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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spring - New season, New approach

With the change of seasons comes a new way of life.  Ayurveda has different approaches to each season so that we can life in harmony with the new temperatures, lifestyle changes and diets that accompany each season. Some things we naturally do, such as, eating a lighter diet of salads and fruit, but others are not so obvious.

Ayurveda believes our bodies are a living microcosom of the Universe. So everything that exists in the universe exists within us. With this in mind our bodies reflect the changes of the environment we live in, so as the spring melts the snow on the land, the new warm weather melts all the mucus that has developed in our bodies over the winter.  One of the first things we need to do is rid ourselves of all this kapha and ama (toxins) that has built up in our systems over the cold, damp months of winter.

So how do we do this? As always with Ayurveda we create balance and reduce excesses by increasing the opposite qualities. So, as Kapha is made up of water and earth and is damp, heavy and static, we need to reduce these qualities by focusing on food and lifestyle choices that are dry, warm, light and active. Sounds just like spring to me!

So lets have a look at some useful tips of things to do and things to avoid as the weather starts to heat up.

  • Avoid foods and drinks that are heavy, cold and oily. For example, dairy, fried and fatty food, cold/icy drinks, nuts, bread, pasta and avocados. Favour things that are light, warm. Have a look at the food guidelines charts that relate to your dosha (ayurvedic constitution) vatapitta and kapha. , they give you an extensive list of foods, drinks, herbs and spices that reduce and aggravate each constitution. Each document is 4 pages long and designed to be bookmarked or printed and kept for easy reference. Pay careful attention to the kapha column and see what you should be avoiding and favouring at this time of year. (If your not sure of your dosha/constitution click here to find out)
  • Taste is a very important factor in balancing our doshas (kapha, pitta, vata). Too mush of one can increase certain elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth) and other tastes will reduce them. In spring we need to include bitter, astringent and pungent tastes in our diet as these tastes have dry qualities as there is no water within their energetic compositions.  Sour, sweet and salty tastes are considered to be damp as they have the qualities of water and earth so will work against you and create more of what you are trying to reduce.  
  • Warming  herbs and spices are great now especially ginger and black pepper. But of course be careful if you have a lot of pitta in your constitution. 
  • Unfortunately for some, although coffee and alcohol are heating they are not advisable at this time of the year.
  • Increase warm water. A very simple yet effective way to improve your health.
  • After meals drink some tea made from ginger, black pepper and cinnamon. 
  • Honey in hot water is very balancing for kapha. Be careful not to boil the honey, add it to the water after it has been heated. Ayurveda believes that honey becomes toxic if it is heated. You should therefore check the label when you buy it and only buy honey that has not been heated in the production process. 
  • Tea of cumin, coriander and fennel in equal proportions.
  • A great bitter herb is dandelion and has the added benefit of being a great detoxifier, so perfect for the time of the year.
  • Dry skin brushing and massage are great for improving circulation, stimulating prana (energy) and the lymphatic system. 
  • Exercise  -  Get out doors, get moving and shake off the winter. Get up in the morning and go for a run, swim, surf or do some yoga. On the weekends go hiking, or for a ride in the countryside on your bike. Join a gym, take up a sport find something that you enjoy that is physical and include it in your life.
  • Yoga - Asanas that are good for kapha are anything that is energising, so a few rounds of sun salutations would be great. Follow this up with other kapha reducing poses such as fish, lion, boat, bow, loctus, and camel. A vinyasa  class with it's flow from pose to pose and constant movement would be good to keep the prana or energy flowing through the body and further help the elimination process along. 
  • Spring is a natural time for the liver to emotionally cleanse itself. Meditation is a very powerful cleansing and balancing practice it give us the patience, awareness and calmness to deal with issues as they arise.  If you do not have a meditation practice it is the perfect time to embrace one   The spring mornings are warmer, it's much easier to get out of bed and you will feel the positive effects in so many ways so try to make part of your daily routine. Start with 5 minutes, and be gentle with yourself. Observe your thoughts without judgement and focus on your breath.   
  • Pranayama and focused breathing. Make it part of your yoga and meditation practice. As the name implies it's a great method for increasing prana. You will feel more energised and balanced as a result.
  • Book yourself into a day of pampering by a qualified therapist.
  • Go on a retreat.
  • Do a cleanse. I highly recommend the gallbladder/liver cleanse I did recently but there are plenty of alternatives out there. Just make sure you do your research first.  
  • Scape your tongue. I can't talk enough about how benifical this is for removing toxins from your body on a daily basis. See for yourself what you remove each day and it will become as important as brushing our teeth. 

As always listen to your body and pay attention to what nature is giving us. Eat in season and you will never go wrong.

Enjoy the sunshine!