By Andrea Foster
While the weather from coast to coast may be a crazy-quilt of all that Mother Nature has to offer, the Vernal Equinox is a constant on our hemisphere that signals, at least in our minds, the coming warmth and the increase of sunny days.
Vernal (Spring) Equinox occurs when the earth’s equator aligns directly with the Sun, making the hours of day and night equal. The northern hemisphere aligns this event with Spring. While we in the United States think of the Spring Equinox as the beginning of Spring (regardless of what the weather is doing outside), other countries and cultures vary in their schedule. For example, in Sweden, Spring is defined as having begun once the temperature has risen above freezing for seven consecutive days.
Naturally, the environment around us carries on in its rhythm regardless of what season our wardrobe or home decorations may reflect. But it’s hard to deny the energy of hope and effervescence that can arise within at the sight of delicate blossoms emerging from tree branches, or the new life that comes to the pastures as baby chicks and ducklings emerge, or the activity in the skies as chevrons of geese aim north again.
What can this emergent time bring to us as we experience this sense of anticipation? Now is the time to figuratively open the windows and let in something fresh and new. This is the time of the “spring cleanse” which can range from spending a week committing to nutrition of whole foods to organizing your pantry and deep cleaning cabinets and shelves.
In Ayurveda, this time of year suggests a focus on pacifying the kapha dosha. Kapha, you may recall, is water and earth and when out of balance can manifest in sluggishness, depression, and a tendency to overindulge in heavy foods and sweets. Excess kapha can accumulate in late winter and begin to tip far out of balance in springtime. To offset this, you need cleansing actions in nutrition, movement, and thoughts.
As the warmth of the Sun increases and liquefies the kapha that has accumulated in the body over winter, traditional Ayurvedic texts also note that this can cause cough, colds, sore throat, slow digestion, and nausea. To combat this, your meals should be fresh, light, and easily digestible.
Here are a few nutritional recommendations for the season:
- Drink a 20-oz bottle of water three times a day and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Be sure to add a pinch of an effective electrolyte, such as Atlantic grey salt to stabilize your hydration.
- Enjoy green vegetables and light, broth-based soups. Add spinach, lemon, and garlic for their astringent, sour, and pungent properties which are effective for reducing kapha.
- Now is not the time for cold foods, though you might think of that when you think “light”. Look for lentil soups and stews, such as kitchari. Try spices such as dried ginger, long pepper, black pepper, and mustard seed to act as an inner sun to further liquify kapha and stimulate digestion.
- Water with ginger juice or honey can be nourishing in the spring if you also tend to run dry.
Now is the time to try light exercise and yoga. If you already practice a regular movement routine, try something new or commit to something that can inspire you. Try a spin class if you’re usually a yogini. Consider a couch-to-5k running program. Regular movement offers a host of proven physical and mental health benefits and can help spark inspiration even as it grounds you and stabilizes your energy.
Feeling the itch to do more to shed the old winter season? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Buy a skin brush (you can also use a soft-bristled hairbrush meant for a baby) and commit to spending one week dry-brushing your skin before bathing. This stimulates your blood and lymph circulation systems.
- Drink a mug of warm water with lemon juice upon waking in the morning to help cleanse the digestive system.
- Experiment with organizing your closet according to color.
- Arrange a small handful of daffodils in a jar of water and watch how they open so quickly you can almost see them move.
- Use a salt scrub and imagine that you’re sloughing off old habits and assumptions as you inspire fresh circulation under your skin. Try this every four days for the next month.
- Take a meditation walk, focusing on breathing as deeply and slowly as your lungs will allow.
- Stop by the dhyana Center and inhale a sample of grapefruit essential oil. If you have a home diffuser, this is a great oil to use.
- Check out an inspiring cookbook from the library and try a new recipe.
- Commit to making your bed every morning for seven days and see how it changes your bedroom.
- In Sonoma County, take in the majesty of the rhythm of life and go whale watching along the coast. Now is the time when mothers and their calves migrate north.
- Completely open all the blinds and curtains in your home to allow the sun shine in the windows, even if just for a little while.
- Bundle up and take a sunrise walk, paying particular attention to the morning bird songs you hear.
- Paint bright prayer flags on squares of muslin stitched along a shoestring. Hang them outside, if you can.
- Book at appointment for a garshana silk glove scrub at the dhyana Treatment Center. This invigorating session can really motivate you to get things done! Ask us how when you call.
Enjoy the enthusiasm of springtime and see what seeds you can plant within to grow new habits in the coming months!