02 janeiro 2014

Building Health in Winter With Ayurveda

Lisa Lesser

For those looking to keep healthy, it is of the utmost importance to follow Ritucharya, the Ayurvedic seasonal protocol. According to Ayurveda, there are six seasons which are broken up into two groups. The first groupwhich can be seen in northern solstice consists of shishir/ late winter (Jan 14- March 14), vasant / spring ( March 14- May 14) and grishma/ summer ( May 14- July 14). The second group which resides in the southern solstice is varsha/ rainy season ( July 14- Sept 14),  sharad / autumn ( Sept 14- Nov 14) and hemant / early winter ( Nov 14- Jan 14). Importance is given to this breakdown because in the northern solstice months it is noticed that the sun takes away the strength of the people more and more each day and in the southern solstice there is the opposite occurring with the sun and moon giving strength and nourishing respectively. This means that by the time hemant / early winter comes around, we are in our strongest period to build health and immunity for the whole year.

Each of the six seasons has a unique natural ebb and flow with respect to the doshas. There is no such mention in Ayurveda of there being only three seasons known as “vata season”, “kapha season” or “pitta season”. That is just flat out misinformation most likely stemming from an attempt at simplification for the west. The way it works is that throughout the year each dosha will go into an accumulation stage, an excitation stage and a baseline,  calmed stage. For example, vata accumulates in  summer, excites in fall / Varsha and is brought back to a calmed state in autumn. Pitta dosha accumulates in fall / Varsha, excites in autumn and calms down in early winter. Kapha accumulates in late winter, excites in spring and calms down in summer.
If you noticed, I didn’t mention that anything accumulates or excites in early winter. This period which is November 14th through January 14th is the only one where this occurs. Along with the doshas all in a calmed state, a person in good health will experience strong digestive power in this time. This phenomenon is due to the cold air outside blocking the body heat from coming out. Prevented from exiting the body, the heat is then reserved for the digestive fire to become intensely active and strong.  When you don’t feed this fire appropriately,  the fire starts to consume the bodily tissues and vata can get aggravated. There is no natural accumulation or aggravation  of vata during this period though. That only occurs when one doesn’t follow what the body needs, for example by fasting ( raw, juice, not eating all included), cleanses, eating too light foods and spices or too much exposure to the cold.
The food and drink during this time of year should consist of sweet, sour, salty, unctuous qualities. A few examples of this which are mentioned in the texts are meat soup mixed with fats, meat of fattened animals, nuts, wheat flour, urad dal / black gram, sugar cane products, milk and milk products such as yogurt or paneer/cottage cheese, new rice and warm water. Also advised is to keep warm by wearing proper clothing, by the embrace of another or by sitting near a fire. This would also be the ideal time of year to be in the habit of doing oil massage on the entire body with sesame oil before your bath or shower. You can exercise in accordance with what is healthy  such as with no discomfort, no breathing through mouth and not with a full stomach.