Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (knowledge), which is why Ayurveda is not merely a system of medicine; it is a holistic approach towards health and wellbeing. Unlike western medical treatments that are based mainly on curing ailments, Ayurveda focuses on the prevention of illness through a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Modern life is both strenuous and fast paced, which has resulted in a drastic increase in lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Incorporating Ayurvedic principles into your daily life will help to balance your doshas (biological energies) so that you are more in sync with nature and less vulnerable to common health problems. This also makes it important that you identify your dosha type to get advice that is best suited to your unique requirements.
Let’s take a look at how we can balance our doshas according to the seasons in order to forge a reconnection with our surroundings.
Dosha Balance & the Changing Seasons
Each of us has a unique constitution that is based on the predominant dosha that we are born with (prakriti). However, unhealthy lifestyle choices and habits can cause a dosha imbalance (vikriti) which manifests as physical and mental illness. Each of the three doshas is associated with specific qualities – vata is associated with cold, light, and dry qualities, while pitta is associated with hot, light, and intense qualities, and kapha is associated with cold, heavy, and slow qualities. Opposite qualities can be used to balance doshas, especially during seasonal changes. For instance, the cool and dry autumn winds can cause a vata imbalance, so substances with hot and moist qualities can be used to prevent this type of dosha imbalance. Here’s how the 4 seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter) affect the doshas.
Kids enjoying the rejuvenation of spring
Spring is associated with kapha as there is still a nip in the air, with high levels of humidity. The heat only really starts to kick in towards the end of spring. The increased moisture in the air means plenty of wet weather before summer can set in. Individuals with a kapha dosha are more likely to be affected by the weather changes.
A kapha imbalance is likely to manifest as a poor appetite, indigestion, colds, coughs, water retention, lethargy, and melancholy. A diet to prevent kapha imbalances in spring would include foods that are warm and easy to digest and have pungent or bitter tastes. Start a daily morning exercise routine to prevent the accumulation of excess kapha.
Beating the summer heat with cooling fruits
Summer is associated with pitta as the sweltering summer sun scorches everything in its path. Although some places have high levels of humidity even in summer, by and large, the intense heat has a drying effect, which is in keeping with pitta qualities. Individuals with a pitta dosha are more likely to be affected by the summer heat and need to follow a pitta pacifying daily routine to balance their doshas.
A pitta imbalance is likely to manifest as acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, and an uncomfortable feeling of heat within the body. Personality changes caused by pitta include anger, irritability, and impatience, which is why these are common problems in summer. A diet to prevent pitta imbalances in summer would include foods that are cool and cleansing and have bitter or astringent tastes. Swimming and kayaking are good summer activities as they allow you to remain active while also keeping you cool and pacifying your pitta dosha.
Embracing the tranquility of fall with a book
Fall is associated with vata as the cold dry autumn winds dispel the summer heat. Individuals with a vata dosha are more likely to be affected by the cold and dry weather but a vata pacifying daily routine will help to keep their doshas in balance. A vata imbalance is likely to manifest as digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and hard stools as well as chapped skin, and low body weight. Personality changes caused by vata include excessive thinking, worrying, and anxiety which is why these are common problems in the fall. A diet to prevent vata imbalances in the fall would include whole, freshly cooked foods that have sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
Keeping warm with hot cup of tea
Winter is associated with kapha as the temperature drops even further and a blanket of snow covers the landscape. Individuals with a kapha dosha constitution are more likely to be affected by the cold temperature and should avoid going outdoors on windy days. A kapha imbalance is likely to manifest as a colds, coughs, poor appetite, lethargy, and depression. A diet to prevent kapha imbalances in winter would include foods that are warm, oily, and well-spiced and have a balance of the sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. It is also very important to exercise in winter to balance kapha and remain healthy. Swap your morning run with a moderate or high intensity workout at home.
It is only recently that modern science has started catching up with ancient Ayurvedic concepts – for instance, Ayurvedic texts detailed the ideal daily routine (dinacharya) based on the cycles of nature thousands of years ago. However, it is only in the last few decades that scientists have discovered these circadian rhythms that hold the key to health and wellbeing. Make changes to your daily routine in accordance to the seasons and you will notice that you suffer from fewer illnesses and enjoy higher energy levels. Accept that you are part of nature as this will help you understand your path in life and pave the way to a balanced and harmonized (sattvic) life.
- Cavanagh, Danny, and Carol Willis. Essential Ayurveda: A Practical Guide to Healthy Living. Ayurveda UK, 2004.
- Hope-Murray, Angela. Ayurveda for Dummies. Wiley, 2013.
- Tiwari, Maya. Love Your Body Type The Ayurveda Way. 1st ed., Mother Om Media, 2012.
The information on this page has been contributed by Meghna Unhawane, B.Sc. Home Science & Nutrition and is intended for the sole use of Allayurveda. Information contained within this article may not be reproduced without the explicit permission of Allayurveda.