Transitioning from Winter where we've been a bit sluggish, into Spring where our environment begins to wake up and lift us out of hibernation, can be a tricky time of year. Especially as we begin to change our diets and move from eating heavier ground grown root veggies (protected from frosts and winter chills) to those that shoot up above ground on vine (reaching up to soak up the sunlight).
This change can impact our gut microbiome and in turn our brains, energy systems, and really, entire physiological function. Traditionally, people engage in a cleanse or fast to reset the digestion to accommodate new foods. Spring is an especially important time to do this as we seek to lift and flush out any accumulated heaviness from Winter setting us up for Summer.
Our Beautiful friend Phillipa from Ayurveda Joy, explains how this all translates within Ayurvedic practice and provides some awesome tips to support your own smooth transition through Spring!
SPRING - KAPHA SEASON!
Ah, Melbourne - you bring your challenges: rain; wind; pollen; sun; cold; sun; rain; cold; wind; sun; warm; cold; pollen; more wind… you get the idea!
For those of you in other parts of the country, spring is a little gentler but still a time to pay careful attention to what the season is offering each day and devote only loving kindness to your mind-body.
Spring is a time to embrace the 3 R's; RENEWAL, RESET and REBIRTH.
Cleanse. Open. Release the old. Bring in the new. Plant the seeds in the garden (and within ourselves) to encourage growth. Form new (healthy) habits and water them daily. Sweep the paths and dust the window ledges, figuratively and literally. It is time to set your intention to thrive not just survive like many of us have felt our capacity to be over the winter.
There is fast growth in nature at this time of year: buds blossom in a matter of days; barren trees fill with green leaves in week; and leafy greens in the garden shoot up inches in a blink of an eye. We too, as individuals should harness this spring energy to implement projects we have been ruminating over, an exercise regime we didn’t have the motivation for in the winter and cleaner eating habits.
With Ayurveda teaching us that "like increases like", it is clear why natures springtime tends to increase kapha. And so just as Spring melts the ice and snow, Kapha, the elements of water and earth begin to liquefy in the body this can either be a revitalising experience or cause congestion, nasal drip, hayfever, coughs and colds and our digestive fire, known as agni, diminishes. The Ashtanga Hridayam, a vedic text referred to by Ayurveda practitioners for health protocols, spring is a time of Vasanta Ritu, a time wherein the human strength is considered relatively low.
So by tweeking our diet and lifestyle to invite a little extra lightness, sharpness, dryness, and heat into our lives, supporting the body with gentle exercise, mild sweating and herbs, we can help our bodies balance kapha through Spring and its renewal and revitalisation, strengthening rather than feeling flat and congested.
By adding exercise and movement into your routine in Spring you improve your circulation and increase heat, both providing an uplifting and lightening effect in the body, which helps balance kapha.
Exercise TIP: Try; getting out in the sunshine and taking a brisk walk every morning between 6-10am, OR going on a hike, bike ride or run outdoors to soak up natures beautiful Spring vibes.
Yoga TIP: Try introducing a practice that focuses on cleansing the lungs and warming the kidneys, by keeping the chest and heart space open through poses. Including chest openers asanas, backward bends, forward bends and strong poses like warrior 1, warrior 2 and reverse warrior, as well as those that stretch the solar plexus like cobra, bow, side plank, spinal rolls, leg lifts and twists.
As you are in the pose, keep the chest open and expanded, after 5-10 breathes, enough to feel challenged, take a deep breath before releasing and moving into the next posture.
Foods should be chosen to mitigate kapha that are easily digestible and relatively fat free. Mother nature is offering us a wonderful opportunity to cleanse the heaviness of winter in the body with the proliferation of bitter greens like asparagus, dandelion, nettle, spinach, kale, silverbeet and parsley. These bitter, astringent greens have the capacity to open the channels of elimination which are critical for purification, igniting our digestion, regulate moisture levels, clear our lymphatic system of congestion and support the liver to remove fatty, sticky build up, known as ama in Ayurvedic medicine, from not only our body but also our minds.
TIP: Removing or reducing Winters heavier, dense and sour foods like bread, meat, pasta, potatoes, yoghurts, sweets and leftovers at this time of year further enables the system to feel lighter and give welcome rest to a digestive fire that has been working at its maximum capacity during winter, keeping us warm and working on digesting a heavier diet.
Include: fresh fruit, light, cooked grains, legumes, steamed vegetables (bitter greens, cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower).
Enhance Meals with pungent warming herbs and spices like: onions, garlic, ginger, black pepper, chili pepper, small amounts cayenne pepper.
Reduce: You may feel lighter and more invigorated if you reduce beef, pork, seafood and duck.
It is also a good idea to reduce sweet, sour and salty flavours as well as heavy or sour fruits like oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, coconuts, and melons. And minimise dairy.
Best to Avoid altogether: chilled or refrigerated foods, fast foods, sweets, soy products, nuts, excessive amounts of bread.
See below for a list of recommended Spring Foods.
HAYFEVER TIP: The astringency of honey is also a wonderful substance for this time of year and for those that suffer hayfever choosing raw, local honey can help dissipate allergies.
CONGESTION TIP: Ginger, mustard seeds, ajwain and turmeric in meals and beverages can also help support the elimination of excess kapha in the body and congestion from the respiratory system.
As we move from Winter to Spring you may find that naturally you crave different types of foods, your appetite may begin to reduce, moving away from the heavier dense foods towards the lighter variety. This is the bodies way of saying its time for a Spring clean.
And so within Ayurvedic texts it is also recommended to undertake a "cleanse" or “mono-fast” at the transition time of winter to spring to support your body’s natural desire to purify and renew, recommending three to seven days of simple eating such as kitchari, mung bean soup or vegetable soup. Removal of caffeine, sugars and processed foods ensures the immune system is fortified and digestion is at optimal health to handle all that the environment throws at it.*
Two wonderful formulas offered by The Grove can also support your immunity and digestive health at this time of year:
Organic Triphala is a classical formulation of three fruits high in vitamin C and antioxidants that gently cleanses the system removing toxic buildup in our digestive system and boosts the immune system, best taken at night to work its magic while we sleep.
Organic Tulsi is a wonderful multi-purpose herb known as sacred (holy) basil that helps to keep the nervous system peaceful and the respiratory system clear of congestion. A member of the mint family, it's a perfect uplifting herb to support our systems during Spring.
Both of these herbs are classified as a premium Rasayanas (Adaptogens), helping the body adapt to environmental, physical and emotional stressors, support normal functions and restore balance.
Other inclusions could be:
Throughout the day include spicy herbal teas to promote digestion, including; lemon/ginger, or coriander/cumin/fennel, or ginger/black pepper/pippali.
After a meal have a ginger/black pepper/cinnamon tea to strengthen and support the digestive system.
Mix 1-2tsp's of Aloe juice with 1/4-1/2tsp turmeric daily, to support the Liver in its ability to aid detoxification.
"Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine by Thy Food."
— Hippocrates (Father of Medicine)
Oats (dry, not cooked),
Beetroots & Beetroot Greens,
Preferred Animal Products:
Poultry (white meat),
Preferred Cold Pressed Oils/Fats:
Flax Seed Oil,
As a professional chef for many years before becoming an Ayurvedic practitioner five years ago, one of my all time favourite (and easy) recipes, that is perfect for Spring... a Creamy Green Protein Soup, click the link below and enjoy.
View Organic Tulsi
View Super Green Soup Recipe
View Organic Triphala
Spring is a time of turbulence, with its "rain; wind; pollen; sun; cold; sun; rain; cold; wind; sun; warm; cold; pollen; etc etc", it's important to remember that as nature changes we must too be flexible and fluid, instead of rigid and static. If we approach Spring in our local areas with flexibility to our individual needs our minds and bodies will flourish. The below information is designed as a general guide to Spring with some tools to help you formulate an idea of how refine your Springtime routine and support your individual body type.
* It's important to note that fasts are not for everyone, as we are all in different stages of health journeys and life. If you would like to know more about the safest way to do an Ayurvedic cleanse, we advise booking an online or in person consultation with Phillipa to determine the type and duration best suited for you as an individual.