Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
It happens every year. Just when we feel as if winter will never end, the sun shines and the skies turn that incredible blue reserved solely for Kentucky. The daffodils explode in their riotous golden party, the birds resume their singing, and a hundred shades of green delight our eyes. We start peeling away the layers of clothing, letting our bare toes dance in the squishy mud. We emerge from our hibernation and welcome the gentle rains that will prepare our gardens for tomatoes and zinnias. I heard someone say once that every April, God rewrites the Book of Genesis in Kentucky.
Yet spring has it’s own challenges. According to Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, the changes in our bodies reflect those in nature, so it is a time of great transformation. Ayurveda designates that everything is a combination of three doshas, or elemental substances. These are Vata (space & air), Pitta (fire & water), and Kapha (water & earth). A balance of the doshas results in wellness, while an imbalance results in disease.
As you might guess from their descriptions, springtime is predominantly kaphic in nature. The qualities present in nature and our bodies at this time are cold, wet, and heavy, which can lead to sinus issues, slow digestion, or a sluggish mind. So to balance, we should adopt lifestyle practices that emphasize warm, dry, and light.
One struggle many Kentuckians understand is spring allergies. Ayurveda tells us that congestion, sinusitis, and a runny nose is nature’s way of melting our “inner snow”. This is the perfect time to practice ujjayi pranayama to heat up the body and clear the sinuses. Here’s how:
1. With the lips pressed together say “AH” as you inhale
2. With the lips pressed together say “HA” as you exhale
Try a few rounds with the mouth open, saying “AH” and “HA” to feel how it narrows the aperture of the throat and gently contracts the glottis. Then close the lips and maintain the sound. It sounds like Darth Vader a bit, or like when you hold a conch shell up to your ear. You might imagine you are fogging a mirror in the back of your throat.
Other Practices to Adopt to Create Balance this Spring:
• Wake up early! I know it’s more of a struggle with the time change, but it is important to be up and moving before the sun comes up to move stagnant lymph accumulated overnight.
• Then get outside! People who load up on light exposure at the beginning of the day are most likely to have a lower body mass index, because the blue light waves of early morning balance our circadian rhythms (which tell our brains when we are both hungry and full). Further, the best way to move excess heaviness and mucous is to move the lymph and blood that circulates within our bodies.
• Each morning, scrape your tongue and gargle a small glass of water to which you add 2 tsp. hydrogen peroxide. This removes toxins (called ama in Ayurveda) from the mouth.
• Use a neti pot, a nasal irrigation device that uses salt water and gravity. A neti looks like Aladdin’s lamp. You fill it with warm salt water and pour into one nostril (it drains out the other). It thins mucous and helps flush out the nasal passages.
• Dry brush your skin before you shower and then massage with coconut oil when you get out.
• Include some heat-building backbends in your yoga practice. Backbends gently stimulate the adrenal glands to energize and warm us.
• Open the doors and windows in your house for an hour to allow fresh air to circulate within.
• Spring clean your pantry. Throw out any food that contains ingredients you cannot pronounce. Embrace the fresh vegetables now available at the Farmer’s Market!
• Start your day with a glass of warm water with lemon. Fire up your agni (digestive fire) by adding a pinch of turmeric or ginger.
• At each meal, choose warm, easily digestible foods that contain a balanced mix of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.
• Spend quiet time each day either in Nature or looking out a window so you don’t miss this glorious transition back to life.