The winds of change are regularly upon us. The seasons consistently roll from one into another. Ayurveda recognises that this has a profound effect on our health and recommends many helpful suggestions for how we can adapt our lifestyle to stay balanced in each season. Ayurveda makes this person specific; ie there is not just one lifestyle or diet that fits everybody. This is because Ayurveda perceives everybody as individuals with a unique constitutional makeup or dosha. There is only one you!
Your constitution (dosha) and the seasons are intimately related. Your health is affected by the qualities of the climate you live in; your inner world is influenced by your outer environment. For example, when the air is damp, cold and wet it increases these qualities in your body. Hence the increase in mucus, catarrh and colds in winter.
The Ayurvedic understanding of the disease process is that certain doshic qualities accumulate in one season and are then aggravated in the next. See the table below for a full explanation. This table is for the seasons in the UK. There are different patterns for different climates. To understand these patterns you have to watch nature and this is at the heart of learning how to live Ayurvedically. Start to observe the different qualities of nature and you will start to understand the principles of Ayurveda.
||REDUCE P & K
||REDUCE P & V
||REDUCE V & K
The trick to staying healthy is to stay one step ahead. Reduce the dosha that will be imbalanced in the following season before it gets aggravated. Hence follow a pitta reducing diet in early spring before it gets aggravated in late spring with symptoms of spring fevers and hayfever. Follow a vata reducing diet the summer before it gets aggravated in the autumn with patterns of dry skin, flare ups of dry eczema, dry coughs and cracked soles of the feet. Follow a kapha reducing diet in the winter before it gets aggravated in the spring with spring colds and allergies to tree pollen. See the recommendations for each dosha to know how to balance each type (coming soon!).
The central teaching of Ayurveda is that in order to optimise your health you must clear the accumulation of the doshas from your system. Any increase in the doshas can cause illness (see the introduction to Ayurveda article). The doshas exit via the orfices- primarily the bowel, bladder, stomach/ lungs (via the mouth) and skin. The classic herbal laxatives (encouraging bowel motions), diuretics (encouraging urination), emetics (encouraging vomiting), expectorants (encouraging clearing of mucus) and diaphoretics (encouraging sweating) do this.
Whenever the seasons change it can be beneficial to pay some attention to your diet and habits. One suggestion is that for seven days either side of each of the four equinox (21st of March, June, September and December) you adjust your diet so that you are on the right track for optimising your health. Ayurveda recommends a practice known as panch karma to help detoxify the body of accumulated wastes and doshas. This regime is five practices that clear the doshas from the system. Remember that dosha means ‘faults’ and that when there is too much of them the system becomes out of balance.
A simple home seasonal detoxification
A simple home practice can be a regime of simple eating, lots of oil massage and a mild detoxification.
During this whole regime eat only kicharee. This is a wonderful healing food that is known as ‘food of the gods’:
1/3 cup split mung dal, 2/3 basmati rice (or other grain) simmered in 3-4 cups of water (a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4).
Add 1/4 tsp each of organic turmeric, ginger, roasted cumin and coriander.
Add seasonal vegetables: spinach, peas, or seaweeds, shitake mushrooms for an all round healing, healthy and agni enkindling meal. The rules are to cook it on a very low heat in a covered saucepan and DO NOT stir it after all the ingredients are added.
Add a teaspoon of ghee or hemp seed oil at the end.
Whilst fasting it can be useful to sip hot drinks; try spicy teas of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom to burn ama, clear toxins and relax your contracting stomach. Try Pukka herbs ‘Revitalising and Spicy” to warm the system or their new ‘Detox’ tea to clear toxins.
Day 1-7 vigorously massage yourself from head to foot every day with 100-150ml warm organic sesame oil. Leave the oil on your body for 10 minutes. Then wash off in a hot bath or shower. This will dilate the surface of your skin and will clear toxins through the skin.
Take a dose of Triphala every night. This is a mix of three herbs that are famed for their ability to mildly detoxify the blood and bowel. Take 3 capsules, 1 teaspoon or 75 drops of the tincture with a glass of warm water at night. Available organically from Pukka herbs.
On day six take 1-2 teaspoons of castor oil to give the bowel a good purge (this is optional and not to be done by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding).
For the week after this cleanse start to introduce more vegetables and slowly return to your normal seasonal diet.