According to Ayurvedic seasonal guidelines, Vasanta / spring is now here – so we must all be following Vasanta Ritucharya – modified seasonal guidelines for Spring.
If you have already begun to sniffle, sneeze and look desperately for tissues, this season change may have already caught you unawares.
One of the most powerful concepts in Ayurveda medicine is the concept of Ritucharya – seasonal regimens to be followed to naturally balance the changes in your doshas due to the change in climate and season. As we have seen in other posts on Ritucharya and Dinacharya, following daily living guidelines or Dinacharya and adjusting these guidelines in every season, or Ritucharya are 2 key ayurvedic cornerstones to good health.
When we regularly follow the guidelines of Dinacharya and Ritucharya and also ensure that our choice of Ahara (food) and the way we prepare and eat this food is according to our prakriti, we ensure we are in a state of harmony and balance. This is the Ayurvedic concept of preventive health care.
Ayurveda: unique concept of preventive health care
Ayurveda’s goal is to prevent the formation of disease by following certain guidelines of good living. This is best described by Acharya Charaka in his Sutra Sthana shlokas:
“Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam Aaturasya Vikara Prashamanam Cha”
He explains that the goal of medicine (Ayurveda) is to rejuvenate and preserve the health of the healthy and then to alleviate diseases in the ill. This order of first tending to the healthy and then treating the sick is specific to Ayurveda. It explains why so much of Ayurveda is primarily focused on health giving regimens rather than disease treatment .
This emphasis on preserving health is why Dincharya and Ritucharya regimes (regimes for daily living and special regimes to follow in specific seasons) come first in all 3 Brihat Trayee texts of Ayurveda (Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam).
Dinacharya: daily practices to correct imbalances
The Ayurvedic dinacharya is a very powerful , self healing idea that puts the responsibility for your health back into your hands. As Ayurveda’s aim is to prevent disease and keep you in health , enjoying a long productive life, The self care regimens are the cornerstone of harmony and well being. The Acharyas split these self care regimens into 2 types: things to be done everyday (Dina-charya) and things to be done in each Season (Ritu-charya).
Ayurveda tells us everything we eat, do, think and behave can affect the doshas and the dhatus in our bodies. When we eat foods, which are rich in Pitta dosha i.e. foods which are sour, salty and spicy, we add to the Pitta volume I n the body. When we work late into the night, over work the brain or do frequent air travel, we can aggravate Vata dosha. When we eat sweet foods, sleep in the afternoon, and do little exercise, we can over aggravate Kapha dosha.
Our body is constantly in a fluid and dynamic state, reacting to the food we eat, things we do and life we lead. When we over stimulate one or the other Dosha, our balance shifts and we become keyed up with an aggravation in levels of a particular dosha in the body. This upsets the body’s rhythms, overturns our balance and also causes conditions for dis-ease / ill health to creep into the body.
Therefore, Ayurveda recommends a set of routines to be done “Dina” to daily balance the imbalance due to our activities. These collective set of daily routines are called “Dinacharya” – daily routines / daily activities. Apart from this, Ayurveda also recommends seasonal modifications to one’s routine. This set of routines is called “Ritu-charya” – Seasonal living guidelines.
When we properly practice both Dinacharya & Ritucharya we keep tugging our body back to a state of Harmony and balance. What this harmony and balance means for each of us is completely different. So, while the set of Dinacharya routines are the same for everyone, the effects they have on each one’s body is completely varied, and it depends on the unique constitution of the body. So, for example, an Abhyanga (self-oil massage) will affect Men and women differently. It will affect a 20-year-old differently from a 70-year-old. If you live in Dubai you will have different experiences after your abhyanga compared to someone living in say Mumbai. However, for each of these people, the regular practice of the Abhyanga will bring “their balance and harmony” back to them. This is what Ayurveda promises.
Dincharya comprises of regimens to be followed daily and include the following regimens:
- Importance of waking up in Brahma Muhurta and how to wake up
- Oral hygiene: brushing the teeth, tongue scraping, Gandusha(gargling)and contraindications
- Eye care – application of herbal collyrium and other preparations
- Care of upper respiratory tract – via Nasya (application of nasal oils), Dhumapana (inhalation of herbal smoke) and Tambula (chewing of certain herbs)
- Abhyanga (self-oil massage)
- Vyayama (exercise) and contraindications
- Snana (bathing with herbs), points to be taken care of and contraindications
- Ahara Niyama (what to eat and how to eat)
- Sadachara, Sadvritta, Satsangha (daily spiritual practice, daily good conduct and finding the right company) – all designed to promote Sattva Guna (balanced mental state)
- Trimming of Nails, hair, beard, dressing properly, adornments, going out – using footwear, umbrella
- Other precautions to take: controlling mental urges, not suppressing physical urges
- Other rules of conduct and etiquette
Many of these suggested Dinacharyas may seem very difficult to follow. For those accustomed to waking up late, the idea of waking up 90 minutes before sunrise may seem impossible and unnecessary. However, we can attest to the powerful, subtle and transformative nature of these Daily ayurvedic regimens. Each Dinacharya practice works in a nuanced and different way to calm down aggravated doshas, improves prana shakti and increases Ojas in the body when practiced over a long period.
Many Krya customers attest to the transformative effects of Dinacharyas practised regularly like Taila abhyanga , Head Oiling (Shiro abhyanga) , Snana (bath) and leading a life of balance. When these tenets of Dincharya are followed, we are guaranteed a life of harmony and balance.
Following the Dinacharya helps the body adjust everyday and bring back aggravated Doshas to balance on a daily basis. Dinacharya takes care of the small stresses, changes in diet, sudden change in plans, excessive travel, etc. It works like a checking mechanism bringing us back to the golden mean. However, when Seasons change, the accompanying shifts in weather, humidity , etc leads to a larger scale shift in the dosha balance in our body. To bring these shifts under control, we add on Ritucharya practices to our existing Dinacharya practices.
Apart from following daily living guidelines / Dinacharya, Ayurveda also recommends seasonal modifications to one’s routine or Ritucharya.. . In Ritucharya, Ayurveda seeks to balance the changes caused by change in weather due to seasonal variations. So, for example, as we move from hot and dry weather in Summer to colder and wetter weather in Varsha (monsoon) there is a change in the influence of Pancha mahaboothas in the atmosphere.
In summer, we have Agni strongly affecting us, and in Monsoon we have Jala strongly affecting us. This shift in influence in Pancha mahaboothas leads to changes in the body which is influenced by what happens around it. So, Ayurveda teaches us routines to help the body adapt to each season.
In Ayurveda , we calculate 6 seasons of 2 months each and not 4 seasons as is common in the western world. These seasons are Vasanta (spring), Greeshma (Summer), Varsha (Monsoon), Sharad (Autumn), Hemanta (Early Winter) and Shishira (Late Winter). We have now entered Vasanta (Spring) ritu after Shishira (late winter).
In EVERY season due to changes in climate and changes in the way the 5 Pancha mahaboothas behave, there is a corresponding change in the doshas in our body, and in the fruits and vegetables we eat, water we drink, air we breathe etc. So we are asked to eat , drink, exercise, bathe, sleep and do all our daily rituals with SLIGHT modifications in every Ritu . Following Ritucharya helps us develop seasonal immunity and allows us to adjust more easily to the changes in weather, climate, etc
As this post deals with Vasanta Ritucharya (spring seasonal guidelines), we will now delve into this. But before sixths, we have to take a few steps back and understand what happens to us in Hemanta and Shishira (Winter) to understand why certain changes happen to us in Vasanta (spring).
Vasanta Ritucharya: What happens to us in Winter?
To give you a sense of what is happening to our body in this season, we need to go back slightly in time.
Ayurveda records 2 winter seasons, early Winter and late winter. In these seasons, the acharyas tell us that the Cold in the atmosphere starts driving Agni inwards in the body. The intensity of the sun is much less. So we can see a depletion of warmth and heat in the extremities and the Agni begins concentrating in the Koshta or GI tract.
Hence, we have a strong appetite, and feel intensely hungry in winter (if we are in a state of balance) To provide warmth to the entire body and give enough work for this heightened Agni, We are asked to eat rich, heavy, oily, slightly difficult to digest foods in winter: these include milk sweets, curd, heavy to digest lentils like rajma and channa, and other traditional Winter delicacies.
As we are feeding the body extra nourishment, we are also asked to work out much more in Winter. Vyayama (exercise) levels should be at their highest in these 4 months – this helps the body stay warm and also helps the body convert all the rich food we are eating into good muscle and improve physical strength. Winter is also the time to do strong abhyanga (self medicated oil massage). This improves body strength, tones the muscles and relieves fatigue from all the extra exercising we should be doing.
This schedule helps balance the heightened cold, wind from the atmosphere and also handles the excessive Digestive Agni internally.
Vasanta Ritucharya : What happens to the body in spring
With early March, we enter Vasanta Ritu, around the time of Holi or a week afterwards. This is a sharp transition from 4 months of Winter starting with November. As the sun transitions in the Uttarayana (northerly) direction, its intensity sharply increases.
In Vasanta, as the climate again starts to become warm and the sun’s intensity increases, it begins working on ice, glaciers and other frozen bodies of water in the earth. Similarly, inside our bodies, the sun begins to work on melting stored fat , stored mucous and other Kapha deposits.
The amount of Kapha that is stored in your body varies. It depends upon whether or not we have followed Ritucharya guidelines in Hemanta and Shishira. If instead of regular exercise, regular abhyanga along with a rich, oily and heavy diet, we have simply eaten but not done exercise or abhyanga, we would have accumulated a greater amount of Kapha in Winter.
This high accumulated Kapha melts and starts running in the body in Vasanta as Mucous through our body . This explains why so many of us are prone to spring fever, hay fever, pollen allergies and coughs and colds in this season. Even if you have not accumulated too much excess Kapha, the coming of Spring starts to melt whatever Kapha is stored in your body.
This liquefied Kapha dosha, if aggravated can douse the digestive Agni. When Agni is weakened, our appetite is poor. We also have a reduced capacity to digest food and poorer nutrient absorption in the body. This may lead to poor appetite, lack of interest in food, tiredness and fatigue. Therefore , in order to ensure our Agni is not impacted in Vasanta, we need to work on this liquefied Kapha and focus on drying it up.
Ayurvedic shodana therapies in Vasanta Ritu:
For each Ritu, because of the aggravation of specific panchamahaboothas, specific Shodana therapies can be performed in each season. In Vasanta Ritu, as we see a great aggravation and flow of liquefied Kapha, therapies like Vamana and Nasya therapy can be initiated by vaidyas when a person is suffering from Kapha aggravation.
Vamana therapy (a part of Pancha karma – controlled vomitting) and Nasya therapy (controlled application of nasal drops) are 2 Ayurvedic procedures that can can help move large amounts of liquefied Kapha from the body. Such therapies are recommended in cases of chronic sinusitis, high tendency to catch colds or in the case of kapha dominant Prakritis where Kapha dosha is severely aggravated. .
These Shodana therapies are therapeutic procedures suggested by Vaidyas when such intervention is strongly required. For many of us, this may not be required. For those with normal kapha aggravation, the Acharyas have given us many milder suggestions that we can all do to dry out liquefied kapha which forms part of Vasanta Ritucharya.
Vasanta Ritucharya: correction routines for healthy people
Ahara guidelines for Vasanta Ritu:
Ayurveda advises us to avoid Guru (heavy), Snigdha (oily), Amla (sour) and Madhura (sweet) foods during this season.
Heavy (Guru) and sweet (Madhura) foods increase Kapha dosha accumulation in the body. Oily (Snigdha) and Sour (Amla) foods aggravate and increase Pitta in the body. When Pitta is stimulated, it will further melt Kapha, adding to the volume of mucous already flowing through the body. Heavy and Sweet foods further aggravate Kapha.
Some examples of heavy, sweet, oil and sour foods: Curd, Greek Yoghurt, Sweets, Desserts, Maida based foods, also Curd based Chaat, Fried foods. Stale, re-heated / microwaved food is also “Guru” or heavy.
Apart from avoiding Kapha aggravating and Pitta triggering foods, we also need to add certain foods to our diet to help control aggravated Kapha. This is a good time to add Simbidhanya or Millets to our diet in small quantities. Millets are Laghu (light) and Rooksha (drying) so their addition can help absorb and dry out liquefied Kapha. Similarly, Yava (barley) is considered a good grain to be eaten during Vasanta.
Properties of Yava (barley):
Yava(barley grain) is considered to have a dual taste of both “Kashaya” (astringent) and “madhura” (sweet) rasa. This balances the intensity of the sweetness of barley, making it a good grain for Vasanta where we want less sweet substances. As its guna is cold, it balances Pitta. As Yava has rooksha guna (dry property) and pungent vipaka, it also helps dry up excess Kapha well. Yava is both a mutraghna (excess urine removing) and bulk forming grain. It helps remove aggravated liquefied kapha both through urine and through feces.
In Vasanta, Yava helps us by its lekhaniya (scraping quality against excess fat), reduces picchila (sticky toxins in the body), and also ignites jataragni which could be diminished due to liquefied Kapha.
Yava can be consumed in its grain form as porridge and also in its flour form. It can also be aided to regular wheat flour to make rotis, chapatis, bread, etc.
Add these spices to your food in Vasanta (Spring):
In Vasanta, it is important to use ushna but not teekshna, deepana (agni kindling), pachana (digestive), kapha drying herbs and spices. Hence the Acharyas suggest using spices like Haridra (Turmeric), Sounth (dried Ginger), Clove, Elaichi and Maricha (Black pepper) in the food.
Haridra is astringent and drying, and will help absorb excess liquids in the body. Dried Ginger is warming without being intensive and aggravating Pitta, so can be safely used to spice food. Similarly cloves and cardamom are both warming without aggravating Pitta dosha.
Maricha (black pepper) is recommended in Ayurveda to balance excess Kapha, aid digestion and open up the srotas . Maricha is a better spice choice for most people compared to red and green Chillies which are now commonly used in Indian cooking. Chillies are intensely pitta aggravating due to their teekshna and katu nature. Chillies are best avoided for everyone, but especially if you already have Pitta complaints like hair thinning, premature greying, high blood pressure, acidity, high stress, etc.
Making these minor diet corrections will help remove liquefied kapha, prevent toxin deposition and help us stay healthy in spring.
Vyayama (exercise) – correct way in Vasanta
Vyayama or Physical exercise is a key part of Vasanta Ritucharya. However, we are advised to do Vyayama (exercise) at a slightly lower level than we would have during winter. The main purpose of doing exercise in Vasanta is to moderately (and not sharply) increase heat and provoke sweating in the body, to encourage drying and removal of excess Kapha dosha.
There is another reason to recommend lower intensity of exercise. This is because we are currently in Adana Kala as per Ayurveda where the sun’s intensity is going to increase until Varsha season (monsoon ends). Adana kala is considered a time of depleting body energy as per Ayurveda.
So the ojas in the body can also deplete if we over-exercise or over-exert ourselves in any way. In fact in Summer (Greeshma) when the effects of Adana Kala + high agni peak and severely depleting, we are advised to do the least amount of exercise – please remember that we have to continue to do some form of exercise, but these are not the seasons to do high intensity marathon training, or 3 – 4 hour sessions in the Gym.
In addition, practice of Pranayama, especially techniques like Kapala Bhati, Bhastrika etc are excellent practices to improve lung health in vasanta Ritu. Kapha has its primary seat in the upper respiratory tract, so the Lungs and breathing can be easily affected in this season. Such techniques help dry kapha in these regions and improve warmth in the body. If you are not used to such techniques, simpler techniques like Nadi Shodana can also be done.
Vasanta Ritucharya – other activities suggested
The Acharyas encourage us to spend time in the company of good friends and in Nature. Vasanta is the season where birds abound, and when Nature is lush and green with the profuse flowering of fragrant herbs and flowers. We are advised to picnic in gardens, visit river banks, and enjoy the season in pleasant hill stations.
Pana (drinks) for vasanta
Ayurveda does not universally advise to drink tea or coffee due to their many disturbing qualities. Also, neither of these drinks are native to the Indian sub continent, so many of us may not be naturally accustomed to their qualities. Coffee can intensely aggravated Pitta and tea can aggravate Vata. Neither quality is appreciated in any season, but particularly so in Vasanta.
Water must be “shrunk” by boiling and reducing to 75% of its volume and then drunk– unboiled water is never advisable, especially not in Vasanta Ritu. Please note that this boiling process is to reduce the wateriness and improve the “digestability” of water – boiled water is also better at controlling Mucous spread than unboiled, “raw” water.
Instead, Ayurveda suggests we sip specific, herbal warm drinks in Vasanta to aid expelling of liquid kapha. We can sip plain warm water, or water which has been boiled mildly with dried ginger powder (in cases of large volumes of aggravated mucous). Do not drink too much Ginger water as it can heat up the body in large amounts. You can sip 1 glass of warm ginger water per day, for a few days at a time, to help move aggravated Kapha , in case of high aggravation, out of the body.
How to make Dried Ginger water:
Boil one glass of water until the water comes to a rolling boil. Switch off the gas. Add 1 teaspoon of freshly ground dried ginger powder. Allow the herb to steep for 4 – 5 minutes into the water. Strain. Do NOT sweeten. Sip through the day. Do NOT OVERDOSE on this.
Vasanta Ritucharya Abhyanga: Modified with Mardana:
Taila abhyanga with emphasis on “Mardana” is a good practice in Vasanta. The right taila should be chosen which is warming and mala removing and not cooling. Therefore oils like coconut oil, etc should NOT be used for Abhyanga. Warmed sesame oil or specially prepared Abhyanga Oils are much better for Abhyanga in this season. Those with high Kapha or high Vata can choose the Krya Intense Abhyanga Oil. Those with high Pitta or more balanced prakritis can choose Krya Classic Abhyanga Oil.
Abhyanga in Vasanta Ritu must be done with “Mardana”. “Mardana” is the strong pressure filled kneading of limbs to help compress and squeeze liquiefied Kapha. This Abhyanga modification forces liquefied Kapha through the body and out of it. This ensures that excess Kapha does not cool inside the body and create blockages. The limbs should be squeezed in a downward direction and not in an upward direction.
This is an excellent practice to remove fatigue and lethargy caused by aggravated Kapha and helps your maintain health in spring. For babies and children, continue with Abhyanga using a gentle form of this Mardana modification. The Krya traditional baby massage oil is a good Abhyanga oil option for babies and children with normal skin.
Vasanta Ritucharya – Modified Shiro Abhyanga (hair oiling):
Shiro abhyanga is strongly recommended as a Dincharya practice to cool additional Pitta and balance aggravated Vata in the scalp. This practice must be done regularly throughout the year. However, this practice needs to be altered in Vasanta Ritu to prevent any aggravation in mucous / Kapha in the head region.
In vasanta , Shiro Abhyanga must be done in the morning and not in the evening / night time. This ensures kapha does not aggravate in the body. This also takes care of pitta and vata as it builds up during the day, helping you stay in balance.
As an additional precaution, we suggest applying oil that has been warmed well on the scalp with a longer head massage compared to other seasons. This improves absorption and slows down kapha aggravation. If you are prone to Kapha aggravation, use slightly less oil than ususal, warm the oil and massage longer.
Additionally, ensure that you oil the head in a room without a cold / draughty atmosphere. You may continue to use the Krya hair oil of your choice for Shiro Abhyanga. Please ensure you use Rasnadi choornam diligently after every hairwash.
Vasanta Ritucharya – Modified Snana (bath) with astringent herbs :
At Krya, we strongly advise that everyone stop using soaps and other synthetic products for bathing. It is healthier and better for skin to use even simple one ingredient options like gram flour, mung dal flour compared to a synthetic soap / bodywash. If you want the fancier option, well , we have loads of options in Ubtans and bodywash products available across prakriti and lifestyle at Krya .
While bathing with herbs, grains and lentils is ALWAYS a better choice, it becomes an extremely important tool in your ritucharya strategy during Vasanta Ritu. In Vasanta, the choice of a proper Snana Choornam can greatly help dealing with liquefied Kapha and mucous. Snana should be ideally done with pitta and kapha pacifying, slightly astringent and rooksha herbs. The choice of rooksha herbs is to help dry up excess Kapha. The choice of astringent herbs is to deal with vitiated Pitta. This way we can avoid the oily pus filled breakouts, prickly heat and allergic skin conditions that are common in Vasanta.
Application of these astringent herbs on skin as a paste, helps open the minor Srotas and helps in removal of mala through the body. It also enhances circulation and ensures liquefied Kapha does not get solid and block the minor channels.
All Krya Ubtans and bodywashes contain a good volume of astringent, Kashaya and slightly rooksha herbs . So you may continue to use your existing Krya Bodywash / Ubtan in this season with the following Snana modifications as given below:
- Have a bath in warm – bearably Water. Use only warm water to make a paste with your Krya bodywash / Ubtan
- Use large circular motions while applying the bodywash / ubtan. Once you have covered the body, repeat this scrubbing action again all over the body (without adding more product). This intensifies the Srota cleaning and Mala expelling action.
- Once Snana is complete, quickly dry the body and dress warmly in a non-draughty room which is not cold. Do not delay this as presence of water on skin can again aggravate Kapha.
- When doing a hair wash, always use Rasnadi choornam. Ensure you inhale the choornam as well.
Udwartana: Modified Snana for Kapha Aggravation in Vasanta Ritu
For very severe Kapha aggravation, an Udwartana is recommended. This is a modified Snana procedure to be done as follows:
- Wet the body thoroughly using warm – beraably hot watre
- Now sprinkle DRY Krya Bodywash / Ubtan slowly on each part of your skin. Scrub this DRY powder all over Wet skin using gentle , circular motion. Re-apply dry powder as you move to the next part of the body
- This process of using Dry Snana Choornam, formulated with appropriate herbs and grains is called “Udwartana”
- This process usually generates tremendous heat and friction on the body – this process should be avoided if you are Pitta prone, Vata prone, Pregnant, or Menstruating
- It is ONLY recommended if you have Kapha dominance or are likely to suffer with aggravated Mucous in this season
- Once you have finished Scrubbing teh entire body with Dry Snana powder, complete your bath with warm – bearably hot water
- quickly dry the body and dress warmly in a non-draughty room which is not cold. Do not delay this as presence of water on skin can again aggravate Kapha.
- Udwartana is a special Snana modification done as part of Vasanta Ritucharya in Ayurveda. Needless to say, Udwartana is NOT possible with a synthetic soap.
All Krya Abhyanga systems come with an abhyanga Oil + Ubtan. The Krya Intense Abhyanga system for Men and the Krya Intense Abhyanga system for Women is recommended over other products if you have a tendency towards Kapha aggravation. If you are in the middle of a cold / cough, Abhyanga should be avoided.
To sum up: Vasanta Ritucharya
The emphasis in Ayurveda is always on following a life of balance and moderation, along with carefully chosen , sensible, health giving practices. When we follow this method, we are guaranteed both Ayu and Ayush (long life and health) as per our Acharyas.
Many of the problems we face as we live our busy and chaotic lives in cities is because we are unable to balance the excesses we face. So we end up over using our eyes, over commuting, eating the wrong kind of food, and ignoring what we must be doing in each season.
Ritucharya is a powerful, health giving ayurvedic tool that helps us live according to the changes in season and make internal adjustments so that our doshas are in a state of balance. Ayurvedic health guidelines are extremely powerful and potent. The importance of following Ritucharya is that we are able to stop disease even before it starts.
With health care costs on the rise, highly stressful lives and weakening immunity, Ritucharya and Dinacharya assume even greater importance to us. It helps us take charge of our health and our families health and gives us simple yet powerful tools to help our body.
Following Dinacharya and Ritucharya guidelines is the greatest investment you can make in your health. We hope this post gave you an idea of how you should be modifying your food, lifestyle and other activities to adjust to the changes in climate, weather this Casanta Ritu. If you have any doubts in the above, please do drop a comment, call us (0-75500-89090) or write to us.