What to do when everyone around you is joining in with the joys of Spring and you feel like you haven’t even recovered from Winter yet?
What does Ayurveda have to say about this unusual out of Season reaction?
Sometimes, during Spring, as we shed our Winter layers (fat, mucous, oily protection, Kapha), we end up losing the one last buffer between ourselves and the World around us. Whilst everyone else is feeling like the cobwebs have finally been blown out of their system and the lightening effects of this release improve mood, wash away Winter weight and lift body energy, you may feel like retreating further under the duvet. What’s happened?
During Winter, Kapha (the held Prana/energy in the body) slowly rises, protecting us from the cold, sharp and dry winds. This happens because this stored Prana is heavy, lubricating and stabilizing. The stored Prana takes the form of lubricating fluids and mucous membranes in the nose and lungs (Avalambaka Kapha) and provide a knitting together of the joints (Shleshaka Kapha) which are more vulnerable if they become cold and dry.
The cold of the Winter drives the heat inwards, making the agni (digestive fire) hotter and hotter. This increases our appetite, our capacity to digest and our assimilation of nutrients allowing us to get the most out of whatever food we eat, which, biologically, is vitally important during these vulnerable Winter months.
All being healthy in the body, this food is turned into our nutrient base (Rasa – the first of the seven body tissues) which when rich and thick with nutrients increases Kapha and immunity. Sleep, rest, ease and lack of stress also allows the Rasa tissue to increase and as Winter is a time to take the cue to hibernate, or at least do less, this lubricating and nourishing Rasa/nutrient base continues to sustain and support us through the cold and dry qualities of Winter.
But what if you haven’t been resting and rejuvinating this Winter?
The Top Six Winter Offenders
- Dieting – No! No! No!
- Excess travel – Try to keep the home fires burning instead
- Fat Free Fare – Oil inside and out every day
- Late Nights – Early to bed makes for a spring in your step come Spring
- Over exercising – Less is more in Winter
- Eating cold, drying foods (salads, cold smoothies, raw foods, iced drinks, ice-cream etc)
All the above six factors overdone in Winter will cause Vata Dosha (Prana incorrectly moving and eliminating) to predominate. If you continue these practices throughout Winter, instead of Kapha being higher in the body just before Spring, Vata will be high. As Spring comes and Kapha (in this case, excess mucous and weight gain) is eliminated via a natural Spring clean, the body is left with absolutely no buffer, increasing Vata dosha.
Six Signs of High Vata Dosha:
- Pain in the joints
- Dry skin/mouth/hair/nails/lips
- Fatigue, no get up and go
Just before I continue, let me explain that there is no critique or judgement if this is you. It is so common now, with our fast paced lives, to be so removed from assessing if we are in rhythm with Nature that it may never occur to us that if we do not rest and eat well through the Winter months we would fall foul to this indiscretion.
Ayurveda has five techniques for bringing balance to the body
- Add plenty of ghee to your foods. This improves digestion and lubricates the body and skin.
- Book Shirodhara (ayurvedic oiling of the head with warm medicated oils) every week for six weeks. Your practitioner will advise you to do a short ‘amapachana/cleanse’ tailored for your body before your treatment.
- Add the Ayurvedic remedy, pippali, to your health care regimen. This warms the body and improves immunity (leave this remedy out if acid conditions exist).
- Add cat/cow spinal movements to your yoga sessions along with joint rotations and more time in savasana at the end of practice.
- Balance exercise with rest all Spring.