Here we take a look at what rtucharya is and what Ayurveda prescribes for the summer including lifestyle guidelines, summer diet, and herbs for the summer season.
Ayurveda emphasizes a rhythmic and cyclical view of life. These rhythms are characterized largely by the fluctuations of elements and doshas both within an individual’s psychophysiology, as well as, in the surrounding environment.
On an internal level, humans are said to undergo different doshic periods according to stages of life. Infancy is said to be characterized by Kapha, middle age by Pitta, and old age by Vata.
Externally, on the other hand, we are exposed to daily rhythms of dosha in our environment: Vata from 2-6 AM and PM, Pitta from 10-2 AM and PM, and Kapha from 6-10 AM and PM.
These rhythms can similarly be found in relationships, career, bodily systems, and sleep/wake patterns as well as geographic climate and seasonality.
Seasonal Living And Ayurveda
What is rtucharya? While dinacharya denotes our daily rhythms and balancing practices, rtucharya denotes seasonal rhythms and balancing practices.1
Part of adopting an Ayurvedic practice is to consider the ways in which our bodies relate to natural rhythms of the seasons and the fluctuations of elemental predominance therein in relation to our inner state of balance, or Prakṛti.
Just as Ayurveda shies away from offering a one-size-fits-all approach to individuals in diet and lifestyle recommendations, it shies away from offering a one-size-fits-all approach to recommendations for an individual.
This applies to the prescribed summer diet and lifestyle guidelines as well. The practice of Ayurveda, seen through the lenses of rtucharya, is dynamic and responsive.
Rtucharya, at its essence, is an acknowledgment of the interdependence of the elements, the interconnection between self and nature.
It is a call to enter into an intimate relationship with this ever-fluctuating state of balance through awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings to promote sustainable health and wellbeing.
Summer Season: Doshas And Qualities
In Ayurvedic medicine, summer season, also known as grishma, is characterized by the Pitta dosha, the fire and water elements, and the following qualities.
Summer Diet: Guidelines
It is best to follow a Pitta pacifying diet in the summer season. In the summer, sour, salty and pungent tastes will be more aggravating to the body, whereas sweet, bitter and astringent tastes will be more pacifying.
In the summertime, agni, the digestive fire of the body, is prone to become tikshna, or sharp. Some common signs and symptoms of tikshna agni are hyperacidity, acid reflux, GERD, diarrhea, insatiable hunger, and ulceration.
The following foods are excellent for bringing the Pitta dosha into equilibrium.
Take care to avoid sour citrus fruits, garlic, onion, hard cheeses, and heating alcoholic beverages (red wine, whiskey, rum) during the summer as these are particularly Pitta aggravating.
Summer Diet: Beverage Recipes For Pitta
Squeeze the juice of two limes into a quart of water. Add sugar to taste and a dash of salt for a refreshing and rehydrating summer beverage.
Blend 4 parts water with 1 part fresh yogurt until creamy. For a sweet version, add 1-2T of a natural sweetener or raw sugar. For a more traditional and savory version of the drink, add ½ t roasted cumin seeds or 1/4t cumin powder with a dash of ginger powder.
Coconut Cucumber Cooler
Finely slice one half of organic cucumber and stir into a quart of coconut water. Drink slightly cooled or at room temperature.
Add ½ C of a berry of your choice (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry) to a quart of water. Let steep with three sprigs of mint for an hour before drinking.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines For Summer
Sleep / Wake
Because of the warm weather and associated lethargy that may arise, summers are a time wherein napping for 30 minutes to one hour in the afternoon is indicated.
Moon bathing (chandra seva), the practice of laying under the light of the moon in the evening, is another practice which can calm and relax Pitta in the summer.
In the summertime, it is okay to go to bed a bit later (around 11 PM), because of the longer daylight hours.
During the summer, you might find that you wake up a bit earlier as well because of the earlier sunrise. Read on for more summer lifestyle guidelines.
Favor wearing white, gray, purple, blue and green colors in the summertime as they are cooling and Pitta pacifying in nature.
Avoid wearing red, yellow, dark orange and black as they are all Pitta aggravating and tend to retain heat. It is best to wear light, natural fabrics such as cotton or linen to avoid skin irritation.
It is best to avoid strenuous exercise during the summer and to overheat the body.
Favor more gentle yoga practices and include postures such as navasana (boat pose), dhanurasana (bow pose), and setu bandhasana (bridge pose), which are all said to have a Pitta pacifying effect. Moon salutations are also indicated for this season.
Shitali and sitkari are the two best cooling pranayama practices. In shitali pranayama, one curls the tongue and inhales through it like a straw.
The exhale is through the nose. In sitkari pranayama, one breathes in through closed teeth and exhales through the nose. Shitali is said to cool the GI tract more directly, whereas sitkari pranayama has a more cooling effect on the circulatory system.
For abhyanga (massage), favor cooling oils such as coconut and sunflower. Rose, Sandalwood, Vetiver, and Jasmine are all excellent essential oils to add to your abhyanga oil for the summer.
Cooling Herbs for the Summer Season
Shatavari – Shatavari is a bitter, sweet, cooling, and very nourishing rasayana (rejuvenating) herb which is said to help with bringing Pitta dosha to equilibrium.
Kutki – A Kapha and Pitta pacifying herb. Kutki is very cooling and bitter and is traditionally indicated for the detoxification of the liver and blood, both of which are intimately related to Pitta and the fire element which may be aggravated in the summer.
Guduchi – Guduchi is a bitter, astringent and sweet herb which is tridosha pacifying. It is said to be a rejuvenating and nutritive herb for Pitta dosha, and is able to help eliminate toxins (ama) without overheating the system.
Brahmi – Brahmi is a bitter, cooling and slightly sweet herb which may help with some of the Pitta related mental states (anger, envy, judgment, criticism) that individuals may be more prone to in the summer months.
Avipattikar Churna – this combination of herbs may help to control acid reflux as well as Pitta-type constipation.
Please consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before trying any herbs, therapies, remedies, or recipes mentioned in the article. Do not have these herbs/preparations if you are allergic to the herbs or ingredients.
- Thakkar, Jayesh. “Ritucharya: Answer to the Lifestyle Disorders.” org, 2011, www.ayujournal.org/temp/Ayu324466-4386593_121105.pdf