March 27, 2024

Spring — an ayurvedic perspective

Spring is synonymous with new beginnings, new potential, and rebirth. Nature bursts forth with colour and takes on a renewed energy. Leaves become luscious green full of prana, and daffodils pop out their yellow heads, a promise that the sun's reappearance is around the corner.

We also take on renewed energy after winter's long, monotonous, dark days. We are, of course, a part of nature.

Ayurveda considers the latter part of winter and spring the kapha dosha season. If you are familiar with the basics of Ayurveda, you will know that kapha dosha is composed of earth and water and has a slow, heavy, cold, dense, sticky and liquid quality.

During winter, we tend to be less active and crave heavier, denser foods. According to Ayurveda, 'like increases like'. Hence, these lifestyle habits, which are essentially kapha qualities, combined with winter's cold and wet qualities, result in an accumulation of kapha in the body.

If you are in tune with your body, you may already sense this accumulated kapha. You may feel heavy and sluggish due to a lack of motivation or show signs of water retention, puffy eyes, sinus congestion, or weight gain. These are all kapha disorders due to increased kapha.

Outside, rising temperatures during spring thaw the congealed dampness of winter. As our bodies mirror nature, we also experience a melting of the accumulated kapha dosha, commonly experienced as spring colds, flu, and hay fever.

Like many traditions, Ayurveda regards spring as a time to cleanse the body and promotes a kapha-reducing lifestyle to help the melted kapha flow out of the body. Doing so removes kapha imbalances from the body before they can negatively impact our health. As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

So, what steps can we take to support the body in moving out this excess of Kapha?

Rise early. Do you ever wonder why you feel heavy, lethargic, and muzzy-headed after a lie-in? 6 am—10 am is the Kapha part of the day, so when we sleep in beyond 6 am, we take on the heavy, dull qualities of kapha.

Avoid sleeping during the day as this also increases kapha.

Sip warm and spicy teas such as ginger, turmeric and lemon throughout the day to help stimulate sluggish digestion and reduce mucous congestion.

Meals should be warm, soft, light and easy to digest.

Include more bitter, pungent and astringent foods in your diet to help clear mucous and excess moisture from the body.

Pulses such as red lentils,aduki beans, and chickpeas are considered astringent and good for clearing kapha.  

Add plenty of spices such as ginger, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, and paprika to cooking for the pungent taste. Spices added to foods also support digestion.

Increase light grains such as rice, quinoa, barley, millet, and corn.

Dandelion greens, abundant in spring, kale, and bitter gourd all have a bitter taste and the added benefit of detoxifying the liver.

Avoid overeating, snacking between meals, overconsumption of dairy products, dense carbohydrates, fried, oily, processed foods and icy/cold food and drinks.

Regular exercise pacifies kapha and stimulates a sluggish system. Yoga is especially good for reducing kapha as its lightness counteracts kapha's heavy and slow qualities. Include kapha regulating postures that are dynamic and stimulating. Start by working up to 12 sun salutations performed vigorously, followed by backward and forward bends such as camel pose and wheel pose to open the lungs and stimulate the kidneys.

A Kicharee cleanse at the turn of the season is beneficial for giving the digestive system a much-needed break and resetting agni (the digestive fire). Choose a day or two when your diary is clear of work and social engagements. During these 1-2 days, eat Kicharee only and drink warm water and herbal teas. After you have finished the cleanse, you must slowly ease back into your regular foods. Gradually introduce food groups, starting with vegetables, fruit, and other grains, before reintroducing dairy and meat.