season excess Dosha is a mini “cleanse.” Should you do an Ayurvedic group cleanse? Find out why this concept has always eluded me.
Before you go diving into sweet potatoes and stew, honor the period of Ritu Sandhi. The first week wean yourself from your normal summer Pitta diet and slowly start adding in some Vata foods. In the second week, continue to add more Vata foods and spices while decreasing foods that are cooling. Again, let your own climate and current Dosha help dictate the speed of your transition and how much transitioning needs to take place.
Don’t forget about your schedule. One of the biggest stabilizers in life is having and sticking to a regular routine. During Vata season (especially winter) it is natural to crave more sleep because the hours of daylight are fewer. Although Vata season is a time of depletion, winter eventually becomes a building time of the year where the body is able to rest, replenish, and restore itself.
Exercise during Fall and Winter doesn’t have to change completely; I know some of you would rather sacrifice an arm before missing a long run. But to balance the already motion-filled, windy season, try balancing your cardio with more grounding steam baths, a restorative yin yoga class, or more meditation. Slower movements, heat - especially steam - and stretching all help calm Vata’s wayward tendencies.
Continue with Nasya, Abhyanga, and gargling or oil pulling. The nose, skin and mouth are the easiest ways for pathogens to enter our body. The menacing, dry air of Vata can make you feel like your entire body is forever chafed. But if you are consistent with this routine, I promise that your cherry chapstick may be a thing of the past. Maintaining the integrity of the skin and tissues is one of the best ways to support your immunity - and it keeps your skin looking and feeling ah-mazing.
You are Your own Healer
Summer days may be slipping away, but you can float into fall with nary a care in the world if you transition mindfully. You know your body best so do a full body scan and check in with how you’re really feeling. Anxious, spacey, and depleted? You may already have excess Vata on board. It would serve you well to begin adding Vata pacifying habits and foods straight away. Do you find yourself irritable, with skin flare ups, and indigestion? Pitta has definitely worked a number on you over the summer. Take Ritu Sandhi slowly, use warm (not hot or cold) CCF tea to help break down any Ama, and get back to yoga (not heated) and meditation; it’s time for you to settle in. Finding yourself in Kapha excess? Schedule an appointment :)
CCF Tea for Pitta:
1 part Cumin
1 part Coriander
2 parts Fennel