Ayurveda 101 for Spring
The soil is warming up here in Melbourne and the seeds are starting to sprout. The earth is wet from the spring rains, it is the perfect environment for new growth. This is the nature of Kapha in Ayurveda.
Kapha is made up of the elements of water and earth. It is the first dosha - it is how life begins. It is heavy, cold and fertile. Spring time is the time of Kapha dosha.
Kapha dosha starts accumulating in nature and in the body during winter. Winter is a natural time of eating richer and heavier food. In winter, we need to eat food that is higher in protein and fat to insulate us from the cold weather. If we don't, we start to become weak, our skin becomes dry, we become bloated or constipated and we can have anxiety. Eventually the sun starts to return, which brings with it, warmer weather. This is the way of nature - everything is a cycle that balances the previous one. The cold of winter accumulates and starts melting due to the warmth of the sun. Isn't nature amazing?
And with the warmer weather, come the new spring foods. Nature is very austere at this time of year and we are seeing bitter spring greens like dandelion and rocket popping up. This is the time of year for asparagus and artichokes. Early fruits that start to appear at this time of year are berries and cherries.
All these foods are designed to cleanse the liver, which has started to become overburdened by all those cakes and cookies we have been enjoying around the fire place in winter. It is a time to reduce the volume of food that we are eating, just as nature suggests.
Ayurveda looks at food not in terms of calories or nutritional profiles. Instead, it looks at foods in terms of tastes and energetics. The tastes to focus on during a particular season, will balance the dosha that is prevalent during that time. The basic premise of Ayurveda is that like increases like and opposites balance. So, it makes sense to eat in a way that balances, instead of aggravates the dosha that is is prevalent in a particular season. During spring time, the tastes to focus on in our diet are bitter, pungent and astringent.
Here are examples of foods and spices with these tastes:
Bitter: Lettuce, rocket, dandelion, spinach, fenugreek, turmeric and coriander (leaves and seeds).
Pungent: Pepper, chillies, garlic, onion, ginger, asafoetida (this herb is very potent and excellent to help digest pulses), turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cloves and ajwain.
Astringent: Brussels sprouts, pomegranates, cauliflower, chick peas, okra, asparagus and yellow mung beans.
Some foods have all three qualities of bitter, pungent and astringent, so are spring time super foods.
These are rose, saffron and turmeric.
Food is a major component of Ayurveda, but it is definitely not the only thing to focus on. In fact, lifestyle practices are so potent, that even if we follow the perfect Ayurvedic diet without incorporating supportive Ayurvedic lifestyle practices, we will not see long lasting results.
An Ayurvedic lifestyle is based on our daily habits. And we are the sum of our habits. The way our bodies look and feel in this moment are an accumulation of our daily lifestyle and dietary choices.
Let us go back to the qualities of Kapha with the understanding that like increases like and opposites balance. The elements of water and earth make kapha dosha slow, heavy, oily, liquid and cool by nature. This results in a tendency towards oiliness and congestion.
Kapha dosha is balanced by the forces of sharp, light, dry and warm. So, when preparing food, prepare it in a way that is light, dry and warm, emphasising tastes which are stimulating and will motivate the heaviness of kapha.
Steaming vegetables with minimal oil and using pungent spices is a way to bring in the qualities of light, dry and warm.
Some activities that stimulate kapha:
Move the body. The tendency in the spring is to become more lethargic and the best antidote to this is to move. Walking or running in the morning sun is excellent, as well as any activity which raises the heart rate and puts a smile on your face. Particular yoga postures and sequences to stimulate kapha in the spring are the sun sequence, twisting postures and heart openers. Kapalabhati breath is also excellent. We will be focusing on this type of yoga in our upcoming online Mini Yoga Retreat.
Spring clean. There is a reason why spring cleaning is a thing. It is designed to move stagnation, not only from the physical environment, but also from the body and mind. Cleaning is a spiritual practice. If you are a hoarder, you likely have a kapha imbalance. Our environment is a mirror of our inner state. So, if you are feeling spring time congestion and sluggishness, spring cleaning is a great hack to bring kapha back into balance.
This is also a great time to do a detox. I am doing a five day Ayurvedic detox and feeling great. It is a time to clear out all the channels of the body and prepare for warmer days and a more outward focused energy.
I hope this introduction to Ayurveda for Spring is helpful. As you can see, Ayurveda is common sense and based around following nature. If we align with what nature is doing, we really can't go wrong when it comes to our health and wellbeing.