By Vedika Global Ayurveda Clinical Specialist Shubha Lisa Lesser
Spring is officially descending upon us. In the Bay Area, there are daffodils, cherry blossoms, colorful birds, and sneezes everywhere you go. Many of us may be experiencing some extra mucus or sluggishness, which is putting a small damper on enjoying this warmth. If we keep eating the heavy meals that were so appropriate over the winter just a few weeks ago then there will be no break from the runny noses over the upcoming spring season.
Spring is the time for renewal and it is the ideal time to jump head first into that new workout or to increase the intensity of your Yoga Asana practice. It is recommended to pursue an active lifestyle, such as walking or exercising, and not to sleep in the daytime. A sedentary lifestyle increases Kapha Dosha, a bio-psychic force comprised of earth and water elements (which is naturally increased in the body during the springtime), so we should do our best to be active. We now have more reason to go hiking and we get rewarded with not only the magnificence of the lush spring bloom but also with our health.
Spring Diet Tips
A large part of following Ritucharya (a seasonal regimen) according to Ayurveda pertains to the diet. In the spring, as the flowers start to bloom, we should favor bitter, astringent, and pungent-tasting food and spices.
If we look around the farmers' market or our gardens, we will start to see a lot of food with these tastes now. Foods like dandelion greens, arugula, spinach, kale, radish, watercress, and asparagus are all around in abundance. Lesser-known things in America, but found with enough searching, are bitter vegetables like bitter melon and fenugreek leaves. Cooking these foods with spices such as mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, black pepper, cumin, ginger and garlic will really help to keep Kapha Dosha in check.
You can also garnish with my daughter's current favorite – raw onions. It is recommended to cook with mustard oil instead of ghee unless you already have excess heat conditions in the body. In the grain department, switch to using barley and millet instead of rice for a few meals a week.
Since like increases like and spring are moist, ideally avoid oily, cold, wet, heavy, sweet, sour, salty foods as much as you can. These properties can be seen in foods like yogurt, fruits (except pomegranate), butter, and ice cream. If you can, avoid these foods for the next two months or so. I know I will and I will definitely try my best with my daughters, although it’s hard to get the older one away without a fit if she sees fruit. If I do give in and let her have some fruit, I will surely cook her next few meals in order to reduce Kapha Dosha as much as I can. You have to do what you can without creating added stress.
Also, it is okay to not feel as much hunger as you did a few weeks ago. This may be a big change for some and unnoticeable for others. I recall in past years that I went from having a super strong Agni (digestive fire) to having to work hard to keep the food flowing through my body. Here is a very simple recipe that I like to make in springtime:
1 bunch watercress
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp shredded ginger
3 tsp mustard oil (or ghee if you don’t have any on hand)
himalayan rock salt to taste
Heat mustard oil in pan
Add cumin, fenugreek seeds and ginger
Add water cress
Add salt to taste
Cover & cook approximately 5 minutes
You can serve with kitchadi or chapatti(or a simple wheat tortilla). I started cooking watercress right as spring hit in 2011, due to the slight paranoia in the air over the so-called radioactive cloud coming from Japan. Due to past health issues, I knew watercress is known for its high iodine content and so it protects the thyroid from radiation. It is also high in iron, vitamin c, has anti-cancer properties, is an aphrodisiac, good for coughing and aids digestion which is why we are cooking it now in spring.
Just remember, it is bitter and pungent – therefore, it goes best with other foods like chapatti or kitchadi. Don’t be discouraged! You can also mix it with your other favorite bitter, spring greens such as kale, chard or dandelion.