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RITU CHARYA - moving from Winter into Spring

the science of working with seasonal change

Ritu = seasons

Charya = regime, rules, discipline

Ayurveda teaches that we are a “microcosm of the macrocosm.”

As a part of the macrocosm, we respond to the changes in the environment around us. When the weather changes, it can affect our health and well-being. Ayurveda recognized a critical period extending from the last 15 days of one season into the first 15 days of the next season. Ritu Sandhi (meaning “seasons” - in between) describes this transitional period.

At the beginning of each season, the qualities of that season begin to accumulate. When nearing the end of that same season, the qualities can become aggravated. It is in this transition between seasons we ( as a microcosm of the macrocosm) run the risk of doshic imbalance and become more susceptible to dis-ease. When we gradually shift with the seasons, we can move from one to the other healthier and more easily.

As we begin to move out of winter, here in the Midwest, we are all dreaming of the warmth of summer. We are poised at the juncture between winter and spring when Kapha's heavy, wet, congestive qualities have been building and accumulating. We also tend to eat heavier foods during the winter months, so our bodies can stay warm and maintain normal body temperature. This may overwhelm our digestive fire (Agni) and result in poor digestion , which leads to an accumulation of toxins or ama in our system.

If not properly cleaned up and moved out at this time of ritu sandhi, the body and mind can become imbalanced by the excess accumulation and aggravation of each dosha. An example is - due to the dryness of winter, our body produces more mucous to help balance. This can be why we experience more seasonal allergies as we move from winter into spring.

As the earth and the macrocosm around us starts to warm up, if there is excess dampness and congestion in our bodies, it will present as runny noses, phlegm, congestion, and seasonal allergies.

So what to do during this transitional time? Here are a few simple ideas to adjust and move into the new spring season.

Slowly start to wake earlier…Kapha time of day begins at 6 am-10 am. With the darkness of winter, it is often cozy to stay in bed and hit the snooze alarm. Vata time extends from 2 am - 6 am when the light, subtle qualities of dawn begin to break thru. Waking early - before 6 am - will help the body and mind feel energized and less inert.

Get moving early in the day! The qualities of Vata present in the spring help us feel more light and mobile! Use that to your advantage to lessen winter stagnation - take a brisk walk through your neighborhood - enjoying the spring flowers and fresh air. Try an active morning yoga class to help melt away the accumulated Kapha of winter.

Have a cup of tea - Tulsi (holy basil) tea with a small amount of honey would be perfect! Tulsi is described as “the Queen of herbs” and is revered in Ayurveda. It has a gentle heating effect and helps to clear excess kapha from the lungs and upper respiratory tract. Ayurveda views honey as having a scraping effect and is considered a healing tonic - offering sweetness and digestive support.

Eat lighter - with an emphasis on pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. During the winter months, we often crave and eat more heavy, dense, caloric foods - which can help us to stay warm and fortified against the cold. This can also cause a Kapha accumulation in the physical body. So springtime is the time for favoring foods with pungent, astringent, bitter tastes - especially fresh greens like dandelion greens, mustard greens, arugula, spinach, kale, and asparagus will be perfect moving into spring. These could be added to soup or sautéed in a delicious stir fry.

● If you are moving from winter into spring with low energy, constipated, feeling heavy or sluggish, this may be the time for you to do a Spring cleanse. Eating a lighter diet for a few days or longer can help your digestive system clear away the toxins ( ama) weighing you down. Detoxifying in the spring is an important part of ritucharya, and can be done easily at home. Seek out a local Ayurveda professional to help you with this! This link to Banyan Botanicals Spring cleanse article will provide more details.

Happy Spring!!

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