When seasonal changes occur, we need to modify our diet and lifestyle accordingly so that we are able to deal with and take on the challenges that come with the onset of new weather. Transitioning from winter to spring might sound depressing to a few, especially those who are highly prone to allergies and suffer the most when spring season sets in . With the aftereffects of a cold winter, one might not be too sure about how to face the cold, wet, heavy and cloudy atmosphere of the spring.
However, one can find solace in what the traditional Hindu system of medicine, Ayurveda, has to offer.
Spring - The Kapha Season
In terms of Ayurveda, every season is associated with a dosha (set of qualities). Winter is associated with Vata dosha and is observed as dry, dark and cold. When the sun begins to linger for long, it indicates the beginning of the Kapha season. This is where the transitioning from winter to spring is observed. The Kapha season notably starts in the month of March (wet and cold) and ends in mid-June (wet and warm) .
The early days of the Kapha season are understood to be the time when the worldly origins are coming out of hibernation. This is when the first flowers of the spring poke their head out and the birds begin to signal the arrival of the mating season.
Before the leaves unfurl, the flowers release pollen. This is when the season might start showing adverse effects on people who are prone to allergies, especially related to the respiratory system. The word 'cough' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Kapha' . Kapha is located in the chest. When this dosha gets aggravated, it leads to problems such as asthma, allergies and sinus congestion .
Transitioning From Winter To Spring In Terms Of Ayurveda
Transitioning from the Vata season (winter) to the Kapha season (spring) can take a toll on one's body. When the human body is experiencing the Vata season, the body takes up and follows the qualities that are meant to pacify Vata. Pacifying Vata requires the qualities to be Kapha by nature so that an exact balance between the doshas can be found. This act is based on the Ayurvedic principle of the opposites balancing each other to maintain the wellness of one's body .
Therefore, when the period of Kapha is entered, one would need to perform some form of detoxification or cleansing to deal with all the Kapha that has accumulated during the Vata period. The Ayurvedic term for this form of springtime cleansing is Virechana . An Ayurvedic expert would be the best person to guide you whether your body would really need this form of cleansing or not.
Understanding The Spring Season The Ayurvedic Way
The primary difference that can be noted between the Vata season and the Kapha season is the wetness accompanied in the latter season. The 'cold' aspect exists for both the Vata and the Kapha doshas and therefore the coolness continues to exist even during the Kapha season. However, unlike the dry cold atmosphere during the Vata season, Kapha season is identified by the dampness and humidity . The wet environment is what makes one feel sick during the springtime.
What Happens To Kapha Dosha During Spring
A healthy spring can only be achieved if you understand the Kapha dosha and keep it balanced. Kapha is known to endow one's body with its watery qualities. It keeps the joints lubricated and provides mucus to the sensitive tissues of the lungs, stomach and sinuses. One feels strong and stable when Kapha is balanced.
However, when it goes out of balance, you tend to feel dull, sleepy and depressed. With Kapha imbalance, you feel heaviness in your limbs along with an unhealthy weight gain, nausea and water retention . The Kapha aspects accumulated during winter needs to be shed so that you do not remain vulnerable to the seasonal allergies that are common during spring.
Ayurvedic Tips To Transition Into Spring
1. Dry Foods: Kapha season inspires one to stick to dry, light and warm foods. As Agni dampens during this time of the year, such foods are ideally recommended. Winter comfort foods such as fried stuff, breads, sweet/rich foods, thick sauces and dairy can be eliminated from the diet.
One needs to switch to moisture-free, dry and fat-free foods . Kapha considers honey as its number one food . For a perfect Kapha breakfast, add some honey on a wheat toast and let your taste buds indulge in it. Roasted foods are another hit during the Kapha season (a barbeque is a better option than using an electric stove top to obtain roasted dishes). To add the heat factor to your dishes, consider the addition of spices in moderate amounts.
2. Taking care of your skin: During Kapha season, there is a presence of cool moisture in the air. There could be clogged pores and oiliness on your skin and this is where keeping your skin dry plays an important role. Indulge in some vigorous massage and dry brushing. The tissues that had tightened during the Vata season need to get loose now. Dry brushing promotes circulation and also helps in increasing friction (heat) and breaking up of the heavy tissues.
3. Exercising: The idea behind staying fit during the Kapha season is to keep exercising and releasing water in the form of sweat. The heat from within should be brought out. Our body should be constantly moving and releasing excess water as Kapha season is the season that is identified with watery and oily features . You can bring fun into your exercise routine as well by practising Zumba, power yoga, jogging, biking or rowing.
4. Cleaning physical space: Kapha promotes the tendency of building and filling up spaces. To counter this effect, one needs to make more space. This is what is believed when one takes up spring cleaning. Whatever you feel has turned stagnant and not usable anymore can be dumped. Cleaning up sets the gear for a great and positive Kapha season .
Not just the physical clutter, but making space on your emotional side also plays a big role. Do not let your emotional side turn clingy to a materialistic thing. Understand and let go off what you do not feel the need to keep any longer and are just basis of old emotions. Donating what you do not need can make you feel really good and lighter from within.
5. A sunny spring break: You can choose spring to be the ultimate time to treat yourself with a vacation to a bright, sunny place. If the Kapha season makes you feel soggy, head out to a warm and dry place for a while. This definitely would have a positive effect on your mind and body.
How Yoga Can Help You During the Spring Season
Harmonizing with nature is the best way to accept the seasonal changes. The reason behind the creation of rituals surrounding seasons by Rishis was to make the human beings feel their connection to the natural world. Many yoga geniuses practice and teach yoga with variability such that it corresponds to that particular time of the year. The following yoga postures can improve joint mobility, increase circulation and aid in digestion.
- Utkatasana or chair-like pose
- Malasana or garland pose
- Simhasana or lion pose
- Khanjanasana or tail-wagging pose
Although it would be initially difficult to get these poses right or to be able to take the physical pain of these yogic postures. However, with practice and time, you are sure to see the positive effect.
Creation Of Good Space
'Good space' would give you a feeling of general wellness from within. Dukha makes you feel restricted in all senses. To increase Sukha (the feeling of betterment and happiness), perform squats. This would help in freeing up the densest parts of your body - the legs and pelvis (this is where the most of fat and water retention happens) .
To increase Sukha in the upper part of your body, try the following yoga postures.
- Ujjayi Pranayama or victorious breath
- Surya Namaskar or sun salutation
- Bhujangasana or cobra pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana or downward-facing dog pose
- Halasana or Plow pose
The above postures help in excreting excess mucus from the nose and mouth.
Another posture, Kapalabhati Pranayama or skull shining breath, is excellent to clear one's head and sense organs. It also provides strength to the lungs.
The Key To Your Health - A Healthy Digestive Agni
According to Ayurveda, Agni grants one the power of digestion not just physically, but also for the digestion of thoughts and impressions (the negative ones). A person with a strong Agni can easily separate essential from nonessential, healthy from toxic, etc. Ama (residue left behind in the body when you consume things that you cannot completely digest) is not produced when one has a strong Agni. Ama is poisonous and leads to weakened immunity, depression, fatigue and inflammation .
To have a strong Agni, one has to generate Tapas (inner heat). Standing poses such as sun salutations and backbends are great to keep your body pumped up. Concentrate on your breathing while performing these postures to sustain Tapas mentally.
Uddhiyana Bandha Kriya makes you suspend the breath just after your exhale; this helps in encouraging the mind, further stabilizing Agni. When enough Tapas is created, one feels warm and light with an alert mind and clarity of senses.
Foods To Eat During Spring Season
Try foods that are bitter and pungent like kale, dandelion, spinach, collards, mustard greens, arugula, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, green peas, quinoa, millet and barley. The following tips could come handy :
- Eat less, easy-digestible foods
- Make lunch the biggest meal of the day
- Eat well-cooked food, not raw
- Eat ginger pickle ten minutes prior to your mealtime
- Make your food spicy
- Do not use cooked honey, only raw honey usage is allowed in Ayurveda
- Add ginger and turmeric to all the dishes, wherever possible
- Eliminate foods that increase Kapha - cold food/drinks, iced tea, dairy products, fried/oily food.
- Make a routine to focus at least 5 to 10 days of eating only fresh fruits and vegetables alongside Kichadi (curried moong bean and rice)
- Drink tea made using ginger, cinnamon and black pepper about one hour after breakfast and lunch.
- Stick to chamomile tea in the evening.
How To Deal With Seasonal Allergies
Allergies, especially of the respiratory tract, are quite common during the Kapha season and can be prevented using the following method.
Remedy (only for prevention, not treatment)
- Use neti pot
- Take about one-fourth tsp of salt along with water
- Half a pot should be used for each nostril.
- Massage sesame oil into each nostril.
Tune Your Body For the Spring Season
Spring is the time when renewal happens all around and hence, it serves to be the best season to create a harmony between ourselves and our environment. Beginning your day with a blissful sun salutation could mean that you are transforming and rejuvenating from within. Heading to a place of scenic beauty could also help you connect with what nature has in store for you. Anything that makes you feel rejuvenated should be of great help in connecting with this wonderful spring season.
However, do not push yourself very hard to accomplish everything listed above at one go. Take it slow and simple. Indulge in one specific thing at a time. Identify the things that would truly revitalize your body. No matter what you focus on, your ideal goal should be the creation of a positive space or in other words 'Sukha'. This would effortlessly increase the flow of Prana (that is, it would burn away the excess of Ama and Kapha). These would make you feel healthy and lighter and all set to take on the spring season.