The blossoming trees and blooming flowers are spreading the news that spring is here.
Nature is waking up once again from her long winter’s sleep. The weather is getting warmer, and new shades of green are dancing in the wind and shining in the warm rays of the sun. Spring showers refresh and replenish the earth, and we are infused with the impulse to hike and bike and celebrate the opportunity to be outside. It is a magical time.
Unfortunately, during this magical season of growth and renewal, millions of people cannot enjoy themselves. Along with the rain, they suffer showers of runny noses, watery eyes and allergy attacks. As the pollen count climbs higher, their allergies go equally high. The spring season has become allergy season.
What can we do to prevent the problem? Are there any natural solutions? Let us peep into Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old wisdom of healthy living. Ayurveda beautifully explains how we are related to Mother Nature. Once we understand this close connection, we can find answers to many of our health problems.
Mother Nature works through three energies – water, heat and wind, and those same energies reflect through us. Water is named kapha, heat is pitta and wind is vata. Among the three, kapha is on the rise during late winter and spring, pitta during summer and vata in fall and early winter. With more rain and moisture in the air, kapha begins to accumulate in late winter and start showing its signs – sneezing, wheezing, coughs and colds, sinus congestion and middle ear infections in the spring.
Could we possibly stop the arrival of spring to help stop kapha from getting out of hand? No, we can’t! “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Yet adjusting the sails is all that we need to keep kapha in control. Here is a secret: the subtle qualities of kapha (water energy) are cold, heavy and moist. Opposite qualities – warm, dry and light – keep kapha under check.
Following are some healthy Ayurvedic tips to add more warmth, dryness and lightness in the body through diet, exercise, pranayama, spices, herbs and herbal teas:
Diet in Spring
To reduce kapha, cut down on the following:
1. Ice-cold water and cold juices. Cold (drinks and food) increases colds and congestion.
2. Sweet, sour, and salty foods. Donuts, candies, cookies, ice cream, yogurt, junk food also increase congestion
Instead, it’s important to emphasize the following:
1. Baked, Broiled or grilled foods, and hot spices. These foods increase warmth, light, and dry qualities
2. Fruits like cherries, berries, and pomegranate.
Here are couple of herbal tea recipes to help jump-start your spring:
1 glass warm water
1 T honey
1⁄2 T fresh lime or lemon
1/8 t fresh grated ginger.
Mix well and enjoy this great morning beverage.
Cinnamon Ginger tea
1 glass water
1 stick of cinnamon
1⁄4 T fresh grated ginger
1 T honey
Boil all ingredients for 2-3 minutes; then add 1T honey and enjoy.
Exercise – Aerobic activities such as hiking, biking, jogging, brisk walking, playing tennis, and basketball increase internal heat and prevent congestion.
Pranayama – A few cycles of kapala bhati (forceful exhalation and quiet inhalation) and bhasrika (forceful exhalation and inhalation) are well-suited to kapha time, as the brisk movement of diaphragm, chest and abdominal muscles can increase heat. Surya pranayama (right-nostril pranayama) also achieves a similar effect. Breathing through surya nadi (pingala – the subtle channel on the right side) is stimulating and heating, creating warm energy.
Spices – Hot pungent spices, such as cayenne pepper, jalapeño, chili, onion, garlic, ginger, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, etc. are proven remedies for the kapha season. Add some of these spices while cooking, or sprinkle powdered spices on food.
Herbs – Triphala and trikatu are among the most ancient and most beneficial Ayurvedic formulas. Triphala is a combination of three bitter and astringent fruits, and trikatu is a combination of three pungents – ginger, black pepper and long pepper. Both of these formulas help improve digestion, elimination and reduce congestion.
Neti – This is a very effective sinus-cleansing procedure. By cleansing the nasal passage with lukewarm salt water, blockages are removed and sinuses are cleared. It is recommended to learn the neti process from an Ayurvedic practitioner.
This spring, make sure to get a consultation and a body constitution evaluation from your Ayurvedic practitioner to learn the extent of remedies you may need.