In Sanskrit, Ayurveda translates to “science of life.” This 7,000-year-old medicinal system, which originated in India, is rooted in the belief that as the seasons change, so do our bodies in sync with earth’s four elements: air, earth, water and fire. Spring arrives and the wet, cool weather feeds the ground to ensure a vibrant summer. As the flowers bloom and the birds sing, hopefully you’re feeling the inspiration to move more, breathe deeply and lighten up after a few long, cold months, and that’s exactly what nature (and your body) wants you to do.
Striving to keep our bodies light and mobile while embracing the chill, earthy and moist elements of this season help strike a balance that allows us to spring ahead, vibrant, light on our feet and feeling refreshed. These ayurvedic practices aid in that process:
One of the best practices to help shed the heavy qualities of winter is to wake with the sun’s first rays — infusing the day with bright, clear, light and subtle energy. Sip on hot water with lemon to ignite your digestive fire.
Get outside for a brisk walk, do moderate-vigorous yoga or fit in a workout between 6 and 10 a.m. Exercising in the morning helps awaken your muscles, digestion, circulation and natural detoxification impulses. Research shows going for a walk first thing in the morning can support your circadian rhythm to help you feel more energized during the day and sleep better at night.
Many people tend to crave sweet, warm, comfort foods in the winter. But spring lends itself to lighter foods that usually have less fat and sweetness. Incorporate more pungent, bitter and astringent flavors and ingredients such as legumes, whole grains, raw greens, sprouts and clear broths and juices.
Eating seasonally is the number 1 recommendation ayurveda makes to keep immunity high. Look for what’s popping up at the farmers market, in the garden, and in the produce section of your favorite grocery store.
Vegetables that are just sprouting, or that have been wintered over are in season right now (Think: sprouts, citrus, astringent tender leafy greens, bitter asparagus, spring carrots, herbs and young bitter greens). Vegetables and fruits that are finally able to peek out of the ground with the warmer temperatures are finally ready to show their glory. Enjoy them in lightly steamed greens or add them to grain bowls and salads.
Using a neti pot with a simple saline solution (available at most health stores and online) upon waking helps to clear and moisturize the sinuses from pollens and allergens so common during springtime. The practice wards off illness and bolsters immunity by clearing out germ-harboring mucus, allowing for deeper breathing. It also improves our olfactory function, too. Place a dab of sesame oil in each nostril after use to keep sinuses moisturized.
According to ayurveda, chilly weather aggravates vata dosha (which governs all movement, including circulation and digestion). It’s recommended you avoid eating cooling foods in the spring, such as iced beverages or frozen treats. Instead, opt for steamed vegetables, clear broth soups, stews with greens and herbs, broths and warming teas at mealtimes.
Flavors are more than just the fun part of foods we eat; they’re also the function. Bitter, astringent and pungent foods, for example, help reduce inflammation, aid digestion and our body’s natural detoxification processes. All of these qualities make them excellent choices for building your meals in the springtime. Salty and sour flavors also help to keep our metabolism and immunity high and our bodies hydrated.
Inconsistent exercise routines, oversleeping, sitting for extended periods, and taking long naps all stifle our body’s tendency to cleanse and burst into spring. Keep up with your mindful wellness routine, and make sure to add movement you enjoy to each day.
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