Ayurveda is a deep science describing a full spectrum of elemental interactions including everything from gut flora to environmental toxicity and how to maintain one in relation to the other. One of the most fascinating aspects of Ayurveda is the knowledge of interlocking life cycles. Ayurveda advises particular lifestyle choices based in part upon intricate clockworks of daily, seasonal and generational life cycles.
Our topic today concerns the Northern hemisphere’s current transition from Spring to Summer. Of course, the classical texts of Ayurveda were composed in India and are thus based around climate patterns of that region. The texts base their seasonal regimen on a six-season climate, which includes a monsoon season. In most of North America, we know nothing of monsoons.
Further confusing the issue is the fact of drastically shifting climate patterns around the globe. Such erratic weather is hardly unique to this region, and we as Ayurvedic practioners and a species must adapt accordingly. For the purposes of this particular piece of writing, let’s assume Spring is giving way to summer more or less the way it has for thousands of years now.
Ayurvedically, Spring is one of the most complex times of year. As temperatures rise, the kapha built up during winter hibernation begins to melt away. This accounts for all the runny noses and chest colds so common in March and April, and makes it an ideal time to support the natural elimination process with a cleansing regimen appropriate to individual constitution.
Spring is a season of transition, where variable weather is to be expected. It can be hot and sunny one day (pitta!), cold and rainy the next (kapha!). All this variability is highly aggravating to vata. Whereas Winter tends to aggravate kapha, Summer pushes pitta and Autumn provokes vata, Spring is complex because all three doshas are in play. Again, this is why Spring is the most auspicious time of year to purify the mind and body. Such practices can have far-reaching effects in terms of preventing disease and promoting radiant health.
Before offering specific suggestions for managing the current transition to summer, I am compelled to remind everyone that the power and beauty of Ayurveda is derived from its focus on the individual. There are no cookie cutter treatments. Everyone has a unique health history that informs how best to approach their present condition. That being said, we can offer some general guidelines to help those in robust health maintain and increase that state of wellness.
In Sanskrit, the hottest time of year is called Grishma. Traditionally, it is associated with the time period from May through July, but you can make the appropriate translation for the climate where you reside.
At this time of year, kapha decreases, and pitta tends to increase. In the diet, salty, pungent and sour tastes should be minimized as these further increase pitta dosha. Foods that are sweet, light, fatty, cold and liquid are favored. For example, here is a recipe for a Coconut Turmeric Lassi Popsicle featuring cucumber, mint and coconut, this is one of the most cooling recipes possible, great for sustaining you on the hottest days. This recipe is best taken independently of meals, as its extreme coolness will have a dampening effect on agni, the digestive fire.
Agni is strongest during the winter and weakest during the summer months. When external heat goes up, internal heat naturally goes down. Therefore light foods like fresh fruits and salad are recommended, although it is important to note that raw vegetables are very difficult to digest, so it is still best to cook your veggies, however lightly.
During Grishma, the classical texts prescribe days spent in the shade of a forest, and sleeping with flower petals. Alakananda Ma is a strong advocate of moon-bathing to soothe pitta. This practice is just like sun-bathing, except under the (preferably full) moon. Wear all-white, wear pearls if you have them. Anoint yourself with sandalwood, vetiver or camphor oils. Drink milk from a silver cup, sit in the cool grass and gaze at the moon.
Such practices also promote ojas, which is the subtle form of kapha. Ojas is related to immune system strength, sexual fluids, and is said to be the very substance of which our subtle body is composed. Ojas is commonly dimished when pitta, or its subtle form tejas, is too high and literally burning off vital substances. While it is natural to allow kapha to subside in the summer, as with all things Ayurveda, moderation is the name of the game.
Above all, remember to be gentle with yourself. It is very easy to over exert and literally burn yourself out during the summer months, leaving you especially susceptible to disease in the vata-aggravating Autumn months, when all that pitta stored up will want to be released. Abiding by these and similar guidelines, you can avoid the burnout and enjoy a happy, healthy summer.
If you have any questions, please comment or reach out! Many blessings.