in Intro to Ayurveda, Seasonal Routines

Tis the season……Spring

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“Spring is in the air…….. ” Undeniably the most popular season is back. Spring is a time of new beginnings. After a long slumber nature starts returning to her glorious blossoming self and new growth is seen everywhere. The first spring flowers poke their heads from the ground and the singing of the birds tell us that mating season has begun. As we start feeling energized to clear out the excess in their homes, enthusiasm and renewed vitality exhibits itself in different ways; An old project left unattended starts to look appealing again. A spot of paint here, some gardening there. A Makeover, a new decor arrangement, a change in jobs or scenery, life begins to look full of potential and possibility again.

In Ayurveda, spring is considered a kapha (water and earth element) season in its inception, but starts to give way to pitta (fire and water) as it makes way for summer. “But isn’t Winter a Kapha season already?” You may ask, and in winter it makes sense that the nature wants to consolidate, bunker and hibernate which are characteristics typical of Kapha. “Waking up fresh, before the birds outside my window, dancing to the bathroom and deciding spontaneously to give my house a complete overhaul isn’t typically a kaph trait!!!! What gives????”

In order to understand why this happens, we should chat a little about transition. We can think of transition as a passage way from one season to the next. As we pass through, nature starts letting go of the old and embraces the new: The cold, ice and frost melts in the northern regions and what was hard and solidified now becomes soft, flexible and malleable. The warmth of spring starts to melt the snow which brings about more moisture into the atmosphere. Similarly in Ayurveda, it speaks about the springtime warmth melting away the accumulated cold quality of kaph in our bodies, which liquefies and can often present itself as congestion, watery eyes, postnasal drip and cough if not taken proper care off. So although Kapha may dominate at the start of spring, it is the agni or fire that starts to burn leading to nice warm fire, as the kaph melts away, both inside and out before the start of Summer.

Seasonal Routine:

Ayurveda tells us that our body doesn’t exist in isolation to the external world. It is, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depends on it for health and well-being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves.  The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle.  Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements.  They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed as per the season in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season.  The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines.  In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:

Summer – 1 December to 29th February

Autumn – 1 March to 31 May

Winter – 1 June to 31 August

Spring – 1 September to 30th November

Spring happens to be the most ideal time in the year to do a cleanse, fast or detox. An Ayurvedic cleanse or Panchakarma is best during the Spring.

Spring and Diet

As the fire starts to disperse throughout the body, spreading outward from the core, Spring allows us to move away from the heavy, grounding, nourishing stews & sweet root vegetables we have been favoring all winter long. Its time to celebrate the colors and the flavors that spring fruits and vegetables have to offer. Astringent, bitter and pungent tastes are more favored as these help us cleanse the body as they counter the congestion and heaviness that kapha leaves within the digestive tract.

  • Spices for the spring include:
    • Cinnamon
    • Asafoetida
    • Mustard Seeds
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Turmeric
    • Nutmeg
    • Cloves
    • Ginger
    • Garlic
    • Black Pepper
  • Jaggery
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Spinach and Chard
  • Basmati Rice
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Olive Oil
  • Hot water and / or hot drinks
  • More seeds than nuts
  • More astringent fruits like berries, pomegranate, granny smith apples
  • Citrus fruits
  • Salads
  • Freshly pressed juices (more towards the middle of spring)

We should generally try to keep away or limit the consumption of:

  • Heavy foods
  • Root Vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Oily Foods
  • Unctuous Foods
  • Sweet foods
  • Sour Foods
  • Beans
  • Bananas
  • Sweet Apples
  • Nuts like Cashews, Macadamia etc
  • Red Meat
  • Ice creams and cold foods

Spring Lifestyle

Making time for a yoga routine in the morning is the best way to promote clarity and improved energy during spring. Saunas are a really good idea (and as per ayurveda oil should be applied on the body before a steam or sauna). Its not advisable to nap during the day, especially during spring.

In early spring its good to dress in warm, bright colors and as the weather warms up towards to middle / end of spring cooling greens, blues, whites and purples will do just fine.

One of the easiest ways to support your Agni (bodily fire) and Kaph during this season is in having a daily routine (Dinacharya) – (although in Spring you can be little more playful with it……skip a day or two if you feel like it. Or change it up a bit 😉  Four simple practices that I follow are:

  • Waking up earlier in the morning
  • Nasya (placing two drops of sesame oil in each nostril)
  • Oil Pulling
  • Abhyanga (applying sesame oil on the body – 5 mins) before taking a hot shower or steam/sauna

Waking up just before sunrise:  If you set time for your day by waking up early you can really calm down the nervous system and keep it in rest and digest mode.  Waking up later gives you less time to prepare for the day and activates the sympathetic nervous system (getup and go /fight or flight) and depletes the adrenals before the day is through leaving you tired, needing a pick-me-up before the day ends.

Nasya: Putting two drops of sesame oil in the nostrils each day, dilates, nourishes and oleates the channels responsible for communication to and from the sinuses and the brain. It lubricates the nasal passages, preventing allergies. Repeated use relieves tension from the neck, head and shoulder area.  It gives more mental clarity and calms down the nervous system, preventing ailments like migraines in the long run and keeps the nervous system functioning at optimal levels. 

Oil Pulling:  Helps to reduce inflammation and reduce gum disease.  Removes bad breath.  Prevents cavities from forming and lubricates the channels responsible for communication in the head region. 

Abhyanga: You can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil.  Because of its highly penetrative properties, sesame oil is the oil of choice when applying on the body.  It nourishes the tissues and helps to expel toxins from deep within the body, on a cellular level, over time.

Spring Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to support optimal physical and mental health through the spring months. If kapha is more predominant you will want to push yourself physically, increasing both the duration and intensity of your workout. When Pitta is more dominant then medium intensity with varied duration workouts are best. Change it up a bit. Because spring is all about freshness, spontaneity, newness and change, its good not to have too rigid a routine. Be playful, escape the status quo, try something new and embrace the sense of adventure.

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