Developing A Natural Rhythm:
As the earth moves through seasons based on its position to the sun, all of nature experiences change. While weather fluctuates through out the year, food sources and availability naturally do as well; berries can be picked as early as spring, while winter squash is typically harvested in fall, etc.
Humans also move through a natural rhythm that is reflective of the earth’s changes and (by no coincidence) supported by the foods able to grow during each season. However as many of us live detached from nature and among conveniences of the modern world, we may be less perceptive to physical and emotional changes that occur through out the year. By reconnecting with nature’s cyclical patterns through food choices, sleep habits, and activity levels appropriate for each season, we can begin to navigate these changes and take control of our health.
“By reconnecting with nature’s cyclical patterns through food choices, sleep habits, and activity levels appropriate for each season, we can begin to navigate these changes and take control of our health.”
The idea of a “Dosha” or “constitution” is based on the fluctuation of energy that occurs within humans as the seasons change. Ayurveda teaches there are three Doshas, or energies, within us at all times: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Each Dosha predominates during a particular season, while the other two become less evident.
As fall begins, temperatures cool and the days shorten. At this time we begin to crave heavier foods in preparation for a cold winter. Winter is a time for more sleep and reflection. This is when Vata energy is greatest. In the spring, as the earth is thawed and new life begins to sprout, we too attempt to awaken our bodies with less sleep, more activity, and lighter foods. Spring is the season of Kapha. In the heat of summer, we become even more lively and mobile, reveling in opportunities for fun and excitement. Pitta energy is high during this time, an intensity that requires calming and cooling foods. And the cycle begins again.
“When a person is not perceptive to these natural rhythms, or makes inappropriate food or lifestyle choices during a given season… this can lead to varying emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences depending upon the time of year and the individual.”
When a person is not perceptive to these natural rhythms, or makes inappropriate food or lifestyle choices during a given season, they will become imbalanced or stuck in a particular Dosha. This can lead to varying emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences depending upon the time of year and the individual.
How do we find balance?
Below is a brief guideline of recommendations for each Dosha and its respective season. Please keep in mind – individuals have varying needs and may require something other than what is listed, particularly if they are predominant in a different Dosha, or have Dual or Tri-Doshic constitutions (e.g., Kapha-Pitta, Kapha-Pitta-Vata, etc.)
Spring: The season of Kapha
- When Balanced: calm, grounded, and empathetic; shows endurance and stamina with activities
- When Imbalanced: lethargic, perhaps depressed, jealous, possessive, and slow; prone to increased congestion or phlegm, excessive weight gain, edema and water retention, headache, and diabetes type II
- Inappropriate Food Choices: fatty, oily, and/or sweet foods; alcohol and other depressants; excessive dairy, especially ice cream; processed carbohydrates and wheat in general
- Healing Food Choices: apples, berries, sprouts, spaghetti squash, leafy greens, summer squash, buckwheat, quinoa, basmati rice, polenta, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, chicken breast and other white meat, freshwater fish, raw honey, flaxseed and sunflower oils
- Herbs & Spices to Enjoy: basil, black pepper, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, dill, fenugreek, fennel seed, parsley, peppermint, paprika, rosemary, saffron, thyme, turmeric, vanilla
- Herbs & Spices to Avoid: salt
- Activity Level: vigorous and frequent
- Lifestyle Recommendations: allow excitement and change into your life; reduce thoughts of possessiveness and jealousy – let go of the need for control
Summer: The season of PITTa
- When Balanced: passionate and expressive, showing determination, initiative, and self-agency
- When Imbalanced: short-tempered, easily frustrated and angry; prone to skin rashes, stomach ulcers, acne, acid reflux, excessive urination, and inflammatory conditions
- Inappropriate Food Choices: alcohol, spicy foods, excessive meat (especially dark and oily meat), excessive salt, hard and aged cheese
- Healing Food Choices: raw or semi cooked vegetables, berries, coconut, dates, avocados, mushrooms, sweet peas and peppers, wheat, quinoa, white and basmati rice, pasta, black beans, chickpeas, tofu, soft cheese, bison, turkey and chicken (white meat), shrimp, freshwater fish, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, canola oil, turbindo sugar, maple syrup
- Herbs & Spices to Enjoy: fresh basil, cardamom, coriander, cilantro, cumin, dill, mint, fennel seed, fresh ginger, vanilla, turmeric, saffron, peppermint
- Herbs & Spices to Avoid: dry basil, cayenne, fenugreek, cloves, powdered ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, salt, thyme
- Activity Level: Moderate, during cooler times of the day (i.e., morning and night)
- Lifestyle Recommendations: keep cool physically and mentally – find shade, or water, and meditate; express your emotions in a way that will not harm others
Fall & winter: the season of Vata
- When Balanced: creative and emotionally aware, light in spirit and frequently in motion
- When Imbalanced: fearful, skittish, ungrounded, and anxious; prone to insomnia, memory loss, bloating, joint pain, dry skin and brittle nails, hair loss, constipation, weight loss, and osteoporosis
- Inappropriate Food Choices: raw vegetables, lettuce, pasta, beans, popcorn, frozen and dehydrated food; caffeine and chocolate
- Healing Food Choices: cooked vegetables – especially asparagus, beets, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, and (summer and winter) squash; kiwi, pineapple, dates, ripe bananas, wheat, oats (cooked), quinoa, tofu, red lentils, soft cheese, yogurt, milk, nuts, dark meat, red meat, eggs, saltwater and freshwater fish, avocado oil, sesame oil, tahini, molasses, maple syrup
- Herbs & Spices to Enjoy: anise, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, mint, mustard, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, salt, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, vanilla
- Herbs & Spices to Avoid: cayenne, chili powder, horseradish
- Activity Level: light to moderate on most days, preferably at the same time of day
- Lifestyle Recommendations: find routine and grounding activities; sleep and eat more; create a safe and calming environment at home; reduce travel if it is provoking anxiety or insomnia
General Do’s and Don’ts all year round:
- Do shop locally for seasonal and fresh produce, or grow your own!
- Don’t over indulge in greasy, salty, heavy, frozen, or sugary foods
- Do allow yourself to get hungry before meals and eat enough to stay full until the next one
- Don’t eat too many leftovers – eat fresh 🙂
- Do enjoy plenty of fruit, but eat it alone rather than with other food – it’s easier to digest
- Don’t eat a large meal right before bedtime – allow 2-3 hours before sleeping
- Do cook more! Add plenty of herbs and spices appropriate for your constitution
A diet of inclusion:
Provided your daily rhythm and lifestyle choices are moving naturally with the seasons, no food (aside from processed food) is truly excluded from your diet. This is because all food is considered to have a medicinal purpose when ingested at the right time.
“Provided your daily rhythm and lifestyle choices are moving naturally with the seasons, no food (aside from processed food) is truly excluded from your diet. This is because all food is considered to have a medicinal purpose when ingested at the right time.”
By understanding how the Kapha, Pitta, and Vata energies ebb and flow through out the year, you can begin to make some reasonable choices toward better health. A step further is discovering your specific Dosha profile, or to what proportion these energies reside within you.
Click here for my next post: Discovering Your Dosha