Ritucharya-The Yoga & Ayurveda Seasonal Routine

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

"yat pinde, tat brahmānde."
"Whatever is in the nature is also in the human body."


Ancient Indians were aware of astronomy, and closely observed the seasonal changes regarding to sun, moon and stars. Their belief that everything present in the nature is also present in the human body, led them to discover the changes in the human body according to the influence of seasons and environment.

According to Ayurveda, Dinacharya- the daily routines also need to be adjusted in regard to Ritucharya for optimal human health and longevity. Seasons affect all doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) in various ways. That is why the daily routine of a person have to be changed accordingly.


What is Ritucharya?


"Ritu" means "season" or "2 months" period. "Charya" stands for "routine", and ritucharya are seasonal routines. There are 6 ritus in Ayurveda.:


शिशिर (śiśira) – Late winter (mid January-mid March) वसन्त (vasanta) – Spring (mid March-mid May) ग्रीष्म (greeshma) – Summer (mid May-mid July) वर्षा (varsha) – Rains (mid July-mid September) शरद् (sharad) – Autumn (mid September-mid November) हेमन्त (hemanta) – Early winter (mid November-mid January)


Those seasons are formed according to the Indian weather, and may differ in other corners of the world. With that in mind, for those of you living outside of India, it is recommended to observe and adjust ritucharya according to your country's weather pattern.

There is also an inter-seasonal period, called ritusandhi. It is the the 7-day period at the end and the commencement of a season. During ritusandhi, the regimen of the preceded season should be discontinued gradually with gradual adoption of the regimen for the upcoming season. Sudden changes in the daily routine may disrupt one's health. That is why slowly and gradually you should aim to enter in every new season.


What needs to be adjusted?


The recommended diet and lifestyle slightly differs during different seasons (ritus). Doshas- the constituents of our body, are being affected by the environmental changes in 3 main ways:

caya – accumulation of disturbed dosha in its main site

prakopa – accumulation of disturbed dosha in other main sites in the body

rasama- doshas returning to normal after disturbance.


The doshas keep changing according to seasons. Hence, it is very important to make some adjustment in our diet and regimen. Following the respective Ritucharya benefits body's immunity and neutralize the adverse impact of seasonal changes. The following table illustrates the doshas activity in each season.




Ritucharya


1.During Hemanta and Sisira the digestive activity becomes more powerful. Vayu is accentuated and needs to be satisfied by a heavy diet. Cold environment causes constriction of blood vessels in the periphery leading to more blood supply to the core, which leads to secretion of digestive juices in the stomach. This means more hunger than any other seasons.

Diet: Now is the time to eat sweet, sour, and salty foods, as well as unctuous or oily dishes. Keep that digestive fire burning strong! Eat warming foods and lots of fermented dishes (like kimchi and sauerkraut), and avoid foods that are cold, light, and dry. The ideal Hemanta diet includes pumpkin, cabbage, spinach, corn, rice, carrots, potatoes, onions, beets, apples, dates, and dairy products. The ideal Shishira diet includes lots of dairy products, root vegetables, apples, grapes, rice, wheat, beans, and sweets.


2. In Vasanta ritu increased kapha is liquified by the heat of sun and comes out of its aasaya or receptacle and spreads all over the body. This causes diminished agni (digestive fire activity) causing diseases of kapha origin such as cold, cough, heaviness and fluid accumulation in the joints, increased phlegm in the lungs, and etc.

Diet: Focus on eating easily-digestible bitter and astringent foods, and avoid cold, viscous, heavy, sour, and sweet dishes. The ideal Vasanta ritu diet includes gut-healthy foods like barley and honey, and gently stimulating spices like coriander, cumin, turmeric, and fennel.


3.Greeshma ritu is the season causing dehydration, exhaustion, lack of energy, lethargy and fatigue. In summer months, there is decrease of kapha due to the heat of the sun and dryness in the atmosphere. Here the kapha which increased during Sharat is normalized in Greeshma. Meanwhile, happens a mild increase of Vata dosha due to the air dryness.

Diet: This is the time of year for sweet, light, cold, mineral-rich food. Eat lots of herbs and drink lots of fruit juices, and avoid sour, pungent, or warm foods. Keep hydrated with lots of water, and seek out antioxidants. The ideal Grishma diet includes lots of fresh fruit, and veggies like asparagus, cucumber, celery, and leafy greens.


4. During Varsha- the rainy season, the agni (digestive fire) weakens further and gets vitiated by Vata. If the digestive fire is weak, hence all 3 doshas get affected. Lack of sunshine as well as a cloudy atmosphere are uncongenial to health. Hence all measures to balance doshas and to enhance digestive activity should be adopted.

Diet: Salty, sour, and oily foods are the best for this season. Although you want your digestive fire to begin to pick up, avoid heavy foods at first and transition slowly through the season. The ideal Varsha diet avoids uncooked foods and favors warm, freshly-cooked meals. Help your digestion out with ginger and lemon, and eat a lot of thin soups.


5.In Sharat (autumn)- the dry and hot atmosphere aggravates pitta. Sudden exposure to sunlight after the rains and cooler temperatures increases pitta's activity.

Diet: The goal of this season is to transition smoothly into winter. In order to cleanse yourself and prep your digestive system for the heavier fare of the colder months, eat bitter, light, cold, astringent, and sweet foods that are easy on your stomach, and avoid foods high in fat and salt. The ideal Sharath diet includes rice, honey, green leafy veggies, tomatoes, root vegetables, pineapples, berries, plums, ghee (clarified butter), and other dairy products.


There is no doubt to say that no aspect of health is left unexplored in Ayurveda. Dinacharya and Ritucharya are its key pillars for managing health and lifestyle. If you decide to explore and follow what has been recommended, you can surely be leading a life of balanced body and a balanced mind.

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