Seasonal Wellness Guide: Spring

Ah, sweet Spring has arrived! All of the heavy ice and snow begin to melt, soaking into the soil, giving the seeds beneath their first real drink of water. As the melting progresses, the Earth gets heavier and heavier with moisture, and new growth springs forward from the dirt. Isn’t magical to see that first pop of green come up in your yard through the patches of snow and mud? My favorite thing to see are my crocus bulbs emerging from the soil.

            Spring is a seaon of birth, new beginnings, growth, and revival. In winter, everything was in the dark and cold – the void. Within the void, anything and nothing are possible. It’s all about the potential. In spring, the Earth physically manifests all that was formed within the void, which is pretty amazing. Seeds are germinating, flowers are budding, the birds are much more vocal, and the leaves are growing back. Like I’ve mentioned a few times before, even though a lot of us are really disconnected from the outside world, we are deeply affected by the movement of nature around us.

            Seasonal routines are incredibly important for our health, and many of us have fallen away from these routines because we are no longer connected to what is going on outside of our homes or workspaces. We can feel a lot better and more balanced if we watch Mother Nature and mimic her seasonal routines. It takes a very, very long time for our physical bodies to evolve. We may be living in a technological era advancing at breakneck speed…but our bodies are not evolving as quickly as this. No, we are still physically much closer to our ancestors of the last 1-2,000 years. In order to take care of our bodies in the way that they’re still used to, we need to be connected to the outside world and aware of our routines.

Information adapted and expanded upon from Banyan Botanicals, a great source for Ayurvedic products. I am not affiliated with them in any way – I just really enjoy their products and the information they have.

            Our physiology picks up on these energies and senses a natural opportunity for a fresh, clean start (ever heard of spring cleaning?); our bodies are ready to lighten things up, cleanse ourselves inside and out, and rejuvenate our systems. It’s common to experience a new sense of inspiration and joy as the sun gets brighter and the Earth gets greener. However, for many, spring is associated with colds, congestion, and seasonal allergies. All of this can be eased or overcome with an appropriate seasonal routine that promotes optimal health, allowing you to enjoy all the gifts that spring has to offer.

            If we consider the Ayurvedic principle that opposites together equal balance, spring (which is warm, moist, soft, heavy, and slow) will be less aggravating if you fill it with lightness, sharpness, dryness, and increased heat. It will be helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of typical imbalance during winter so that you are better prepared to address them immediately if they arise:

Spring (Kapha) Imbalance Signs and Symptoms

Mind

  • Generalized feeling of heaviness or lethargy
  • Sluggishness, drowsiness, or brain fogs
  • Excessive sleep, laziness, melancholy, or depression

Digestion

  • A sense of heaviness
  • An uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Excessive salivation
  • Poor appetite
  • A sweet taste in the mouth, even if you haven’t eaten
  • Indigestion
  • Slow or surpressed metabolism
  • Stool that is heavy, oily, pale, or sticky

Respiratory System

  • Colds, coughs, excessive accumulation of mucus, a runny nose, excessive nasal crust, and hay fever.
  • Can also appear as congestion or a feeling of tightness in the sinuses, throat, or chest.

Circulatory System, Nails, Scalp, and Hair

  • Lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph glands, mild (and intermittent) hypertension.
  • Hives, itching, abnormally pale skin, cold sweats, reduction of sweating
  • Loss of strength, formation of lipomas, or weight gain.

Elsewhere in the Body

  • Water retention, excessive urination, low grade fevers, fungal infections, excessive ear wax, dental tartar, excessive hair growth
  • Low sex drive or an exaggerated desire for sex, premature ejaculation (emotional), enlarged prostate, cold or heavy testicles, fibrocystic lumps, and prolonged, slow menstrual cycles.
  • Swelling or stiffness in the joints, a sense of heaviness in the eyes, and whiteness in the urine, eyes, or feces.

So, if you are experiencing any of these imbalances as we come fully into Winter, let’s talk about how to balance and navigate this beautiful season with grace.

Spring Season Diet

  • In general, you’ll want to focus on eating foods that are warm, light, and dry in nature, with tastes like pungent, bitter, and astringent – lots of fresh vegetables, a variety of herbs and spices, and limiting your intake of heavy, oily foods, meats, dairy products, and sweets.
  • Portion control is essential to balancing kapha in the spring. Make sure that your stomach is never quite full. Aim for 70% full. Ideally, at the end of a meal, the stomach contains 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid, and 1/3 empty. I always like to take a few minutes after I’m ‘done’ to see if I want seconds, and if I still do – then I have them!
  • ‘Spring cleaning’ doesn’t just apply to your home – this is also the ideal time for a cleanse or detox if you feel called to do so. Juice cleanses are very supportive during this time of year.
  • Drink room temperature or warm beverages and avoid iced or chilled drinks if possible. The idea is to feed your internal fire so you’re digesting things more fully and avoiding that sluggish, backed-up feeling.  To stimulate your appetite, you can drink fresh ginger tea with some honey between meals.  
  • Structure your diet around eating lots of fresh (but not necessarily raw) vegetables and a variety of legumes. These foods tend to be astringent and somewhat bitter. You really can’t go wrong with veggies in the spring as long as you don’t overdo the watery kinds (avocado, cucumber, olives, sweet potatoes, squash, or zucchini – these are best during the heat of the summer).
  • Breakfast should be light, perhaps fresh fruit and tea. If you need something a bit more substantive, barely, quinoa and basmati rice are good grains to use with breakfast.
  • Lunches and dinners should also be light, with cooked grains, steamed vegetables, and legumes. Many of us also benefit from eating lots of bitter greens, cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and spicy foods like peppers and chilis.
  • Gradually reduce your intake of heavy, oily, or fried foods and try to be mindful of overeating or excessive snacking between meals.
  • Heavy or sour fruits like oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, coconuts, and melons are also best reduced in the spring. Try to use less oil or ghee when cooking.
  • If you eat meat and eggs, it may be a good idea to scale back a bit. You may feel more invigorated if you eat less meat, as beef, pork, seafood, and duck can be particularly aggravating at this point of the year. Chicken and turkey are pretty light in nature, so these are two good options to switch to.   
  • Dairy is best reduced in the spring, especially in the mornings, as it can be quite congesting. Almond milk, oat milk, and rice milk are good substitutes.
  • If at all possible, eliminate iced or chilled drinks, ice cream, and popsicles all together during this time to keep the digestive fire hot.

Fruits to Favor

  • Apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, dried fruit, lemons, limes, peaches, pears, pomegranates, prunes, raisins, raspberries, and strawberries.  

Vegetables to Favor

  • Artichoke, asparagus, bell peppers, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chilis, collard greens, corn, dandelion greens, endive, garlic, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onion, peas, white potatoes, radishes, spinach, sprouts, and turnips.

Grains to Favor

  • Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats (dry, uncooked), quinoa, basmati rice, rice cakes, rye, seitan, and tapioca.  

Legumes to Favor

  • Aduki beans, bean sprouts, black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, miso, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, tempeh, toor dal, and white beans.

Nuts and Seeds to Favor

  • Popcorn, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Dairy to Favor (in moderation)

  • Cottage cheese, goat’s milk, and yogurt.

Animal Products to Favor (if in your diet)

  • Eggs, freshwater fish, poultry, rabbit, shrimp, turkey, and venison.

Oils to Favor (in smaller quantities)

  • Corn oil, flaxseed oil, ghee, mustard oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil.

Sweetners

  • Honey, maple syrup, and molasses.  

Spices to Favor

  • All spices are supportive in spring.  

Spring Season Lifestyle Choices

            In general, you’ll want to really dig into the feeling of renewal in the spring by developing some focused intentions for yourself. That said, don’t put too many heavy expectations on yourself – you still want to embrace the light-heartedness that springtime inspires. It’s a natural time to socialize and to rekindle meaningful relationships after being stuck inside by cold weather. It’s also a great time to just play. You may feel like you’re getting up earlier as the sun makes itself at home; for most people, waking by or before 6:00 AM will help set this energy in motion.

  • One of the most effective ways to support yourself in spring is to try and establish a stimulating and inspiring morning routine, even if it’s short. Brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, drink some water, and apply a few drops of Nasya oil to your nasal passages if you feel called to do so.
  • In the mornings, you can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic sesame oil. Do this before a warm, morning shower to give the oil a chance to soak into the skin, even if it’s only for five minutes. The warm water of the shower will open the pores in your skin so the oil can sink in deeper, giving you a protective, moisturizing layer before you go out.
  • While you do benefit from having a routine every day in the spring, with regular times for working, eating, sleeping, and exercise – let yourself have a little more leeway during this season. Try something new, shake up your routine, and embrace a sense of playfulness and adventure.
  • If you enjoy aromatherapy, any citrus or ‘light’ essential oils will be beneficial during this time of year. Citrus oils are photosensitive – don’t put them on your skin and go out in the sun! If you dilute the oil down first in a carrier (unscented massage oil), then you can rub these oils onto the skin.
  • Ever heard of color therapy? Try dressing in bright, warm colors and see if it has any impact on your sense of wellbeing. Reds, yellows, and oranges are very stimulating for early spring, as it’s still a bit cold and wet. As the weather begins to heat up, gradually shift towards cooling blues, greens, purples, and whites.
  • Try your best to skip daytime naps. The sluggish feelings are already amplified by the season itself.
  • Try and settle down into bed by 11 PM or midnight. While you don’t want to overindulge on sleep during spring, an increase in sexual activity is welcome.

Spring Season Exercise

            Exercise is especially helpful in the spring because it counteracts the heavy, wet atmosphere. Physical activity improves circulation, increases heat, stimulates digestion, and results in a feeling of lightness – all of which help to balance the energies. It’s also a good time of year to push yourself a bit physically, with longer, more intense workouts – be mindful, however, of your own body and don’t overdo it!

            Consider biking, jogging, hiking, or swimming and try to exercise in the morning, between 6 and 10 AM. If that doesn’t quite fit with your schedule, another good timeframe is from 6 to 10 PM.

Great Yoga Poses for Spring:

  • Sun Salutations
  • Warriors I, II, and III
  • Reverse Warrior
  • Forward folds
  • Chest-openers
  • Backbends
  • Cobra
  • Bow
  • Side Plank
  • Spinal Rolls
  • Leg liftsand twists

And there you have it! The seasonal wellness guide for spring. Do you feel inspired to try anything suggested? Have you already been acquainted with Ayurveda? How does it support you? Leave it in the comments!

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