Human beings are in a continuous struggle against the ever changing environmental conditions to maintain optimum health and vigour throughout the day and in all seasons of the year. The existence of the human body depends on the continuous interaction in a holistic way between the internal environment and external factors. When this holistic interaction is in a state of equilibrium the human being enjoys health and when this fails either due to innate deficiency or hostile environmental factors, the balance is disturbed and leads to diseases and disharmony. Environmental factors include the nature of the land, water and various atmospheric phenomena such as temperature, humidity, wind, rain, snow etc. All these factors are continuously changing.
Rhythms in Nature and the Variation of Doshas
Of immediate interest to us are three levels at which there are rhythmatic variations of doshas. Two of these three are cycles at occur in nature, namely variation through the day during the course of twenty four hours and variations through the seasons during a year. The other is the variation during the course of a human life span.
There is a rhythmic variation in the predominance of doshas during the course of a day i.e. in twenty four hours. Starting from the period of sunrise, four hours each, are – Kapha, Pitta and Vata predominant after which the cycle repeats itself for the next twelve hours. For example if sunrise is at 6.00 A.M. on a particular day, then –
6 A.M . – 10 A.M. is Kapha period
10 A.M. – 2 A.M. is Pitta period and
2 P.M. – 6 A.M. is Vata period
Again in the evening and night
6 P.M . – 10 P.M. is Kapha period
10 P.M. – 2 A.M. is Pitta period and
2 A.M. – 6 A.M. is Vata period
Ayurvedic advice for a healthy daily regimen (Dinacharya) is drawn up, taking these rhythms into consideration. For example
An important aspect of good health is advice to get up daily at the `Bramha Muhurtham’ – this is a period immediately preceding sunrise. This as we can see, is `Vata period ‘. The natural urges of the body to defecate etc. which are controlled by Vata, help us if we get up at this time.
The Pitta period (10 A.M. – 2 P.M.) is the time when we are advised to take the major meal of the day. This is the time when the digestive power is strong.
The Kapha period (6A.M. – 10 P.M.) is the time of the day to perform various daily regimens, such as the use of eye ointments and nasal drops meant to control Kapha.
However this is a variation of a relatively small magnitude. A more significant variation is the variation of dosha predominance in nature through the year with the changing seasons. This is taken up in detail later.
Variation During an Individuals Lifetime
During the course of a human lifespan the predominance of doshas varies as follows –
First 1/3 of life (birth to 30 years) Kapha period
Second 1/3 of life (31 to 60 years) Pitta period
Last 1/3 of life (61 to end of life) Vata period
This mean that Kapha disorders will usually manifest themselves with extra vigour in Outh – one may get relief from chronic Kapha conditions as one goes on to middle age. Similarly chronic Vata disorders may manifest themselves with full vigour in old age.
The Tridoshas and Seasons
The environmental condition in various seasons and also the food habits of the individual may control his diet but cannot protect oneself totally against the environmental factors. These factors cast their influence on the entire system and bring about changes in the equilibrium of the doshas.
If the qualities of these factors are opposite to those of the constitutional qualities, the individual enjoys perfect health. On the contrary, if the qualities of the constitution are similar, the result would be accumulation of doshas and change in the equilibrium culminating in diseases. For eg. In winter, the cool and dry environment is beneficial for the Pitta constitution but is detrimental to individuals of Vata Constitution.
Relationship Between and Taste (Rasa)
Rasa or taste is an important nutritional concept in Ayurveda. Rasa is not merely incidental in terms of rendering the food palatable, but it is important in term of nutrition as well shall see below. As per Ayurveda, there are six rasas or tastes, namely Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavana (salt), Katu (pungent), Tiktha (bitter) and Kashya (astringent). Each rasa serves a specific nutritional purpose. For example Madhura rasa is needed to nourish the Rasa dhatu, to build body tissues etc. A balanced diet must have all the six rasas in a good balance. Rasas are also ultimately made up of the five mahabhootas. For example, Madhura rasa is composed of Prithvi and Teja. The components of various rasas in terms of Mahabhoothas is given in the table.
However it is also observed that specific rasas predominate in particular seasons and this has implications for how our food and regimen must change in various seasons. The predominance of a particular taste in a season can be illustrated from the following examples of Greeshma(Summer) and Varsha (Monsoon) seasons. In the summer months the sun’s rays are hot and all the directions appear to be blazing. Due to this extreme heat, roughness (rooksha) quality increases in the atmosphere. This rough (rooksha) and penetrative (teekshna) qualities are predominant in Vayu and Teja bhoothas which are also predominant in Katu rasa or pungent taste. Thus all living creatures on earth experience the pungent taste. Thus all living creatures on earth experience the pungent quality thereby causing increased roughness and dryness creating a parched condition in the body. Similarly, in Varsha (Mansoon) period which follows Greeshma(Summer) the rain drops falling on the parched earth creates warm fumes(bashpa). This increases the Prithvi and Teja bhoota is the atmosphere which is also predominantly sour and permeate all living creatures.