No matter how hard we try to reinforce the idea that each of us is a small little island, it’s a futile struggle In the Spring time, as the days become longer, the sun warmer and the smells of the earth arrive again, we can all easily understand how the changes in the season begin to affect our moods, and the same things are happening physiologically. You might have even already begun to feel the urge to do something, or change something – perhaps you’ve recently decided it’s time to lose some weight, or switch up your routine recipes. It’s natural, so heed those urges to ‘lighten up!’
In early Spring, the heat from the sun melts the ice, and it’s the start of what we know as ‘mud season’ in Vermont (I wonder if the ancient rishis taught about that ) and those qualities of mud can be easily compared to the qualities of melting Kapha which can become problematic in the Spring. To counter this effect, it’s time to bring lightness and even more warmth into our body through our diet and lifestyle.
We need to bring some awareness to Kapha dosha in the Spring, regardless of our prakriti. Kapha represents the Water and Earth elements. As these elements increase in our environment, they also increase in action in our body. Kapha is necessary in our body to provide stability, insulation and lubrication. Kapha functions as the synovial fluid in our joints, the mucous membranes in our lungs, sinuses and nasal passageways, our saliva, the white matter of the central nervous system, and the delicate mucosa that protect our stomach and intestines from acids which break down our food.
Since many of us have spent much of the cold, dry winter balancing the winds of Vata – staying grounded by eating heavier, richer foods, oiling our bodies inside and out – as the sun arrives in March and April, it’s going to melt the snow, and begin to have the same affect on the material we accumulated during the winter. We don’t only start exercising because we want ‘bikini bodies’ for summer, it’s deeper than that! We truly feel the natural urge to release what we have gained for Winter health, for our Spring health. Animals do the same thing – often even giving birth, really lightening up the winter load they carried. Deer and rabbits dig in the snow to find the first bitter greens of the season, while still under the snow.
If we ignore this urge, the mucus keeps accumulating in the body, and the warmth of our environment makes it flow. The mucus in the sinuses and lungs may accumulate beyond a healthy level, and bacterial or viruses can more easily attach to it. This is why in the Spring time chest colds and sinus infections occur more often.
As many of you know, Ayurveda considers food to be the first medicine. It’s what’s most readily available for all of us to use to our advantage – at least three times per day. The best way to eat Ayurvedically, without knowing any of the philosophy or science, is just to eat what nature is providing. When the farmer’s markets start up, take a walk around and see what’s available. Some of the first things you’ll see are radishes, arugula and sprouts, wild leeks or ramps, dandelion greens, and flowers!
The qualities of Kapha, just to reiterate, are cold, heavy, slow, soft, dull, gross/dense, and oily or slimy. We want to emphasize choices that have qualities opposite to these – warm or hot, light, and a bit drying. The elements are consider to be present in the 6 tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent. The tastes which balance or reduced Kapha are PUNGENT, BITTER, and ASTRINGENT. Those Spring sprouts, micro greens, and spicy radishes are JUST RIGHT! Don’t forget the heat – if you like spicy things, ’tis the season to indulge.
Other common and easily attainable foods that balance kapha include corn and millet, fresh ginger, kale, mustard greens, cinnamon, black pepper, chick peas, spinach, zucchini, peas, and cabbage. For more ideas check out any cookbook by Amadea Morningstar.
Spring time is the best time of year for a lightening cleanse. This does certainly not have to be extreme – you could simply focus on removing processed foods, caffeine, dairy and alcohol from your diet for even a few days. Gentle is the best way to go about making lasting changes! Panchakarma, a traditional Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenation ritual, is also often done during this time of year. The Ayurvedic Center is one of the best places in the country to do panchakarma in the US – be sure to only do PK with an experience practitioner.
Alternatively to a major detox, an at-home 3-7-day period of a mono-diet of kitchari, self-massage, gentle yoga and simply winding down your daily schedule can have profound results. I have experience doing this for myself, and would be happy to walk you through something in a consultation. Contact me for more information.
Daily sun salutations (try doing the same number as how old you are!) are great for general Spring time yoga…flowers are to lighten your mood Ayurveda is holistic after all!
One of my favorite Kapha-reducing recipes by my friend Lisa Mase:
(For more wholesome recipes see her blog!)