Ayurvedic self-care begins with awareness. It’s important to understand the season we are in, our dosha type, and our imbalance before implementing self-care practices.
During this time of year, it may either be spring or fall depending on where you are in the world. It’s May 2020, and we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. In understanding Ayurveda, the wisdom of life, and Ayurvedic self-care, the two laws are like increases like and opposites create balance. With this wisdom, if we practice seasonal eating, it’s one way to support our bodies and minds in finding balance. For example, in the winter time, there’s root vegetables like brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and winter squashes to help combat the dry, rough, and light elements of the season. In the spring, there’s plenty of bitter and astringent greens like dandelion, asparagus and mustard greens to help shed the heaviness of the damp, cold and slow qualities, while in the summer there’s a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables to help cool us from the heat of the season.
Dosha and Imbalance Awareness
However, during a pandemic, and in particular, if it’s Spring and the ideal practices include more movement, spices and a change in routine, but we are experiencing high stress, that may not be the best medicine. This is where Ayurveda can become a little nuanced. It’s not easy enough to say to eat seasonally, because what matters is how you’re currently feeling and what’s present for you, physically, mentally and emotionally. There are certainly different ways to prepare seasonal dishes in a way that’s balancing for your dosha. For example, in the spring, cooking bitter greens with a generous amount of ghee could be helpful for a vata imbalance, using a smaller amount of ghee or coconut oil for a pitta imbalance, and perhaps water steaming or a small amount of ghee for a kapha imbalance.
The three pillars to health according to Ayurveda are diet, sleep and energy management. Energy management can look like celibacy, but also how we are utilizing our reserves. What’s taking our energy away, and what is supportive? Understanding Ayurvedic self care as both diet and lifestyle, we can utilize both aspects differently to suit our individual needs.
If feeling anxious, trouble sleeping, experiencing dry skin:
- Turn off the news and give your senses a rest.
- Practice abhyanga, a self-oil massage. Sesame oil is warming and coconut oil is cooling. If unsure, almond and sunflower oil are fairly neutral. Warm a quarter cup of oil and perform long stokes on the limbs and circles on the joints. Create clockwise circles around your belly to support the flow of digestion. After 15-20 minutes, take a warm bath or shower. Warm water helps to open the pores which allows the oil to penetrate more deeply into your skin. Simply rinse off and then pat yourself dry. This can be done in the mornings or at night. If this feels like too much time, you might just rub your feet with oil before bed. Avoid the practice of abhyanga when you are on your menstrual cycle or if you have a fever.
If feeling irritable and overheated:
- Put your feet in cool water or take a cool shower or bath to immediately lower your body temperature.
- You might also try a yin or restorative yoga class to create more space in the body, moving and breathing in a forgiving way rather than intense or rigid.
If feeling lethargic and heavy:
- Try an invigorating movement practice like vinyasa yoga, dance or a brisk walk.
- Dry brushing will help to move lymph and increase circulation as well. Use garshana gloves or a bristle brush. Start from the feet, create upward strokes toward the heart, avoiding sensitive areas.
What practice will you try? Be gentle with yourself and tell us what you think.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Educator & Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher