In its essence, Ayurveda is a road map to happier and healthier lives by accepting that we are a part of the natural world. A lot of lip service is paid to our individual constitutions and to vata, pitta and kapha. There is a growing understanding of this even among those who were once skeptical. There does seem to still be a bunch of confusion on the seasons and I hope we can gain greater clarification right here and now on this.
First off, in Ayurveda, the year is broken up in to six seasons. Each location may experience the seasonal changes in slightly different ways or barely feel one or more of these seasons but the underlying premise remains the same. It's not only about the day to day weather but also the relation of the sun and moon to our location.
The first group can be seen in the northern solstice:
The second group which resides in the southern solstice:
It is important to note this seasonal breakdown because in the northern solstice months the sun is said to deplete us gradually more and more each day, and in the southern solstice there is the opposite occurring with the sun and moon giving strength and nourishing respectively. This means that by the time early winter comes around, we are in our strongest period to build health and immunity for the whole year. That is when our digestive capacity is the strongest so we are encouraged to not only eat more heavy foods but also warm and even spicy foods as a way to maximize the nourishment from our food. It is a gradual build throughout the second half of the year to get our digestion back to its strongest and then it will start to wane again. By the middle of July, our digestion is at its weakest and it is when we need to rest as well as eat light and moist foods due to the powerful sun depleting and drying us out.
Each of the six seasons has a unique natural ebb and flow with respect to the doshas. Throughout the year each dosha will go into an accumulation stage, an excitation stage and a baseline, calmed stage. For example, vata accumulates in early summer, excites in late summer and is brought back to a calmed state in autumn. Pitta dosha accumulates in late summer, excites in autumn and calms down in early winter. Kapha accumulates in late winter, excites in spring and calms down in summer.
There is no such mention in Ayurveda of there being only three seasons known as “vata season”, “kapha season” or “pitta season”. I have read in many places over the years that the fall or early winter is considered "vata season" and since that is not what any traditional Ayurvedic texts have said, I am not sure where that misinformation began spreading. What is clear to me is that we live in a culture that is predominantly vata and so I do think that general lifestyle precautions on not increasing vata should be followed year round irregardless of what season it is. What you shouldn't do is jump right into all the strong and pungent spices without understanding that early fall in Ayurveda is actually the time of year where you still are in a stage of excited pitta. If it starts to cool down faster in your location then you can shift the dates above a little bit or not go too excessive on foods like cucumber or coconut. Still, you never should shift your seasonal foods too fast. Check in with your body and make smooth transitions. The few weeks in between seasons is the time where more conditions and diseases are kicked into gear than any other.
Stay tuned for seasonal recommendations as the Year goes on...