Within the Ayurvedic framework, great emphasis is placed onto the fundamental importance of optimal routines as a means of optimising our physical, emotional and psychological health by living in synergy with the rhythms of the natural world around us.
Whilst the importance of an optimal daily routine (called Dinachara in Ayurveda) is relatively well known and understood in the West (largely due to the research around the impact of the daily circadian rhythm on your health), less well known is the concept of Rituchara; living in synergy with the changing seasons that roll from winter into spring, spring into summer and so forth.
Adapting and modifying our lifestyle, behaviours and routines in accordance with the changing seasons is of profound importance within Ayurveda. This article will provide some simple tips for optimising our collective health as we head into spring
Spring Kapha Aggravations
At this time of year, we are transitioning from the end of winter (hopefully!) into the start of spring, which, Ayurvedically speaking, means we are entering into a Kapha aggravating time of the year. This is primarily because during winter, the predominant cold and wet qualities of winter have been accumulating for many months. As these are qualities that provoke Kapha, by the time spring comes around, Kapha has usually accumulated to a high level. Kapha is further aggravated because during winter we crave heavier and more warming foods, store body fat and tend to hibernate more during the limited daylight hours. These are all behaviours that will provoke Kapha.
With the slight rise in the temperature in spring, the body begins to release fat stored over winter. Outside the warmer temperatures encourage tender young sprouts to shoot and new vegetation growth and our internal system works in much the same way; during these spring months, we experience renewal. Kapha fat and toxins melts away from tissues and into the blood, much like a “Spring Clean.” This release of toxins often presents as an overwhelm of mucus, spring colds and an increase in seasonal allergies.
The trick with living seasonally is to “get ahead of the game” and pacify the accumulating Dosha, in this case Kapha, before it accumulates to the point of creating symptoms. Below are some simple approaches for doing so that will kick-start your health this spring time to new levels of vitality:
1. Wake Up Earlier: As spring progresses, dawn gets earlier and the entire natural world rises earlier with it. We humans can tap into the increased energy and vitality that is inherent within spring by following the natural world and getting up with the sun. This may not always be possible but by ensuring we are up by 6.30am, most people notice a profound increase in natural energy and vitality. Indeed, there is compelling Western research to show that, hormonally speaking, 6.30am is an optimal time to awaken and that doing so can result in significant reductions in fatigue, lethargy and sluggishness.
2. Dry Massage and Hot Shower: Before jumping into the shower in the morning, spend a few minutes skin brushing or dry massaging the skin, either with a skin brush or just your hands. The friction this creates increases heat and blood flow, stimulates lymphatic flow, mobilises and clears toxins and increases energy and vitality. Do this for 3-5 minutes, starting at the feet and working up towards the heart. Then get into a stimulating hot shower to leave you feeling wide awake, vital and energised.
3. Ginger and Lemon Tea: Having a cup of hot ginger and lemon tea in the morning will stimulate digestion, clear toxins, optimise liver function and help cut through any Kapha accumulated mucous or toxins that have developed overnight.
4. Diet: To help mobilise the extra body fat and toxins that have accumulated over winter and to ramp up our metabolism and digestion, try to prioritise the consumption of bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Great options include leafy green vegetables, beans, chickpeas, black eyed peas, broccoli, cauliflower, rocket, watercress, coffee, pomegranates and cranberries; these will all help to clear mucous from the body, dry up excess moisture, clear excess fat/lipids from the liver and blood and stimulate liver and gall bladder function.
5. Herbs: Turmeric is a fantastic herb to increase at this time of the year as a digestive stimulant, toxin clearer, liver stimulant and fat clearing tonic. Use it widely in your cooking and even try making turmeric lattes. Another fantastic herb to start taking now is Triphala; it helps to keep our elimination regular which will prevent the build-up of toxins, cleans the gut, detoxifies the body and mobilises fat. Try taking two 500mg capsules in the evening right before bed.
6. Exercise: Last but not least, this is the perfect time of the year to increase the frequency and intensity of our exercise. Try more intensive power yoga, faster more heat inducing sun salutations or jogging at a slightly faster speed or start a new form of exercise that gets the heart pumping! Exercising outside also becomes far more feasible now due to the days getting longer which will also allow us to soak up more Vitamin D.
The abundance of renewal, life and energy makes Spring our favourite time of the year and by making a few simple adjustments to our routines, we can also make it a time of abundant health, happiness and wellbeing.