By Tina Vander Klok
At the threshold of each seasonal transition my kids and I plod down to the storage room and rummage through bins searching for a particular set of books. In June we dig for pages lined with sunshine and beaches, in September the topics we seek are school and apples and harvest. December we hunt snowflakes, christmas trees and colorful lights. And then comes March. March maybe holds the most anticipation. Christmas has it’s obvious excitement but March has a charm all its own - spring. For months we wait through ice and snow and all things winter. We enjoy the powder while longing for green. We cuddle up by fires, warm liquid tucked between our hands and soak up the short days and long rest. Then the month turns to three and we stretch out our limbs, open our hearts and turn to the sun. “Awake!” our bodies cry. Take a deep breath, get outside and take in the joy that brings us northerners to tears. And we do. When the thermometer hits fifty and the sun shines bright, we throw open our windows, tuck our boots away and slip into our shorts as quickly as possible fueled by a little fear that the warmth might not stay. We know better of course and yet we do it anyway. We breathe into the spaces that have been hunched over, tight and playing defense and we exhale deeply.
And then it’s spring.
Julie Fogliano may have coined it first. Maybe not. Either way And Then It’s Spring maintains its place at the top of the list as our favorite springtime book. It pulls at my heartstrings as it narrates so aptly our journey through spring. The hope, the worry [Will it ever come? Will it stay?], the preparation and finally the transformation. The more I ponder and observe the more I’m convinced that spring is a mirror for the journey that unfolds within us. We step out in faith that something will happen. We meditate, practice asana and pranayama, we eat well, learn and find our teachers. We spread seeds and hope for rain. It doesn’t look promising at first, bleak even, and our path may be filled with a mirage of change but we step anyway. We plant anyway. Fools play really. And then a hum awakens within us. The hum feeding something but we’re not quite sure what. We trust it’s important - a sign maybe or sweet song encouraging us to keep on. We do so with childlike glee. Even if it snows a little, we’ve built up enough momentum to get us through. Change pulses through our bodies and enlivens our minds. And still we wait, ears tuned and hearts ready.
This is spring. The push/pull, desperation and euphoria, beautiful anticipation of it all.
One of the things I find most helpful as the seasonal transition occurs is to stay grounded and balanced. Spring draws dormate energy up as seeds spring to life and thrust skyward seeking the sun. Branches transform from lifeless to budding and the wombs of creatures pulsate with expectancy. There’s a vibrancy and beat about spring. It’s easy to lose our feet and sail to space. Couple this with a body sloughing off hibernation and the heaviness of winter, we can quickly find ourselves congested, anxious, on edge. So we ground, we root and then we rise.
Below you’ll find a handful of practices to incorporate this spring. Based on Ayurveda or “the science of life”, these suggestions are built on an ancient tradition rather than the here today, gone tomorrow health culture we currently experience. My hope is they’ll help you set roots so your growth can be anchored, enduring and alive with pleasure.
May you stay firmly rooted as your inner child dances with excitement and radiates the promise of spring.
FIVE AYURVEDIC PRACTICES FOR SPRING
Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like. Brushing your dry body. At first glance this may fall in the kooky category but it’s a simple practice with immediate gratification. Dry brushing helps to slough away dead skin while stimulating circulation and lymphatic movement. This practice is best integrated into your morning routine as it is invigorating by nature. I love dry brushing because it’s easy to incorporate, accessible and simple to do. For more information and detailed instructions visit Joyful Belly, My New Roots or Banyan Botanicals. Note: If you have a significant vata imbalance this practice may not be appropriate for you at this time. Skip ahead to the oil massage and enjoy that while working with your diet and, if possible, an Ayurvedic professional to restore harmony.
Abhyanga or Oil Massage
The word “massage” may be enough enticement to give this one a try. One of the most balancing and grounding practices Ayurveda has to offer, self-massage with oil truly connects you with the loving, nurturing one within. It’s benefits are many: imparts muscle tone, lubricates the joints, increases circulation, stimulates the internal organs, assists in detoxification, calms the nerves, deepens sleep and on and on. Sunflower oil is a fantastic choice for the spring season as it’s one of the more neutral oils. For instructions visit The Chopra Center or Banyan Botanicals.
Traditionally known as the season of Kapha, early greens tend to be astringent for a reason. Mucus has a way of building up over winter and spring invites a mass exodus of phlegm. If you’re no stranger to the springtime sniffles, nettle may be a buddy to invite over to play. Nettle aids in strengthening the nervous system, increases circulation, reduces inflammation and histamines, and increases ojas (put very simply, the essence of assimilation). Purusha Ayurveda has a lovely overview if you’d like to learn more. It’s worth noting that although nettle is beneficial for all three doshas, if taken in excess an imbalance in vata may occur.
Food & Water
Spring ushers in an overwhelming urge to purge. We clean our homes, clean our cars and look to switch up our diet. It’s tempting to hop on the pendulum and let it carry you away from the heavier foods of winter on to singing the salad balad. The thing about transitions is that they are just that - transitions. Moving from one extreme to other can be detrimental (think backbend to forward fold - ouch!). I’ve found the best foods for seasonal shifts are simple, easy to digest and relatively bland. Kichari/kitchari (traditional or soup), ghee, stewed fruit, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), and cooked root veggies offer balanced nutrition without creating stress for your digestive system. Specifically in spring, the earth offers early growth like cilantro, stinging nettles, asparagus, ramps and leeks perfect for gently clearing out stagnant mucus. When choosing food think warm, light and easy to digest, just like the season itself.
And then there’s water. I can’t emphasize strongly enough the importance of drinking pure water. For a more in depth look at water check out Joyful Belly. Dr. Vasant Lad recommends Ayurvedic Gatorade to increase the proper absorption of the water we do drink. Spring may be a nice time to add a splash of apple or pomegranate juice to aid in the dispersal of excess mucous. I will also add that slightly warmed water is ideal. I keep a pump thermos on the counter filled with warm water so it’s on hand the whole day through.
Dr. Lad's Ayurvedic Gatorade
pinch of raw sugar, honey or maple syrup
pinch of salt
juice of one-half lime or seasonally appropriate juice (optional)
1 cup water
Mix the sweetener, salt and water together until well blended. Add the juice and mix again.
Bare your Feet
As soon as it’s warm enough, throw off your shoes, spread your toes, sink your heels into the earth and walk barefoot in the grass. Listing here all the benefits may be helpful but in my experience there’s no substitute for trying it yourself and letting your own participation speak. Walk slow, feel fully, breathe deeply.
Peace to you, peace to all.
1) like, appreciate, or understand
2) discover information after a search or investigation
3) bring out something that is hidden or has been stored for a long time
4) extract from the ground by breaking up and moving earth
The name for this yoga blog was inspired by the Rainer Maria Rilke’s quote:
“Dig into yourself for a deep answer.”
We live in the age of information. We have answers everywhere from Wikipedia, Google, You-tube and Trip Advisor. But as Rilke advises we must "dig" into ourselves for the "deep" answer. We may have to unearth a lot of obstacles before we discover our truths. But as yogis, we make the U-turn of awareness from the outside world to the inside world of thoughts, emotions and digging up conditioned patterns.
Our intention for this blog, is to help students with this process. As yogi’s, we are like archaeologists excavating tension and holding patterns within the body/mind.
Sri Sri Shankar writes, “I tell you, deep inside you is a fountain of bliss, a fountain of joy. Deep inside your core is truth, light, love. There is no guilt, there is no fear there. Psychologists, or most people have never looked deep enough.”
Writings about asana (postures) will be rare, as there is much already written about that. We will explore concepts relating to the other limbs of yoga and other avenues to help students dig deep.