Got a little spring in your step? Feeling the desire to get your body into action? It’s natural to feel more active this time of year. In honor of the season change, we’ve got some movement practices for spring to help you bloom with the season. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have a few things to teach us about making your movement practice seasonal. With just a few simple adjustments to our movement routines, we can stay more balanced as we transition into spring.
Heat and Movement Practices for Spring
The junctions between seasons, known as Ritu-sandhi in Sanskrit—are times in which we become more acutely aware of the shifting weather patterns. Nature is in flux. Our doshas are in flux. We’re all a little stir-crazy, and definitely ready for a change of pace. The sun begins to crest higher in the sky, therefore causing the days to lengthen, the temps climb, and animals to stretch out of winter’s hibernation.
When we’re in sync with the rhythms of nature, we find ourselves intuitively drawn to the same flow going on all around us. It’s a good time to start waking up with the birds. There is a natural increase in prana, light, and energy this time of year. As a result, when we rise with the sun, we have an opportunity to harness that natural fuel to get rolling and to start shedding old man winter’s weight. Whether that be physical weight or emotional weight.
In Qi Gong, for example, Spring is all about the liver. As qi moves from the depths of the body (lower dan tien) upward and outward, it passes through the liver. So it’s important to move/eat/breathe in ways that support a healthy liver. Taoists believe that anger is associated with a liver imbalance; too much anger can be toxic to our bodies.
This also aligns with Ayurveda’s emphasis on stimulating and decongesting the liver through movement, food, herbs, and breath at the seasonal transitions. Because we want to focus on decongesting, this is precisely why those who adhere to an ayurvedic lifestyle will implement a kitchari cleanse twice a year—during the spring and fall, the big seasonal transitions.
In Colorado, there are four seasons: festival season, aspen season, ski season, and mud season. The elements of earth and water are dominating the northern hemisphere right now. The combination of these two element is called kapha. Kapha is characterized by heavy, dense, wet, and cool properties—think snowpack. Because the combination of earth and water creates mud which can suck us down, or snowpack which can keep us spinning our tires, it’s a good idea to adjust our movement routines this time of year. That way, we’ll avoid getting stuck in the cozy rut of hibernation.
In TCM, the element associated with spring is wood. The season is represented by a tree, growing sturdily upward and outward. Qi is moving from a yin part of the body (inner) to more yang parts of the body (limbs, lungs).
So what shifts do you think are necessary?
Two Words: Heat and Stimulation
When creating your own movement practices for spring, it’s time to turn up the internal thermostat! Focus on things like brisk walks first thing in the morning, jogging if your body responds well to that, a quicker-paced vinyasa practice, or even snowshoeing or cross country skiing if you’re in the mountains.
Because Kapha dosha has its home base in the stomach, lungs and heart, you’ll want to incorporate movements that expand your torso. These are all valuable for decongesting stagnant kapha. They can help bringing pliability to the lungs, circulating lymph, and decompressing a rounded spine from hunkering down all winter. So on the mat we would teach—or practice—side bends, backbends and twists. Get those arms overhead, lift energy from the pelvic floor, and move quickly to circulate prana and increase your heart rate. This might look like a more dynamic surya namaskar with side angle pose, triangle pose, locust pose, and wheel and its variations.
Qi Gong practitioners suggest expansive and robust movements which often feel energizing and can help detox the liver and blood. In this school of thought, more emphasis is placed on vigorous movement and less on intention and breath.
Bottom line? Generate warmth and get the juices flowing.
Leave us a comment and let us know if
a) you adjust your movement routines with the seasons, and
b) if so, how does that feel in your body?
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