Instead of our working against nature to fit our own needs and desires, Ayurveda teaches that when we accept what Earth provides, we keep seasonal illnesses at bay.
Aside from pulling out a favorite sweater, drinking hot cocoa, or adjusting the thermostat, not much about Western culture ritualizes seasons when it comes to health. By contrast, Ayurvedic texts offer detailed descriptions on seasonal changes and even give them a special name: ritucharya.
Ritucharya is an outlined routine, though it is aligned with our calendar instead of our clock. Within its guidelines, we see the ways we should adjust our routine along with changes in climate, and how the timing between seasons—such as the spring and fall equinoxes, and winter and summer solstices—is the perfect time to focus on preventing illness.
In addition to the seasons, there are other cycles that are longer than the twenty-four-hour clock, such as moon cycles. The full moon and new moon impact our physiology and create an energetic environment, making those phases the perfect time for rituals, self-reflection, and change.
Because the seasons differ in temperature and humidity, each season strongly relates to one dosha and its corresponding elements. Like we do in our personal constitutions, we try to maintain balance through the seasons by playing into the strengths of the elements and by seeking out pacifying actions. Everything in Ayurveda surrounds this idea.
Instead of our working against nature to fit our own needs and desires, Ayurveda teaches that when we accept what Earth provides, we keep seasonal illnesses at bay. If the season is dry, the produce that grows is naturally oily; if the climate is cool, the crops are heating. Thus, a pacifying routine aims to use things like seasonal foods, herbs, and spices as a primary source for maintaining balance.
Everything we consume has one or more taste associated with it, and this helps you to understand how what you eat affects you beyond its nutritional profile. Ayurveda recognizes six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. These aren’t always tastes you can identify on the tongue, but they are important when it comes to seasonal eating.
Late Winter and Spring (February–May)
The saying about April showers and May flowers is a tell-all for spring. There’s a dampness and heaviness that accompanies the first months of the year, but what follows is a beautiful impulse to flower and grow.
Late winter and spring are considered to be kaphic months, or months that embrace the earth and water elements. This means it alternates between warm and cool, but is steadily heavy, wet, and stagnant feeling. If you can imagine, what happens in our body at this time is much like what happens with melting snow. By late winter, the snow accumulates—the dampness and coldness representing that of the kapha dosha. As the weather warms in the spring, the snow starts to melt, and in our body we experience this with feelings of stagnation, congestion, allergies, and excess mucus.
What we need to combat all this moisture is light, dryness, and mobility.
And at this time of year, nature supplies us with just that: food that is light, astringent, and bitter as a counterbalance to her climate. Think of these qualities as you’re making your shopping list. Fill your cart with sprouts, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and brussels sprouts, asparagus, berries, radishes, leeks, garlic, and leafy greens galore. Reduce intake of food that is heavier and oilier, like nuts or meat. If you are a meat eater, favor white meat or lighter fish.
Ayurveda will always favor eating cooked food, but spring, compared to fall and winter, is a more suitable time to incorporate some raw food into your diet. Try a bowl of fruit for breakfast or a small side salad as part of your lunch (not the whole meal). Incorporate spices that pack a pungent punch, such as pepper, garlic, ginger, cloves, and fenugreek.
After a full winter of rest, it’s time to bring vigor back into your movement vocabulary. First, and foremost, it’s important just to get moving. Find ways that you can add movement into your day, like walking after lunch. For your dedicated exercise, think sprints, interval training, and a program that overall leans toward cardio. Spring is associated with the kapha dosha, and so is the first cycle of life, from birth to puberty—which also represents a time of exploration and growth. Weave activities into your spring routine that have playful and childlike characteristics, and approach daily tasks as if they are brand new.
Begin the tradition of a spring ritual that embodies the concept of planting, new beginnings, and growth. Since spring has a natural momentum toward blooming, sort through the mundane areas of your life and find what needs a fresh start. Think of this time not only as spring cleaning for your home, but also spring cleaning for your personal intentions and goals.
Write down three things you wish to manifest this season and three words that describe your spring intentions. Breathing deeply, sit with your eyes closed to fully embody the newness spring will bring.
Excerpted from The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook: Holistic Healing Rituals for Every Day and Season © Sarah Kucera, 2019. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.