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Spring health with Ayurveda

March 9, 2010

3482346695_a068a48f00During the cold, damp Winter, it is normal for what is termed ‘Kapha dosha’ to accumulate (due to the cold, damp weather and a heavier diet). This means we may put on a few pounds, have some congestion and generally feel a little sluggish. Spring is a time of fresh starts and potential, with nature leading the way. The weather is warmer and wetter and evenings lighter. The increased temperature causes accumulated Kapha to ‘melt’ causing symptoms such running noses, or even full blown spring colds and hay fever. To help get ready for a healthy Spring:

  • Set your alarm for 7am at the latest, and preferably wake earlier as sleeping later will further aggravate Kapha (causing fatigue, lethargy and excess mucus). Take a cup of ginger and lemon tea first thing to stimulate digestion and clear any mucus that has accumulated overnight.
  • Now is the time to dig out your neti pot to give the nose a daily rinse with warm, salt water over a sink. This not only helps ward off colds and hay fever, but will also improve your pranayama. Read David Frawley’s ‘Neti: Healing Secrets of Yoga and Ayurveda’ which includes information on adding herbs to your neti to aid detoxification.  Or see earlier post.
  • Clean your tongue as well as your teeth. During the night, the tongue becomes coated with a film that can contain bacteria and toxins. This often becomes the basis for bad breath, caries and periodontosis. A healthy tongue, according to Ayurvedic medicine, is pink in color and free from coating. If the tongue is dirty it impairs your sense of taste, and increases susceptibility to infections. Gently scraping from the back forward with a tongue scraper not only cleans but also stimulates internal organs, help digestion, remove toxins (ama), and bacteria. Buy one today (available in the on-line shop by post for £2.50 inc p&p). Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never stop the habit!
  • Massage your body with warm sesame or sunflower oil, followed by a warm shower to aid your spring detox. Dry skin brushing is also excellent for stimulating lymph and reducing cellulite, though not if you have very dry or delicate skin. Use firm sweeping strokes up from the feet towards the heart to aid the elimination of fluid. Ayurveda also recommends massage with dry powder after you’ve oiled up, to clear excess fluid, and help with cellulite. Try using chick pea flour from an Indian grocer, but watch out not to clog your drains as you rinse it off. Saunas can also be a useful for drying up excess secretions at this time of year.
  • Practice vigorous exercise to get the lymph moving in the body, preventing congestive problems. It is also one of the best ways to stimulate a sluggish digestion and aid detoxification. Make your yoga practice dynamic and stimulating. Sun salutations are ideal as they build up heat, working all the major muscles. Kappalabhati pranayama is also good for generating internal heat and burning toxins. Try and go for a brisk walk after lunch every day as well.
  • Of the 6 Ayurvedic tastes, favour more bitter, pungent (spicy) and astringent tastes as these open the channels of elimination, clearing excess mucus and moisture from the body. Bitter (eg: green leafy vegetables, spinach, courgettes, turmeric, fenugreek); spicy (eg: fresh ginger herbal tea, black pepper, cayenne) and astringent (eg: all pulses, pears, pomegranate, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower and turnips). Green tea is also rich in the astringent taste, and helps detox.
  • Conversely, reduce Kapha aggravating sweet, sour and salty foods which could cause water retention at this time. In common with the winter diet, minimise raw and cold foods, favouring warm, lightly cooked meals. Minimise wheat dominant foods and other mucous forming foods (white sugar, orange juice, dairy) especially if you do catch a cold.