Springtime. A most beloved season filled with flowering trees, whispers of warm breezes, golden sunlight, creativity, passion, and...sneezing.
In the spring season, many of us (me included) suffer from sniffly allergies, swollen limbs, fiery emotions, and overscheduled days.
You can think of the seasons like this...
Spring is the sprout. Summer is the flower. Fall is the fruit. And winter is the seed.
The transition from the seed to the sprout (from the death to life again) is an intense one. The transition can feel a bit heavy. We're moving from the stillness of winter to the movement of spring. Spring is a time of birth, of creativity, of sexuality.
There is also a heavy emotional component to the transition into spring that we often overlook within ourselves. In winter, we are still and dreaming. As spring emerges, the energy rises (like the sap in a plant) up in our bodies. If it isn't channeled properly, it can stay put in our heads - creating turmoil and frustration. So spring is the perfect time to clean your home, do those creative projects, or have that deep talk with that person about that thing you've been avoiding.
In Ayurveda, winter is seen as earth and spring is represented with fire and water. As the heat melts the cold earthly winter, the excess fire and water can flood the body with allergies, toxins, and histamine responses. Both the gallbladder and liver organs are overworked this time of year, causing the allergies and the desire to detox. Our blood is thick from the stillness of winter, and needs to be cleansed.
Since I tend to have a tough time in my transition from winter to spring, here are some practices I do to ease into the beauty and promise of spring without all the gunk and sniffles.
1. Neti Pot
A neti pot is a beautiful way to clean your nasal passages in the morning. Simply fill it with warm clean water (usually from a tea kettle) and really pure sea salt. Tip your head to the side, open your mouth (to breathe) and pour the water through one nostril. The water should gently flow out the other nostril, so make sure you are standing over a sink. Do it again on the other nostril. You'll have an urge to strongly blow your nose afterwards, but try not to. That will push a lot of mucus back up into your sinuses.
2. Steam Inhalation
If I'm experiencing a lot of congestion in the morning, I will do a steam inhalation. Pour hot water in a large bowl and add in fresh herbs like rosemary and marjoram. Let the herbs steep in the bowl (with a plate over it) for 2 minutes. Then place your face over the bowl, with a towel over your head, close your eyes and inhale deeply.
3. Use Oils
You can use oils to detox your body on a daily basis. The first way is through oil pulling, swishing sesame or coconut oil around in your mouth to draw out toxins. You can also add 3 drops of oil to the inside of your ears and sinuses before bed. This soothes and relaxes your cranial nerves, allowing for sweet, detoxifying sleep.
4. Drink Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera juice is a cooling, astringent that really helps when you have a particularly fierce allergy attack. Drink 1 cup at night to reduce inflammation. If you've had an allergy-triggering meal (like with wine, dairy, and wheat), a cup of aloe vera juice is a saving grace.
5. Local Honey + Bee Pollen
Another way to calm elevated histamine levels in the body is to take a teaspoon (or a little less if it makes your stomach feel funny) of raw honey in the morning with local bee pollen sprinkled on top. It's important that it's local, because your histamines are often triggered by the plants in your immediate environment. You can find a local beekeeper (usually at your farmer's market) to help you get bee pollen.
6. Eat for Springtime
Foods that cause allergies and inflammation are: wheat, meat, dairy, cookied oils, nightshades (white potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers), oranges, and grapefruit.
Cooling, anti-inflammatory foods that will cleanse the blood are: green veggies, raw oils (olive or flax), cucumber, jicama, daikon, turmeric, ginger, lemons, limes, and bitters.
Immune supporting foods are: nettles, local honey and bee pollen, dandelion root, burdock root, medicinal mushrooms (like shiitake), and seaweeds.
A note about green drinks: You know I love my juices and smoothies as a way to get greens into your body, but the temperature of your green drinks is important during this time of year. They shouldn't be too cold. Your body organs and fluid run warm, so a really cold beverage won't be absorbed as well. So avoid using ice and try to blend or juice foods at room temperature.
7. Healing Breath
As we are detoxing our bodies from the stillness of winter, it is important that all our pathways of elimination are healthy. One of those pathways of elimination is your breath. Yes, we must be focus on exhaling during this time of year. It releases so much pent up energy in our bodies and can bring body function back into balance.
In yoga, there is something called Pranayama Breathing or Healing Breath. When you focus on the phases of your breath (breathing in, breathing out, and holding it out), you slow down the body and brain and bring yourself back in equilibrium. It's blissful!
8. Salt Scrub + Detox Baths
Lactic acid tends to build up in our muscles during the stillness of winter, resulting in feeling sore from the uptick in movement in the springtime. So there are two ways you can treat this: salt scrubs and detox baths.
You can make a salt scrub by combining 1 cup oil (I like olive oil) with 1/2 cup sea salt and 1/2 cup baking soda. Mix it together and scrub all over your body (moving in the direction towards your heart) before taking a shower or bath.
You can make a detox bath by adding in epsom salts and baking soda (and maybe some yummy essential oils!) to a hot bath.
9. Bed before 10pm
I know it can be difficult, but getting to bed before 10pm will make you feel a lot better during the transition to springtime. The body and mind is at its most active between 10 and 2 (during the day and night). So, if you aren't in bed and starting to snooze, your brain will start going again- making sleep more difficult and not giving your body and organs the time it needs to repair from the day and prepare for the next one.
10. Legs Up the Wall
This little pose is one of the most therapeutic I've ever experienced. By simply placing your legs up a wall and laying there for 20 minutes, you can reduce swelling in the limbs, calm the brain (especially if you're feeling particularly fiery emotions), and rejuvenate your body. I've found that putting my legs up the wall around 3pm every afternoon (when I used to reach for sugar or caffeine) has helped me tremendously.
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