Seasonal ayurveda tips
Spring survival guide: 5 tips from ayurveda to stay healthy this season. By Julia Clarke
It’s no secret that the change of seasons has repercussions for your health: colds and flu tend to run rampant as winter progresses, whilst spring, for many, marks the onset of allergies, and summer’s warm weather often provides a welcome reprieve from illness altogether. Your physiology is constantly adapting to the changes in temperature, precipitation, food availability, sun exposure and activity level that characterise the cycle of the year.
Yoga’s holistic sister science ayurveda has placed special importance on the influence of seasonality on our health and wellbeing for thousands of years, and in response it outlines Ritucharya (practical seasonal routines) to help you stay balanced and healthy twelve months a year.
Knowledge of life
Ayurveda — meaning ‘knowledge of life' — is an ancient system of holistic medicine that originated in India that emphasises living in rhythm with nature. To understand how its seasonal routines can help you, there are three basic principles you need to understand.
First, ayurveda views everything in life through the lens of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. For example, root vegetables are seen as containing more of the earth element whilst light, dry popcorn has an airy quality. Second is the principle that like increases like; a dry climate provokes dry skin, for instance. Third, we can restore balance with opposites such as using oil to soothe dry skin.
In simple terms, this means summer’s warm temperatures are viewed as an increase in the fire element in nature, ensuring more heat, sharpness and intensity, and that increase outside tends to influence what’s happening inside your body.
So as summer wears on, you might experience greater energy, but also skin rashes or hyperacidity (excess heat in your physiology). To balance these symptoms, you want to apply foods and behaviours with the opposing qualities: eat cooling foods like juicy watermelon, go easy on hot chillies and acidic foods, spend time near water, and chill out on intense exercise.
Now let’s apply that same principle to spring. In the spring, the days are getting longer and the mornings lighter, and the earth’s thaw after a cold, dark winter has a melting effect on the landscape and your body.
Just in the same way the snow caps fill our rivers with water, spring can find your sinuses filling with mucus. Spring therefore, can cause a physical and energetic heaviness and sluggishness as you shed your winter coat.
Your body may mirror this great thaw in the form of colds and allergies, brain fog, fatigue, weight gain and a sense of melancholy. Basically, heaviness on the outside means heaviness on the inside.
The answer? According to ayurveda, spring is the season to lighten up with mental stimulation, more movement and a light, purifying diet. Now is the time to take advantage of the earth’s tilt, awaken earlier, move more and start to shed some layers.
Here are five simple changes you can make to your daily routine this spring to help dissolve winter’s weight and stay light, energised and inspired:
1. Seize the day
This time of year it can be sometimes hard to get up, even for early birds. Balance that heavy feeling in the morning by setting your alarm a little earlier. Wake up a little before sunrise and seeing the new day dawn will signal to your physiology it’s time to get moving.
2. Move mindfully
We all know daily exercise is important, but at other times of the year you can overdo it and deplete yourself. The spring, however, is the perfect time to enjoy more vigorous and dynamic exercise to promote lymph circulation and boost immunity. Break a sweat with robust sun salutations, twists and arm balancing in your yoga practice, brisk walking, running and biking with friends.
3. Hydrate with warm water
Variable weather patterns and cool temperatures can provoke instability in your body, and upset your digestive fire, which ayurveda sees as the source of all health. A simple fix is to ditch the icy beverages at this time of year and carry a thermos of warm water with you instead, which has been shown to be better for hydration. For extra benefit, add a couple of slices of ginger root (great for digestion!) and sip it throughout the day to help stoke your digestion and stay warm.
4. Kindle your digestive fire
According to ayurveda, health begins in the gut. Help your gut process toxins that may have built up over the winter by avoiding heavy foods like potatoes, processed foods, sweets and cold foods. Instead, enjoy warm, light, spiced foods such as dark leafy greens sauteed with warming spices like ginger, turmeric and cumin, cooked grains like barley, lentils, and small amounts of sprouts and seeds.
5. Plant seeds for the future
Spring has historically been the time to sow seeds in the garden for future harvest. Take advantage of the optimism that increasing light can invoke and incorporate intention-setting practices like yoga, meditation and journaling into your daily life to expand your horizons for the year ahead.
Julia Clarke is a yoga teacher and ayurveda practitioner based in Glasgow. She teaches graduate studies in ayurveda at Maharishi International University and is also the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. Visit: juliaclarkeyoga.com or find her on Instagram @juliaclarkeyoga