In Like a Lion. Out Like a Lamb.
As the proverb goes, from a mighty roar to a gentle bleat, March is a transitional month. A major snowfall is followed by a sunny, June-like day. An early morning thunderstorm morphs into a frigid windstorm by lunch. Hail, ice and flood warnings randomly pop-up. By St. Patrick’s Day, you’re accustomed to expecting the unexpected.
Winter Takes a Turn Toward Gentleness
In Ayurveda, March has a time-honored reputation for bringing the frenetic energy of a seasonal transition. The fierce, cold and rough winter takes a final turn toward the gentle softness of spring. During this month, the earth constructs a container for life. Sun, moisture and warmth begin to return. Trees blossom, the ground gives and water runs freely. The universe becomes “unstuck” from winter’s grip.
While the beauty of nature is most evident with the arrival of spring, this transition is not without its challenges. The movement energy of Vata and the stabilizing energy of Kapha are at odds. The earth’s shift brings more sunlight, and with it, more of the heating and transforming energy of Pitta.
As in nature, your body seeks to “loosen up” in response to March’s atmospheric changes. You probably sense it. Your skin may feel puffy as body tissues become more succulent. Your digestion could be a bit off. Your appetite might have dulled as your body begins to naturally eliminate unneeded winter pounds.
What else does this March weather bring? Colds and respiratory issues. Scratchy throat. Sluggishness. On an emotional level, you might notice a bit more lethargy or depression. These are all common imbalances during the spring transition.
Bringing Alignment to March
The key to maintaining alignment during a seasonal transition is awareness. It is important to bring consciousness to your daily diet and lifestyle decisions. Here are 10 suggestions for helping you maintain health during the month of March:
#1: Sip Tulsi Tea
There are remarkably easy ways to prevent seasonal blockages and remove the build-up of toxins (Ama) in your body. One way is to keep a glass of hot water at your side and take a few sips every 10 to 15 minutes. The heated water hydrates you and enables the body to let go of what is not serving you.
Ayurveda has also used the tulsi plant for thousands of years to help the body adapt to stressors. Its restorative powers bring energy and support immunity, sleep, emotional resilience, strength and stamina. A tulsi tea is especially beneficial in March when the increase in biological energies can create excess fluid and congestion in the lungs (which are considered Kapha’s “home base”).
#2: Try a Neti Pot and/or Oil Snorting
Ayurveda recognizes that opposites bring alignment. The neti pot and oil snorting modalities can bring much needed relief during cold season. The key is understanding when to use each one (these should never be used back-to-back). Think of the neti pot as a drying “saline bath” for your nasal passages. Think of oil snorting as lubricating your sinuses. Before you try either of these, read “The Lowdown on Using a Neti Pot and Oil Snorting.”
#3: Consider a Safe and Gentle Cleanse
At Ayureka, we do not recommend cleansing early in the year (at the height of Vata season). But as Kapha enters the picture, cleansing can have numerous health benefits if conducted in a safe and practical way. Cleansing does not have to be an expensive program or rigorous process. It is actually quite easy. Taking several days to integrate a hot water routine (see Tip #1) combined with meditation, gentle exercise, eating only cooked whole foods, and getting 8 hours of sleep and your body will be well on its way to re-calibration.
#4: Change-up Your Diet
You can now scale back on those heavier, oiler, protein-rich “comfort foods” needed during the dry and depleting winter season. As your body responds to the earth’s increasingly moist and nurturing atmosphere, you may naturally desire lighter, more bitter and astringent foods. In March, your local farmers’ markets are brimming with fresh leafy-greens and early season vegetables. Now is the time to indulge!
Keep in mind that your body releases its hold on adipose tissue (which produces and stores large fat globules) in the spring. This is when triglyceride levels are naturally highest. As a general guideline, you should begin moving toward lighter sources of protein like legumes. Bypass “heavier” preparation methods like sautéing in favor of steaming or roasting. Bring zestier, cleansing ingredients to your dishes like radishes, garlic, arugula and mustard greens.
#5: Lighten Up with Movement
It is not uncommon to put on a few pounds during the winter. As warmer weather arrives, your body naturally wants to “lighten up.” At the same time, spring’s stickiness has a way of slowing things down and keeping you on the couch. Movement of the body facilitates movement within the body. Work a brisk, 30-minute outdoor walk into your daily routine. (Bonus: The sunlight will give your vitamin D levels a boost!) Up your cardio a bit at the gym, or try a more active type of yoga. And don’t forget—spring cleaning and yardwork definitely get your heart pumping. Just commit to getting some type of fairly vigorous daily exercise.
#6: Brush-off and Lube-up
For an added energy boost (and increased immunity!) try dry brushing. Known as garshana, this simple practice of using silk massage gloves helps to clear lymphatic congestion, exfoliates the skin and increases blood flow. Read Wellness Mama’s great post on dry brushing—it covers benefits, brush selection and technique. And don’t forget, it is a great idea to follow your dry brushing massage with a warm oil massage. Dry brushing opens the pores. Abhyanga (ah-bee-yan-ga), or an oil self-massage, helps to calm your nervous system. It is a perfect combination. Read “Self-Oil Massage: The Ultimate Health and Beauty Habit” for more information on the abhyanga, or click here for instructions.
#7: Use Your Breath
Kapha has a strong affinity with the lungs. Regardless of whether you’re experiencing congestion or stress, taking a few moments to focus on deep breathing throughout your day can be beneficial. It helps to expand the lungs to enable clearing. A breathing technique that is popular in March is called kapalabhati pranayama. It is a more forceful exercise for clearing “stuckness” in the body.
#8: Cook with Healthy Spices
For centuries, spices have been used to help fend off unwanted bacteria and viruses. Add more spices to your March meals. They help you to build your immunity and introduce warming and drying qualities. Think in terms of turmeric, garlic, ginger, ajwain, tarragon, dill, pepper and cinnamon—just to name a few.
#9: Get Ample Sleep
This is an “any time” Ayurvedic basic. A healthy sleep routine is essential for good health. Ayurveda always recommends going to bed by 10 p.m. and getting up before the sun. This is especially important during seasonal transitions.
#10: Release Emotions
The month of March has a connection with sadness and grief. It is not uncommon to find yourself ruminating over a situation or internalizing stress. Let it go. Or as we say in the spring, let it flow! Reach out to friends for a sympathetic ear. Initiate critical conversations at work and with family. Do something you love. Avoid the temptation to keep your feelings “bottled up.”
So there you have it—the blueprint for an easy-breezy March! Embrace the fact that, although it is creating some pesky health issues, the earth’s energy supports your wellbeing in spring. Take advantage of renewed strength and bring about simple changes maintain alignment in your life.