The Beauty of Ritucharya: Modifying Lifestyle According to Season

18th Apr 2023

Ritucharya is an ancient practice that connects individuals with their own, unique energies and the natural world around them according to season.

It makes sense to consider the seasons when planning out routines, and in fact, many of us do this without even realizing it, going to bed earlier in the winter and cooling off in the water during the summer.

Despite the ways modern technology allows us to create on-demand comfort in our living spaces, with heating and cooling systems, for example, we are still a part of nature and have a deep desire to connect with nature.

These practices originate from an ancient philosophy from a time when we were much more connected with the natural world. Not only does practicing seasonal routines help you feel more balanced as an individual, but this natural connection to the seasons is inherently fulfilling and satisfying.

Beauty of Ritucharya

What Is Ritucharya?

Ritucharya is a growing practice that originated in the traditional Ayurvedic philosophy of Kerala, India considered the key to balanced, healthy living.

Derived from the Sanskrit “Ritu-“ meaning “season” and “-charya” meaning “routine,” these practices lay out a set of guidelines for seasonal routines to best fit the needs of your constitutional energy.

This energy is your personal balance of the three doshic energies that make up the foundation of all of life’s energy–kapha, pitta, and vata. Commonly, one or two are most dominant, while the others reside within the body at lower levels. The unique combination and proportion of doshas you were born with is the optimal balance for your mind and body.

Doshas can shift with the seasons, requiring you to re-balance your constitution to accommodate the change in weather. For example, during summer, pitta is the predominant energy type that tends to run high and become aggravated by heat.

As a result, it is important to cool and calm pitta with a pitta-pacifying diet and a proper seasonal routine – or, ritucharya – as we’ll cover here.

The Difference Between Ritucharya and Dinacharya

If you’ve been researching Ayurvedic philosophy to live a better life, you might already be familiar with the -charya concept. What may not be so clear is the difference between ritucharya and dinacharya.

While these are similar concepts governing the rituals and habits of healthy living, ritucharya takes place on a larger, seasonal scale. Dinacharya, on the other hand, are healthy guidelines for daily habits and routines, typically targeted towards one primary dosha or another.

These guidelines for healthy living are all a part of the greater Ayurvedic philosophy of preventative health care and healthy living for longevity. These Ayurvedic principles are not something you have to follow to a tee but provide guidelines for balanced living based on the season or strongest doshic influence at a particular time of year, based on where you live. The better care you take of yourself, both in mind and body, the greater quality of life you will have.

Women doing yoga

How Ritucharya Can Improve Your Mind-Body Balance

Improving the balance between mind and body is difficult if you only try to do the work from within. Seasonal energies play a major role in our lives. There is always a seasonal influence, which is why it is difficult to modify lifestyle routines without considering external factors as well.

Only by working with the concepts of ritucharya and letting yourself flow with the natural change of energy in each season can you achieve complete balance. In balance, your mind and body are at ease with the external energy and qualities of the season.

For example, during winter – also known as kapha season – you might be inclined to laze around, expend little energy, and sleep in later. This is fine to a certain degree, but it is important to also keep your agni – or the natural digestive and energetic fire within you – burning brightly so you do not become lethargic and lose energy. By stimulating and lightening up kapha with energizing daily routines, you can ensure it doesn’t take too strong a hold during the wet and cold seasons so you can maintain optimal balance in both mind and body.

Helping You Align with the Seasons

By working with the seasons and incorporating this awareness into your everyday life, you can live in harmony with nature, a basic tenet of Ayurveda. Ritucharya came about during a time when people lived in closer relationships to the outdoors. During this time, people needed to live and work with the seasons, eating foods that balanced their minds and body with the external influence of the weather.

We still naturally do this! There’s a reason why a warm beverage on a cold night is so deeply satisfying, even when you have artificial heating added to your home. It may not be about survival anymore, but balancing your activities with the seasons is a healthy and nourishing way to live.

By aligning your diet and daily routine with the seasons, you can better connect with the natural cycle of the seasons and regain a connected balance. This allows you to gently sway with every ebb and flow of the doshas, rather than fight against the current.

The Six Ritu in Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, a year consists of not four, but six seasons which are also known as ‘ritu’.

These seasons are winter (Shishira), spring (Vasanta), summer (Grishma), monsoon (Varsha), autumn (Sharata), and finally, late autumn (Hemanta).

Because Ayurveda originated in India, you may not experience all of these seasons, depending on where you live. The seasons may change based on where you are in the world but understanding this still allows you to at least plan for the transitory periods between the seasons.

Ritucharya for Four Seasons

Winter (Shishira) – During this time, snow covers the ground, and we begin to lose the warmth of the previous season. By eating heavier foods and healthy fats, we can keep our energy levels high.

This, however, can turn into excess kapha unless we also include frequent exercise, as an example. Abhyanga oil massage is also popular during this season, as well as warm herbal tea.

Spring (Vasanta) – As the sun begins to warm the earth and melt the ice on the ground, the animals and plants around us wake up from their cold slumber. This also melts any stored kapha energies within the body and can dampen agni, or the digestive fire that keep us healthy and energetic.

To combat this, we must dry out the liquified kapha and keep the digestive fires lit. Nasya therapy is popular during this time along with including spices like black pepper, ginger, and chilies in your diet. While you need to incorporate warmth, spring is also the time to prepare for the upcoming, hot summer months.

Summer (Grishma) – During summer, life is exploding with activity and energy, but with all that life comes intense heat. Too much of this can cause tempers to flare, irritation, and excessive drying. Too much drying and heat will deplete or aggravate vata and digestive fires, causing heartburn and many other problems.

To keep pitta energy in check during summertime, make sure to consume plenty of water and cooling drinks like fruit juice. Take cool baths, avoid strenuous exercise, and opt for foods with high water content like watermelon and cucumbers. Incorporating ghee into your diet is a great way to keep the body system lubricated and nourished.  

Autumn (Sharata) – Autumn is a season of cooling, drying winds that prepare us for winter. This is a great time to begin waking up with the sun and going to bed earlier; you should also begin exercising frequently but not rigorously. Exercises like brisk walking and yoga are great during the autumn season to keep vata in check but should be maintained at a low intensity, avoiding anything too rigorous so that it doesn’t cause excessive drying. Abhyanga is a common practice during fall as it helps warm and lubricates the body.

Avoid cold or raw meals during this time and consume warm beverages and foods with a lot of liquid and healthy oils to help lubricate the digestive system. Consider adding spices like cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and cumin to your diet.

Also Read: Kapha Doshas 101: Which One Are You?

Why Is Ritucharya Important?

Our bodies are influenced by seasonal changes. In the same way that we respond differently to foods, botanicals, and different types of exercise in unique ways, our individual Ayurvedic constitutions also react differently to the seasons.

Warmth, for example, is something that vata needs during the colder months, but too much heat can cause vitiation of pitta. That is why in summer, we tend to exhibit more pitta qualities, a time when our bodies respond to the pitta energy of the season.

The world around us is always in flux, which is why it takes so much work to keep your doshas balanced. The more you learn about your unique constitution, the more intuitive it will become to stay in balance. You will intuitively make small changes to your habits and daily routine that will support a healthy transition to every season.

Ritucharya is key to staying in step with seasonal influences, keeping us in balance throughout the year.  

seasonal leaves

Transitioning to a New Routine Between Seasons

Regardless of what the calendar might indicate, there is no set date for the absolute transition to the seasons. The seasons in fact change very slowly, and there is a period of in-between where it’s not clearly one season, nor is it clearly the next. It is a transition period.

You, too, are a creature of transition. Adapting to new routines between seasons can be difficult, but there’s no reason to force it. Take your time and change your routines slowly, as it makes sense to you. By allowing yourself to go with the flow, you will figure out what makes the most sense for your mind and body at that time. It never has to be perfect, and there’s no such thing as ‘too early’, ‘on time’, or ‘too late’.