Ayurveda is called Life science because it gives importance to healthy living and prevention of diseases rather than treatment of diseases. If one goes through the ancient classics of Ayurveda, it is evident that all the scholars have mentioned in detail about ‘charya’ (Regimen) in the initial chapters. For example, Ashtanga Hridaya is one among the most celebrated classics of Ayurveda and if you see the order of chapters in it, first chapter describes about the quest for longevity (Ayushkameeyam), second chapter describes the daily regimen (Dinacharya), and third chapter describes the seasonal regimen (Ritu charya).
Ayurveda has depicted various rules and regimens (Charya), regarding diet and behavior to acclimatize seasonal enforcement easily without altering body homeostasis. The prime principle of Ayurvedic system of medicine is preventive aspect, can be achieved by the change in diet and practices in response to change in climatic condition. This is a very important aspect of preventive medicine as mentioned in Ayurvedic texts.
Acharya Charaka says “The strength and complexion of the person knowing and practicing the suitable diet and regimen for every season is accordingly enhanced” [Ref Cha.Sa #3]
Now let’s discuss in detail regarding the seasonal regimen and the need for it.
What exactly is Ritu?
Ritu is a Sanskrit word meaning season. The year according to Ayurveda is divided in to two Kaala.
Adana kaala which constitutes Shishira (Winter), Vasantha (Spring) and Grishma (Summer)
Adana Kala is dominated by fire. The strength of people generally decreases during this time.
Visarga Kaala which constitutes Varsha (Rainy season), Sharath (Autumn) and Hemantha (Extreme winter)
During Visarga kala, coolness is the dominant property. Hence the strength of the people generally increases.
In short, 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.
(Ref Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana 6:8)
Why is it important to follow a seasonal regimen?
With the change in season, the change is very evident in the environment we live in. The nature changes by shedding leaves in autumn, flowering in spring, and so on. We belong to the same ecology and our body also gets influenced by external environment. If the body cannot gets adjusted with the change of seasons and external environment dosha vaishamya i.e. imbalance of doshas takes place which will alter the rhythmic functioning of our physical body and mind. As adaptations according to the changes, is the key for survival, the knowledge of Ritucharya (regimen for various seasons) is thus important.
General trend seen is people ignore the food to eat in specific seasons or due to stressful life can’t typically follow a routine. But the lack of knowledge in such small things might end up in diseases and lack of immunity in future. The derangement of homeostasis might end up in lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and so on.
In the United States, chronic diseases and conditions and the health risk behaviors that cause them account for most health care costs. Chronic diseases and conditions—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.
Now let’s have a look at each of the regimen in detail.
Hemanta Ritucharya/ Winter Regimen
Mid-November to Mid-January is considered as Hemanta Ritu. The strength of a person remains on highest grade and vitiated Pitta Dosha gets pacified. Activity of Agni is increased i.e. person will have increased digestive fire. Nights will be longer.
- Food prepared with wheat flour, black gram, products of sugarcane and of milk, food prepared from freshly harvested corn, muscles, fat and edible oils should be used.
- Meat of well-nourished animals, meat soup, wine prepared of jaggery can also be included in diet.
- Due to increased digestive fire, food predominant in sweet and sour taste and which is heavy for digestion is advised. 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.
- Body massage with oils alleviating Vata dosha, exercise, fumigation with Aguru (Aquilaria agallocha) and bathing in hot water is advised during this season.
- Dieting or fasting and eating gruel or too light of meals like kitchdi is also to be avoided.
Mid-January – Mid March is considered as Shishira Ritu.
The same diet and regimen of Hemantha Ritu is advised for Shishira Ritu as well. The intensity of cold and dryness will be more in this season.
Mid -March to Mid – May is considered as vasanta Ritu. Strength of the person remains in medium degree, vitiation of Kapha Dosha occurs and digestive fire remains in low state.
- Take easily digestible foods. Predominant tastes should be bitter, astringent and pungent.
- Sheeta (cold), Snigdha (viscous), Guru(heavy), Amla (sour), Madhura (sweet) are not preferred. New grains, curd, cold drinks, and so on, are also to be prohibited.
- One should use warm water for bathing purposes. External application of powder of Chandana (Santalum album), Kesara (Crocus sativus), Agaru is advised before bath.
- Among panchakarma, Vamana (Therapeutic emesis) and Nasya (Nasal medicine) is advised.
- Honey should be included in diet. Easily digestible meat can be used.
Mid-May to Mid-July is considered as Grishma Ritu. This is basically summer season; increased heat decreases the strength of person. Agni (digestive fire) of the person remains in mild state. The predominant rasa is Katu (astringent). Kapha dosha gets pacified during this season.
- Foods which are light to digest—those having Madhura (sweet), Snigdha (unctuous), Sheeta(cold), and Drava (liquid) Guna, such as rice, lentil, etc. are to be taken.
- Drink plenty of water, buttermilk etc in this season.
- Milk intake is ideal in this season.
- Exercise, sexual indulgence, intake of alcohol should be avoided.
- External application of sandalwood paste is ideal during this season, which provides cooling effect to the body.
Mid-July to Mid-September is considered as Varsha Ritu. The digestive fire will be weakened and measures should be adopted to increase the activity of digestive fire. The predominant rasa is Amla (sour). Vata dosha gets vitiated and Pitta dosha also increases during this season.
- Cereals- Old grains, Barley, Wheat and Rice. Meat soup can be taken.
- Boiled or medicated water should be taken. Medicated water means water boiled with cumin seeds, thulsi leaves, corriander seeds, ajwain seeds, any of these or in combination can be used.
- External application of oil (Oil massage) is advised during this period.
- Bathing water should be hot.
- Panchakarma procedure Basti (medicated enema) is indicated during this season to alleviate vitiated Vata dosha.
- Sleep during day time, sexual indulgence, exposure to cold, rain and wind is contraindicated during this season.
Mid-September to Mid-November is considered as Sharath Ritu. The predominant rasa is lavana (Salty). The person’s strength remains medium and Vata pacification takes place during this period. Aggravation of Pitta may also happen.
- Foods that pacify pitta can be taken.
- Wheat, Grams, Sugar etc have to be included in the diet. Milk, butter, fully ripened sweet fruits like Melon, Grapes, Pears and Mangoes are good. Also, vegetables like Cucumber, Zucchini, Asparagus etc. can be used. Food should be taken only when feeling properly hungry.
- Panchakarma procedures like Virechana (purgation) and Rakthamokshana (bloodletting) are advised during this season.
- Exposure to moonlight is advised at night.
- External application of sandal wood paste at night is advised.
One who practices Ritucharya – Seasonal regimen is ensured with a disease free, healthy life.