Spring and fall are the gap seasons between summer and winter. They are the recommended times of the year to change one’s diet, detox, and prepare for the next season. According to the Ayurvedic texts, the junction between the seasons is called ritu-sandhi, where ritu means season and sandhi means junction. It is said that the aggravation of the doshas and the beginning of dis-ease takes its first foothold during the changes of seasons. It is also said that cleansing seven days before and seven days after an equinox or solstice provides enhanced benefits for health and longevity.
In This Article
Light Changes Lead to Life Changes
During the early spring, the sun is still too low in the sky for a significant amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Infrared light, which predominates in early spring, has a long wavelength that penetrates heat deep into the tissues, warming us from the inside out. UV light has a shorter wavelength than infrared; UV light tends to bounce and bring heat only to the surface layers of the skin and eyes.
From the spring equinox to the summer solstice, the sun makes its way from the equator to the northernmost point of its annual journey. As the sun rises higher into the sky, it brings more ultraviolet radiation (both UVA + UVB) and a growing intensity of infrared light. In late June for the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice represents the longest day of the year, generating the most UV, infrared, and visible light of any day.
While many of us hide from UV radiation because of its potentially damaging effects, the rays are essential for our health and longevity. Research on UVA radiation won the Noble Prize in 1903 for treating lupus and other skin diseases, which is why photos of hospital beds lined up outside on hospital decks were commonplace in the early 1900s. UVB radiation has an even shorter wavelength than UVA radiation, making it primarily available during the midday hours of the summer (when the sun is high in the sky). UVB has been shown to boost vitamin D levels, energy production from the mitochondria, immunity, wound healing, hair growth, sexual attraction, and much more.
The Powerful Opportunity of a Seasonal Shift
Infrared light, predominating when the sun is lower in the sky, is responsible for the kapha qualities of spring. As we approach the solstice, the sun moves higher in the sky and the UVA / UVB radiation increases, bringing in the summer’s heat and pitta qualities.
As we near the end of spring, the qualities of kapha begin to accumulate. The longer days as we approach the solstice provide more heat from both UV and infrared light. This accumulation of heat leads to accelerated surface evaporation and spring rains. This causes the soil to hold more water. These kapha qualities also predispose us to holding on to more water. This can manifest in gaining unwanted pounds, just when you might be trying to lose some winter weight for the summer.
In nature, warm rains alongside the UV and infrared light combine to create the perfect environment for seeds to germinate, leaves to sprout, flowers to bud, and nectar to surge for the bees to pollinate. The pollens act as irritants to the sinuses, often resulting in seasonal congestion, eye irritation, and fatigue. These are all kapha qualities that are potentially aggravated in the spring. On the solstice, as spring reaches its end, these kapha qualities of heaviness, water, congestion, and irritation of the mucus membranes can accumulate, aggravate, and cause imbalance within our bodies.
Understanding Summer Solstice Sunlight
After the solstice in late June, the summer’s heat is in full throttle. This sparks growth for all forms of life. The UV radiation slowly begins to decline as the sun heads back toward the equator. However, the sun is still high enough in the sky to bring plenty of UV light—along with the highest amount of infrared light of the year.
There is also a thermal accumulation effect that allows the months of July, August, and September (in the northern hemisphere) to be the hottest, even though the days are getting shorter and the UV radiation is technically in decline.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, if the excess kapha that builds up at the end of spring is not cleared out by early summer, the pitta/summer’s heat driven by UV and infrared light can dry out. It can even bake the kapha or mucus into the deep tissues. This post-solstice heating effect can create what is called hardened mucoid material. This material can line the intestines and respiratory tract, compromising the function of both. A detox at this junction is important because both gut and respiratory immunity depend solely on the quality of the mucus membranes or inner skin that line those tissues.
Ayurveda understood that our health, well-being, and longevity depend on the quality of the internal environment of the lungs and gut: where the two most important microbiomes exist. If we alter these environments, beneficial bacteria will be replaced with undesirable microbes. This would alter our digestion, mood and cognitive function, immunity, and the ability to naturally detoxify. Seasonal cleansing and care of the mucus membranes and inner skin of our lungs and gut are crucial to maintaining year-round health.
Dr. John’s Spring + Summer Diet and Herbal Recommendations
- Eat off the Spring (kapha) Grocery list from the spring equinox to the summer solstice.
- Eat off the Summer (pitta) Grocery list from the summer solstice to the spring equinox.
- Take Spring harvested herbs to balance kapha between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.
- Take Summer harvested herbs to balance pitta from the summer solstice to the fall equinox.
Ayurvedic Spring-Summer Cleansing Options: Choose What Works for You
Option 2: Do two 4-day Short Home Cleanses; one around the spring equinox and one around the summer solstice.
Option 3: Do a 14-day Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse anytime you can between the equinox and solstice.
Option 4: Do a 4-day Short Home Cleanse anytime you can between the equinox and solstice.