Top tips for staying balanced in Spring

Photo by Allen McGregorPhoto by Allen McGregor

Spring is here a time of awakening and change. As we get out into the garden, plant seedlings, dust away cobwebs at home, we move away from the heavy energy of the previous months. As sun melts snow in the mountains, our bodies get rid of excess mucus in the body. Spring colds, chesty coughs and hay fever from flowers shedding pollen can all increase at this time of year. Very simply keep food light and warm and get the lymph system moving with some vigorous and dynamic exercise. In early spring the predominant elements according to Ayurveda are earth and water. When there is an imbalance in the system we can feel heavy, lethargic, congested, possessive, and depressed. In the Chinese system the organs for this season are the liver and gallbladder so it’s great time to detoxify and cleanse. Take note however as we shift into the warmer days, more of a summer balancing regime will be needed.

Here are a few guidelines to staying healthy and balanced in Spring……

  • On rising drink warm water with lemon with a little honey or ginger
  • Take an early morning walk or do some exercise.
  • Vary your routine
  • Avoid daytime sleeps.
  • Food: Include bitter, astringent and detoxifying such as green leafy veg, legumes like yellow split peas, red lentils, pinto beans. Add hot spices such as black pepper, cayenne and chilli. Onions, ginger and garlic can also be used.
  • Avoid: heavy, oily, sour, sweet, salty food, too much dairy, iced food and drinks.
  • Add some honey to your diet it’s both heating and soothing and helpful for those with allergies.
  • Sauna: A desert environment where air is warm can help with excess mucus, so if you can’t get to the desert try a sauna. Continue with regular massaging.
  • Teas: Try cumin, coriander and fennel
  • Yoga: Practice should be dynamic and invigorating. Energetically the focus is on energy rising up, include dynamic sun salutations, twists, backbends and inversions.
  • Remember: Cold, cloudy, damp weather, eating dairy products, wheat and meat and sitting around will only increase the imbalance. Like increase like soho for the opposite.

Resources: Dr Vasant Lad: The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies Yoga for your Type, David Frawley & Sandra Summerfield Kozak. Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Elson M Haas.

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Mung Soup

I got this recipe from a fabulous Ayurvedic cooking workshop I did with Ayuseva, here in Brighton. Although the basic version without extra herbs can taste quite bland, after a few spoons of adjusting to the taste it feels incredibly nourishing and easy on the digestion. Give it a try if you are looking for a good cleanse. I’ll be making another batch soon, photo to follow.

Mung beans are nourishing, warming and grounding. They stimulate digestive fire, cleanse the liver, gall bladder and vascular system and clear undigested food and mucus from the digestive tract. This soup is cleansing and detoxifying and will balance all three doshas.

 Serves 5 generous portions

300g mung beans

1 ½ litres water

1 tsp turmeric powder

¼ tsp asafetida

2-3 cloves garlic

fresh root ginger

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

other spices as per your taste

rock salt

Wash the mung beans thoroughly and soak for at least four hours or overnight before cooking. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan and add a teaspoon of turmeric and ¼ teaspoon of asofoetida (to take gas out of beans). Bay leaves can also be used as an alternative. Sauté for a few seconds and then add soaked beans and fresh water.

For one part soaked mung you need about four parts of water. Leave to bubble away for 30-40 mins, adding more water if necessary. Slowly the beans begin to soften and break up. In a pressure cooker this takes 8 mins once the vessel has come to pressure. Take off heat and leave to cool for 10 mins before opening.

Once the beans are cooked, heat some ghee or olive oil in another pan, add 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic, sauté until soft. Add some finely chopped fresh ginger . Next add two teaspoon of cumin and coriander seeds plus any other herbs or spices chopped ginger (except chillies) such as cardamom seeds, black pepper, mild curry powder, black cumin seeds. Once the beans are cooked and soft, add these sautéed spices plus some rock salt into the mung beans and continue to simmer for a few further minutes. Don’t add salt in the beginning as this makes the mung beans tougher and they will take longer to cook. Serve with fresh finely chopped coriander leaves.

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Seasonal Seville Marmalade and a whole lot of goodness in a jar.

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Making marmalade (my first attempt) isn’t a quick process, but I did get a little kick out of filling five jars over the weekend. I may not have enough to supply the whole family, but luckily my experienced maramalader sister-in-law has got that sorted for me.  Whilst waiting for ages for the mix of juice, peel and sugar to boil to settling point, I found out that these bitter oranges originally came from India and were brought to Europe by Arabs. The Sanskrit word for orange tree is Naranga and the Dravidian word Narayam, meaning “perfume within.”  As the citrus smells filled the house and I prepared my jars, I remembered another jar I’d been meaning to make for about a week or so. Inspired by yoga teacher Louise Gillespie-Smith’s post (who if you read her post, was inspired by another yoga teacher too!)  I made a gratitude & positive affirmation jar, putting a few goodies in already and more to follow. I love the idea that I can open the jar and reach for some positivity in times of negativity and definitely chose this over a journal that can so easily lie stashed somewhere gathering dust.

This seasonal recipe may take a little longer than the last and contains a fair bit of sugar so not entirely healthy, but it tastes delicious and you only need a little to give your morning toast a zing. The gratitude & positive affirmation jar is quick, free and packed with a whole lot of goodness. Do pass it on as it seems there is a chain going and please post if you do 🙂

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Burning the Clocks marking the first day of Winter.

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As we create opening, this draws back the shutter, and the light of the lamp shines out. B.K.S Iyengar

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“Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others”. Pema Chodron.

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NASA Goddard photo and video

We are just a few days away from December 21st, the Winter Solstice, marking the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of the year. From this date on days lengthen and the move from darkness to light is celebrated in many different cultures, religions and countries all over the world. Symbolically this time is represented as rest before awakening, re-birth, new beginnings and hope.

The darkness at this time of year can bring a heavy, sleepy energy, it’s easy to feel low emotionally, lazy and in some ways stagnant and naturally we look forward to the coming of longer, lighter days with fewer layers and warmth from the sun. However without this time of living through the darkness of the season we wouldn’t yearn for the light to follow. In the same way on a deeper level, at times through no choice of our own, the experience of sitting with darkness, pain, discomfort and practicing acceptance of ourselves without judgment can result in shining the light of understanding for others who may be suffering. In the words of Pema Chodron: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” from the book “Places that Scare You”.

For me as we lead up to the celebrations of light tipping the balance from darkness, this quote is a reminder to send prayers to those suffering, to make calls that have been put off and to be present with the darkness of others and myself as much as I can.

On Friday 21st I’m hoping to head out (if winter flu subsides) to the Burning of the Clocks festival here in Brighton to mark the shift of the season.

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Autumn/Winter seasonal soup: Kale and Apple

Autumn/Winter seasonal soup: Kale and Apple

I love this soup, it’s quick, healthy and uses ingredients that are in season locally. Click on the photo for the recipe and enjoy!

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Top tips for staying balanced in Autumn

There are two fundamental principles of Ayurveda that are helpful to remember when trying to stay balanced through the seasons. Like increase like and opposites decrease each other. Very simply at this time of year when it’s cold, dry and windy, causing movement, lightness and falling leaves. Counter these by eating warm, moist, heavy, foods, exercise slowly and steadily with a focus on strengthening the muscles, take steam baths and massage with oils and keep warm. According to Ayurveda the element of air and ether are predominant in nature and within our bodies. When there is imbalance we can feel impulsive, erratic, agitated, anxious, fidgety, have trouble sleeping, as well as feeling stiff, paralysed or spaced out.

Here are some tips below to help bring back the balance if you are experiencing any of the above.

  • On rising drink warm water with lemon. (N.B Rinse mouth with water after to protect teeth from enamel erosion from the acidity of lemon)
  • Massage body with warm sesame oil (cold pressed) in morning before bathing and at night massage the soles of the feet and scalp before sleeping.
  • Food: keep it warm and moist, avoid cold and dry. Soups, stews, oatmeal, porridge, mung bean dhal are all good.
  • Avoid caffeine or chocolate in the evening especially. If possible, cut out altogether
  • Substitute caffeine with herbal teas. Try a mix of cumin, coriander and fennel.
  • Nightcap: warm milk with ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg.
  • Establish a routine to your day, especially a nighttime wind down before bed.
  • Social networking, computer, phone: switch off an hour before bed
  • Yoga: slow, fluid, steady strengthening practice, avoiding abrupt movements or too much jumping.
  • Meditation: for at least 15 minutes per day
  • In Ayurveda it is recommended to pacify Vata, be in bed by 10pm

If you have any other remedies that you are using that I can add to the list I’d love to hear them, please share……..

Resources: Dr Vasant Lad: The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies David Frawley & Sandra Summerfield Kozak Yoga for your  Type.

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