Ritucharya (ऋतुचर्या) – Ayurveda Recommended Seasonal Habits – Part 1


Ritucharya Habits Cover

Introduction

It is said in Ayurveda: शीर्यते अनेन इति शरीरं (Chakrapani commentary on च.सं.सू. 1) – that which deteriorates or that which is always in a state of change towards degeneration is called as शरीरं (human body).

Our ancestors were aware of astronomy; they keenly observed the changes in seasons with respect to sun, moon, stars, winds, and rainfall.

यत् पिण्डे, तत् ब्रह्माण्डे ।

yat piṇḍe, tat brahmāṇḍe 

Whatever there is in the environment is also there is the human body

The concept of “यत् पिण्डे, तत् ब्रह्माण्डे” (whatever there is in the environment is also there is the human body) was applied, which led to appreciating changes in the human body according to seasons and regimens were made accordingly.

Seasonal regimens main aim was to prevent diseases due to seasonal derangement of doshas. Hence Rutucharya is one of the ways to be in sync with ever-changing nature and being healthy all at the same time.

And that’s exactly what we are going to explore in this article, so grab your note-taking tools and let’s start!

 

The Basics

What is a Ritu (ऋतु)?

ऋतु means द्वौ मासौ (dvau māsau) or two months.

How many Ritus we have and which are they?

Since 2 months make one Ritu, we have 6 Ritus, unlike western seasons which are 4 i.e. Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.

So the 6 Ritus are –

शिशिर (śiśira) – Late winter

वसन्त (vasanta) – Spring

ग्रीष्म (grīṣma) – Summer

वर्षा (varṣā) – Rains

शरद् (śarad) – Autumn

हेमन्त (hemanta) – Early winter

The first three Ritus are together called as आदान काल ādāna kāla (उत्तरायण uttarāyaṇa – tilt of northern hemisphere of earth away from the sun) and next three together called as विसर्ग काल visarga kāla (दक्षिणायन dakṣiṇāyaṇa – tilt of southern hemisphere of earth away from the sun).

There is a gradual decrease of बलं balaṃ (physical strength or immunity due to the seasonal effect) during उत्तरायण uttarāyaṇa and gradual increase of बलं balaṃ during दक्षिणायन dakṣiṇāyaṇa.


What is चर्या (caryā)?

नियम-अपरित्याग: (शब्दकल्पद्रुम)  not giving up certain rules or following certain आहार (food habits) and विहार (physical activities).

नियम-अपरित्याग: (शब्दकल्पद्रुम)

niyama aparityāga: (śabdakalpadruma)

Not giving up on certain rules or following certain habit

What is RituCharya ऋतुचर्या?

Here is the definition of Ritucharya as given in Ashtanga Hridaya Sutram –

ऋतुविशेषवशाच्च आहारविहारसेवानप्रतिपादनार्थं ऋतुचर्याया: । 

ṛtuviśeṣavaṣācca āhāravihārasevānapratipādanārthaṃ ṛtucaryāyā 

There occur some special changes in environment and humans in every Ritu and hence certain foods and exercises are specifically told for each Ritu, this process is as Ritucharya ऋतुचर्या
Source – (अरुणदत्त (aruṇadatta) commentary on अष्टांग ह्रुदय सूत्र  ३/१ (aṣṭāṃga hrudaya sūtra 3.1)

 

Why RituCharya ऋतुचर्या is necessary?

There occur certain seasonal changes in the Dosha’s (software of our body- Vata, Pitta, Kapha) – read more about Doshas here 

There are mainly 3 changes –

1. चय (caya) – accumulation of deranged Doshas in its main site like Vata dosha in the intestine),

2. प्रकोप (prakopa) – accumulation of deranged Doshas in other main seats in the body like Vata Dosha in the low back region) and

3. प्रशम (raśama) Dosha’s coming back to normalcy after derangement

This derangement occurs in the following order in respective Ritus

दोष (Dosha) चय (Chaya) प्रकोप (Prakopa) प्रशम (Prasama)
Vata Grisma (summer) Varsha (rainy) Sharat (autumn)
Pitta Varsha (rainy) Sharat (Autumn) Hemanta (early winter)
Kapha Shishira (winter) Vasanta (spring) Grishma (summer)

If you are confused as to how you should read this table, worry not, it is natural.
Here is one example – Vata accumulates in intestines during Grishma Ritu (summer) and accumulates in lower back region in Varsha (rainy) season, and it finally becomes normal in Sharat (autumn) season.
Hope this example helps you read the table better.

What we discussed in this subsection is given in this Shloka –

चय-प्रकोप-प्रशम: वायो: ग्रीष्मादिषु त्रिषु ।
वर्षादिषु तु पित्तस्य श्लेष्मण: शिशिरादिषु ।। – अष्टांग हृदय सूत्र

caya-prakopa-praśama: vāyoho grīṣmādiṣu triṣu ।
varṣādiṣu tu pittasya śleṣmaṇa: śiśirādiṣu ।। – aṣṭāṃga hrudaya sūtra


When these Doshas get deranged, they cause diseases based on the Srotus (organ system or channels in our body) that it affects to a particular individual. For eg. bronchitis in winter, stomach infections in monsoon, etc in individuals prone to these diseases. To bring back these deranged Doshas into normalcy, seasonal regimens are to be followed.

Let’s look at the recommended habits and regimen for each Ritu –

 

Ritucharya for हेमन्त (hemanta) and शिशिर (śiśira)

हेमन्त (hemanta) (early winter, mid-November to mid-January),
शिशिर (śiśira) (late winter, mid-January to mid-march)

Cold environment causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels in the periphery leading to more blood supply to the core, which leads to secretion of digestive juices in the stomach, ultimately it means more hunger than any other seasons.
Cold and dry winds reduce the moisture in the skin; contraction of muscles which leads to heat generation in the body. Hence application of oil or moisturizer helps the skin, it also increases peripheral blood supply and relaxes the muscles.
Wine and rum increase peripheral blood supply, giving a sense of warmth in a cold environment.
According to Ayurveda, Lavana (salty), Amla (sour) and unctuous food are heavy to digest and are apt to be used when there is more digestive fire to digest it.

Rutucharya-Hemant-Shishir


Environmental changes:
 Dry and cold winds, intense sunlight.

Bodily changes: Digestive fire is increased as cold weather blocks heat in the periphery of one’s body (vasoconstriction). Accumulation of deranged Kapha dosha begins, which leads to diseases like asthma, common cold, diabetes mellitus, Atherosclerosis, etc.

Ahara (Diet): Eating Sour, salty, heavy, unctuous, thick meals. Using more by-products of sugar cane, gram/wheat flour. Drinking milk and milk products, wine, rum, and hot water are recommended.

Vihara (lifestyle): Abhyanga (application of oil to the whole body), Utsadana (applying medicated powder of drugs to the body), oil to the scalp. Staying in warm and less windy places. Warm clothes are recommended.

To be avoided: too much of Spicy (black pepper, capsicum, etc), bitter (bitter gourd, Guduchi leaf, broccoli, etc.), astringent (cauliflower, potato, etc.) food is to be avoided or eaten less. Exposure to cold winds as well as consuming cold drinks and foods are to be avoided too. Avoid sleeping during day time.

 

Ritucharya for वसन्त (vasanta)

वसन्त (spring- mid-march to mid-may)

Spring season is marked by longer day time with more exposure to sunlight. Sunlight exposure leads to the release of hormone serotonin in the human body, leading to a better mood. During the long darkness of winter months, the body naturally produces more melatonin. For people prone to seasonal affective disorder, all that melatonin triggers a winter depression. In spring, when melatonin production eases up, so does depression.
Rutucharya-Vasanta

Environmental changes: increased intensity of sunlight than in Shishira Ritu.

Bodily changes: Deranged Kapha dosha accumulated in Shishira Ritu is liquefied in Vasanth Ritu leading to reduced digestive fire resulting in many diseases or aggravation of diseases that were there in winter. Moderate बल (strength) present in humans.

Ahara(diet): old यव (barley), गोधूम (wheat), rice, green gram, and lentil to be consumed. Food tasting predominantly Tikta (bitter), Katu (pungent) and Kashaya (astringent) which are light for digestion are to be consumed. Drinking liquids like honey mixed with water recommended.

Vihara (lifestyle):

Vamana therapy – medicated vomiting exercise

Udvartana – rubbing medicated dry powders over the body before bath)

Dhumapana – inhaling and exhaling smoke of specific medicines for a certain time according to the diseases, body type, etc.

Kavala Graha – filling the mouth with medicated oil, medicine decoction or hot water till mouth fills with saliva

Anjana (collyrium) – applying a medicated paste from inner edge to outer edge of the lower eyelid

Sexual intercourse – once every three day-one way to reduce deranged Kapha dosha

To be avoided: Eating sweet, sour, salty and oily food which is heavy for digestion and sleeping in the day time is to be avoided.

 

Ritucharya for ग्रीष्म (Grishma)

ग्रीष्म (Summer- mid-May to mid-July)
Ritucharya Grishma Ritu


Environmental changes:
 The intensity of मयूख (mayūkha, Sunlight) is at its peak.

Bodily changes: There is a maximum loss of सौम्य (saumya, moisture like constituents) in one’s body, leading to least बल (strength). Deranged Kapha dosha comes back to normalcy due to seasonal changes and Deranged Vata dosha starts accumulating in its main site.

Ahara(diet): स्वादु (sweet), शीतं (cooling), द्रवं (liquids) and स्निग्ध (unctuous) food and drinks, मन्थं (churned juice of sweet and sour fruits with water and sugar), ghee, milk, rice can be consumed.

Those who are habituated of drinking मद्य (fermented drinks-wine, rum, etc) should drink in the least quantity or with food or by diluting it with more water.

Vihara (lifestyle):

During day time, one should stay in cold places or home and at night, one should sleep under the moonlight by applying Chandana (sandalwood powder) to his/her body.

More cooling drugs like Chandana, Ushira (vitiveria zizanoides) are to be kept in water for touching frequently and cooling one’s body. Wearing pearls, corals made jewelry at night and visiting cool forest areas and water bodies filled with flowers is recommended.

To be avoided:  लवण (salty), अम्ल (sour), कटू (pungent) and उष्ण (hot) food and drinks are to be taken less or avoided.

व्यायामं (exercise) is best avoided in this season, as there is the least strength in body.

There is loss of fluids in the form of sweat during the summer season, hence more liquids are preferred in the form of juices and more carbohydrate-rich foods like rice which provides quick energy is advised in this season. 

It’s told in Ayurveda that the people and plants from dry regions have more strength and endurance against diseases than those in regions of more rainfall. Since animals of dry regions are stronger and light to digest, they are preferred in summer season as meat in Ayurveda.

In Ayurveda, pearls are said to have a cooling effect on the body if worn or taken internally after proper processing. As it is formed in the ocean, that is cool, its effect on one’s body is also cooling.

 

World Health Day

Also today is the World Health Day, here is a Shloka for the same.

World Health Day

Conclusion

We hope you liked this article, we will be covering rest of the Ritus in part 2.

Also today is the World Health Day, here is a Shloka for the same.

Please let us know if we have missed out on something or if there is anything specific you’d like us to cover.


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