The practice of Ayurveda relies heavily on observing the world around us and responding according to the seasons. But as winter melts into spring, the transition is not instantaneous and Vata or ‘Wind’ element in the body is increased.
You might remember the children’s nursery rhyme, ‘March winds bring April showers and April showers bring May flowers”, the lyrics refering to our experience of the changing seasons, but the reference to ‘March winds’ also coincides very well with the Ayurvedic observations of the energies present during this time of the year.
As the seasons are changing, we are in a state of ‘in between’ and of constant fluctuation. Depending on where you are living in the world, temperatures are still rising and falling dramatically. Frost and snow melt, only to return after a just few days. We start switching back and forth from heavy winter jackets, to lighter spring fare, and back then to heavy as the temperatures fluctuate. Heat goes on and off in the house depending on the day. Winds are physically higher during the month and are especially strong in some places. People around you may be getting sick and especially experiencing respiratory aggravations.
All of these experiences are associated with Wind or Vata dosha in Ayurveda. Vata represents change, transition and transformation and these kinds of experiences in the external world are also reflected through our personal experiences. Elevated Vata dosha brings higher anxiety and restlessness. On one hand, it can make you want to get active and feel creative, but on the other hand it can make you feel like you just want to escape. If Vata is really out of balance, you will feel forgetful, ‘spaced out’ or overwhelmed by your own thoughts. Elevated Vata can cause trouble sleeping (our sleep schedules are also aggravated by the recent ‘daylight savings’ time change) and it can bring vivid or frightening dreams. It can also disrupt the digestive process and prevent our bodies from properly digesting and receiving nutrients from our food.
While in the overall scheme we are transitioning out of the Kapha (winter) or Earth season into the Pitta (summer) or Fire session, this transition time is actually characterized very strongly by the Vata or wind energy. Until the frost melts for the last time, until the winds die down, and until we are settled into a steady warm season, Vata and Wind element in our bodies will be higher than normal.
TIPS FOR SETTLING AGGRAVATED VATA DURING THE SPRING TRANSITION:
- Getting into a regular routine calms Vata and brings feelings of groundedness. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Try to eat meals consistently at the same time and avoid eating past 7pm. It’s also important to keep the immunity strong so don’t miss meals!
- Avoid foods that aggravate Vata such as nuts, or fruit with seeds. Avoid sour foods. Legumes should be avoided unless they are well cooked and spiced.
- Eat warm, well-cooked and spiced foods and especially a warm breakfast like oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon (it might be best to avoid smoothies until the warmer weather). Drink warm water with lemon. Prepare food with spices like basil, cumin, rosemary, ginger, coriander and turmeric. Vegetables like carrots, beets and Brussels sprouts are also warming.
- Apply sesame oil or another type of massage oil to your joints as part of your daily routine. Vata in the bodies settles into our joints (and those with high Vata dosha often have joints that make cracking noises). The oil will be absorbed and lubricated in the joints and soothes Vata dosha. It creates ‘cohesion’ of the body’s soft tissues and can make you feel more grounded, soothed and relaxed. It’s amazing!
- Do something every day that grounds you, meditate or cozy up with a good book, or a lovable pet! Try to give yourself some time every day where you can be ‘unplugged’ from television, telephone and the net – as all of these aggravate Vata. Be gentle with yourself and don’t fill your social calendar. Elevated Vata needs ‘down time’ to settle.
- Turn down the lights: use candles and essential oils in the evenings. I love aromatherapy oil lanterns like the one in the photo. Play soothing music in the evenings to set a more relaxing mood.
- Dress warmly or bring extra layers so that you don’t catch a chill. It’s important to keep the body consistently warmed during the season change.
- Practice a ‘grounding’ form of exercise. While its important to be active to maintain our body’s health, too much strenuous exercise can aggravate Vata dosha. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or if you are having trouble sleeping consider a more low-key routine for physical activity. Walking, tai chi, qi gong, gentle yoga practices and gentle weight training work better for managing elevated Vata during the seasonal change. Avoid strenuous exercise at night.