Written by John Immel,
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A Season of TransitionJanuary is traditionally the coldest month of the year in North America. Ayurvedically, January is a month of transition from Vata to Kapha season. Vata season is characterized by the body scrambling to protect itself from ever dropping temperatures (see Fall/Early Winter). As soon as temperatures bottom out and begin to rise, the pattern shifts from building to releasing. Literally the body melts fat much as a dog sheds fur. Late winter & early spring are thus ideal seasons for begining a new diet and losing weight (see Spring Diet). Spring fasting, the traditional time of year for many Native American cultures, helps cleanse the blood after a long winter of fatty, heavy foods.
Late winter and early spring is a Kapha watery season of warming temperatures lasting from February to mid-May. Outside, snow melts making the rivers full and muddy. Warm temperatures encourage tender young sprouts and sweet sap to run in the vasculature of maple trees. Our internal landscape reflects mother nature's. Spring is a time of cleansing and renewal. Kapha fat along with toxins melt away from tissues and into the blood, making the blood sweet. Blood plasma and toxins are our metaphorical maple syrup and muddy river, releasing a flood of mucus in allergy season.
Rich BloodAs the layer of winter fat begins to melt into the blood, it enriches the blood provoking Kapha dosha. Blood that is too rich and thick clogs circulation and the liver. Much like a stuffed goose, your stuffed liver starts to look as fatty as foie gras. Liver "heat" is responsible for moving this sludgy blood and metabolizing it. However, cold weather keeps the heart sluggish and the vessels constricted. Temperatures may be too cold in early spring to move blood stagnation. Clinically, the symptoms of spring Kapha are stiff muscles, arterial plaque buildup, mucus & hay fever. Allergy season is a sign of aggravated Kapha.
Turmeric re-invigorates the blood. It is a powerful blood mover that restores circulation, cleanses the liver and re-ignites metabolism (via rasa dhatu agni). Late winter is the season for sour foods. Spring is the season for bitter foods. Both sour and bitter taste are cholagogues. A cholagogue is any substance that encourages the liver and gall bladder to release bile. Examples include dandelion and lemons. Since bile is a fatty substance, cholagogues aid the cleansing process because they drain excess fats from the liver & blood and deposit them, in the form of bile, into the digestion tract. Gall Bladder Tonic and tikta ghrta are herb formulas that helps with this process.
An Ideal Season for Weight LossUseful Products for Losing Weight and Managing Cravings
General Spring DietGenerally, eat a dry Kapha pacifying diet favoring bitters. Drying grains such as barley and corn may be tolerated. Continue with warming spices like ginger and turmeric to ward off blood stagnation. Warming bitters like dandelion and arugula will also aid if fat metabolism. Take triphala to keep bowels clear and aid the cleansing process. Avoid heavy, oily, sweet and salty foods such as red meat and dairy.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
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Wonderful article! I just posted it to my Ayurveda page on Facebook! ~ Hope you approve!
Fabulous information ...Thank you Joseph
I enjoy your website a lot! Thanks a lot for sharing all these very useful information on ayurvedic health balance for the western life. It is marvellous!! - Harshi,UK
Great information, but what does one do if one needs to gain weight during this season? How will the body and doshas react to the opposite actions of what the body should be doing during this time?
How the body will react depends on the person. Someone who needs to gain weight should generally follow a Vata pacifying diet.