Spring has sprung! As Mother Nature transitions from winter to spring, all sorts of changes are occurring. The weather fluctuates-it’s warm one day, then cool and rainy the next. The awakening of the trees, flowers and new grass creates pollen, the most common allergen. And although we are happy to see the beautiful blooms and new life sprouting in our yards, – our bodies, specifically the sinuses, often have a difficult time transitioning from winter to spring.
At the blooming of the first leaves and blossoms, many people suffer from runny noses, clogged sinuses, headaches, sore throats, watery eyes and incessant sneezing. These ailments often develop into an upper respiratory disease. At the very least, they are annoying and prevent us from fully enjoying the springtime beauty.
According to Ayurveda, Kapha accumulates in the body during winter. The Kapha dosha, made up of earth and water, provides the body with stability and lubrication. During the winter months, in order to stay warm and nourished, we tend to stay inside, eat and sleep more. These activities increase kapha in the body. By the time the wet damp springtime weather arrives, if we have not shed the excess Kapha, we are more prone to allergies, head colds and sinus infections.
Due to the excess Kapha in our body and the environment, our lungs and sinuses need to cleansed and energized in order to maintain health during springtime.
Yoga and Ayurveda to the Rescue
Learn how to use yoga and Ayurveda to create an internal environment of health, so the pollen filled external environment won’t cause you to suffer from allergies. By changing your diet and lifestyle at the onset of allergy season, you can alleviate the effects of seasonal allergies.
Allergies can cause congestion and exhaustion in the lungs and sinuses. Certain yoga poses clear and rejuvenate the organs and systems of the body, creating a strong body and respiratory system. A consistent yoga practice lowers stress. When stress levels are lower, the immune system functions at an optimal level; therefore, the body is less apt to catch allergy related colds.
Yoga Poses to help Alleviate Allergies:
- Sun Salutations (Vata and Kapha types)
- Moon Salutations (Pitta types)
- Spinal Twists to stimulate agni.
- Bridge, Supported Backbends, Warrior I and Cobra to energize lungs.
- Neck and Shoulder Stretches such as Eye of the Needle, Cow Face, Eagle Arms.
- Supported Shoulderstand.
- Restorative Poses (Svasana, Reclining Cobbler) to calm nervous system.
Ayurveda offers therapies and guidelines to alleviate the effects of seasonal allergies.
Before trying the over the counter pills, consider the healing remedies of yoga and Ayurveda. Most allergy medicines treat the symptoms of allergies; however, Ayurveda treats the root. Besides being costly, over the counter and prescription medicines have side effects to the liver, stomach, nervous system and cardiovascular symptoms. The simple Ayurvedic remedies consist of things most people have in their kitchen. In an Ayurvedic kitchen, the spice cabinet is also the medicine cabinet.
Ayurvedic Suggestions to Clean out and Build Up The Body
While you are cleaning and clearing your house, don’t forget your body – the house for your soul. A little spring cleaning in the body will greatly reduce the side effects of allergies. The stronger the body, the healthier you will be during allergy season. Below are the key areas of the body to clear and rejuvenate. The following spring cleaning list, based on ancient Ayurvedic principles, will increase your natural resistance to allergens.
1. The Gut.
- Clean up the intestinal system with a 3-5 day Panchakarma cleanse.
- At the onset of allergy season favor a Kitchari diet.
- Avoid Kapha aggravating foods.
- Consult an Ayurvedic Counselor on a doshic specific diet.
(Important: A Panchakarma cleanse should be done under the guidance of an Ayurvedic Practitioner or Lifestyle Counselor)
2. The Lungs
- Pranayama. Pranayama. Pranayama.
- Practice Pranayama every day for at least 5 minutes.
- Specific pranayama practices: Bhakistra. Kapalabhati. Alternate Nostril Breath. Bhramari.
(Important: The above mentioned breathing exercises open the sinuses and energize the lungs. Pranayama should be learned from an experienced teacher. There are certain health contradictions with certain pranayamas, so please consult your yoga teacher.)
3. The Sinuses
- Neti Pot.
- Oils, like ghee, applied to nasal passages if nose is dry.
- Marma MassageTherapy using Kapha reducing essential oils like eucalyptus or pine.
- For sinus headache, apply a little nutmeg oil to marma points and do alternate nostril breath.
- For sinus congestion: Take 1 tsp fresh chopped ginger and put in 1 tsp honey. Eat 2-3 times a day.
- For sinus congestion: Steam head with Olbas Oil or fresh ginger in hot water.
- Try an Ayurvedic herbal decongestant made up of Ayurvedic herbs.
- Rose water drops to the eyes if they are dry and burning.
- Limit time on the computer, especially at night.
- Wear sunglasses.
- Brahmari Pranayama.
- Sesame oil massage to inner and outer ear.
- Olbas Oil to the ear and eustachian tube marma points.
- Hing cotton packet in the ear to lower Vata.
- Wear hat on windy days.
- Limit use of iPod with ear buds.
- Asanas for shoulders, neck and throat.
- Lions and Ujjayi Pranayama.
- For sore throat: dissolve 1/4 tsp mineral salt & 1/2 tsp turmeric in warm water & gargle 2-3 times a day.
- Marma massage therapy to neck and throat using Olbas Oil.
Boosting the Immune System
According to Ayurveda, the disease process begins in the digestive tract. The digestive system is ruled by the fire element – agni. Agni is the body’s biological fire and governs digestion and assimilation of food. When agni is low, improperly digested food becomes ama (toxins) in the digestive system. In time, if not corrected, the ama will leave the digestive system and travel to weakened areas of the body. So, in order to maintain health during allergy season, begin by increasing your agni – your digestive fire.
Simple ways to increase agni:
- Eat more ginger root. Use it cooked in soups, steamed veggies or stir fries. It’s also nice chopped in a fresh salad.
- Cook with Vata and Kapha pacifying spices such as black mustard seed, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne, bay leaf and ajwan.
- Avoid or limit dairy, especially on cloudy days and after 6 p.m..
- Avoid iced drinks. Favor room temperature water. Enjoy hot teas, especially chai.
- Follow a Kapha pacifying diet. Avoid cheese and ice cream.
- Perform a morning dry brush/Abhyanga massage with sesame oil or doshic pacifying oil. Follow with a hot shower. Do a minimum of three times a week.
By implementing some Ayurvedic lifestyle suggestions, you will do less sneezing and wheezing during allergy season. With clear eyes and noses, you will stop and smell the roses, celebrating the beauty of blossoming trees and blooming flowers.
(Note: The above article provides suggestions and in no way is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your Doctor before implementing changes to your health routine.)