What does Ayurveda tell us about the transition to Spring?
Author: Rianne Chittenden
All winter has been about grounding, moving slow and resting to bring balance to the dominant qualities that have been at play. Now it is officially late winter with warmer days here and there giving a taste of Spring depending on exactly where you are in the Northern Hemisphere (Spring Equinox is March 20th however following the Lunar Calendar, the first day of Spring was February 1st) . We are beginning to feel a transition of the seasons and with this we want to shift from fat building to fat releasing. We are getting stirred up. Sprouts are poking their way through the muddy, wet ground here in the Pacific Northwest. More moisture is in the air and the days are getting noticeable longer. As the Earth and her qualities are shifting, so should we, our habits and the foods we eat in order to maintain harmony.
I truly love the language of Ayurveda, it’s so simple it annoys the part of me that was trained that being healthy is hard and complex and painful. The more I immerse myself into Ayurveda, the more I realize I am simply unlearning a bunch of crap I was told about my body and what I ‘should’ do with it. Ayurvedic Theory is based on the twenty qualities (Gunas in Sanskrit) or ten pairs of antonyms, which are inherent in all substances:
Heavy - Light
Soft - Hard
Cold - Hot
Rough - Slimy
Oily/Wet - Dry
Cloudy - Clear
Subtle/Minute - Gross
Static - Mobile
Viscous/Dense - Liquid
Each of the six tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent are comprised of different combinations of these qualities. So as the seasons change, we shift the taste pallet as well to find harmony in the foods we eat with the season. When in doubt, visit a local farmer’s market because what's in season in your area is what your body would be most nourished by.
This time of year we want to focus on bitter and sour. Bitter helps to get things moving and stimulates fat metabolism. Sour helps to clear dryness by forcing secretions within the digestive tract and has a mild cleansing action on the liver. Below is a list of foods that contain the bitter and sour tastes:
Acorn, Pumpkin Seeds
Ajwain, Allspice, Basil, Bay Leaf, Caraway Seeds, Carob, Chamomile, Chicory Root, Cilantro, Cloves, Coriander Seed, Cumin, Curry Leaves, Dill, Fenugreek, Green Tea, Hing (Asafoetida), Lemon Zest, Lime Zest, Marjoram, Mustard Seed, Nigella (black cumin), Orange Zest, Parsley (Dried), Parsley (Fresh), Rosemary, Safflower, Scallions (Raw), Tarragon, Turmeric, Turmeric Root (Fresh)
Aloe Vera Gel, Aloe Vera Juice, Artichoke, Artichoke Hearts, Bitter Melon, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cucumber, Eggplant, Fennel Stalk, Red Bell Pepper, Rhubarb, Rutabaga
Arugula, Bean Sprouts, Beet Greens, Celery Stalk, Chard, Chickweed, Chicory Lettuce, Collard Greens, Dandelion Leaves, Dulse, Endive, Garlic Mustard, Kale, Lamb's Quarters, Mustard Greens, Red Leaf Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Seaweed (Hydrated), Spinach, Spirulina, Stinging Nettles, Turnip Greens, Watercress
Beer, Chocolate (Cacao), Coffee
Beets, Burdock Root (Gobo), Cassava Root / Yuca, Celery Root, Garlic, Horseradish, Parsnip, Radish (raw), Turnip, Wasabi
Grapefruit, Lemon, Plum
Jaggery, Molasses, Sorghum Molasses, Stevia
Rye, Sorghum Flour
Acai, Apple (cooked), Apple (raw), Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry, Cranberry Juice, Grape, Grapefruit, Green Mango, Honey Dew, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Mulberry, Orange, Peaches, Pineapple, Plum, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberries, Tamarind
Alcohol, Apple Cider Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, Beer, Dosa Mix, Fish Sauce, Kefir, Kombucha, Miso, Olives, Pickle (Cucumber), Red Wine, Red Wine Vinegar, Sake, Sauerkraut, Umeboshi Plums, White Vinegar, White Wine (Dry type), Yeast, Yogurt
Jaggery, Molasses, Raisins, Sorghum Molasses
Ketchup, Rhubarb, Tomato
Pomegranate Molasses, Sassafras Leaf
Slowly begin to add the foods that to speak to you that contain the sour and bitter taste. Again, going to the farmer’s market is a great place to start! As suggested in our previous health-related blogs start simple and small. Baby steps. This is the best way to integrate changes that you wish to make permanent. Experiment cooking with vinegar to add the sour taste. Play with beets and turnips for the bitter taste. Making these changes slowly sets you up for a successful Spring Cleanse. In Ayurveda, we cleanse in Spring and Fall with the change of the seasons. In Spring, the focus is releasing the fat built up from the winter time (which was needed then!) and the toxins stored in that fat. If you immediately cringe when hearing the word ‘cleanse’, remember this practice is about being in alignment with nature and ourselves. This is not about depletion, starvation or consuming only liquids as that is often what is thought of when we hear the cleanse word. It is about what our cells are made of and their ability to communicate with each other. More will be coming on the Spring Cleanse soon so stay tuned. For now, I end with this question: Do we have control over what we put in our mouths or are we controlled by what we put in our mouths?
Thanks for these posts. There is a lot to think about and I appreciate it.
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February 16, 2022
Debdreyfus, you are very welcome! I am glad you enjoy reading them:).