Balancing in Transition
Spring is the most dynamic, energetic, and creative time of the year. Nature wakes up from her resting phase full of vitality, which she uses to manifest her creative vision after a long winters sleep. April is a sign that spring has definitively arrived. Although the weather can be unpredictable, switching from warm to cool in a matter of hours, April can be viewed as the m0nth of balance.
In Ayurveda, spring is all about the Kapha (earth/water) phase releasing into Pitta (fire/water) phase. As soon as the solar heat is sufficient to soften and melt the frozen earth, creating faster flowing rivers and perhaps even floods, our bodies respond to this change in nature in similar ways. You may feel like you want to cleanse, purge and rejuvenate both in the your mental and physical body. This might also be called “Spring Fever”. Take this time to honor the mantra “Elimination equals Illumination”.
During the cold, damp Winter, it is normal for what is termed ‘Kapha dosha’ to accumulate (due to the cold, damp weather and a heavier diet). This means we may put on a few pounds, have some congestion and generally feel a little sluggish. Spring is a time of fresh starts and potential, with nature leading the way. The weather is warmer and wetter and evenings lighter. The increased temperature causes accumulated Kapha to ‘melt’ causing symptoms such running noses, or even full blown spring colds and hay fever. To help get ready for a healthy Spring:
• Set your alarm for 7am at the latest, and preferably wake earlier as sleeping later will further aggravate Kapha (causing fatigue, lethargy and excess mucus). Take a cup of ginger and lemon tea first thing to stimulate digestion and clear any mucus that has accumulated overnight.
• Now is the time to dig out your neti pot to give the nose a daily rinse with warm, salt water over a sink. This not only helps ward off colds and hay fever, but will also improve your pranayama. Read David Frawley’s ‘Neti: Healing Secrets of Yoga and Ayurveda’ which includes information on adding herbs to your neti to aid detoxification. Or see an earlier post on my web-site.
• Clean your tongue: During the night, the tongue becomes coated with a film that can contain bacteria and toxins. A healthy tongue, according to Ayurvedic medicine, is pink in color and free from coating. If the tongue is dirty it impairs your sense of taste, and increases susceptibility to infections. Gently scraping from the back forward with a tongue scraper not only cleans but also stimulates internal organs, help digestion, remove toxins (ama), and bacteria. Buy one today and once you’ve tried it, you’ll never stop the habit!
• Massage your body with warm sesame or sunflower oil, followed by a warm shower to aid your spring detox. Dry skin brushing is also excellent for stimulating lymph and reducing cellulite, though not if you have very dry or delicate skin. Use firm sweeping strokes up from the feet towards the heart to aid the elimination of fluid. Ayurveda also recommends massage with dry powder after you’ve oiled up, to clear excess fluid, and help with cellulite. Try using chick pea flour from an Indian grocer, but watch out not to clog your drains as you rinse it off. Saunas can also be a useful for drying up excess secretions at this time of year.
• Practice vigorous exercise to get the lymph moving in the body, preventing congestive problems. It is also one of the best ways to stimulate a sluggish digestion and aid detoxification. Make your yoga practice dynamic and stimulating. Sun salutations are ideal as they build up heat, working all the major muscles. Kappalabhati pranayama is also good for generating internal heat and burning toxins. Try and go for a brisk walk after lunch every day as well.
• Of the 6 Ayurvedic tastes, favor bitter, pungent and astringent which open the channels of elimination, clearing excess mucus and moisture from the body. Bitter tastes (eg: green leafy vegetables, spinach, turmeric, fenugreek); spicy (eg: fresh ginger herbal tea, black pepper, cayenne) and astringent (eg: all pulses, pears, pomegranate, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower and turnips). Green tea is also rich in the astringent taste, and helps detox.
Reduce Kapha aggravating sweet, sour and salty foods which could cause water retention at this time. In common with the winter diet, minimize raw and cold foods, favoring warm, lightly cooked meals. However, some raw food for a short term detox in late Spring is fine. Minimize wheat dominant foods and other mucous forming foods (white sugar, orange juice, dairy) especially if you catch a cold.
Some specific postures recommended for Spring:
Fast sun salutes and other Vinyasa flow sequences are excellent for Kapha imbalance as they are heating, aerobic and open the chest. Sun salutations are excellent for anyone during the Kapha hours of the day (6am-10am). People of Kapha nature should do the most repetitions and they should be performed with greater speed
Lion pose or sitting poses with warming pranayama (right nostril or solar breath) to prevent daydreaming
Warrior poses which open the chest, and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon)
Down dog, Up dog (and all poses which open the chest reduce congestion and aid breathing)
Headstand and Shoulderstand, bridge (excellent!), plough (excellent for opening lungs) and their variations
All backbends, especially camel pose and bow pose (stimulates digestion). Less forward bending as it contracts the chest.
A short savasana