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Health Corner - Ritucharya For Winter

Pratibha Shah
01/29/2009

Ritucharya for Winter

Hello everyone. Continuing on the tips to tackle the harsh winter weather, I’ll be sharing with you the Winter Regimen or Ritu (Season) charya (activities or regimen) for Winter, in this article.

Ancient treatises of Ayurved, describe two subjects (besides others) that are distinctly unique to this Science, in great detail. One is Dinacharya or the daily regimen, and the other is Ritucharya or the Seasonal Regimen.

According to the Hindu calendar, the month of Magh is about to start. We are currently in the month of Paush. Margshirsh and Paush constitute the Hemant Ritu, and Magh and Phalgun constitute the Shishir Ritu. Together, Hemant and Shishir Ritu constitute the winter season. According to Ayurved, these are the two months when the ‘shareer bal’ or physical strength and ‘jathragni bal’ or digestive fire is at their maximum, by virtue of the Sun just coming out of it’s Southern cycle and moving into the Northern cycle. It is also the time when ‘Vaayu’ dosha tends to get aggravated.

Here are some of the salient dos and don’ts as described in Ayurvedic treatises:
One should-
•    Have food predominant in Madhur (sweet), Amla (sour) and Lavana (salty) rasas, as these are the rasas that pacify vaayu dosha.
•    Have sumptuous breakfast in the morning, as nights are longer in winters and by nature of the season, jathragni or the digestive fire is very strong.
•    Massage the body with suitable oil, preferably an oil processed with herbs that pacify Vaayu dosha. Head massage is also recommended. Massage not only generates heat, thereby providing respite from the cold, but it also keeps vaayu dosha from getting aggravated. A morning ritual of oil massage also keeps dryness at bay.
•    Do vigorous exercises. In the treatises, wrestling is recommended, but in its absence, aerobic exercises or other forms of physical exercise routine can be followed.
•    NOT take bath with alkaline products like soap, as they cause dryness. Instead astringent substances like coarse powder of ‘amla’ (gooseberry), ‘shikakai’ (soap nut), ‘besan’ (gram flour), etc. may be used to remove the oil from the skin.
•    Have a shower or tub bath with soothingly warm water.
•    After bath, apply ‘lep’ (anointment) of heat generating herbs like ‘kesar’ (saffron), ‘aguru’ (aloe wood), the big cardamom, sea coconut, etc. The powders of these herbs can be used.
•    Do ‘dhoop’ (inundation of the room with smoke emanating from the embers of an herb) of aguru in the room. Inhalation of the ‘dhoop’ from aguru keeps the respiratory passage clear, and removes phlegm if there is any.
•    Eat creamy rich soups, meat of animals that live in burrows*, and of birds like hawks and crows*, jaggery (a form of unrefined sugar), mishri (unbleached sugar) and products made from jaggery, alcoholic beverages like wine, brandy, and others, wheat and wheat products, urad or black gram, milk and milk products, new grains such as rice, and other nutrition rich diet like dates, dry fruits, etc. Liberal use of ghee and oil is also recommended; however in today’s scenario, I would not encourage that, as our lifestyles are much more sedentary, as compared to the rigorous lifestyles of earlier times. However, if someone is in a profession that is physically demanding, and do not have or are not at the risk of having, high cholesterol or heart disease, then they are free to use ghee and oil with less restraint.   
(* as described in ancient Ayurvedic texts.)
•    Use lukewarm water for washing and bathing.
•    Use warm but light beddings for sleeping. The fabrics that are mentioned are: silk, leather, jute, thick cotton, wool, amongst others. Blankets, cotton filled quilts, comforters may be used. These days we have new materials like fleece, chenille, down feathers, etc. being used for winter jackets and beddings. These may be used too.
•    Live in warm underground houses or houses that have warm central chambers*.
Sauna type rooms are also described in great detail*.
* As described in ancient Ayurvedic texts.
•    Expose oneself to morning sunrays for natural sudation (sweating). Of course, in today’s world of modern gadgets, one can go to a sauna even after sunset, but if the weather is not too harsh and you can find the time for it, there is nothing like letting the sunrays bathe over you in the freshness of morning air.
•    NOT expose oneself too much to the harsh weather; NOT eat food that is light in digestion or predominantly liquid; please DO NOT fast in winters.

Before ending this article, I’d like to share with you a very nourishing mixture that can be prepared at home and be used by children, adults and elderly to keep some of the winter troubles at bay. Take 1 part each of almonds, kernels of watermelon seeds, cantaloupe seeds and pumpkin seeds; white peppers or black peppers one-fourth part, and mishri equal to all the above ingredients. Grind all the above ingredients and store in a clean glass jar. Give one spoon twice a day with milk, to all family members. This is an excellent nutritious mix, rich in proteins and beneficial oils.

Stay warm and stay healthy. Will be back soon with more.



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