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Ritucharya (Seasonal Routines):

[EXCERPT from Up-coming book “Ayurvedic Wellness Tips”]

© Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham/Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form, without direct permission from the author. Quotes may be used in research works, providing proper citations and references are given.

Ayurveda considers the effects of seasons on our lives, due to their constant changes due to exogenous effects, that can affect our daily metabolic functions, both physically and mentally.

We have discussed in the beginning, how Ayurveda correlates various times of the day and correlates them with the doshas and their aggravation. Likewise, as a part of the Ayurvedic circadian clock, Ayurveda also looks at various effects relative to seasons (ritu), which we will now discuss here, as an important topic, relative to the scope of this book.

As a part of its preventative medicine scince, Ayurveda thus looks at the effects of these seasons and the changes they have relaive to affecting us, as individuals.

According to the traditional six-season model in India, vata accumulates in the summer-time and aggravates in the early rainy-season; pitta accumulates in the rainy or monsoon season and aggravates in the autumn and kapha accumulates in pre-winter and aggravates in the spring.

Here, the six seasons are:

Vasanta
or Spring
Grishma or Summer
Varshaor Monsoon season
Sharada or Early autumn
Hemanta or Late autumn
Shishira or Winter

Today there are many that claim to use the classical six-season system of the classics of Ayurveda (introducing shishira or late-winter / cold season and varsha or rainy / monsoon season) and apply them to western and other environments. Yet, the reality is that that we cannot use the six-season model of Ayurveda as in India, as we don’t have six seasons! Moreover, the seasons also differ in the Northern and Southern hemisphere! In Australasia for example, we celebrate Christmas in the summer-time, not in the cool winter as in the Northern Hemisphere and hence the same regimens and times cannot be superimposed. India is also a tropical nation, whereas others are not and change accordingly.

Moreover, these differ as per nation as per specific climates and cycles also, especially in relation to the North and South pole, which Ayurveda understands well with desha (land or region)etc. which all of this also comes into.

The climates across the US alone can change quite dramatically, especially the South closer to the equator and the North which is closer to the North Pole! This reveals that different models are here required as seasons have different properties even in the North American continent, let alone between continents themselves and localised variations of weather patterns. Land-locked regions of the south are also different in the desert to those bordering coastlines etc.

Even ecologists today employ four-seasonal systems in temperate and sub-polar regions, but employ a six-season system for more temperate or tropical regions. Kerala for example has to be treated as a kind of “rainy season / monsoon” (varsha season) climate due to having the highest rainfall of India. Hence, such issues need to be addressed relative to these sciences, as such again doesn’t apply to the rest of the world – just as the consumption of turkey, chilies, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados etc. native to the Americas[1] is suitable for those habitually used to other foodstuffs in their diets for thousands of years (as Europeans) – whereas such are anti-doted with spices to aid in their digestions in the orient where they were introduced through trade in the past 400 years[2] – what is known as satmya or suitability in Ayurveda, as per cultural and social norms in dietary, lifestyle and other habits that are not always the same. Not all nations eat curries or spiced foods as India does for example and thus may not be able to handle the hotter, more pungent spices (such as Indian long pepper, ginger and garlic) traditionally used in South Asia.

Here we must remember that regions nearer the equator will have different kinds of seasonal effects to those nearer the poles, especially relative to summer and winter. India as a more tropical climate has its system centered more upon this system which differs from many other nations here and thus such properties must be assessed in a more unique manner – just as one should differentiate between predominating doshic factors in a patient, as also their vayas (age) in which doshic predominating factors are high, as also relative to their ethnicity also, as such variations exist. Smaller eyes for example are not always a sign of a vata person, just as a larger nose is not a sign of a kapha person when it comes to race. India possesses various racial types from Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Australoid and Negrito. We have to allow for differences here, just as we do for seasonal changes and changes in climatic factors and properties relative to them.

As such, the following four-season model is adapted to the west and such relative to Ayurveda. We must remember that Ayurveda considered such things as desha (location) and the effects of such regional changes, relative to how it assessed various things and gave such various properties accordingly. We know these by our own regions, once we have understood the gunas or properties of these.


[1] As per Ayurveda, these foods wouldn’t necessarily cause issues to people habitually suited to them, but may for others newly adopting them. Ayurveda often,as Indian cooking, uses spices to “anti-dote” these toxic effects of new foods and those we are unaccustomed to. 

Here, Charaka Samhita, Chikitsasthana, XXX.321-325 gives examples of, just as how the diets of Chinese, Europeans etc. doesn’t affect them, though sometimes contrary to disease, so sometimes like qualities of the doshas can alleviate them, as pitta deep within the tissues can be brought out by heat as in poultices or hot application and that excreta from a fly, though causing vomiting sensations, can also cure it (things which are normally contrary, but in certain cases help the disorder)!

[2] There is evidence to support the use of potatoes, chillies, maize, pumpkins etc. in India and Indian cooking in the pre-Columbian period.  Maize is seen on Hoysala and other sculptures in earlier times, as as early as 100AD (Sorenson, John L & Johannessen,  Carl  L: Scientific Evidence for Pre-Columbian Voyages Sino-Platinoc Papers,  Dept. of  East Asian Languages and Civilisations,  University of Pennsylvania, April 2004.).        Amaranth has also been culyivated since Indus-Valley times (source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/indus-valley-non-vegetarian-national-museum-6278349/).

Here, we know that India-America relations were possible in the earlier centuries AD, as also as early as the Ramayana and the Chola etc. Empires. Thus, it’s possible we used chilies much earlier!

According to the Asian Scientist magazine (June 1, 2018), sweet potatoes have have first been cultivated in India itself, and not the Americas as history tells us., due to fossils of leaves around 57 million years ago (Source: https://www.asianscientist.com/2018/06/in-the-lab/fossil-sweet-potatoes-asia-india/ ).


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Taking Care of Yourself Amidst COVID-19

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT SEEK TO TREAT, CURE OR PRESCRIBE, OR ACT AS AN ALTERNATIVE FOR ANY CONDITIONS, ESPECIALLY NOT COVID-19. ONE SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE FROM THEIR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS SURROUNDING THE COVID-19 VIRUS AND COMPLICATIONS ARISING FROM SUCH.

THIS ARTICLE MERELY ADDRESSES SUCH BASED ON TRADITIONAL AYURVEDIC PRACTICES ALONE, AND AS NOTED, IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

Amidst the latest scare and also hysteria that has ensued, we must remember some things to keep us reasonably calm and level-headed, so as not to “freak out” and cause more issues for ourselves – and also others!

Anxiety:

It’s normal to be anxious, as a natural human response to any major calamity or epidemic. However, we mustn’t get too hysterical and remain calm as much as we can by stopping our minds and thinking rationally.

In certain situations, the best we can do is to remain careful about things, and take precautions, but remember the situation is such that it is out of our control, and we must develop a certain level of faith, either personally (philosophically) or in our world leaders to put steps in place to help us go forward and keep safe. Keep this in mind!

Secondly, food will not run out. There is no need to usher in Armageddon by impulse and stress-buying. Supermarkets have measures in place for deliveries and such, if need be, and the supply chains and factories remain open. Supermarket staff, merchandisers and reps of groceries and produce are currently in demand themselves and are working around the clock to keep the supply chains open. Yes, by all means “stock up”, but don’t become too hysterical due to the social anxiety out there and take every day as it comes; don’t become a doomsday prophet!

Whilst the news and advertising media can be useful, it is also naturally hyperbolic in nature and tends to cause more stress and anxiety, especially surrounding epidemics such as COVID-19. Look at how we, as humans, compare ourselves to the stereotypes on Television soap-operas and also advertisements relative to lifestyle, relationships, body-images etc. and also buy into consumerism as a result of such manipulation, for example. Now apply that to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus!

Simple herbs as Brahmi (Barcopa monnieri), Valerian and others can help with anxiety and also help us to reason things better – even the causes of our own anxiety. Ancient yogis used to drink a beverage of Brahmi leaves made into a tea, for enhancing mental faculties, especially discernment and reason – often in periods of social and political strife in ancient India, so as to better deal with these situations by looking at the whole.

The mindfulness method of STOP method also helps:

Stop and simply take a breather. Stop the mind for a second!

Take a few breaths. Here, slow, yogic breathing helps as well.

Observe any thoughts that come to mind and associated emotional responses. In yogic, this goes deeper with manasika-vichara or mental-questioning and origins of thoughts.

Proceed
 in another direction. Stop looking at or associating with triggers of our anxiety, especially the virus and do something more conducive, such as yoga, meditation, a walk or applying some of the techniques Ayurveda recommends to stay healthy. Be around positive people and recognise change – not hysteria!

DO NOT PANIC! Humanity has historically been a very resilient species and we’re still here, despite numerous world wars, plagues and other epidemics as the swine flu, SARS etc. and we’re still here!

Keeping Healthy:

The ancient system of Ayurveda tells us that two things cause diseases, primarily; low ojasa (immunity) and impaired agni (metabolism). When both are compromised, then disease manifests.

Ayurveda isn’t simply about a few simple herbs in villages, either. It has one of the world’s most ancient and advanced system of microbiology and surgery – from where many of our current techniques arose! Classical texts mention that wise-spread plagues and epidemics were primarily the result of corruption in society; visha-vayu (toxic air) here also referred to numerous airborne viruses and bacteria that was easily spread via air and also touch (sparsha – connected to the subtle element of air or vayu). Thus, if there is toxic air in society, viruses will spread via touch also, as with COVID-19, such as the ancients understood.

Cleanliness and good personal hygiene related to sparsha (touch, or air) is hence important. Many plagues broke out in Europe as a result of bad personal hygiene also – especially cleaning of the skin – and hands.

Indian culture has always advocated cleaning of the hands before and after meals to help prevent these issues.

Aloe-vera gel, neem powder and alcohol can make a good”home-made” sanitizer. Indian culture also believes that cow’s urine and dung also possesses these qualities, as well. I am neither stating one should be using these, or not relative to COVID-19 – I am simply stating what our ancestors have said!

Some basic tips, however:

1. Immunity Boost: Chyavanaprasha, the main ingredient which is the anti-oxidant and immunity-boosting Amalaki (Indian gooseberry), high in Vit. C has been used for both low immunity (ojasa) and also respiratory conditions for millennia.  This can be taken daily to help prevent issues relative to COVID-19. Again, whether or not it is 100% effective remains to be seen – but there it won’t do any harm and can, according to the classics, help develop immunity with many disorders and help with classic respiratory disorders as well.

The classic “Golden Milk” with turmeric and milk, as well as spices as cardamom and ginger is also said to be good for vitality.

Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is also useful as it helps boost our immunity, as also does Sheelajit, the ancient mineral pitch.

2. Metabolism: Boosting our metabolism means metabolism of all tissues in the body also, and proper enzymic function. The classic formula Trikatu (Indian long pepper, Black pepper and Ginger powder) is a classic for sluggish digestion – and also lung congestion and related issues, as also is Holy Basil or Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).

These help prevent disorders of the lungs and respiratory system. Ayurveda has a long-standing history of treating severe forms of TB (rajayakshma) as also pneumonia (swasanaka-jwara) by helping the lungs, as also with alchemical formulas.

To boost metabolism at home – a simple drink of warm lemon juice, ginger powder and black pepper powder can help. This also helps to dispel kapha or mucous which develops in the stomach and lungs and causes issues.

Viruses are seen as tamasika (darker and stagnant) in nature and hence need some rajas (agitation, movement or aggression) to be dealt with, returning to a state of ultimate health, or sattvas. Such spicier herbs combined with those that protect the lungs, immune system and help treat pneumonia are useful.

3. Oral Hygiene: Ayurveda tells us that we should always crape our tongue with a tongue-scraper and brush our teeth on a daily basis, as also chew mixtures of cardamom for fresh breath, and rub our gums with powders of cinnamon, clove, cardamom, rock-salt or triphala powders to keep gums healthy. These formulas, as also triphala also help with any bacteria and reduce excess bleeding and mucous; scraping the tongue also does this and improves metabolism.

As per the current climate, these are very minor measures but could be conducive towards helping with viruses as COVID-19, especially with sufferers and their compromised respiratory systems, so as they do not become too vulnerable to abcterial infections that complicate the virus they suffer from already.

These methods are simply all about trying to be healthy, and again, are not a replacement for professional advice or treatment, but simply what Ayurveda has recommended for thousands of years, as also methods of “preventative medicine”, Ayurveda is also known for – just as authorities are telling us relative to keeping hands clean, using hand sanitizer, wearing gloves and isolating ourselves at present.


Namah Shivaya!

-Durgadas


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What was the Ancient Indian diet like?

Q: How was Indian food made spicy before the introduction of chilies from the Americas?

A: Indian cooking has used garlic, ginger, black pepper and a spicier variety of pepper (Piper longum or “Indian long pepper” – from whence the term ‘pepper’ itself originates, via Latin piper) – in spices. Indian long pepper itself was used in many formulas to dispel phlegm, improve rheumatic complaints and as a digestive aid.

Being more pungent than normal black pepper (Piper nigrum), when combined with other spices, viz. turmeric, ginger, garlic etc., it turns the food, or curry, quite spicy in itself.

Q: Indian cooking uses tomatoes. Was there anything used before this to ‘sour’ Indian dishes?

A: Yes! Tomatoes simply replaced the older Indian variants of making curries slightly sour in taste. The main traditional ingredient prior to the introduction of tomatoes from the Americas was tamarind.

However, dried mango powder, curds, buttermilk and lemon juice were used in traditional recipes in the periods of pre-Columbia contact, and are still used to this day.

Q: It is said that North Indian dishes with creams etc. are “Mughlai” dishes introduced by the Turkic invaders from Central Asia?

A: Actually, Central Asia was once a part of greater India that included Gandhara (Afghanistan) and Sindh (Pakistan and North-Western India) where the cuisine was much the same. 2,000 years prior to the Mughal invasions, the Ayurvedic texts as Charaka Samhita speak of people in Sindh consuming foods or curries mixed with dairy. Classic texts also speak of buttermilk, curds etc. mixed with foods.

In Southern India, due to the hotter climate, coconut milk and cream was used. Hence, creamy curries are not simply exclusive to Central Asia, though these people did prefer them from antiquity, due to the influences from ancient Buddhist regions as Gandhara they received influence from
.

The ancient centre of learning for Persians, Indians and Central Asians – which included Ayurveda and also influenced regional cultures via architecture, dress and cuisine was in Takshashila (Taxila) in this region, which dates back to around 1200BCE, based on archeology.

Q: Was Tandoori chicken a thing in ancient India?

A: Tandoors date back as early as the Indus Valley civilisation, around 5,000 years ago. Chickens and other meats are said to have been barbequed, roasted etc., as in the later texts as Sushruta Samhita (c.2000BCE).

Various breads would have also been cooked this way as well.

In addition, chickpeas, lentils, dals and rice, as also wheat and amaranth were consumed some 5,000 years back.

Q: Were ancient Indians vegetarian?

A: No. Based on both the texts as the brahmanas as well as the Ayurvedic texts and archeological evidences, Indians ate beef, goat (also a speciality of Kashmiri Brahmins to this day), fish, eggs as well as chicken and exotic meats as tortoise, iguanas and even peacocks!

I have noted more about this in my article HERE.

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