Seasonal wellbeing with Ayurveda
Balance the energies of each season, reattune yourself to nature’s rhythms, and thrive all year round.
Have you ever woken up with the sunrise? Or slept under the stars? How about adjusting the produce you purchase each season or changing the types of meals you cook as the year moves on?
Aligning with the natural world, its patterns, and the ebbs and flows of the seasons can bring about a sense of balance and contentment. But modern life can mask these natural cues for nourishment. Our working days mean many of us spend more hours indoors than we’d like, light pollution can block out the stars above, and seasonal foods are now available all year round. It’s easy to lose touch with nature’s beat and instead march on to some other drum.
Ayurveda, the world’s oldest holistic health system, can help us realign with nature’s rhythms. Originating in the Indian subcontinent, Ayurveda combines two Sanskrit words: ayur (meaning life) and veda (meaning science). It is, in essence, a science of life. This ancient Indian practice emphasises that bodies don’t exist in exception to the natural world, but instead are integrated with it and dependent on it for wellbeing.
This brief introduction to the seasons according to the Ayurvedic doshas will help you adapt and thrive throughout the year, finding balance and working with the energies of each.
THE THREE DOSHAS
In Ayurveda, there are three energy patterns called doshas. Vata dosha is characterised as cool, rough, dry, and erratic. Pitta’s qualities are hot, sharp, light, and mobile. And kapha can be described as cold, heavy, dull, and slow. A unique combination of these doshas is said to be present in every person.
Ayurveda divides the year according to the doshas: vata season is late autumn to early winter, kapha season is midwinter to spring, and pitta season encompasses summer. Claire Paphitis, The Ayurveda Coach, explains, “Ayurveda is about navigating the delicate balance between what our internal world is telling us and what is happening in the external world, so it’s important to understand the qualities of the seasons according to the dosha governing them.”
A basic principle in Ayurveda is that ‘like increases like’ while opposite qualities restore balance. Practically, this means making diet and lifestyle choices that counter the effects of each season. Bex Shindler from The Mindful Kitchen is a plant-based chef with a passion for Ayurvedic nutrition and wellness. She says, “We can maximise our health and wellbeing when we harness the different energies that rise and fall throughout the year and learn how to ride these waves.” By adapting to each season, you can help deter seasonal ailments and bloom all year round.
Beautifully coloured leaves on the trees begin to drift and fall. The wind is blowing, the temperature is dropping, and soon autumn will turn into winter. Consider how the dry and erratic qualities of vata prevail in this period.
Balance these qualities by focusing on warmth, moisture, and stability. Bex recommends cooked root vegetables, cool-weather greens like kale, and legumes such as red lentils. Claire suggests cooking with healthy oils to balance the dryness of vata and seasoning with plenty of warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. To pacify your sweet tooth, favour heavy fruits such as bananas, apples, and pears.
Incorporate more stability into your life by focusing on establishing a routine. Wake up early to ease yourself into the day with silence and stillness. You might even include a 10-minute meditation to balance the mind. Try eating meals and exercising at consistent times. Finally, finish your day by soothing yourself with a self-massage using a warming oil such as sesame or almond. Weave these vata-balancing practices into your life, and you’ll enjoy this season feeling centred and calm.
Cool weather, a heaviness in the air, and rain trickling down the window. It’s kapha season, marked by wintery weather.
Claire explains that at the start of this season we are drawn to heavier foods, flavoured with the kind of spices that make them easier to digest, like nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom. Though nature begins to reawaken towards the end of this season, an excess of kapha can leave you feeling lethargic. To re-energise, turn to foods that are lighter, drier, and warming.
Claire suggests lighter grains, such as quinoa or barley, which dry out some of the dampness and cold that has accumulated. According to Bex, this is the perfect time to focus on foods that support your body’s natural cleansing and fat-burning processes. She recommends pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes found in greens such as rocket, broccoli, and cabbage. Be aware, the key to kapha season is to avoid overindulging.
Waking up early and starting with movement can be beneficial in this season. In the Ayurvedic clock, kapha time is between 6 am and 10 am. Try rising and getting active during this period, whether it’s a run, bike ride, or dance to your favourite song. If you focus on boosting your energy, you’ll be better able to enjoy the beauty of the season.
Containing the longest days, the brightest sun, and the most intense heat, summer represents pitta season. To thrive in this season, focus on staying calm and cool.
In Ayurveda, the agni, or digestive fire, is a strong source of internal heat. When the environment is hot, it disperses to keep you cool. Hence, in summer, you naturally crave light foods and small meals that are easy to digest. “To alleviate discomfort from the sharp, oily qualities of heat and humidity,” Bex says, “choose refreshing foods that lighten the body and keep the system cool.”
Think light proteins like mung beans and tofu, and cooling foods such as coriander, mint, cucumber, celery, fennel, and melon. Claire warns that sour tastes are particularly aggravating to pitta, so hold back on fermented foods, vinegars, and mustards.
To prevent overheating, stay out of the direct sun during pitta time (10 am to 2 pm). Restore your mental and physical energy by practising restorative movement, like yin yoga or gentle swimming. Find ways to stay fresh, and you’ll have lots of fun in pitta season.
As the doshas are expressed uniquely in each person, the seasons affect us all differently. By understanding the qualities of each season, you can bring your body back to equilibrium with the help of Ayurvedic knowledge, connecting to the rhythms of nature, helping you to bloom all year round.