By Doug Hyde
Ayurveda is an ancient natural health science that believes in maintaining a balance of energies within the body in accordance with the external environment in which it resides.
According to Ayurveda, everything in the universe is composed of 5 elements and these elements manifest as 3 Doshas (energies): Vata (Ether & Air), Pitta (Fire & Water) and Kapha (Water & Earth). With each season, an accumulation, alleviation or aggravation of one or more Doshas may occur, affecting our bodies either positively or negatively. The study of seasons is called Rtucharya and it provides information on diet, cleanses, herbal medicines and activities best suited to any particular season. This seasonal awareness allows us to live in balance and harmony with our environment.
Although Ayurveda offers a fairly straightforward approach to health, the complexities lie with balancing individual differences combined with seasonal variations. Nothing can be isolated and the whole picture must be examined before a problem is addressed or a solution sought. Awareness about your individual Dosha will allow you to completely embrace the Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Every person’s body is made up of the 3 Doshas in varying proportions, often with a predominance of one or more Dosha, or a combination such as “Vata Pitta”, “Pitta Kapha” or “Vata Kapha”. Each season will therefore affect people in different ways depending upon their constitution and health.
Ayurveda seeks to balance the body before it becomes aggravated. It anticipates imbalances before they arise, and in so doing, takes the correct measures to avoid or reduce the severity of the problem.
The Ayurvedic year is divided into 6 distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Rains, Autumn, Early Winter and Late Winter. Contrary to popular belief, what we typically believe to be summer (May until August) is actually made up of 2 specific seasons, namely Summer and the Rainy season.
Summertime is heralded by an energetic shift around mid-May; this lasts until mid July when it shifts again to the Rainy season. Luckily for us residing in Ireland, we do not experience the extremes of any season. Summer does not bring searing heat and dryness and the Rainy season does not translate into monsoons. Nevertheless, Summer in Ireland does follow the predetermined energetic pattern that Ayurveda suggests.
Vata (Ether & Air) is the main Dosha that accumulates during the summer months, but if the summer heat is excessive, Pitta (Fire & Water) may become slightly aggravated. Kapha (Water & Earth) is the only Dosha that is alleviated during summer, hence why it’s easier to lose weight.
To harmonize the body and offset external environmental factors there are a number of prescribed lifestyle and dietary recommendations. According to Ayurveda, this is the only time of year that laziness is actually prescribed. Siestas, gentle strolls and spending time soaking up nature’s splendour are all prescribed, whilst reducing strenuous tasks and arduous exercise is advised. Ancient texts suggest the cool environments of rivers, streams and ponds are ideal for summertime.
Ayurveda pays close attention to the 6 tastes in ones diet (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter & Astringent) as taste expresses the 5 elements manifesting in food. The external environment also has tastes. During the summer months, the Pungent taste (Air / Fire) is dominant, and to balance this some bitter foods and sweet tastes are advisable as they cool and soothe the body. Avoid foods and drinks that promote dryness and heat, such as heavy, pungent, salty or sour tasting food.
Generally, sweating is more frequent during the summer, and as a result, electrolytes and fluid are lost from the body. Also as a result, further drying can take place if the body is not adequately hydrated. Extra water alone is not sufficient as the body requires taste to process fluid properly. The Ayurvedic system recommends that you add flavour to your water, e.g. add a small amount of elderflower or rose cordial, a dash of pure juice or a squeeze of lime and ginger. Hydration is also assisted by consuming ripe fruits (summer stone fruits, berries, etc.) and cooling vegetables (leafy greens, salads, etc.), as they are essentially full of water, but have the added benefit of taste and vitamins. Many medicinal herbs can also be used to aid the cooling and soothing action sought, such as elderflower, marshmallow, rose, aloe vera, nettle, sandalwood, jasmine, etc.
The bottom line for this time of year is that it’s advisable to be flexible with your routine and avoid any extremes.
For more info: www.satmya.com