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

Rtucharya: The 6 seasons and how they relate to lifestyle, diet, and your Yoga practice
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 of the most fundamental understanding in Ayurveda is about the seasons.There are 6 seasons in the year from the view of Ayurveda. There is a separation of the Summer and Winter seasons between a wet and a dry season of both of them making two seasons of Winter and two of Summer. Add to this your normal Spring and Autumn and you have 6.

Dakshinayana and Uttarayana (Two main seasons)
It is all based upon this very basic foundation……….. On 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 difference, 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. In Sanskrit this is called the sun’s southern course (dakshinayana – visarga or 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 or 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, which equals consciousness.

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 to continue the plight into disease formation after the second stage by lifestyle and diet habits that are not beneficial for 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 and awareness 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 aging 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 can guide 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 lead 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).

Space (Akash)
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 – popcorn, wafers, crackers, kale
Intake – increases softness and lightness in the body

Air (Vayu)
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
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

Earth (Prithvi)
Qualities – heavy, rough, solid, stable, slow
Attribute – resistance, density
Facilitates – fragrance, odor 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 create 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.

Taste Element Composition Qualities Alleviates Vitiate
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 for me and how it works it is “qualities.”

 

 

The Effects of Adana and Visagra (dry and wet seasons)

This is the very basics. Once again, everything is based upon this. 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 effects 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) yet, 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.

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 effected. 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

What does this mean for your asana practice? (since what we do in the Western world as what we call 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. (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) Anything past that 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 and 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. The body also starts to perspire above the upper lip and on the brow. These are indicators that the individual has reached their highest level of capacity. Any more than this is ativyayam, over exertion. It will imbalance prana. Balancing is what asana is solely about anyway. 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 does not see any relationship or see those diseases as caused by this excessive exertion but you can see for yourself what a old school marathoner or triathlete looks like; a wrinkled dried up raisin with so many joint problems, digestive and malabsorption problems and more. 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.

 

 

A Year
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 4.4.10.1-3) or 28 (Atharvaveda 19.7.1.) days. The resulting discrepancy was resolved by the intercalation of a leap month every 60 months.

The Moon's Cycle

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.

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

As said before, 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, therefore winter time is absolutely the wrong time to fast. There are no Wintertime cleanses going on from a Ayurvedic sense, no antikapha diets in winter as i have heard been taught in Western Ayurveda. Your immune system depends on your building your body with heavy foods in the winter.

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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 and not the whole picture. There is a tremendous amount more to know. This is a start. A little bit of information is very dangerous.

Season Taste Food and Drink
Winter  Sweet, Sour, Salty Hot or warm
Spring Bitter, Astringent, Pungent Moisture-less and fatless
Summer Sweet Room Temperature
Autumn Sweet, Bitter Astringent Moisture-less and fatless

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 meatsoup 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 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 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 simple 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. This information is misinformed, uneducated, and absolutely wrong. This is a problem with our education of ayurveda in America. Big problem. If one was to follow that advice, they would destroy their immune system which is built off of the heavy nourishing foods eaten in winter. Another note, most Western Ayurvedic practitioners are saying that vata is high in the winter, but from the original texts quote above you can see that this is not true. It can be aggravated but only if you were not to eat enough to feed the digestive fire (agni) and the result is that it consumes the tissues (dhatus) resulting in vata being aggravated. Vata can also be aggravated at this time by not keeping warm and being exposed to the cold.

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 liquified 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: Spring time 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 an cooled environment. In night time you can smear your body with paste made of sandalwood and sleep on airy roof top and be cooled by the rays of the moon. Sexual entercourse 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 summertime. Animals and birds of aired climates is 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 summer, the suns rays become powerful; day after day and appears destructive to all things; kapha decreases day by day and vata increases consequently.
Ashtanga Hrydaya Sutrasthana 3:26 – 27  More on this later but notice not a word about pitta.

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 is 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, grounding

What 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 a acidity of water which creates vitiation of pitta and kapha. This in conjunct 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 over doing 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. Day time 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 surpress 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 San francisco, it is just under the southern horizon at this latitude at this time of year. Depending upon who you speak to it is not effected as it is out during that time of year, minimally effected because it is still out there but under the horizon or completely devoid of effect because it is under the horizon. With woo wooness it is effective, with logic and wisdom, it is nonaffactive. The rishis were intellegent, not woo woo.

Here in the texts it is clear that pitta is aggravated in this season. Once again we see that western ayurvedic practitioners are touting that vata is high in autumn. It isn’t. 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.

Yoga 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
All the following yoga practice is general to the season just to give you an idea of the direction it can go and how it can be used to create balance. It is in no way concrete as yoga asana for example has such a dynamic variety of benefits.  Each selection is specific to its functions for that season but can be used in other seasons for different reasons. Only a knowledgable teacher or sadhaka knows what these asanas/pranayama/mudra etc… do and how to use them. We have obliterated this knowledge with nonsensical poetic rights. Within this “woo-woo, so called spiritual world, integrity doesn’t mean much and you can find a ton of information in books and on the internet that is frankly just not correct at all and completely made up as to how that person understands… so major “caveat emptor”. I must add, in integrity, that none of the yoga texts have any information on seasonal practice regime. What is written above is solely from my own making things up with the knowledge of asana, etc and the addition of an ayurvedic knowledge. One informs the other. But…. this is within the realm of the structure of solid ayurvedic principles and I have not taken any poetic rights to add my flair or biases. Also, a practice is individual in Ayurveda as well as yoga so being knowledgeable as well as aware of what is going on with your system is the only way to properly practice anything at all. There is plenty written in yogic texts of vata, pitta, and kapha as well as the elements and even lots of astronomical connections to tithis, nakshatras, etc… just the same as there is yoga and astronomical knowledge being used in Ayurvedic texts. 

An addendum to all my comments about the Western ayurvedic practitioners teaching dosha imbalances within different seasons. The seasons are atmospheric, not local. Although local environment applies as well. The seasons can be seen in this normal routine as written above. Different locations over the planet are of course going to have a variation of the above. as well as the local climates do effect but in a much smaller amount. If it is summer, it is summer and it doesn’t matter if it is cold to the elements that are making it summer season. This is 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 USA 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 world wide. If this template did not work then those symptoms would not occur. In spring time, I have also seen a client be diagnosed with diabetes. 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, several clients have acid reflux. This to fits the season of water and pitta excess. Yes, it could be argued to correlate with vata being high but acid reflux 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. 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 prevelant 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).

As ayurveda is an energy science, it is in a different paradigm. It is not easily watered down to the American and still kept within its integrity. The paradigm has to change for someone to truly see what ayurveda is presenting. It also is not able to be packaged and sold as it is here in America due to the paradigm here of material world and empirical proof based solely on material based data (prove you have a mind🙂 ). Everyone is different and is an individual so even the template given above needs to be worked with from the individuals balance point. The other note that I would point out is that thru time I have seen clients and students that have followed the Western ayurveda; Vata, Pitta, and Kapha diet plans as well as the seasonal regime and have found themselves to be sicker and more confused then anything else. This furthermore proves to me that the seasonal regime in Western ayurveda is inaccurate. If someone is trying to balance pitta in summer they will increase vata. If someone is trying to balance vata in autumn they will in turn increase pitta. Furthermore, Vata is related to your prana or your energy, pitta to your digestion and Kapha to your immune system. If you go on a western ayurveda diet of anti vata, pitta or kapha and restrict or prohibit any of these, you will destroy the correlative system of the body. This is actually dangerous and disease forming. My advise is to only work with a “Doctor” of Ayurveda that has gone thru the BAMS course in India or even better an MD or Ph.D. BAMS is a 6 year course in real medicine, including allopathy, verses our several month course or less educational system that has prevailed as Western Ayurveda. Ayurveda is way more deep than what is taught in any of the Western courses that I myself have experienced going thru several of them.

 

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. No summer or no winter is a dosha in its own right. 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. We will see how this plays out in the future. Before Christmas: Roses blooming in London, apple blossoms in Washington, Mangoes in India…… all signs in the early winter that should be happening only in the beginning of spring.

 

 

Okay, enough rant. Well…… 

 

Here is a little cheat sheet for the seasons as well.

Season
Food Favor
Avoid Food
Lifestyle favor
Avoid Lifestyle
Spring
-Bitter, pungent, astringent taste.
-Light food items
-Honey, Barley, Wheat.
-Water boiled with dry ginger
-Take water with honey
ShunthiAshwagandha and Pippali
-Sweet and sour taste.
-Heavy food items.
-Cold, oily and fatty food stuff
-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.
Summer
-Sweet taste.
-Cold, light, liquid food items.
-Naturally cold water, not that one chilled in refrigerators.
Navar Rice.
-Milk, Ghee.
-Resins
-Coconut water and sugar.
-Pungent, sour and salty tastes.
-Hot food stuff.
-Alcoholic beverages.
-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
-Light clothing.
-Sleeping in moon night (It gives uncutousness to body)
-Body mask of Chandana.
-Exercise.
-Stay in sharp Sun Light.
Rains
-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
-Exercise.
-Stay in direct sun light.
Autumn
-Sweet, pungent and astringent taste.
-Cold and light food articles.
-Bitter Ghee.
Navar Rice.
-Green gram.
Amalaki, Resins, MulethiShatavari.
-Yogurt.
-Heavy meals.
-Alcoholic drinks.
-Light and clean clothing.
-Swimming
-Enjoy moon light.
Body mask for Pitta having Khaskhas.
-Long stay in direct sunlight.
-Sleeping in day hours.
-Walking in dew.
Early winter
-Sweet, sour and salty taste.
-Heavy and oily food stuff.
-Grains of new crops
-Ghee
-Dairy products
-Light and restricted diet
-More pungent and astringent food items.
-Exercise
-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 direct air.
Late Winter
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 validity of what I have stated about the Westerner 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:

http://ijapr.in/articles/review/221472.pdf

www.slideshare.net/eayurveda/ritucharya-final-presentation

www.ayurvedian.com/ritucharya.php

ekikrat.in/Pitta-Season-Ayurveda

jml2012.indexcopernicus.com/abstract.php?icid=1106496

 

15 thoughts on “Rtucharya: The 6 seasons and lifestyle, diet, and your Yoga practice

  1. Is it safe to assume that if a taste is not listed in the “avoid” category that it is allowable in moderate quantities?

    • I’m referring to the description of lifestyle and diet for the dry season which advises to avoid sour, salty, pungent hot but doesn’t list bitter or astringent even though these tastes proportedley aggravate vata.

      • There are 6 seasons here. Two only if your are categorizing by uttarayana and dakshinayana. Dry season would be the longest days of sun. Because of the long days of heat and it being the driest days, those (pungent, salty, and sour) are not going to be favored. Sweet and oily is the key to early summertime. Making the sweet and oily easy to digest is also key. Taking less spices.

  2. Pingback: Ayurveda and Keto: An Introduction to Seasonal Eating | Healthy Gamer Girl

  3. Can you please explain the concept of how the Sun is in a “turning around” phase after the winter solstice until Makara Sankranti? As you probably know the Sun is steady in its movement at roughly one degree per day and does not just sit in the sky stationary, most definitely moving at the December solstice point which many consider as uttaryana. I am doing research on Zodiacs and this topic, so this is an interesting distinction I have not seen elsewhere and want to make sure I am not missing anything. Perhaps this is just in reference to it’s effect on seasonal patterns on the earth versus astronomical usage? Thanks for all your efforts.

    • Frank,

      The earth is titled and circles around the Sun with this tilt. When the tilt is facing the sun we get summer in places above equator and winter in the places below equator. When the tilt is away from the sun we get winter in places above equator and summer in the places below equator. This tilt gives rises to seasons. The uttarayana is the point in orbit where the tilt is away from the Sun. It seems like the Sun is below celestial equator. Because the Earth is tilted 23.45. degrees the maximum latitude that we can apparently see in sky that the sun is moving north is 23.45. and minimum latitude that we can apparently see in sky that the sun is moving south is -23.45. When the sun hits -23.45. in latitude it.s the point in sky we call it winter solstice. Hence Uttarayana is also the point on that day we will see shortest day on the earth and extreme cold weather. As earth continues to circle around the Sun we see the latitudes of the sun gradually increasing towards north this continues till we hit the point where the tilt of the earth is very close to sun….. longest day on the earth and from that point days will become short. This point is also called as Dakshinayana. There are two types of zodiac: Fixed and Tropical. Every year while circling around the sun the earth slides a little as earth wobbles while circling around the Sun. When you extend the north pole to celestial north pole it currently points to north star after few thousands years it will point to different star. This creates a problem. Twice a year the tilt is either away or facing towards the sun. This points are called equinoxes. This is also a point where celestial equator and ecliptic intersect. The first point is called vernal equinox and as per the tropical zodiac it is the starting point of zodiac but as earth wobbles this point shifts and giving rise to ayanamsha. The ayanamsha is observed with the reference to some fix distant stars. At some point in the history the tropical zodiac was properly aligned to the a star 180 degrees opposite to spica, chitra nakshatra, which is the starting point of sidereal zodiac — fixed zodiac or the zero degrees of aries. Every year the vernal equinox slides by 50 seconds as the earth wobbles.

      There is a common misconception that Makar Sankranti is the Uttarayana. This is because at one point in time Sayana, sayana zodiac start with vernal equinox or 0 degrees of aries, and Nirayana Zodiac, nirayanna zodiac or fixed zodiac starts with some fixed starting point that is 0 degrees of star ashwini or 180 degrees opposite of star chitra, were same. Every year equinoxes slides by 50 seconds due to precision of equinoxes, giving birth to Ayanamsha and causing Makar Sankranti to slide further. As a result if you think Makar Sankranti is uttarayana, its not and only in 9000 years ill it be. Makar Samkranti, however, still holds importance in Hindu rituals as a Sankranti. January 14th isn’t Uttarayana.

      Uttarayana / Dakshinayana: The season occurs based on tropical sun without ayanamsha. This is due to earth’s tilt of 23.45 degrees. The earth circles around sun with this tilt. When the tilt is facing the Sun we get summer and when the tilt is away from the Sun we get winter. Because of this tilt it seems like the Sun travels north and south of the equator. This apparent motion of the sun moving up and down in latitude is called Uttarayana – Dakshinayana is apparent motion of the sun is moving towards South in latitudes. This motion of the sun moving towards the north is called Uttarayana. When it is moving towards the south it is called Dakshinayana. This causes rise to seaons. They are dependent on equinoxes and solstices. Hence Actual Uttarayana occurs on December 21st/22nd of every year. Winter solstice is beginning of Uttarayana and Summer Solstice is beginning of dakshinayana. Vernal equinox is beginning of the sayana zodiac that is 0 degrees of Aries. From that every year we apply ayanamsha to arrive at nirayana zodiac with reference to some fix star after sliding of vernal equinox — 0 degree of Aries.

      Beginning of 1000, the sun used to enter makara on December 31st. Beginning of 1500 the Sun used to enter makara on January 8th, 1800 the Sun used to enter makara on January 11th. Now its around January 14th and 15th. Every year it slides more. The sun’s entering into sayana makara is around December 21st/22nd, also from that time sun apparently seem to move upwards in latitudes. This takes roughly long time to slide a month and hence it became common practise to ignore the actual siddhanta but to stick to nirayana sun for uttarayana. Actual ayana gati is never sidereal its always tropical. Taking it sidereal is wrong to determine seasons and uttaraya/dakshinayana. Indian Vedic Calendar/panchanga is combination of Sayana and Nirayana systems. For all other calculations nirayana positions of luminaries are used but for seasons and ayana only sayana surya is used. Hence Actual Uttarayana is December 21st/22nd.

    • This is a very fundamental understanding that is the basis of what exercise is.
      As i have stated in many of the posts, this shows the lack of understanding of ayurveda as well as yogaasana from the fundamental level. Anything beyond one’s capacity, which is shows by those signs, is excessive exercise and will only disturb prana and the doshas as well as create disease. Western exercise is based off of principles that cannot be used in yogaasana or ayurveda…. it is opposite in almost every way.

      • But if i am not wrong vyayam is also part of our culture ?
        Now vyayam is not asana. Like what the west calls hindu pushups is vyayam done by indian wrestlers, who take ayurveda in consideration

      • Exercise is just exercise. The fundamentals of what that is goes across the board. Physical effort that maintains the health of the body. asana is a form of vyayam. It is only based in prana, not rules and regulations set by Western exercise. No calories to burn exist in any vyayam. Wrong thinking wrong concept. That is all about losing weight of the intake. Completely wrong. The concept of vyayam is only about understanding the effort capacity. You go over that, you destroy your body.

  4. You are welcome!!!! The one thing that i would add to this is that i have understated what the local effect has on dosha or element. It is another lens that needs to be applied to the entirety of the complete insight of ayurveda. It is not as big as the atmospheric seasonal change but does have some effect.

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