Rtucharya: The 6 seasons and lifestyle, diet, and your Yoga practice
Just as the rising sun removes the darkness of the sky, similarly, the scientific knowledge of cosmic manifestation removes all illusory duality from mind of the serious student. Even if illusion enters his heart, it cannot remain there.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 11-24-28
Rtu = fixed or appointed time, season, Charya = regime, routine.
In the Vedas, Time is equated with the Consciousness Time (Kala) is the source of the divisions of time. It unites procession, recession, and stasis.
“Kalo gatinivrtti sthiti: samdadhati” – Sankhayana Aranyaka 7.20.
One fundamental understanding in Ayurveda is about the seasons. It is fundamental in diagnosis as well as the prescription in many ways. There are 6 seasons in the year from the view of Ayurveda. There is a separation of each of the Summer and Winter seasons between their wet and a dry parts making two seasons (an early and late) of Winter and two (an early and late) of Summer. Add to this your normal Spring and Autumn and you have 6 seasons, not 4.
Dakshinayana and Uttarayana (Two main seasons)
Around June 21, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, the sun rises not directly in the east, but in the northeast. Then six months later on December 21, the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year, the sun will rise in the southeast. This may not sound like a big thing, but if one actually looks along the horizon from the north-east to the south-east you will see that it is a distance of 60 degrees, one-sixth of a circle. This means that between the longest day of the year and the shortest day of the year the sun has been rising each day a little more towards the south. The sun has been moving in a southernly course along the horizon. This is called the sun’s southern course (dakshinayana –visarjanīya meaning “discharge, liberation” or the wet season). Then, from December 21 until June 21, the sun will be moving in the reverse direction (apparent motion), north along the horizon. This is called the sun’s northern course (uttarayana – adana meaning “taking, seizing” or the dry season). During the northern course the days are getting successively longer (light is increasing) and during southern course the days are getting shorter (light is decreasing). Actually, when the sun reaches its most northernly point on June 21st and when the sun reaches its most southernly point on December 21, there is about a three week “hanging” or “turning around” period when the sun appears to move very little. Thus the first day of the northern course (uttarayana – adana or dry season) is not considered December 22, instead January 14th is the day (sankranti), and the first day of the southern course (dakshinayana – visarga or wet season) is not June 22, but July 17th. This north/south movement of the sun is important since all things are considered better (auspicious) if they are performed in light. It is considered more auspicious to move into a house, install a sacred image, start a business, or even to die during the northern course of the sun than during the southern course. Remember the metaphor: the sun equals light, which equal knowledge and life, which equals consciousness. You can see because of light, because of this you can move and walk. The light creates form, it creates health and growth, it creates wealth, and there are many other connections. click here
The seasons are based upon the sun’s dominance during adana (dry season that is roughly mid January through mid July ) and the moon’s dominance during the visarga (wet season that is roughly mid July through mid January), the wind being drier in adana (dry season) then visarga (wet season) . The atmospheric changes through the changing of the seasons create a disturbance in the equilibrium of the mahabhutas (five elements) and gunas (qualities).
This disturbance first leads to the accumulation of doshas (derangements) due to the mahabhutas (five elements) and gunas (qualities) increased in that specific season. This is the first stage of disease. With the continued change of the season, it further aggravates the dosha (this is the second stage of disease) and then due to natures mercy the next change of season naturally balances and bring the doshas back to normalcy. These two stages of disease are occurring due to nature. Nature then leaves it up to our own ignorance (conscious and unconscious) to continue the plight into disease formation after the second stage by lifestyle and diet habits that are not beneficial for the balance of that season.
This is the basic ebb and flow of creation, transformation and destruction that happen all through the year over and over. It constitutes the causes of time, season, taste (in medicines and diet), and the vitiation of the doshas and bodily strength. The deep understanding, awareness, and experience of this dance allows someone to create health, high immune function and ward most possibilities of becoming ill or diseased as well as ward off ageing and its effects. This understanding is also deeply used in Ayurveda as to when in accordance to Kala (time), Prakriti (first nature or balance) and Vikriti (imbalance) to treat a patient. It also guides a doctor to foresee what disease will most likely occur in someone’s future due to most people continue their path of ignorance that has led them to the current imbalance. More on this in a moment. First, we have to understand the elements, doshas, and 6 tastes.
Elements, Dosha and 6 tastes:
The five elements are at the basis of understanding everything about Ayurveda. Each element has qualities (gunas).
Qualities – soft, light, subtle and abundant.
Action – provides room, looseness, openness and it provides container for other elements
Facilitates – sound and non-resistance
Substance – anything that is light, profuse, and ethereal
Example – hollow and light foods (foods are not just one element)– popcorn, wafers, crackers, kale
Intake – increases softness and lightness in the body
Qualities – weightless, mobile, cool, dry, porous and subtle
Action – motion or movement, evaporation, dryness
Facilitates – touch and vibration.
Substance – anything dry and airy, or that creates gas
Example – toast, cookies, cabbage, beans, kale
Intake – increases coolness, dryness, movement and circulation
Fire (Agni or Tejas)
Qualities – hot, sharp, dry, subtle, weightless and rough
Action – radiation of heat and light
Facilitates – form, color and temperature
Substance – anything combustible and spicy
Example – chilies, ginger, pepper, cumin, mustard seed, hing
Intake – increases digestion, metabolism (fire and heat), glow and color of skin
Water (Jala or Apa)
Qualities – oily (unctuous), moist, cool, soft, and sticky
Attribute – cohesion, lubrication
Facilitates – fluidity and taste (via saliva)
Substance – anything liquid, fluid or watery
Example – drinks, soups, melons, cucumber and other juicy fruits and salads
Intake – increases smoothness, coolness, softness and flow of fluids
Qualities – heavy, rough, solid, stable, slow
Attribute – resistance, density
Facilitates – fragrance, odour and shape
Substance – anything solid and heavy
Example – oil, dairy, most grain, sugars, meats and eggs
Intake – increases heaviness, stability, obesity and solidity in the body
A combination of two of the elements creates a taste. The qualities are then expanded. Each taste then has qualities and also actions it has on substance. Substance like our bodies and the tastes having effects because of the qualities it holds.
|Sweet||Earth + Water||heavy, slow, cold and oily||Vata, Pitta||Kapha|
|Sour||Fire + Earth||Hot, liquid, light, oily||Vata||Pitta, Kapha|
|Salty||Fire + Water||Light, sharp, subtle, oily and hot||Vata||Pitta, Kapha|
|Pungent||Fire + Air||Light, sharp, rough, hot and subtle||Kapha||Pitta, Vata|
|Bitter||Ether + Air||Light, rough, cold||Kapha, Pitta||Vata|
|Astringent||Earth + Air||Heavy, rough, cold, penetrating||Kapha, Pitta||Vata|
A dosha is “that which is imbalanced. It can be looked at as a natural buffering system of the body. It protects us and in general terms all three are the constitutions of the body. They are also are each made of two of the elements.
|Dosha||Elements||Rasa & Qualities that aggravate||Rasa & Guna that mitigate|
|Vata||Ether and Air||Light, Quick, Dry, Rough, Moving, Cold, Subtle, CoarsePungent, Bitter, Astringent||Sweet Sour Salt Oily, Heavy And Hot|
|Pitta||Fire and Water||Hot, Sharp, Oily, Light, Liquid, FluidSour, Salty, Pungent||Sweet, Bitter, Astringent Cold and Dry|
|Kapha||Earth and Water||Heavy, Slow, Oily, Cold, Soft, Immobile, SlimySweet, Sour, Salt||Pungent, Bitter, Astringent, Light, Dry, Hot|
Because this is not the focus of this blog, I will just touch on it. Understanding this and how to use them is part of the foundation of Ayurveda. It is all about the five elements and the 6 tastes and their qualities. To simplify the understanding, any taste with fire in it increases pitta then the opposites will decrease it, qualities work the same way. If there was one word that sums up Ayurveda and how it works it is “qualities.”
The Effects of Adana and Visagra (dry and wet seasons)
From mid-January to mid-July (adana), the sun’s rays and the wind’s sharp velocity and dryness absorb the moisture from the earth. Winds progressively bring about more and more dryness through the three seasons of late winter, spring and summer. Having drying effects on everything this also affects the tastes in substances enhancing the bitter astringent and pungent tastes and this also causes weakness in humans.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:6
Although we have not talked about shad rasa (the 6 tastes) in detail, this is a very important concept in Ayurveda. We will get to it and you can also search for other articles on this blog explaining them and food and how this all works together. The actions of the tastes are important to understand. Also, know that a substance does not have just one taste. garlic, for example, has five of the six tastes.
During the seasons from mid-July to mid-January, the sun moves towards the south and its power of heating lessens as the progression through the season by the amount of daytime, the course of the sun, storms and rains but the moon is not affected. The earth is cooled of the heat, as well, by the rains and storms. The substances of the earth are affected by this having a result of sour, salty and sweet tastes which cause unctuousness in the body and a growth in strength as we move through the wet season (late summer, autumn and early winter).
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:7
In the summer, the human body is weak. In the winter the human body is strong. In the middle time between both, the body is of moderate strength.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:8
Of course, this is variable as per latitude of the location on this earth. It is also variable as to the local variations but the seasons at large still remain the season.
If you just look at the Hardiness Zone map above, you can start to understand that different zones are going to produce different results in seasonal changes and the seasonal regime would then need to be modified to some extent due to this.
The seasons themselves though bring on the results as a overruling nature such as during spring time everything grows in nature. Other identification markers from Ayurveda are the gunas, the doshas, plants, fruits, flowers, animals, birds, physiological changes, and also the diseases that are prevalent in each season.
This above is the climatic regions of the US.
And this is the precipitation variations to the US.
In general, all of this needs to be taken into consideration. It is deep. It has many parts to it all as you can start to grasp. In general, though, the seasons still bring their general results just as every spring flowers and trees start to bud and grow. The larger natural cycle continues.
As I have experienced and witnessed in my years of Ayurveda, I have come to the understanding through my experience that the seasonal vagaries of dosha follow the texts due to the seasons being from the troposphere. If it is summer in the US it is summer all over the US. The larger effects the smaller localities as the baseline. The confusion of the seasons is maintained as in Western Ayurveda as to what they believe is reasons to just say that pitta is aggravated in Summer, a superficial comprehension. I have not ever experienced pitta aggravated in the beginning of summer except to those people that have pitta imbalances already. More on this later but just to make note that the doshic imbalance is different all over the earth just as if there is a mountain with forest and a river running next to it. The top of the mountain is bereft of foliage. The dosha difference would be drier on the mountain yet, in contrast, the forest below by the river would be wetter and cooler. Yet in this container, the same season would be affecting the entire environment.
What does all of this seasonal change mean for your asana practice? Since what we “do” in the Western world as yoga is simply as a form of exercise that we believe is based on asana, Vyayam/sayasa (exercise) is only ever to half capacity even in the best seasons of strength (winter). This is just another reason why hot yoga and the kick your butt yoga classes have nothing to do with Yoga and are contraindicated to health or solely based in Western exercise/health theory and not actual knowledge of Yoga and Ayurveda. Anything past that level of exertion aggravates vata and creates imbalances and disease. The heat is increased in the body while moving and exercising to the point at which the body is not longer able to keep itself at a proper temperature. The body’s natural way of balancing this is to have you breathe through the mouth as it is now impossible to breathe through the nose alone. (See shloka 50 below) The body also starts to perspire above the upper lip and on the brow. These are indicators/signs in Ayurveda and Yoga that the individual has reached their highest level of capacity. Any more than this is ativyayam, overexertion. It will imbalance prana. Ativyayam (excessive exertion) is one of the main causative factors for many diseases later in life. You don’t see the effects right away or even feel them till later. Allopathic medicine as well cannot see any relationship or see those diseases as caused by this excessive exertion due to the fact that they appear later in life but you can see for yourself what an old school marathoner or triathlete looks like; a wrinkled dried up raisin with so many joint problems, digestive and malabsorption problems and more. The same happens from excessive sex, it being another form of exertion mentioned in detail in Ayurvedic texts. Your asana practice should be creating health, not destroying it because you follow what is popular blindly. It should be balancing to prana, stronger in the winter and more rejuvenating or restorative in the summer. One size fits all is not what Yogasana or Ayurveda is about.
That age-old saying translates to “One should refrain from ‘too much’ of anything.”
Diversion and Sidebar……
dvādaśātmakaṃ vatsarametasyāgneyamardhamardhaṃ vāruṇam. maghādyaṃ śraviṣthārdham āgneyaṃ krameṇotkrameṇa sārpādyaṃ śraviṣṭhārdhāntaṃ saumyam. tatraikaikamātmano navāṃśakaṃ sacārakavidham. (Mai Up 6.14)
“The year consists of twelve months. The one half of it belongs to the god Agni, the other half to Varuṇa. The half belonging to Agni begins at the beginning of the lunar mansion of Maghā and ends in the middle of the lunar mansion of Śraviṣṭhā, while the Sun moves southward. The half belonging to Soma/Varuṇa begins with the lunar mansion Sarpa/Āśleśā and ends in the middle of Śraviṣṭhā, while the Sun moves northward. Each month of it has nine parts according to the progression of the lunar mansions.”
Śraviṣṭhā is the beginning of the year because it is the location of “uttarayana”, the point at which the Sun begins moving northward and the days begin getting longer or the Winter solstice which 4,000 years ago was when the Sun entered Shravishtha.
The shortest day and the beginning of the northward course of the Sun (and Moon) begin at Shravishtha, and that the beginning of the southward course begins in Aslesha (the opposite star from Shravishtha). The day increases each day from the winter solstice, and visa-versa from the summer solstice.
The six vedic “seasons” are equivalent to the Sun’s movement through 4 and a half nakshatra segments (seasons from the Moon).
(This points out a few things. One of which, the tropical zodiac or Sayana is used for prediction of weather and karma of the earth and does not show a human birth.)
The system of the year was mathematically calculated by astronomy in vedic times and is known from texts of about 1000 BC. It divides an approximate solar year of 360 days into 12 lunar months of 27 (Taittiriya Samhita 184.108.40.206-3) or 28 (Atharvaveda 19.7.1.) days. The resulting discrepancy was resolved by the intercalation of a leap month every 60 months.
Time was reckoned by the position marked off in constellations on the ecliptic in which the Moon rises daily in the course of one lunation (the period from New Moon to New Moon) and the Sun rises monthly in the course of one year. (just for a side bar, what is the difference between starting a month from the new moon verses starting a month from a full moon?)
These fixed star constellations (nakshatras) each measure an arc of 13 20′ of the ecliptic circle. The positions of the Moon were directly observable, and those of the Sun inferred from the Moon’s position at Full Moon, when the Sun is on the opposite side of the Moon. The position of the Sun at midnight was calculated from the nakshatra (lunar mansion) that culminated on the meridian at that time, the Sun then being in opposition to that naksatra.
The year was divided into three-thirds of four months, each of which would be introduced by a special religious rite, the chaturmasya (four-month rite). Each of these periods was further divided into two parts (seasons or rtu): spring (vasanta), from mid-March until mid-May; summer (grishma), from mid-May until mid-July; the rains (varsha), from mid-July until mid-September; autumn (sharad), from mid-September until mid-November; winter (hemanta), from mid-November until mid-January; and the dews (shishira), from mid-January until mid-March. These religious rites or holidays were always celebrated with feasts or fasts with or without foods that created balance in the human being due to the seasonal elemental transformation. In fact, most hindu holidays of today have the same history that the foods and rites around them are nothing more than ways of balancing with the forces of nature. Of course, with the Westernization of the world, this is being lost because the passing down of the knowledge that is behind why they are doing what is being taken as tradition is becoming more and more thrown away for newer popular fads and fashions.
|Shishira||Late Winter||mid Jan to mid March|
|Vasanta||Spring||mid March to mid May|
|Grishma||Summer||mid May to mid July|
|Varsha||Rainy season||mid July to mid September|
|Sharad||Autumn||mid September to mid November|
|Hemanta||Early Winter||mid November to mid January|
Again, each dosha accumulates (Chaya), aggravates (Prakopa) and becomes normal (Prasamana) in different Rtus (Seasons). Vata (air and either or movement function) accumulates in early summer, aggravates in late summer and calms down in autumn. Pitta (fire and water or metabolism) accumulates in “late” summer, aggravates in autumn (Sharad rtu) and calms down with the cold in early winter. Kapha (earth and water or structure and secretions) accumulates in late winter, aggravates in spring (Vasant rtu) and calms down in summer. Vata can get aggravated in winter but only if one does not eat enough due to agni increased by the increased cold pushing it deeper into the system, therefore winter time is absolutely the wrong time to fast or diet. There are no Wintertime detoxes/cleanses going on from an Ayurvedic sense, no anti-kapha diets in winter as it has been written in Western Ayurveda books. Your immune system depends on your building your body with heavy foods in the winter and then burning the kapha out in the spring.
From Ashtanga Hrydayam Chapter 5.63…….
In a nutshell, to balance each season here is your cheat sheet. Remember, every meal or day at least should contain all the six tastes. This cheat sheet is just a guide or map and not the whole picture. There is a tremendous amount more to know. This is a start.
|Season||Taste||Food and Drink|
|Winter||Sweet, Sour, Salty||Hot or warm|
|Spring||Bitter, Astringent, Pungent||Moisture-less and fatless|
|Autumn||Sweet, Bitter Astringent||Moisture-less and fatless|
It is of interest to note that the seasons originally had different names as well.
Tapas (Austerity) and Tapasya (Performer of Austerity) are the two months of the frozen season. Madhu (Sweetness) and Madhava (Enjoyer of Sweetness) are the two months of the blossoming season (Spring). Shukra (Bright and Clear) and Shuci (Pure and Clean) are the two months of the hot season (Summer). Nabha (Bursting) and Nabhasya (Fogged) are the two months of the rainy season. Isha (Fertile) and Oorja (Invigorating) are the two months of the mature season (Autumn). Saha (Overcoming) and Sahasya (Strong) are the two months of the frost season.”
To note, the world was quite different in the earlier days. Travel was not as it is today in so many ways. People ate seasonally, where we now do not even know when each food is harvested and we can get it all year round in the grocery stores. Generally, people followed a healthy lifestyle whereas today, the Western lifestyle has been now linked to most disease. In general, foods used to be healthy and organic. Today all food is not organic just as 100% of organic wines in California have been found to have Glyphosate, the same is for the level of organic in the foods. Generally, the seasons came at the right times and as of the last decade, the seasons across the globe have been pretty messed up. Also, the water and pollution were not what they are today. All of this also affects the seasonal regime and its challenges.
Now for everyone that wants to learn the nitty gritty details here it is:
What to do to balance in Winter (Hemanta and Sisira):
During the winter the digestive power of a human being possessing good health and strength is enhanced due to the external cold and how it restrains the heat inside the body and does not let it out. The internal heat increases in the digestion making it stronger so it is capable of digesting any food substance irrespectively of its heaviness and the quantity ingested. If you do not feed this strong digestion and it does not get the proper fuel, the digestive fire affects the nutritive fluids of the body, the digestive fire consumes the tissues of the body (autolysis), and this will cause vata to be aggravated. Therefore, during winter one should eat: foods that are unctuous, sour and salty juices of meats and/or meat-soup (without the meat) of fatty aquatic and marshy animals (this is used as an antidote for the possibility of vata being vitiated), meat of burrow-dwelling animals prepared by mincing it, and animals that snatch their prey. Someone that has a strong digestive fire should drink flash boiled cow’s milk, cane juice, fat, oils, new rice and hot water. One should get massaged, anointed with oils, apply oil to the head and reside in a heated building. Sex is advised in excess only during winter. Make sure to wear warm clothing and wear aguru oil as a scent and see that seats and bedding are covered with blankets to keep warm and not expose oneself to cold as this can aggravate vata as well due to vata’s cold nature. Dieting or fasting and eating gruel or too light of meals like kitchari is also to be avoided.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:9 – 18 (with a bit of translation)
In the winter, we strive to create good health. Earth and Water elements (kapha dosha) are high in the winter. It is the time to build, as the digestion is strong and the power of digestion is the bodily strength. With ones individual agni in view, heavy food is prescribed both qualitatively and quantitatively in winter and unless heavy food is taken the digestion does not function properly. If heavy food are not taken the body cannot produce the proper heat and nutrition to the tissues. This is the worst time to do a raw diet (AYURVEDA DOES NEVER DO RAW DIET AS IT IS AGAINST REALLY FUNDAMENTAL COMPREHENSION OF AGNI, SUBSTANCE QUALITIES, DIGESTION AND JUST PLAIN HEALTH, SEVERAL DISEASES ARE CAUSED BY EATING TOO MUCH RAW FOOD AS PER AYURVEDIC KNOWLEDGE), juicing, or any cold foods or foods and drinks of pungent bitter and astringent tastes. It will highly aggravate vata and cause problems with the digestion and an accumulation of bad fat will accumulate. The difference between early winter and late winter is that the late winter is dry and the lengthening of the day starts towards the end of it. During this time it is important to watch the digestive fire and the heavy foods that are eaten. Eating heavy foods prepared in a way that makes them lighter is the ayurvedic way. Take grains for example, if you simply dry roast them before preparing them their normal way, it makes them light by fact that you are putting fire element into them or precooking them and breaking down the proteins in a Western framework. It is noteworthy to mention here that if you were to google “winter anti kapha diet” you would have the most unbelievable amount of results come up. If one was to follow what is written, that advice, they would destroy their immune system which is built off of the heavy nourishing foods eaten in winter. There are many discrepancies in the seasons with Western Ayurvedic and I will not go into what they say, but from the original texts quote above you can see that this is not true.
The difference between the two winters is that the early winter is wet and the later is dry. During the first part of winter we are able to take in heavy, nourishing, sweet foods because the digestion is so strong. Later, coming into the dry winter we change to uttarayana. The change is the start of the digestive power declining. It wanes until the middle of summer where it starts to wax again from its weakest point. Our diet needs to reflect this by watching our digestive capacity. Eating heavy foods but in a lighter way is the easiest way to do this. Soups, stews, root vegetables, meats of drier climates is the best way to do this.
Yoga practice in winter:
In the winter, it is the time to exert yourself. Exercise is advised. Your asana practice can be exerting but remember that it is only ever to have capacity at the best of times and this is it. Kidney toning asanas are recommended; suryanamaskar, supta vajrasana, shashakasana, marjariasana, shashank bhujangasana, vyaghrasana, trikonansana, matsyasana, all back bending, paschimottasana, ardha matsyendrasana, halasana, gomuktasana and ushtrasana.*
Pranayama: Build the digestion as it is at its highest now and the better we make it the better your immune system and health will be for the rest of the year. Bhastrika, agnisara kriya, uddiyana bandha, nauli.
Mudra: Maha Mudra
What to do to balance in Spring (Vasanta):
Accumulated kapha is liquefied by the heat of the sun and disturbs the digestion and metabolism as well as causes many diseases. One should avoid heavy, unctuous, sour and sweet foods. Day sleep is avoided at all cost as it will increase kapha. In the beginning of spring one should habitually resort to exercise to half capacity, anointing with aromatic oils and powders of sandalwood and aguru, garglings with sesame oil (gandusha and kavala), and applying kajal to the eyes. Eat barley and wheat, meats of rabbit, antelope, quail and partridge.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:22 – 26 (with a bit of translation)
Yoga practice in Spring:
Asana: Springtime is a time to get moving and dry out. If you do not the heavy moisture will overflow and produce digestive disorders as well as flus, allergies and cold. Get moving and burn out the residual kapha that has built during the winter months. Spring is also the season for cleansing and renewing. Liver asanas such as pachimottasana, meru varkrasana, bhunamanasana, ardha matsyadrasana, merudandasana, utthita hasta merudandasana and ardha padma pashimottasana. Dhanurasana, Jathara Parivartanásana and matsyasana are also really great asanas for kapha. Pavanmuktasana series 2 is focused upon the digestion which is compromised in the spring time. Simhakriya and Kunjalkriya are great for ridding of excess kapha.
Mudra: Maha Mudra
Shatkarma: Kunjal kriya, laghoo shankhaprakshalana, nauli, agnisar dhauti, jalaneti, vastra dhauti
Pranayama: Kapalbhati, bhastrika, surya bhedana, agnisara kriya, sheetkrama
What to do to balance in Early Summer (Grishma):
In the summer the sun evaporates the moisture of the earth by its rays. The intake of sweet, cold, liquid, and unctuous diet and drinks is prescribed. You do not suffer from any diseases in this season if you drink mantha (One part barley flour and four parts water) with sugar, eat the meat of animals and birds in aired climates and eat ghee and milk with navara rice (Oryza sativa), avoiding taking food of salty, sour and pungent or hot. Physical exercise should be given up during this season. Daytime naps are appropriate in a cooled environment. In night time you can smear your body with paste made of sandalwood and sleep on airy rooftop and be cooled by the rays of the moon. Sexual intercourse is prohibited although some can enjoy gardens, cold water and flowers.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:27 – 32 (with a bit of translation so that it reads better)
In the summer, our bodies are at their weakest. The hot rays of the sun are taking back the nourishing that nature had given up back in the winter. Eating sweet, cooling, liquid and unctuous foods will help us maintain the nourishment and health needed in this time. Beware, these foods can be heavy to digest so we eat them in small quantity or cook them in a way that makes them lighter and easy to digest. Digestion is at its weakest in the summertime. Animals and birds of aired climates are just another way of explaining qualities. These animals will all have a lighter quality to them and be easier to digest. Foods of salty, sour and pungent or hot qualities will all create more heat in the body. Sandalwood is cooling to the body and has a pleasant odour. It will cool the body and mind on those hot and dry summer days. In the summer, alcohol is prohibited as it is heating and drying to the body. Exercise as well is prohibited along with sexual intercourse because we are trying to hold on to the strength and both will deplete us substantially. Pitta is not aggravated in the summertime, vata is…….
“In grisma (summer) the sun rays become powerful, day after day and appears to be destructive (of all things); slesman (kapha) decreases day by day and vayu (vata) increases consequently, hence in this season use of things which are salt, pungent, and sour (in taste) (as food), physical exercises and exposure to sunlight, should be avoided.
Ashtanga Hrydayam 3.26-27″
In summer, the suns rays become powerful; day after day and appears destructive to all things; kapha decreases day by day and vata increases consequently (because of the dryness)
Ashtanga Hrydaya Sutrasthana 3:26 – 27
Yoga practice in early Summer:
Asana: Remember that the body is at its weakest during the summer, exertion is at its least. As the heat and dryness are high, working with the moon and cooling asana as well as nourishing is the way to go. Restorative asana is best for summer. Suryanamaskar can still be done but is done to very less exertion. Organ focus can be on the heart and small intestines. Bhujangasana, shalabhasana, sarpasana, shavasana with legs up (vipareeta) a wall is a wonderful way to work the heart.
Mudra: Maha Mudra, anjali mudra, viparita karani mudra, hridaya mudra, Yoni mudra
Shatkarma: Moola shodana, lots of mula bandha, basti
Pranayama: Shitali, Shitkari, Chandrabhedana,
Meditation: Yoga nidra, Yam mantra focused on anahata with blue lotus, groundingWhat to do to balance in Late Summer (Varsha): The body and digestion are weakened during the period of dehydration. It is weakened even further by the aggravation of vata and the other dosha during the rains. The digestive power is affected due to the gas coming out of the earth, rainfall, increase in acidity in water and consequently vata and the other doshas get vitiated. It is advisable to be very moderate in diet and regime during this time. Abstaining from: mantha in excess, day sleep, water from rivers, excessive exercise, being out in the sun rays, and indulgence in sex. Use old honey (more than 1 year old) in diet, drinks (like water) and others. If the days are cooler due to heavy rains, eating sour, salty and unctuous serves as an effective antidote to the vitiation of vata during the rainy season. In order to maintain the strength of the digestion, eating old barley, wheat, navara rice along with the meat of animals arid and vegetable soups. Drink collected rain water or water that is from a well or pond that is brought to a boil then let cooled and mixed with a little old honey. It is advised to rub the body then apply oils and then take a bath. Wear fragrant garlands, light and clean apparel and reside in a house devoid of humidity in this season.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:33 – 40 (with a bit of translation so that it reads better) In the early summer we see that the heat and rays of the sun the body and digestion is weakened. In the larger two seasons of dry and wet we have now moved into the wet season and late summer. The rainwater (or the atmosphere) being dried creates humidity. This as well as the weakened digestion in turn vitiates all the doshas. The rains and storms create an acidity of water which creates vitiation of pitta and kapha. This combined with the weakened body and digestion makes this the most challenging season. Pitta and kapha are further vitiated due to non-complete digestion or half digestion of consumed foods. Vata is also vitiated due to the improper nourishment of the tissues due to the improper digestion. This puts into perspective that this is the most important time to watch the digestion and keep the flame alive by eating small digestible meals. Old honey is used in this season because of its ability to dry the dampness of the season. If taken in large amounts or if consuming young honey which is oozy it will have the adverse effect due to qualities. Oozy, new honey has an opposite effect of moistening the tissues. Naps create excessive heaviness and moisture in the system as well. Ayurveda explains that there are so many different waters. Rain water is by far the best water and river water is hard to digest. Well or pond water is heavy but the boiling of it changes this quality and makes it more digestible. Exercise in this season is minimal but needed to help with the abundant moisture. This means it is advised but light due to the weakness of the body and digestion. Old barley, old rice, wheat, and navara rice are all grains that will be building for the body but light to digest. This can be made even lighter and is advisable to dry roasting them before cooking them. At the change of early summer to late summer we also see the winds change direction. The winds now come from the south and are colder by nature. This is also a reason why vata can be aggravated so stay out of the wind and protected. Yoga practice in late summer: Asana: Once again reminded that the body is at its weakest and exercise is limited. Organ focus: spleen and stomach Focus on bandhas; mula bandha and uddiyana. Shavasana with legs up a wall Mudra: Ashwini mudra, maha veda mudra, maha mudra, yoga mudra, viparita karani mudra, Yoni mudra, Closing the seven gates mudra, nasikagra mudra Pranayama: Small amount of agnisara kriya will be beneficial but overdoing it will aggravate pitta. Shitali, Shitkari.
Meditation: Trataka, Grounding. What to do to balance in Autumn (Sharad):
The bodies that have adapted to the rains and cold are suddenly exposed to the heat of the sun with the beginning of autumn. Pitta that has accumulated during the rainy season now gets vitiated. In this season, sweet, light, cold, and bitter food and drink that have a potential to alleviate pitta are to be taken in moderate quantity when there is good appetite. The meats of quail, partridge, antelope, sheep, and rabbit, old rice, barley and wheat are all prescribed for this season as well as intake of ghee with bitter medicines. We should avoid being out in the direct sun, oil, meat of aquatic and marshy animals, alkaline salt preparations, and yogurt. Daytime sleep, exposure to frost, and easternly winds are also avoided. Water is exposed to the rays of the sun by day and the cooling rays of the moon at night. It is also purified by the light of the star agastya that is out at this time depending upon where you are on the planet. This turns the water into nectar for swimming, drinking and bathing. Use garlands of flowers that are in season for wearing as well as clean apparel. The rays of the moon are beneficial at this time.
Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:41 – 48 (with a bit of translation so that it reads better)
If pitta is prevented from accumulation during the past season of the rainy season, reduction of the chances of pitta being aggravated by the heat of the sun in this season is reduced. The diet becomes even lighter in this season because the lighter the diet, the better the digestion. Although pitta is thought to be the digestion it is not. the accumulation of the water element part of pitta will bring about a loss of digestion. Pitta itself can suppress the digestive fire. The quantity of food is the most of importance in this season as eating various quantities will disturb the digestion and bring about severe types of ailments. Bitter ghee is a really good way to overcome pitta. The bitter taste is air and ether. It is drying and light so it balances pitta. Water that is left in a jar for 24 hours is energized by the sun and the moon as well as the star Agastya (Canopus, Alpha Carinae, which is the second brightest star in the sky) is said to be the ‘cleanser of waters’, since its rising coincides with the calming of the waters of the Indian ocean. Depending where your location is on the planet this may effect you or not. Here in the Bay Area, it is just under the southern horizon at this latitude at this time of year. Depending upon who you speak to and their level of knowledge, you will hear different statements as to the effect of this star. Some might say it is correct as it is out during this time of year. Some might say it has minimal effect because it is still out there but under the horizon or some say it is completely devoid of effect because it is under the horizon. You can just try putting water out and see what the effect is. In India it is completely in effect.
Here in the texts, it is clear that pitta is aggravated in this season. More to this point is that in the texts there are treatments for purging pitta that are mentioned to be done IN THIS SEASON. This is because pitta is ripe to be treated where it is not in other seasons.Asana practice in Autumn: Asana: Organ focus: Lung and large intestine. Suryanamaskara, supta vajrasana, akarna dhanurasana, hasta uttanasana, uttitha lolasana, matsyasana, baddha padmasana, all back bending asanas, sarvangasana, mayurasana, Mudra: Maha Mudra Pranayama: Chandrabhedana, Shitkara, Shitali, KapalabhatiMeditation: Trataka
So here is the importance of understanding the seasons…
The seasonal changes with the elements and the doshas is the first steps of disease formation. To follow it and experience it allows one to live harmoniously with nature and remain healthy. To not follow it one can only become more diseased. This is explained here in the 6 stages of disease formation. For any disease to take any root, the system much be the hosting environment for it. There is no fungus in the system unless the system is imbalanced to provide the environment for it to exist in. This is as easy to see as what you eat and how you live creates the entire environment of your system. There are natural changes and cycles of nature that change everything such as in Summer the longer days of the sun create heat and dry everything out, basically sucking the life out of everything. To do lifestyle things like going for a 1 hour run in the middle of the day in the sun becomes and obvious incorrect and harmful activity during this time which will only lead to disease formation. When the season changes, the elements change and in nature it brings about those cycles that are the very reason for life, maintenance and death.
This understanding of the seasons is all a map, not the actual experience. This map gives us a tool to work with the climates of the regions we live in. I must point out that in the US I have watched in detail for this map to play out. No bias as to how it would occur. I can report that consistently for the past many years I have watched my clients, students, friends and family all over the US come down with diseases that are occurring due to the seasonal change in order of the template given in the texts. At the change of seasons from winter to spring, it is obvious to all of us that people get so-called allergies and colds and flus. This is nothing more than people eating heavy foods and kapha increasing foods at a time that needs just the opposite qualities (gunas). This is worldwide. If this template did not work then those symptoms would not occur. In springtime, I have also seen a client be diagnosed with diabetes and having swelling. This is to happen in spring because of the same kapha imbalance and excessive water element that happens due to the melting kapha. As we progress through the seasons, It happens every year. If pitta was high in summer there would be no reason for this. Pitta is also water, not just fire. In the turn of late summer into autumn, many clients of acid reflux and inflammatory diseases show up. This too fits the season of water and pitta excess. Yes, acid reflux could be argued to correlate with vata being high but it is more of a pitta disease as it is named “amlapitta” or sour “pitta” but does have a vata aspect to it. Other clients I have seen to have skin diseases at the onset of autumn as well as spring. Skin diseases are of a kapha and pitta nature in general which is not to be seen in this season. So as per the experience of the seasons by the dictation of what diseases are prevalent due to seasonal aggravation, I can only surmise that the ancient texts are clear and concise. I ponder to myself as to how this might occur in places like the north or south pole that have obvious discrepancy with “normal” seasons (seasons of 6 month of darkness or light). One can also surmise with the lower life expectancy in Alaska, men had a life expectancy of 74.5 years in 2000 — 11 years behind the international standard that the further you get into the seasons being so not as balanced that the life expectancy is also shortened.
Another thought that is important to see, is the changing of our environment with the geo engineering that has been going on, if you believe in that. The seasons have been pretty messed up over the past several years and seemingly getting worse. To experience no summer or no winter is a dosha. It is an imbalance in nature. This comes with a high price to pay for those that do not know how to constantly be alert to their self as well as their environment. I have seen this yearly in my experience. We will see how this plays out in the future. Before Christmas/New Years: Roses blooming in London, apple blossoms in Washington, and mangoes in India…… all signs in the early winter that should be happening only in the beginning of spring. Maybe will write an article on this sometime.
Here is a little cheat sheet for the seasons as well.
-Bitter, pungent, astringent taste.
-Light food items
-Honey, Barley, Wheat.
-Water boiled with dry ginger
-Take water with honey
–Shunthi, Ashwagandha and Pippali
-Sweet and sour taste.
-Heavy food items.
-Cold, oily and fatty foodstuff
-Body detoxification procedure for Kapha.
-Exercise to half capacity.
-Massage with chickpea flour
-Body Mask with Chandana and Aguru.
-Can perform sexual activities once in every three days.
-Sleep in day hours.
-Cold, light, liquid food items.
-Naturally cold water, not that one chilled in refrigerators.
-Coconut water and sugar.
-Pungent, sour and salty tastes.
-Products with caffeine and nicotine.
-Stay in cold places, not too much chilled.
-Enjoy picnics at Water Falls and deep forests, near the nature.
-Exercise is minimal
-Sleeping in moon night (It gives unctuousness to body)
-Body mask of Chandana.
-Stay in sharp Sun Light.
-Add honey in all food items, which are not hot.
-Sour and salty tastes.
-Eat old rice, wheat and barley.
-Watered down alcoholic beverages, added with a lot of water.
-Boil your water before drinking it.
-Avoid the foods which are heavy and juicy.
-Preserved food items.
-Fruits in excess.
-Detoxification of Pitta.
-Stay in clean and protected place from mosquitoes and rats etc.
-Massage with dry powders.
-Body mask of Aguru.
-Sleeping in day hours.
-Overindulgence of Sex.
-Walking in the dew
-Stay in direct sunlight.
-Sweet, bitter and astringent taste.
-Cold and light food articles.
–Amalaki, Resins, Mulethi, Shatavari.
-Light and clean clothing.
-Enjoy moon light.
Body mask for Pitta having Khas–khas.
-Long stay in direct sunlight.
-Sleeping in day hours.
-Walking in dew.
-Sweet, sour and salty taste.
-Heavy and oily foodstuff.
-Grains of new crops
-Light and restricted diet
-More pungent and astringent food items.
-Massage with herbal powders and with oils.
-Enjoy indirect sunlight.
-Body mask having Aguru
-Use lukewarm water for all daily activities
-Laziness and leisure
-Dryness increasing activities.
-To stay in the direct air.
Follow the regimes of early winter
Follow the regimes of early winter
Follow the regimes of early winter
Follow the regimes of early winter
Just in case you have any doubts of the validity of what I have stated about the AyurWesterner world and the incorrectness of what they are calling Ayurveda, reminder… they state that summer is when Pitta is high due to the heat.
Here is what real ayurveda states:
And if you still have doubts then comment below or if you still believe that pitta is high in summer and vata is winter or fall or whenever the many Western writers have written, please do explain in the comments below as to why you believe that.