It’s that wonderful time of year when we look up and see the first cherry blossom and daffodils start to colour our landscape. Spring equinox has just passed, meaning lighter days ahead, all signs that Spring is right around the corner. For some of us however, this means preparing for allergy season and hiding ourselves away to avoid the symptoms that follow.
Ayurveda recognises that seasonal changes can have a profound effect on our health. For example, during winter it is cold, damp and wet. The corresponding qualities in the body respond to this seasonal change, manifesting as mucous phlegm and catarrh. These are similar qualities to the Ayurvedic element of Kapha dosha (earth and water elements - cold, unctuous, fluid, dense). All of us have these qualities within us to varying degrees and they can flare up causing issues if not checked.
The good news is that Ayurveda does not subscribe to a one size fits all approach to health and by perceiving each individual as having a unique constitution or ‘dosha’, this system has many helpful suggestions on how to manage these challenges.
As we come in to Spring the qualities of Kapha are aggravated and Pitta starts to accumulate (fire and water elements - hot, sharp, penetrating). Ayurveda would suggest this is a good time to reduce these qualities in the body through gentle detoxification and diet to prevent health issues that are typical of these elements, such as allergies. As the temperature rises and ‘melts’ the Kapha, we can help it to flow out of the body.
Here are a few simple ways for all constitutions to ensure a smooth passage into Spring:
Kapha is especially aggravated by sleeping beyond 7am. Wake between 4-7am, preferably before sunrise for a fresh, clear mind. Drink hot ginger and lemon water first thing to kick start your digestion. Continue to do this throughout the day to help melt mucous and gently detoxify the body channels.
Kapalabhati (breath of fire) or nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) – these ancient breathing techniques help to quickly heat the body and burn excess phlegm. Vata and Kapha types can practice kapalabhati. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure or issues with excess heat such as menopausal flushes should avoid this technique. Nadi shodhana is suitable for all doshas or consult your yoga teacher.
Self-massage is a wonderful practice at anytime. During Spring use a herbal powder such as sandalwood. This helps to reduce an accumulation of toxins. Alternatively dry brushing with a loofah works really well too. For self-massage start at the feet, move up the legs, then arms and back, and finally move around to the chest and abdomen. This brings lymphatic fluid back to the heart to be eliminated through the blood, liver and kidneys. Vata types can use generous amounts of warm oil. Pitta types can use moderate amounts of slightly warmed oil. Kapha types should use a small quantity of warm oil.
Think about a mono diet for a few days as it is simple to prepare and easy to digest and can give our systems a quick reset. A simple ‘khichari’ recipe works really well and consists of rice or quinoa and mung beans cooked together with a few digestive spices. You can add seasonal vegetables of your choice to keep it interesting. Balance fleshy vegetables with spices such as turmeric, ginger and black pepper. Click here to view a good example.
Reducing some of the usual spring time symptoms that can arise after a long winter can restore balance. Incorporating a few of these practices, no matter what your constitution hopefully allows us to get outside and enjoy the beautiful rebirth that takes place in this season.