An Ayurvedic Guide To Spring
Lighter mornings and evenings; the popping up of crocuses and daffodils; the budding of trees – all the newness and lush growth surrounding us in nature signifies it’s the perfect time to give ourselves a kick-start. However, coming out of winter into spring can feel quite harsh, there’s a sense that we should be bounding with energy, yet we’re not quite in full swing. This is very natural – all holistic health systems recognise the need to support the body during seasonal transition.
In Ayurveda (the Indian ‘science of life’), it’s recognised that our inner systems are affected by our outer environment and the cold, damp air of early spring increases our susceptibility to catarrh, mucus, sniffles and colds as well as allergic rhinitis, hay fever and asthma when trees and flowers begin to release their pollen. This is seen as kapha imbalance – kapha being one of the system’s three doshas; sets of qualities relating to constitution which need to be in balance for good health. Kapha tendencies also include lethargy, water retention and weight gain which makes sense of the sluggishness we often feel after months of hibernating from the cold and dark. We might feel melancholic too, and coming into the brightness of spring light can literally and metaphorically leave us blinking. The good news is the Ayurvedic approach is to adjust our eating, exercise and body care routines subtly so we gently shake off the vestiges of winter and emerge into the longer days slowly and gradually.
Stock up on tasty, fresh and crisp new season greens such as rocket, samphire, spinach, spring onions, salad leaves, watercress, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli which have a kapha reducing astringent quality. Keep salt to a minimum (because of bloat) and instead use spices such as mustard seed, pepper, cayenne and ginger to pep up your meals. It makes sense to avoid heavier foods including ice cream, yoghurt, peanut butter, bananas, cheese and oily or deep fried foods which tend to increase lethargy. Instead energise yourself by teaming up easier to digest lightly cooked vegetables and salads with fish or seafood rather than red meat. Sole, hake, red mullet, langoustine, lobster, plaice, sea trout and shrimp are all in season, so now’s a good time to try something you don’t normally eat. Instead of oilier nuts, swap in nutritious pumpkin and sunflower seeds as snacks or crunchy toppings to your vegetables and salads.
Try to have your main meal at lunchtime – in ayurveda it’s thought the digestive fire (agni) is at its peak around midday when the sun is at its highest. Keep breakfast light – for example have stewed fruit such as spring gooseberry and rhubarb sweetened with honey stirred in at the end, finished with a little squeeze of lemon juice. Revive your system and sharpen dull taste buds with hot, fresh ginger tea at any time.
Make a gentle intention to get up earlier, catch the morning light and resolve to get moving. Add in some aerobic, endurance building activity which counteracts stagnation such as bike riding, walking, running, swimming, tennis or dancing. When you’re outdoors early, make sure you stay warm and dry – it may be sunnier, but its still cool and the main susceptibility for kapha imbalance is the respiratory system (the word cough derives from the Sanskrit kapha). Using a tongue scraper daily when you get up helps remove the build up of mucus and bacteria in the mouth, and using a neti pot (nasal rinse) helps to keep sinuses clear and reduces the chance of allergic sniffles.
Get your circulation and lymphatic flow going with daily pre bath or shower dry skin brushing known as abhyanga garshana in Ayurveda. Take a bristle brush (try Temple Spa Giving It The Brush Off, £16) and using gentle, rhythmic strokes, massage from feet up all the way up to your neck. You’ll instantly feel the tingly energy it creates and see a rosy glow to your skin. Mentally, an excess of kapha manifests as stubbornness and resistance to change, which you can counteract by clearing clutter and seeking new sights, sounds and experiences. This can be something as simple as listening to some music you’ve never heard before, or going to a gallery or exhibition for some visual inspiration. You can also bring in warmth and brightness with colour – orange, yellow and red in particular are kapha reviving (the perfect excuse to buy something new to wear or for your home if ever we needed one). Bring in some natural aromas to revive your spirits and open up chest, lungs and sinuses affected by the build up of mucus. Try:
A.Vogel Sinuforce Nasal Spray, £7.35 this natural menthol spray is a great solution for spring sniffles. With eucalyptus and peppermint oils it has just the right combination of zing to cut through sinus fog, alongside the soothing effect of chamomile to ease breathing and reduce irritation of the nasal mucous membrane gently.
ilapothecary Beat The Blues Room Spray, £28 helps shake off the winter blues with its beautiful, aromatic combination of happiness boosting clary sage; peace making rose geranium with calming, soul affirming tuberose and petigrain. Spritz wherever, whenever you need it.
Annee de Mamiel’s Altitude Oil, £28 is a head clearing energising combination of fragonia (an Australian tea-tree like oil), peppermint and eucalyptus with the grounding earthiness of patchouli in the background. Add a few drops to a tissue and breathe deeply to re-set throughout the day.