If you think about it, you know intuitively what to do to keep yourself in balance as the seasons change. When it starts to feel cold, you put on a hat to keep your body heat in. When it's really rainy, you wear something waterproof to guard from getting damp. When it starts to get hot, you wear shorts to cool down.
Although this sounds very simple, it seems these instinctual measures do not protect us enough. It is during the season changes that people get sick the most and report feeling "out of sorts" or imbalanced.
Ayurveda, the ancient self-healing science of the East that has slowly captured the hearts and minds of the West, can teach us some very practical ways to nurture, cleanse and rejuvenate ourselves during the season changes. These practices can prevent you from getting sick and feeling totally out of balance.
What qualities of nature do you think of when you think spring? Of course it's very muddy because of rain and although all Buffalonians wish this were not so, the temperature is not as warm as we would like. You know the feeling when the sun sets in the spring and you aren't wearing the right layers? These are the fairly obvious aspects of spring, but can you see how spring is also a time when we have a lot of extra "stuff" left over from winter and we feel heavy and slow?
All of this makes total sense. In Ayurveda there are ten pairs of opposites in nature (which includes ourselves). The ten pairs of opposites are:
heavy - light
cold - hot
wet - dry
smooth - rough
dense - liquid
static - mobile
gross - subtle
cloudy or sticky - clear
dull - sharp
soft - hard
There are two things to remember:
- Like attracts like: Spring is already a heavy, wet, and cold time. Without awareness we will do things to increase those qualities within ourselves even more than nature already does. We will see the sun and go outside without a coat. This will exacerbate the cold within us and lead to imbalance and illness. We will feel lazy and sluggish (the heavy quality) and take this to mean that we need to take naps frequently. This, again, accumulates too much of the heavy quality within us and we will find ourselves further imbalanced and feeling totally in the dumps. Excess of the wet quality leads to problems with mucus and congestion.
- Use opposites to heal: Cultivate lifestyle and diet choices that bring in the opposite qualities: dry, light, and hot.
Stay Warm and Dry: Be sure you dress warmly enough, even though it looks sunny or it feels "warm enough" to not wear layers. Get out your raincoat, umbrella, and duck boots and don't put away your winter sweaters, socks, and hats. Choose warm food and drinks, as well.
Get Moving: There are so many great places to exercise in Buffalo no matter what your style. Some of my favorites are: Barre Centric, community fitness classes like Zumba, Pilates, and Body Pump at the YMCA, and any of the great yoga studios in Buffalo. To learn more about the different yoga studios in Buffalo read here. It will also be really helpful to get an exercise buddy to help with motivation and accountability. Getting moving, although you might dread it at first, will really get you feeling invigorated!
Cleanse: Now is a great time to start eating cleanly. Because food is part of nature it, too, is made up of the elements. The sweet taste is made up of the elements, earth and water just like Kapha and spring. So, it is best to reduce this taste from your diet this season (for many of us we will be able to add this taste back in the summer during Pitta season.) Also, reduce or moderate salty and sour tasting foods. Stay away from heavy, cold foods like ice cream and heavy dairy for now as well. Choose bitter, astringent, and spicy foods like well-spiced steamed spring veggies, basmati rice, and lentils. A comprehensive list of spring foods to favor and reduce or avoid can be found here. A cleanse is also a great idea this time of year. For guidance reference two great options - the Hot Belly Diet and John Douillard's Short Home Cleanse. My husband I do one around the season changes every year and every time we are so pleased and feel so much better!
These are some simple and easy ways to feel great as we transition into spring. If you are interested in getting more serious about the study of yourself and who you are elementally in Ayurvedic terms, take the time to read this. I am also co-hosting a workshop with Monica McGuire of Metta Body on March 26 at Yoga Parkside about Ayurveda and the transition to spring. The event will reference much of what you have just learned, but also extend and get into practices like asana and pranayama to support Kapha in spring.