Does spring for you mean a daily ritual of a runny nose, sneezing and severe lethargy? You’re not alone.
Though spring welcomes longer days, warmer temperatures and gorgeous perennials, the great thaw of winter is not isolated to what you see on the mountain.
Ayurveda, an ancient holistic science of self-care from India, views the individual as a microcosm (a tiny version of the universe, composed of the five elements) and try as we might using electricity, refrigeration, central heat and air, we cannot escape the fact that we are seasonal beings. So at this time of year, when the snow begins to melt and the rivers start to rise, the same thing is happening in your body — though sadly your rising river is filled with mucus.
Kapha season, as late winter and spring are known in Ayurveda, is marked by the qualities of heaviness, cool temperatures and increased moisture. While this is ideal for your summer rafting plans, in your body, the transition between winter and summer can manifest as colds, allergies and general heaviness.
But before you reach for the Claritin, Ayurveda has some simple, natural solutions that will leave you feeling clear and energized. Add these to your daily routine to start breathing freely again, and enjoy these last few weeks of spring skiing and snowshoeing.
Though you might easily sleep 10 to 12 hours at this time of year and still wake up exhausted, the best thing you can do is set the alarm for 6 a.m. and hit the gym, the trails or early morning yoga. Vigorous exercise such as hiking and even early road biking is highly recommend to combat the heaviness of Kapha, and every activity is fair game except for swimming. If you can, hit the sauna for a few minutes afterwards and breathe in the dry heat.
The best foods at this time of year are warm, light and dry. Reduce the amount of oils you are using and focus on steamed vegetables such as leafy greens; light grains such as barley and millet; lean proteins such as lentils; fruits such as grapes, apples and pears; and warming, drying spices such as ginger, cumin and turmeric. Eat your main meal at lunch and make dinner a lighter, dairy-free option.
Consider a once-a-week light diet to strengthen digestion and remove impurities. This may include hot water, herbal teas, fruits and fruit juices (room temperature) and a very brothy lentil dahl if you are very active:
Lentil Dahl recipe
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Combine the lentils, water, turmeric, coriander and ginger in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked and soft. Turn off the heat, and add the salt. Garnish with cilantro. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Spice it up
Ginger in its powdered form is one of the best herbs for clearing the sinuses, while turmeric is known for its astringent properties and will help dry up mucus. Lightly boil a cup of low fat milk (or an alternative such as goat or almond milk), and mix in 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and turmeric, as well as a teaspoon or two of raw local honey, to taste, and enjoy. This is best taken late morning.
Julia Clarke is the yoga director and certified Ayurvedic wellness consultant at the Vail Vitality Center. Visit www.vailvitalitycenter.com for more information.