by Sandra Radja
After you spend a year living the Ayurvedic lifestyle, with awareness of your tendencies, you then begin to notice the changes in season and how it affects you. We are all aware of how the changes affect the environment, so let us put them into perspective via the Ayurvedic framework.
It is important to note that these following categories are a general guide. Each environment is different, some geographic regions have 2 seasons, wet and dry, whilst others have very distinct 4 seasons. My teacher, Dr Vasant Lad, teaches 6 seasons as it was taught in his region of the world. The notion is to understand the doshic movement in the environment and be observant on how it affects you and the environment.
Transitions in general are governed by Vata dosha. The more you invest in the context of Ayurveda, the more sensitive you will become to transitions in seasons, especially when they personally affect you. You have 2 weeks either side of the transition to make changes to diet and lifestyle to avoid the build up a dosha you are sensitive to. For example, from Summer to Autumn, for those sensitive to the Vata dosha (cold, dry, light), if they don't slow down and introduce warm, unctuous food, they may all of a sudden experience constipation, dry skin and insomnia. The change in weather is asking you to change with it.
I like to think of Spring as the beginning. However, unless you have submerged yourself in all things sticky during the Winter, and before new things can begin, we need to clean house. Spring brings in warmer weather and this begins to melt the excess indulgences built up from the Winter. And in order to break the stagnant, movement is in order. Spring is traditionally the time to start a new project and the atmosphere generally supports this. It is also a time for cleansing. For those able to get away, Pancha Karma, is recommended. (For more information, see article on Pancha Karma). For others, a simple diet of Kitchari for a week with some Agni Tea and self massage/steam, might just be enough to reset the system. Adding spices and bitter greens to the diet and reducing the amount of milk and cheese are general tips to help the transition. For those folks with the elements of earth and water in the system, you may notice symptoms such as fibrosis in breast tissue, water retention, sluggish digestion, allergies, sinus and respiratory congestion or inflammation, weight gain and lots of mucous.
It's play time! Having fun is one of the best remedies for Pitta dosha. The days are longer so you can get things done, be social, stay up a little later, wake up a little earlier, be active, swim a lot, eat fresh fruit, eat outdoors, go to festivals and just experience what others have to offer. The Winter time submerged you for inner contemplation and the Summer time is open for expression. If you tend toward heat (Pitta dosha), then it's best to prepare for cooling foods and activities. Your symptoms may include burning indigestion, intensity and frustration in the mind, hypoglycemia, skin afflictions such as acne, migraines, intense menstruation, bloody noses, sun burn, burning eyes, and diarrhea. No arguments! Be around sweet music, sweet people, sweet smelling flowers, and beautiful environments. Think of the colour blue or green as your friend, so getting into lush nature will soothe the mind.
The difficulty for those that like a lot of movement is the transition into Autumn. It's time to slow down. The air becomes drier and windier (depending on where you are, but in theory). The light changes and becomes more subtle and lends to the warming colours of falling leaves from deciduous trees. Autumn is another time for Pancha Karma (Ayurvedic cleansing therapy). It is good practise to do a mini cleanse at this point to remove the last vestiges of Pitta from the system as you move into Winter. Since we become cooler with less light and warmth, an increase in warm and grounded foods, such a roots, will help the digestion. If you have air and ether naturally in your system, you may notice an increase in insomnia, dry skin, spaciness, variable appetite, anxiety, forgetfulness, painful menstruation and constipation. Get earthy, drink warm teas and slow down your exercise and yoga practise. Be more rejuvenative.
Cold. Rain. A desire for less contact with the outside world and so begins the inner world of imagination (no, not the television!). The harvest and work is complete, the days are short and dark. You cover up from the elements with warm clothes and a warm house, depending on your insulation. Sleep seems like a good idea now and you may find it hard to get up when it's still dark outside and work beckons. Bringing in colour therapy is a passive way to invigorate. Yellow, red and orange. Go against the grain and wear bright clothes. You will see people wince but it will wake you and them up, at least get a bright umbrella. Spice up foods, allow yourself a little increase in weight, it's good for insulation. If you have head colds and the flu, prepare by taking Winter tonics. Turmeric in your food, as a natural antibiotic, will help keep the blues at bay. Chyavanprash, an Ayurvedic herbal jam, is also excellent for building immunity.