As spring comes into bloom, it’s time to shift our lifestyle and daily routine to one that balances the effects of the cool, damp, springtime weather. It is ayurveda, the ancient Indian “knowledge of life,” which guides us toward this seasonal adjustment.
Ayurveda teaches that each of us is a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm with both our being and nature made up of the same five elements; air, space, fire, water, and earth. Natural law, therefore, means that whatever is happening in nature will inevitably affect the human body. We are not separate from the world around us.
This is what makes seasonal care so important. Nature brings drastic shifts each season. From hot, sticky summers to cool, bone dry falls and from wet, frigid winters to damp, fresh springs. Our labeling of “cold season” is proof that nature has an effect on the body. We only have to reflect upon our past experiences each season to recognize just how much our health can change throughout the year; we get allergies in spring, heat rashes in summer, and dry skin in fall. The external absolutely impacts the internal. It makes sense that we should adapt our self-care according to the season. This is the best way to prevent imbalances, which can be anything from a cold, to joint pain or skin flare-ups.
The three doshas, or vital energies present both in nature and in the body, are influenced by the seasons. Pitta accumulates with the heat of summer, vata accumulates with the dryness of fall, and kapha accumulates with the coolness of winter. In spring when the water element dominates nature (dewy mornings, spring rains), the water element of the body, a component of kapha, also rises. If these watery secretions manifest in excess or in an imbalanced way, the cold, heavy, and liquid aspects of kapha diminish pitta’s fire. Added to this, kapha naturally begins to liquify as nature heats up after frigid winter. Spring symptoms like allergies, congestion, colds, excess mucus, sinusitis, and watery eyes manifest. (Read more in The 3 Doshas of Ayurveda.)
We can counterbalance the effects of nature with ayurveda’s ritucharya, or seasonal routine. In spring, this means balancing the kapha dosha. This is especially important for anyone with present kapha imbalances or a predominantly kapha constitution. Here are the most important ways to protect our kapha in this season. (Learn more in Ayurveda's Spring Cleaning for the Body.)
Wake Up Early
Each dosha dominates during two times of day, and it’s kapha which is at its height from 6am-10pm. Early morning dew is an indicator of kapha’s increase. So, too, is that groggy, sluggish feeling we get if we sleep in past 6:30 or 7am. This is kapha at play. By waking up at or before 6am, we can counteract kapha’s groggy effect. This shift makes a huge difference in our overall energy throughout the day. Come spring, this is especially important since kapha is already increased. Waking up and getting out of bed before 6am brings a certain lightness and vibrancy that no cup of coffee can live up to. (Learn more in What Time of Day is Brahma Muhurta?)
Move Your Body
Kapha tends to stagnate, so it’s balanced by physical activity. Vigorous, enlivening exercise is perfect for spring. A vinyasa flow practice or even a brisk walk in the early morning help to shake off any lingering lethargy caused by kapha.
Each dosha predominates over a certain area of the body. Kapha reigns over the chest and head, which is why spring imbalances tend to accumulate in the lungs (asthma) and sinuses (allergies and colds). In order to remove kapha in this region, asanas that open the chest like warrior one pose and camel pose are very useful, as is warming pranayama like kapalabhati and bhastrika.
Scrub & Exfoliate
Ayurveda recommends daily abhyanga, or self-oil massage, even in springtime. But in case of allergies and congestion, a dry powder massage (udgharshana) is more appropriate. The dryness and lightness of legume and grain powders like chickpea and barley help to counteract kapha’s wetness and heaviness. For this practice, mix 1 cup of barley flour, mung flour, or red lentil flour with ½ teaspoon of ginger powder or neem powder. Gently rub it over the skin (or mix with enough water to make a paste for a gentler impact), then rinse off in the shower. (Read more in A Morning Routine for Conscious Living.)
Digestion is at its strongest during winter. The body turns up its own internal fire to counteract nature’s coldness, causing our appetite to increase. Come spring, the earth begins to warm and the body turns down its fire. Digestive strength is now moderate. Those heavy, dense stews and super nourishing foods of winter are no longer appropriate. Instead, foods which are a little lighter and drier are ideal. So are the bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes: foods and spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, legumes, bitter spring greens, and lightly steamed vegetables. (Learn How to Eat for Your Dosha Type.)
Skip the Nap
That groggy feeling that comes from an hour or longer nap in the middle of the day is a kapha symptom. Day sleep increases kapha dosha, so it should definitely be avoided in spring. A 20-minute power nap is ok for those who are exhausted, but full-on sleep during the day can lead to congestion, toxin buildup, and weight gain.
Because we are a reflection of the nature around us, adjusting our daily rhythms and routine to the seasons helps support our overall wellbeing. Ayurveda teaches us how to live in the flow of nature, with springtime being the time for lightness, liveliness, and lively movement. (Learn more in Spring Asana and Pranayama.)