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Ritucharya (Seasonal Routines):

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

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

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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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The Problematic Dosha-Quizzes

Q: I have filled out a few online dosha-quizzes and think I have a vata problem. Can you treat this?

A: First of all, Ayurveda is a complete medical system, and no one person can be stereotyped into a dosha per se. A dosha means a blemish or vitiation itself, so it’s often what can be a natural tendency within a person, whereas the vikriti or disease outside of this is a deviation from the norm.

Secondly, there is often a misconception about Ayurvedic doshas reflecting “body-mind” types. Ayurvedic psychology (bhutavidya or graha chikitsa) is itself a specialised limb within Ayurveda and assesses the mind and it’s disorders in a very specific manner outside that of the so-called doshas of vata, pitta, kapha and their combinations, although sometimes these are used in disease – but are not limitations alone. Not all diseases can be neatly classified into such, and due to numerous combinations of them, each disorder manifests specific traits relative to each which is known only to a highly-trained Ayurvedic practitioner, or Vaidya

Thirdly, the dosha-quiz model often fails as we tend to project our own ideas about ourselves rather than consistent traits. Variations such as in female menstrual cycles or emotional factors, the age and sex of a person, genetic factors, one’s race and suitabilities, one’s diet, quality of food, digestion, underlying mental issues (that may stem from karmic issues, congenital or childhood trauma) can alter these, as can the seasons and even changes of foods and diets due to various soil types and crops being cultivated around the world (as an example, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, capsicums, corn, chillies etc. are native to the Americas).

The quality of foods, drugs and lands, as well as numerous other dietary and lifestyle factors have to be assessed in a clinical setting, as well as your response to questions in addition to a clinical examination that brings in differential diagnosis in both the more ‘natural’ state and also disorder(s) you are currently suffering, and the way forward.

Clinical Ayurveda looks at subtle factors that make up the doshas as well as other factors previously mentioned. For those not trained in this medical system, which has over 1100 diseases and a highly-evolved surgical system, one of detoxification, understanding of seasonal, weather patterns, food energetics etc. as well as an extensive pharmacopoeia that has its own indications and contraindications as with allopathic medicine – will find it difficult to navigate, just as one surfing on WebMD or Googling symptoms and self-diagnosing, which is extremely dangerous.

Q: Once I had an Ayurvedic Consultation and I was told I was a Kapha-Pitta person, but a quiz indicates something else. Another Consultation revealed I was Vata-Kapha. Why is this?

A: First of all, as mentioned aforehand, we have to be very careful about assessing things and take note of specifically what we have been told. Some Ayurvedic practitioners will tend to work on the disorder, some may give recommendations as per your age and sex alone seeing it as a major factor, digestive power and sex, and one may be working simply with lifestyle recommendations as per your phenotype or biological type, based on their own analysis of you.

As also noted, it depends which methods they have implemented as well. Some may just go on answers you gave during a written test-sheet, or cross-examine you. So, we first have to understand what information was given, why and what exactly it applied to.

Some also understand Ayurveda only from a Naturopathic or New-Age model of stereotypes, whilst others may project their own analysis of you based upon their own and project these. Some may also be more sensitive to one dosha within a person at any one given time, and some may be basing it on the pulse, but not understanding the deeper facets of this science which has its own indications and aspects that have to be weighed up, and takes a lot of practice, examination and study – especially in disease, to perfect. Eating, drinking, exercise, anxiety, exposure to cold and heat before and after this can alter readings, where it is only possible for very highly trained and intuitive practitioners to differentiate.

Q: I read that taking Triphala and Vegan-diet was best for me.  Should I continue with this, as I’m feeling much better?

A: People will often feel ‘better’ when they take anything lighter and any substance that helps with their elimination, but this is not indicative of proper health or healing.

Ayurveda looks at long-term effects rather than short-term effects, relative to life-long than just over a few weeks, months or even years. Disorders can manifest due to excesses of anything – whether foods or impressions, lifestyle regimes or exercise as even yoga practices, which have to be specific, rather than generic for everyone.

While some herbal formulas can be good for one and all, some such as Triphala can cause griping in some people and may have opposite effects, due to their metabolism, so your GI health has to be assessed clinically first. It is often taken along with other specific herbs or even compound and combined formulas depending on what is best for you given all of the factors we have previously discussed, viz. age, sex, metabolism, mental state, tendencies, location, climate, seasons, lifestyle etc.

Relative to diets, no diet suits one and all. Note our article here that discusses this aspect in more detail, relative to Ayurveda.

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