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An Ayurvedic Approach to Spring

The rain is pouring down, washing away the remnants of this winter’s snow piles as I write this. Do I dare believe spring is near?!

The spring season is traditionally a time of renewal. We throw open our windows, deep clean the messes that piled up over the long winter and prepare for cleansing and new growth.

While nature blossoms beautifully in the springtime, humans often experience a much less graceful transition this time of year. We often find ourselves feeling sluggish – like a reluctant, cranky bear coming out of hibernation.

To enjoy a healthy, active spring, you need a basic understanding of Ayurveda – yoga’s sister science – especially of the kapha dosha and how to bring it into balance.

Kapha Dosha

Of the three doshas, it’s kapha that brings light, warmth, and an increased energy. When it’s in balance, you’ll feel strong, composed, and stable – with strong muscles, lubricated joints, and an affectionate, loving personality.

The spring season is sweet and gentle, one that encourages us to slow down. The softness you might notice is an attribute of the water element, while the slowness is an attribute of the earth element. When these elements combine – as they’re doing each day outside this time of year – they encourage growth and new life. Buds begin to form on the trees and flowers pop out of the soft ground. Yet, when there’s too much water and earth combining, we get thick, overwhelming mud instead.

So, too, is the case for us humans. When our kapha dosha is out of balance, we figuratively get stuck in the mud. You may notice a tendency toward lethargy. Or you might gain weight, experience excess phlegm in your lungs or sinuses, and feel a heaviness in your limbs.

The kapha dosha is aggravated by qualities that are heavy, cold, or moist, so I encourage you to invite in lightness, warmess, and dryness through the food, activities, and self-care rituals you choose to engage in.

Common signs of kapha imbalance:

  • Dullness and lethargy in the mind
  • Excess congestion
  • Oily skin
  • Swelling
  • Sluggish digestion
  • Attachment issues

It’s incredibly important to intentionally balance your kapha dosha in the springtime, because it accumulates during the winter’s cold and wet atmosphere. As each of us hibernates during the winter, we develop a winter coat of insulation that must be shed to decrease our vulnerability to allergies or head colds.

So, what’s your basic prescription for spring? Develop a rhythm or routine that helps you gradually lighten your body, mind, and emotions.

Stay tuned next time as we dive deeper into the yoga poses, nutritional habits, and sleeping patterns best suited for balancing your kapha dosha this spring.

Building Heat in the Body with the Practice of Yoga

When we’re cold, our circulation decreases, which leads to constriction in the muscles and joints. Though I know how tempting it can be to avoid the snowy roads and stay snuggled up on your cozy couch, winter weather is actually one of the best times to keep up a consistent yoga practice. Through our practice, we develop an internal heat to keep us warm, happy, and healthy.

I suggest focusing on four specific practices this season: develop strong, consistent breath; work those abs until they burn; consume Ayurveda-friendly warm, seasonal foods and get yourself to the nearest hot yoga room.

Strong Breath

Kapalabhati is a cleansing breath technique in which you start in a comfortable seated position with a tall spine. Draw in a long inhale, then exhale forcefully from your lower belly. Continue pushing breath outward in this way without inhaling – the inhale happens naturally, I promise!

Focus on exhaling over and over again, starting with a steady pace before moving faster. After about 20 repetitions, exhale all your air out and draw in another deep breath. Slowly sigh it out. You can repeat this breathing style twice more, allowing for that important rested breath between rounds.

This breathing style removes carbon dioxide from your lungs and brings energy into your body.

Core Strength

Heat is created from your body’s furnace, located in the belly center. In yoga, we call this area the Manipura chakra, which is connected to the element of fire. Any work done in your core area will provide warmth. In the winter, we like to spend time prepping the body before diving into the more difficult core exercises.

We may start with abdominal exercises that keep the spine fully supported by the floor. We’ll move into a couple rounds of Locust pose, while focusing on a very regulated breath. You’ll often find yourself in navasana (boat pose) later in class. Seated forward folds are sometimes used in the cooling portion of class, as we focus on contracting the belly on each exhale.

Nutritional Support

The sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, states that “like attracts like.” This means that the kapha and vata doshas tend to become aggravated during our dark, cold Michigan winters. The climate is simply too similar to their natural qualities. If you’re finding yourself experiencing many colds, poor circulation, joint pains, or negative emotions, try some of these tips.

Definitely eat plenty of soups, stews, cooked vegetables, and grains. Avoid cold salads and sandwiches.

Start your day with a hearty, warm breakfast to feed your digestive fire. Oatmeal is a great option.

Season your foods with warming spices, such as cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, and nutmeg.

Drink warm teas, hot water with lemon, or dry red wine to encourage circulation and stimulate digestion.

If you naturally tend to eat warmer, heartier foods in the winter – like soup, stir fry, casserole, quiches, pasta – you’re on the right track! While our bodies are designed to eat more in the winter, it’s still important to select your food carefully.

The cold, dry, and dark winter months can certainly tempt us away from our practice – and excercise in general. If we fall victim to that temptation, though, we’ll experience a number of negative consequences. I challenge you this winter to use your yoga practice as a means of caring for your entire being. Challenge yourself to practice a certain amount of days each week. For at least 60 minutes, you’ll be incredibly warm and fiery!

If you would like to learn more about building heat in the body using the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, please visit Laura Burkett at Real Food Wellness.

Hot Yoga Studio

The hot yoga studio creates a sauna like atmosphere that will naturally detoxify the body while warming the external sheath, bones, muscles, ligaments and joints. Hot yoga raises your heart rate and core temperature, which dilates blood vessels and increases circulation in your muscles—a total win when muscles are stiffer in the cold weather months. Essentially, hot yoga helps build the heat from the core to the periphery and the periphery back to the core.

If you’re interested in learning more about our hot yoga studio, please call(616) 805-3603 and speak to Brittany Sanagustin or anyone on the Yoga Fever staff. We can help guide you into a safe, cozy practice designed to keep you warm all year long!

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda: The Sister Science to Yoga

Ayurveda is India’s ancient system of health and healing. It differs from modern medicine in that every individual is considered unique – and there is no common diet or lifestyle routine that will work for everyone.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. Doshas are the energy patterns that make up each individual person. This science teaches that each individual contains specific mental and physical traits that compose our constitution.

Although we’re born with all three of the doshas, they form differently in each of us, creating a unique combination that makes us exactly who we are! Generally, one dosha tends to influence us most heavily.

Characteristics of Each Dosha

VataThis represents cold, dry, and light. It is the force that controls our movement, regulates our nervous system, and oversees the elimination of waste. People with strong vata dosha are creative, quick to learn and grasp knowledge. They are excitable but tend to tire easily.

However, when this energy is out of balance, they may experience fear, anxiety, and impulses. They generally have dry skin and hair.

Pitta- This represents hot, wet, and combustive. It is the force that controls our digestion and metabolism. People with a predominance of pitta tolerate most foods, but can’t handle missing a meal. They tend to have an average body build, are good speakers, organize well, and are ambitious.

If their pitta gets out of balance, they lean toward irritability, outbursts of anger, and perfectionism. Typical physical problems include rashes, heartburn, insomnia, or dry eyes.

Kapha- This represents cold, wet, and heavy. It is the protective force that governs stability, structure, and moisture in our mind and body. Kapha types are usually affectionate, loving, and nonjudgmental. They tend toward slow speech, which reflects their deliberate thought process. They are calm and strive to maintain harmony in their relationships.

A lack of balance can lead to feelings of envy, insecurity, and depression. Their physical problems can include colds, congestion, and respiratory problems.

What are the Benefits of Ayurveda?

For all doshas, asana practice complements the positive aspect of our dosha while teaching us what we need to do to bring it into balance. For example, daily routine connects Vata types to the earth, boosting strength and stability. For Kapha individuals, it brings light and warmth to increase your energy and reduce lethargy. For strong Pitta types, it offers breath awareness to bring peace to your mind.

Are you ready to learn more? Join us on Saturday, September 22 from 12:00-3:00 p.m. for a fun, life-affirming class on Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. Together we’ll explore how Ayurveda helps us uncover self-care and nutritional practices that honor our uniqueness. You’ll discover ways to improve your sleep, digestion, weight regulation, and natural detoxification.

Cooling Yoga Poses for Your Summer Practice

Somehow we’re already in the middle of summer – can you believe that?! While it’s wonderful to be able to spend time at the beach, swimming in the pool, or taking long bike rides, there are times where it feels too hot for words, for life, for ANYTHING. Don’t let the heat slow you down too much. Let us show you a few techniques Ayurveda style to stay cool to beat the heat without losing your glow.

The heat of summer matters in our yoga sphere, as it tends to accelerate and heat our minds and bodies. This doesn’t mean that we should stop our regular yoga practice. In fact, our studio room is cooler than it is outside!!

According to Ayurveda, which is the traditional Hindu system of medicine based on the idea of balance in bodily systems, summer inspires the pitta dosha. The doshas are the bodily humors that create our unique, individual constitution. Fiery pitta energy dominates our environment in the summer (and some regularly all year long), which means we should be especially mindful of balancing this energy with our own cooling energy. The way we eat, the way we feel, and the way we maintain the layers of our being all can change according to seasonality.

Choose Yoga Poses that Release Heat

Try to incorporate the following categories of poses into your summer yoga practice.
Spinal twists: Twisting poses release excess pitta from your mid-abdomen.  Try seated spinal twist.
Gentle backbends: While some backbends build heat, gentle ones apply slight pressure to release tension from your mid-abdomen. Try baby cobra or cat-cow.
Forward folds: These physically cool the body and calm the mind and are essential to counteracting the heating qualities of more intense backbends. Try uttanasana or child’s pose.

Try a Gentler Approach

Certain yoga poses can help release pitta heat, but you don’t need to give up your favorite poses in order to stay balanced.

Keep these three pointers in mind as you practice the rest of this summer:

  1. Pace yourself during practice. Perform the more strenuous poses, such as sun salutations, more slowly and take longer breaths per pose.
  2. Focus on long, cooling breaths, rather than the intensity of your poses. Try for long exhalations, including the occasional open-mouthed lion’s breath to refresh your body.
  3. End on a slow note. Even if you practice more actively at the beginning of your session, be sure to end with a period of slow, cooling poses before finishing in savasana.

Don’t Forget the Cooling Foods

Ayurveda also focuses on balancing your food diet with the changing seasons, which means cooling off during the summer heat.

Always trust your body’s instincts, but I’d recommend focusing on these tips:
Eat vegetables and fruits with a high water content, such as melons, cucumbers, and leafy greens.
Avoid dehydration by drinking electrolyte-enhanced water or coconut water.
Certain herbs – mint, cilantro, cumin, and coriander – can actually reduce the pitta dosha.

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda or maybe what your constitution is (we all have one!!)? We will be offering a workshop in October and it is also incorporated into our teacher training program which starts in September. Contact the studio for more info or apply for teacher training (early bird pricing ends July 31) here: APPLY NOW