By Vasant Lad, Yoga+
Spring is the king of seasons — a time of sunshine and cheer, love and creativity. Mother Earth wakes up and causes sprouting; energy moves up; everything is blooming, full of color. We begin to feel more energetic and spend more time outdoors, where children are playing and the birds are singing. Spring is the season of celebration.
But it is also a time when many of us get spring colds. In addition, as flowers shed their pollen and emit sweet fragrances, many people get hay fever and allergies.
The qualities of spring are warm, moist, gentle, and unctuous. Due to the warmth, the accumulated snow and ice of winter begin to melt. Similarly, accumulated kapha (the mind-body force responsible for lubrication and sustained energy) in the body starts liquefying and running.
If you have a runny nose, asthma, congestion, or allergies; if you are feeling lazy, greedy, or attached, you probably have excess kapha. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to follow a kapha-reducing regimen. Try these seven time-tested tips and you’ll enjoy the best of spring.
Add Energizing Herbs to Your Diet
Good kapha-reducing herbs for spring include ginger, black pepper, trikatu, kutki, punarnava. Look for them online or at your local Indian or health food store.
Try a weekly juice fast with fresh fruits and veggies such as carrots, beets, broccoli, parsley, apples, pomegranates, or berries, and take one teaspoon of triphala (an ayurvedic herbal compound) with a cup of hot water at night to keep the colon clean. You can also sign up for a 3- to 10-day panchakarma treatment at a well-reputed ayurveda clinic. Panchakarma, a cleansing and rejuvenation regimen, detoxifies the system, purifies the bodily tissues, and strengthens the immune system. Then, under the guidance of a qualified practitioner, follow instructions for a personalized rasayana (ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy) that will leave you feeling light and vivacious.
Sleeping after sunrise imbalances the kapha dosha. Instead, wake up early and go for a morning walk. Then practice invigorating sun salutations and asanas like fish, boat, bow, locust, lion, camel, headstand, and shoulderstand. Follow your hatha routine with energizing pranayama practices like bhastrika (the breath of fire), kapalabhati (the glowing skull breath), and brahmari (the bumble-bee breath.)
Adapt Your Diet
Agni (digestive fire) is low in the spring. That’s why ayurveda suggests eating less than you did in winter — when agni is high — especially if your predominant dosha is kapha.
Eat light, warming foods.
Bitter, pungent, and astringent foods are ideal for the spring. Enjoy a whole-foods diet of legumes such as yellow split peas, red lentils, garbanzos, pinto beans, soy products, and grains such as barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, or oats. For vegetables, try broccoli, radishes, spinach, okra, asparagus, artichokes, and onions, with hot spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili pepper. Salads with spring greens like dandelion and fresh-leaf lettuces will reduce kapha (although vata-dominant people should eat these sparingly). You can also eat pears, plums, apples, pomegranates, and rhubarb in moderation.
To keep your agni strong, drink a tea of cumin, coriander, and fennel powder in equal proportions, or make a homemade lassi: Combine 1 part yogurt with 4 parts water and 1/4 teaspoon of roasted cumin seed. Blend until creamy.
Avoid cold, heavy foods.
Sour, sweet, and salty foods like citrus fruits, ice cream, and potato chips increase the kapha dosha and should be avoided. Also reduce your use of dairy products and iced drinks — they dampen your digestive fire.
Use More Honey.
According to ayurveda, honey is heating and helps balance kapha in the spring. Use it as an alternative sweetener, or treat yourself to a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of honey.
Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, is a world-renowned ayurvedic physician and author. He is the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His first name comes from the Sanskrit word vasanta, which means “spring”!