Spring is in full bloom! The air is warmer, the sun shines longer, the buds are bursting, and the birds are busy. This is the time of the year where we all start to feel a little more energetic, inspired, and vibrant. It is also the time of year where our bodies need the most help in flushing out the heaviness and stagnancy of winter so we can move into spring and summer feeling light, healthy, and energized.
Spring is the season where the earth sheds its protective winter coat: the melting snow flowing into the streams and rivers. The main qualities of this time of year are cool, wet, and heavy. In Ayurveda (sister science to Yoga), these qualities are called ‘Kapha’ and this is the season in which Kapha is dominant. Within the body, these same qualities exist- the protective coat that the body puts on during the colder winter months (from heavier, richer foods and extra mucous to protect the lungs) now begins to melt and flow out of the body. It is important to help facilitate this flushing so that the body may do its job in cleaning out the excess heaviness and sluggishness. Just like the streams and rivers, if there is too much debris that clogs up the channels, then the excess cannot flow through and out, leaving us bogged down with toxins and stagnant energy (also known as ‘ama’). Too much ‘ama’ in our bodies can easily lead to low energy, low moods, and illness.
So how can we help facilitate this grand flushing of our bodies? Here are 5 tips that should be relatively easy to incorporate into your days:
- Drink Warm Lemon Water – lemon helps to activate and cleanse the liver, one of our greatest filtering organs. The liver may be a little sluggish at this time of year from all the rich foods, sugar and alcohol of the winter months and holidays- it needs our help to rejuvenate! Drink a cup of warm water and a half of a squeezed lemon every morning (before eating) and evening (and more if you like!)
- Cut Back on Toxins (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy)- coffee, sugar, booze and dairy products are all heavy and taxing for the body to process and eliminate. Coffee, sugar and alcohol require a lot of effort for the liver and other cleansing organs, and dairy is mucous creating- combined, they easily create a ‘back-log’ of toxins for the body to deal with. We want to aid the body in eliminating the back-log from winter, not add to its work load, so keep your consumption of these items to a minimum during the spring months.
- Get Your Sweat On- sweating is one of the body’s best ways of eliminating toxins and flushing out excess fluids. Whether it be in the yoga studio, gym, or on the trails, this is the time to move your body! Get your blood and lungs pumping often to clear out stagnant energy from the mind and clean out the residue from the body.
- Eat Your Greens- more specifically, astringent/bitter greens. Astringent/bitter foods having a heating and drying quality to them, meaning they aid in cleansing the body. For example: dandelion greens, mustard greens, sprouts, arugula, watercress, celery, spinach, green beans, artichoke, baby salad mix, and lettuces. Other excellent foods to eat a lot of are avocado, apple, pomegranate, berries, broccoli, pears, and carrots. In general, we want to decrease the amount of heavy, white, and processed foods at this time of year and increase the amount of light, raw, and green foods.
- Do Some Twists- twists massage the organs, activate the digestive system, and build heat in the body. The heat helps to ‘melt’ any sluggishness and burn off the toxins (ama) in the body, while the massaging and squeezing wrings out stuck residue and brings fresh, oxygenated blood to the digestive system and cleansing organs.
Below is a simple sequence of cleansing and rejuvenating Yin Yoga postures that target the digestive system, liver and kidneys. This sequence is easy to add in to your day, whether first thing in the morning or just before bed. Hold each posture for 1-5 minutes, breathing deeply and fully, putting more emphasis on the exhale (the cleansing aspect of the breathe):
1. Shoelace pose with a twist- begin with right leg wrapped over the left, twisting towards the right. Release forward into the twist. If it is too much on the knees or hips, try sitting on a pillow or extend the bottom leg straight out in front of you
2. Straddle- if you cannot lean forward, try sitting on a cushion. Resting the forehead on a block, bolster or in your hands (propped on elbows) is a nice way to support the neck
3. Sphinx- relax stomach, glutes and thighs in this pose. To increase the back bend, place a bolster or cushion underneath forearms
4. Supine twist- drape knees to left first, turning head to right, then repeat on other side. You can either keep knees stacked or eagle wrap the legs as shown