Ways to take care during the seasonal transition into spring
Here in East Tennessee, the weather has been gradually warming, and we've enjoyed an ongoing parade of daffodils, redbuds, and dogwoods, all blossoming in rhythm with the daily symphony of birdsong. Although this past winter was not quite as cold as it should have been, many of us here and throughout the rest of North America feel as if we are slowly emerging from a time of hibernation into a time of joyful activity. This transitional season offers us many blessings...and challenges. Longer days of golden sun. Flowers dressed up in an enviable array of cheerful colors. A first taste of enlivening fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. A non-sensical change of clocks. And of course - allergies!
According to Āyurveda, spring is the season when warmer weather "melts" winter's stasis (the energy of kapha), when the outer and inner snows that accumulated begin to thaw and run into rivers of creative momentum. It is certainly an exciting time, but we run the risk of falling ill if we don't take proper care of ourselves by gradually shifting our routines in sync with Nature. So I'm offering ideas here for ways that you might more gracefully expand into an experience of renewal and vitality. If any of these suggestions speaks to you, see if you can engage with it in a way that feels light, freeing, or refreshing. That's the whole point, after all!
"Every day is a renewal, every morning the daily miracle." Gertrude Stein
Sure, let's start with the obvious - spring cleaning. Something about this time of year is just perfect for channeling your inner Marie Kondo, reorganizing the tool shed, and wiping down the baseboards. With the longer days, you probably have more energy to pursue projects that require extended time and attention (like properly sorting the cabinet of spices that has grown out of control in my kitchen...). But you don't need to go full-blown Cinderella to experience the sense of refreshment that comes with a tidy living space.
Just like a pleasing photograph - which has space around its focal point - a home that is clean and functional and that has comfortable space, can feel welcoming, satisfying, peaceful. If that is a direction you'd like to move in, commit to a bite-sized project you could accomplish in less than an hour, without turning your hair grey. Maybe it's going through the medicine cabinet. Or junk drawer. Or refrigerator. Start with a small, well-defined space, and see what attention it needs. Maybe you find expired medicines, five pairs of scissors, or a hidden heel of bread that's more stone than sustenance. Clean it out, enjoy the satisfying results, and then decide if you'd like some more or less of that.
As we look outside and observe the vacillating temperatures, increased precipitation, and general muddiness of spring, we can begin noticing how those changes are reflected within us, too. We are microcosms of the macrocosm, after all. That's why Āyurveda recommends eating with the seasons in a way that balances our system. Spring is the time to transition away from the hearty, heavier foods of winter and lean into lighter fare. Tastes to favor are pungent/spicy, bitter, and astringent. Think - spices that warm you up, cruciferous vegetables, and fresh fruits that leave your mouth a little dry (like pomegranates). These flavors create an inner warmth and dryness that balances the dampness of spring, and thus our digestive fire - agni - is strengthened, protecting us from illness.
Asparagus is an exemplary springtime vegetable - it is famously diuretic, helping the body remove excess water. Recently I cooked an asparagus risotto for the first time, and it was so deliciously satisfying, I'm putting in on a regular rotation! If you want to learn more about springtime eating from the Āyurveda perspective, Banyan Botanicals has a thorough "Spring Guide."
Whether or not you choose to take inventory of your food diet, you have an opportunity to observe your sensory diet, as well. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and thinking about throughout the day? How might these sensory inputs be renewing or depleting you?
I am noticing how my energy levels are increasing with the longer days, and last week I caught myself in a cycle of panicked information consumption - listening to as many podcast episodes as possible while cooking, reading multiple news articles back-to-back, subscribing to all the e-newsletters that might improve my life...! When I stepped back to assess this frenzied feeling, it was clear that I wasn't digesting most of what I was taking in. It gave me the chance to pare down and choose to consume content that feels most uplifting and refreshing.
Watching flowers bloom and trees leaf out might give you the inspiration you need to begin or renew your Yoga practice. If you don't already have a personal Yoga practice, please connect with me to create one together! We can explore the techniques that will best support your wellbeing through the spring season.
If you do have a personal practice, here are a few ideas that might be appropriate to incorporate, depending on your interest and capacity. In general, your practice can become more active and energizing (not depleting). Axial extension and spinal extension will bring spaciousness to your upper body: think about movements that lift your spine, arch your back, and open your heart-space. Because nāḍī śodhana so wonderfully removes energetic blockages, it could be a goal prānāyāma to work toward. If you experience seasonal allergies, don't do anything that aggravates them. Rather, keep your nasal passages moist by steaming or doing neti jalam. Finally, padma mudrā offers a perfectly springtime expression of the most beautiful flower growing in and emerging from mud.
Finally, we can think about relating to our outer landscape in a way that feels refreshing and enlivening. Dig around in your garden. Breathe deeply the fragrance of wildflowers. Close your eyes and get carried away by birdsong. Hike a new trail, or try a new outdoor activity. Organize a neighborhood cleanup day. Volunteer in your community for a cause that's meaningful to you. And generally cultivate a sense of joy that today is a miracle.