Ayurveda is all about balance – how to know if you have it, how to achieve it and how to keep it. One of the most important things you can do to stay in balance is to keep in tune with the calendar. As the seasons slide by, our body’s needs also slowly change. Ayurveda has come up with a scheme to fine tune your diet and lifestyle practices to stay in harmony with the changes in nature. Ritucharya, the science of seasonal rhythms, is based on the weather outside the window and the effect that will have on the body’s patterns of health.
To understand the effects of the seasons on our health, and to appreciate the whys and wherefores of the food we eat in each season to stay sharp, we must look at the waxing and waning patterns of the three doshas. After all, the doshas are the supervisors of the body and their balance governs your well-being.
Ritucharya is based on an awareness of the climate, not on to calendar months or dates. If spring comes early, your program will change to the spring routine a little early, too. For example, if the weather is warming up, gradually increase the amounts of cooling foods in our daily meals to compensate.
On the other hand, the routine suggested for the spring season should not be adopted just because it is March, if there is still a nip in the air and the nights are cold enough to make you think about a blanket. One season blends progressively into the next, merging gracefully into it, and so also should our dietary and living habits slip from one to the other without a hitch.
Spring is a time of changes—in like a lion, out like a lamb. So much so that the transition from winter to spring is one of the most difficult and stressful shifts we go through all year. Winter, with its cold weather, gradually gives way to the increasing warmth of summer. So we go from a time of excess kapha energy to the increasing heat of the pitta season.
And all this doesn’t always happen quite as easily as we’d like. During the unpredictable beginning of spring, our bodies don’t know who to believe, Old Man Winter or the green grass of spring. Does our immune system still have to guard us against colds, or do our adrenal glands have to get us up and out the door? It’s a puzzling time for your body.
Your goal this spring will be to stabilize your health and make sure you are detoxified from the stored products of our sedentary winter metabolism. Your health strategy will be to stay warm, get moving, dry out, and lighten up your life. After all, you’ve been hibernating all winter, so this spring, concentrate on cleansing foods and teas. Now, like it or not, it’s time to get up, get cleaned out and get active. Spring is the time to eat a balanced diet, and to begin the gradual transition to the cooler summer diet.
Mucus tends to accumulate in the winter (remember all those miserable days at home with a cold?), and that same mucus like to flow in the spring, like the sap rising in the trees. Milk tends to increase mucus, so limiting milk products in the morning during the spring is only prudent. To counteract this tendency for excess morning mucus, instead drink a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of honey to get going.
Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes clean out your tissues. Delicious, with a mildly bitter taste, leafy green vegetables, leeks, lettuce, okra, parsley and spinach are cleansing foods. Used mainly as an exotic vegetable, artichoke is an excellent liver and gallbladder detoxifier. Artichoke flower would normally be consumed as a vegetable, but the raw globe can also be juiced.
Split peas and navy beans are good sources of protein for this season, because they stick to the ribs but are easy enough to digest that the body still detoxifies easily. Astringent or “puckery” foods, like berries and grapes, especially green ones, are detoxifying, too. A good lunch for a warm spring day would be a soup of mung beans and rice, with ghee, cilantro, and grated coconut. The warming herbs ginger, basil and coriander keep the later chill away.
Just like the plants that start poking out in spring, we need to gradually start to poke our noses out into the world. Spring is a time for warming exercise, gradually getting back into shape. Add to that some invigorating massage, to get the blood circulating, and nice warm baths, saunas and warm herb rubs to revitalize and stimulate the tissues.
Finally, the wait is over and spring has sprung! Time to clean up, get up and get going.