The summer heat is in full swing where I live. As the seasons continue to turn and a new spoke on the wheel passes us by, I’m struck with how our years have seasons, but our lives have seasons, too. Just like the doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, rise and fall among the seasons of the year, so, too, do they govern specific “seasons” of our lives. I find this duality and interconnectedness of Ayurveda to be so enthralling. I am mesmerized by the Divine, by nature, but how connected we are to our universe. So today, I’m talking about Ayurveda and the seasons of life.
Doshas And The Seasons Of Life
No matter what season we find ourselves in, we have a “ruling” dosha that governs much of that time. That is not to say that the other doshas aren’t present because all three are always evident in some manner. Still, depending on what part of our lives we are currently experiencing, one dosha becomes the majority. Which dosha is most present can affect how we should live day-to-day. It’s important to remember that just like winter does not immediately turn into spring, so, too, do the seasons of life slowly transition from one to another. The doshas fade one into another as well. Let’s discuss which doshas rule the different seasons of life and how that affects us and our routines.
It should come as no surprise that our first “season” of life is childhood. We see childhood as the period between birth and puberty. Childhood is a time of growth. Not only are we building new tissues, stronger bones, and physical strength; we are also growing our minds as we learn, as we step into the consciousness of our place in the world.
Kapha is dense, heavy, cool, slow, smooth, and soft. It lends the body structure, lubrication, cohesion, and hydration and supports growth and other anabolic processes. The Kapha dosha lends itself well to the season of childhood because children are gaining weight and growing. Their little bodies need all the Kapha energy to continue to grow rapidly and develop. In addition, Kapha regulates body fat, and children need that extra energy to fuel both their developing bodies and their daily energy stores. This fact is the reason many children are said to have a layer of “baby fat.”
Children often crave sweet, grounding anabolic foods, and for a good reason, these foods support the Kapha energy needed to fuel a growing body. Sweeter foods like root vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and milk are Kapha-type foods.
Kapha comes with vulnerabilities, too. This wet, heavy dosha lends itself to congestions, coughs, and colds that often plague us through childhood. Our children may be prone to sickness during their Kapha season of life, but this is also when and how they build their immune systems. We can support and balance our kids’ Kapha with warming digestive spices like garlic, ginger, and cinnamon. Light, warm, fibrous, and dry foods work wonders. A strong level of physical activity also helps balance Kapha (and better naps!).
Adulthood: The Pitta Season of Life
The Pitta season of life occurs when we enter puberty until we enter our elderhood at around age 50. Pitta is fire and water; it is light, hot, sharp, and spreading. The Pitta dosha governs digestion, absorption, transformation, and assimilation. Our adult stage of life is all about these functions; this is the time we experience most of life. We set out on our own, take in new experiences and information, digest it, and absorb it into ourselves. These experiences, in turn, transform us and help us to find and create our identity. Many adults experience their Pitta phase as a period of fiery ambition or sharp focus.
Pitta is fire, so an imbalance of Pitta in adulthood can cause issues like irritability, hyperacidity, and inflammation. To calm Pitta during the season of adulthood, favor cool foods to balance the inner heat and acidity. Choose sweet, bitter, astringent tastes and spices like mint, coriander, fennel, and cumin. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods. Combat the mental aspect of Pitta by focusing on your physical and emotional needs, practicing regular self-care, and allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Elderhood: The Vata Season of Life
Our life’s third and final season is elderhood, the period between when we turn 50 or so until we die. Vata is subtle: air and ether. It is light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, and clear. This dosha governs communication, creativity, flexibility, and movement. Elderhood is the time of our lives when we are most drawn to spiritual development, a time when our bodies lose resilience. In elderhood, we find mastery, grace, and wisdom. We do not encounter as much resistance as we move through the world. Like Vata, we are mobile and flexible. Though our bodies do not rejuvenate as they once did, we no longer need such healing capabilities as we have discovered how to navigate the Earth freely.
Too much Vata in Elderhood creates a build-up of dryness; dry skin, lack of lubrication in the joints, muscle deterioration, and arthritis are all common symptoms of elderhood and a Vata imbalance. Too much Vata can affect digestion, causing bloating, gas, constipation, and food sensitivities.
To balance cool Vata during this season of life, it’s essential to find and absorb warmth. One of the best ways to balance Vata during this life stage is to slow down and practice regular self-care. Support the fire of digestion, or Agni, with simple, whole foods. Favor sweet, salty, or sour foods, and cooked, soft, moist foods with easily digestible nutrients and healthy fats. Use seasonings like black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger. Avoid cold or frozen foods and drinks and dry foods like popcorn, crackers, and beans.
Moving Through the Seasons of Life
As the river of time flows on, we float along its path. We cannot stop our transition from one period of life to another any more than we can stop the flow of a river or winter turning to spring. As we embrace these changes in our lives, we can look to Ayurveda to help us maintain balance and thrive through all the phases we get to experience in this lifetime.