(Originally published as a "Featured Today" highlight and in the "Popular Lately" section on Elephant Journal)
One of my favorite things about the Ayurvedic way of life is its rich guidance in terms of practices to help us live in harmony with nature throughout the year.
Ayurveda teaches that health is our natural state, which can be accessed by following the rhythms of nature. So accordingly, Ayurveda gives us guidance for healthy living in the form of its seasonal health teachings, which are called Ritucharya. This word comes from the root Sanskrit terms “ritu,” meaning season, and “charya,” which means to follow. Through following Ritucharya, we are able to live in sync with the cycles of nature, and thereby maximize our potential for amazing health.
In Ayurveda, there are three bio-forces, or fundamental constituents of the body, calleddoshas. These bio-forces are comprised of the five great elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. The doshas are naturally increased at different times of the year. In the springtime, when the flowers are blossoming, the birds are chirping, and everything is moist and juicy outside, Kapha dosha (made up of water and earth elements) is dominant in the atmosphere.
One of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda is that of the unity between the macrocosm (the world outside) and the microcosm (our inner world of our individual body and mind). So, when everything is moist and juicy outside, our inner environment is also filled with moisture in the form of an increase in the water and earth elements. This natural increase in earth and water can lead to all sorts of common spring afflictions, like colds, coughing, allergies, asthma, and more.
Here’s how living the Ayurveda way this spring can help you prevent the aforementioned ailments, while activating the health that Ayurveda says is latent within you.
1. Eat light foods. It’s really important to eat light during the springtime. Another core principle of Ayurveda is that of “like increases like” and “opposites decrease.” Because the earth and water elements are by nature very heavy (compared to the more ephemeral nature of fire and especially air and ether), we want to eat light foods to counteract too much buildup of heaviness in our system.
People often ask me what it means to eat light versus heavy foods. The way Ayurveda answers this is that heavy foods are those which tax your digestive system, making you feel sluggish or tired afterwards, and that seem to sit in your stomach for a long time.
Examples of foods that are heavy to digest include meats, cheeses, pastries, oils, pies, milk, butter, nuts, and many fruits.
Foods that are lighter to digest (and hence good for springtime) include green vegetables (like asparagus, spinach, and kale), peppers, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, and green mung dal.
2. Exercise. We are all aware of the importance of exercise for good health (hence, the blanket statement of “eat healthy and get plenty of exercise”). But did you know that the quantity and type of exercise we are recommended by Ayurveda depends on the season we’re in?
During the spring season, it is advised in the ancient Ayurvedic texts to get lots of heavy duty exercise. So think cardio, speed-walking, and aerobic movement. What exercise does is increase the natural heat in the body, which allows you to digest food better (as digestion is compared to a fire in Ayurveda, and we want to keep our inner digestive fire strong to be healthy).
3. Incorporate heating spices into your meals. This is the time of year to enjoy spicier foods! I typically experience a lot of heat in my body, so I tend to avoid consuming too much of spices like black pepper, garlic, and ginger as a result. During the springtime, however, due to the natural increase of kapha dosha in the atmosphere, I find that I am able to enjoy more spices.
Cooking with ginger, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, ajwain seeds, and black pepper (which I fondly collectively call “the fiery firesome”) are great ways to boost your health and prevent respiratory challenges and spring allergies. The dry form of ginger is a powerful ally to call upon any time you may feel a cold coming on, or you want to stop a runny nose. Any time I feel this happening, I apply a paste made of dry ginger powder and water on my nose and under my eyes for as long as it’s comfortable. It’s amazing how much that helps.
4. Don’t sleep during the day. Napping in the daytime increases moisture in your body. During the spring season, we want to totally avoid this, since there is already plenty of moisture in the atmosphere. And adding more moisture to ourselves tends to push us toward imbalance, while staying active leads us toward health.
5. Enjoy honey as your best springtime snack option. For optimal digestion, Ayurveda generally recommends avoiding snacking. This is because it’s best to wait until your previously consumed food has been digested before eating more. There are, however, some exceptions to the no snacking recommendation, and honey is one of them that’s perfect for spring!
When had by itself on a regular basis, honey (aged for at least one year) has unique immunity-boosting and toxin-cleansing qualities. It’s great for improving your health in the springtime in particular, when you can enjoy up to four teaspoons of it per day.
Try following Ayurveda’s seasonal wisdom this spring to enjoy all that this beautiful time of the year has to offer, while keeping yourself in balance and harmony with nature.
Wishing you a very happy spring!
1. Lochan, Kanjiv. Ashtanga Hrdayam. New Delhi: Chaukhambha Publications, 2011.
2. Sharma, Priyant. Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Oriental, 2003.
Basket and book cover photos © 2017 Liz Daly. All Rights Reserved. From The Ayurveda Way, used with permission from Storey Publishing.
Learn more about Ayurveda in my book, The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World’s Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion, and More.