By Bindu Shortt
Aaahhh, spring — bulbs push through the thawing soil, trees and bushes bud, and the sun shines longer each day. Seeking to refresh and renew, all of nature is awakening from winter’s hibernation. In Ayurveda, spring season is called “kapha.” It derives from two Sanskrit words that mean “water” and “flourish” or “nourish.” Qualities of water increase, both in nature outside us and in nature inside us, to nourish new growth.
Our yoga-buddies in the southern hemisphere are enjoying the beginning of fall, explained in a recent blog. In the northern hemisphere, we are coming out of winter, which is vata season. Inside, we have accumulated vata energies of dryness, cold or feeling vapid-and spacey. In reaction to these excesses, your body may be producing more mucous, in the form of colds, flu or allergies now. You may be holding extra weight from the winter or find that your digestion is really sluggish. As we switch to kapha season, your body-mind wants to clear out the excess qualities from winter to be able to live harmoniously with those of spring. This means a nurturing time of renewed energy, vitality and cleansing.
Ayurveda offers some ways to clean and nourish in springtime. These simple lifestyle practices support your body’s innate capabilities to do both. First, eat your biggest meal midday. At this time the fire of digestion burns hottest. It will also maximize cleansing at a cellular level. Keep breakfast and dinner lighter. For example, eat cooked fruits and grains for breakfast, and soups and light breads for dinner. Favor the bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Americans are more familiar with the other three tastes — sweet, sour and salty — which pacify vata during winter. In spring, however, we need the other tastes for cleansing.
All leafy greens are bitter, and are best cooked. Asparagus, beets and fennel are also considered bitter. For herbs and spices, bitter turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek all help the body to cleanse from within. Pungent includes the tastes of onions and garlic as well as black pepper, cloves, mustard seeds, and ginger. Along with these pungent ingredients, include the astringent taste. It is found in pomegranates, lentils and beans, quinoa, spinach, apples and pears, avocadoes, and sesame seeds as well as the spices fennel, coriander, and parsley. These foods help to dry up excessive mucous. Throughout spring, use these foods liberally, still keeping most of your meals cooked (not raw).
Begin to rise earlier, just as the sun is doing. Being up by 6 am will help you ride the 6 to 10 am kapha waves of energy, rather than sink into them, accumulating sluggishness and lethargy. Resist the temptation to nap during the day. If you do need to nap, do so sitting propped up, which will keep your body from going into a false sense of nighttime cleansing. Lying down to nap during the day will only leave you more toxic when you wake up.
Keep your daily self-massage going. Even add a second layer to it. Do dry massage first, to deeply stimulate your lymph system to move toxins on through. You can buy a pair of dry massage gloves at the pharmacy. Then you will be ready for the oil massage.
In Ayurveda wisdom, spring is a season of both cleansing and nourishing. Spring Asparagus Kitchari will give you both, helping to release any spring fluid buildup in your tissues and joints. It’s nice with papadum or homemade chapatti, and serves 4:
1 pound fresh asparagus, rinsed and cut into ½ inch pieces
½ cup rice
½ cup split mung dal
Pinch of saffron
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ghee
Rinse together the ½ cup rice and the ½ cup split mung dal, soak for at least 30 minutes and then drain.
Dry-roast a good pinch of saffron.
To the roasted saffron, add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 1½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and 2 tablespoons of ghee. Sauté until the cumin gives off an aroma.
Add 1/4 cup chopped onion to the spices and ghee, and sauté until soft.
Add the soaked, drained rice and dal plus 6 cups of water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium, and cook for about 45 minutes.
Add 1 pound of rinsed fresh asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces. Stir gently. Cook another 15 minutes.