March 10, 2016

The Art of Alignment: Lighten Up for Spring with Down Dog.

Biegun Wschodni/Unsplash

Everything is in a state of flux. Change is the only constant experience.

Paradoxical, unpredictable, chaotic, and yet this fixed principle of being alive lends itself to creativity and transcendence, inviting us to stay interested. We have good reason to stay interested, too, because our health depends on our alignment with the ever-changing forces of nature.

Skillfully attuning our organism to time (which, by the way, is change) is a major factor in determining whether we live a life of ease or dis-ease.

What does this mean on a practical level?

Eastern medicine, like the Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine systems, operates on the understanding that human beings are the microcosm and nature (or the universe) is the macrocosm.

Most of us apply common sense to align ourselves with changing weather patterns and the time of day by, for example, pulling our jacket tighter when a cold wind blows or avoiding coffee as a bedtime drink. These small acts of good judgment protect our health, but let’s face it, most of us suffer from myriad symptoms like fatigue, indigestion, anxiety and allergies to name a few, which indicate we are not in optimal alignment with our environment.

Ayurveda (literally, “the science of life”) offers invaluable healthcare guidelines for attuning ourselves more consciously to nature’s rhythms.

Like the German poet Friedrich Schiller said, “Never does Nature say one thing and wisdom another.”

Time of day, time of life and time of year, Ayurveda tells us, should all be considered if one wishes to live a healthy, harmonious life. Let’s take an overview of one of these principles: the seasons (time of year), focusing on the much anticipated (and upcoming!) springtime.

Ahhhh, spring, with her warm sun, running streams, blooming flowers and—ah-ah-ah-choooo!—runny noses. It is such a bummer when stuffy sinuses or a generalized heaviness in the body-mind tempers our experience of the euphoric warmth of the sun’s rays or the pleasure of seeing the first crocuses peak through the frost.

Frequent complaints during the spring include allergies, lethargy and congestion. The body is trying to shed its heavy winter coat of mucous and fat. What served to keep our sinuses lubricated and our organs insulated during the cold, dryer months needs to melt, just like the snow is melting.

We would be wise to support the body in this effort.

Spring invites an inner buoyancy and upward-moving energy to our lives. Like colorful flowers bursting through the surface of a warming, softening earth, we can mirror this natural process by enjoying dynamic exercise that warms, lightens and invigorates our minds and our circulatory and lymphatic systems.

A heating, strong yoga practice like the sun salutation series is ideal, providing it’s done with attention to keeping the body supple and not rigid. After all, a flower can’t bloom through hard earth!

Inversions and backbends are great, as they relieve congestion and open the lungs, respectively.

Downward facing dog is a quintessential springtime pose, because it stimulates circulation and reduces excess mucous (known as kapha in Ayurveda) throughout the body. Dog pose is more of an inversion than it is a shoulder stretch, and it can dislodge even the most tenacious phlegm. Practicing this pose can be immediate medicine for sluggish circulatory or lymphatic systems. However, overworking the muscles exacerbates conditions of stagnation. Pay attention in dog pose to relaxing the center of the trapezius muscles, the tops of the shoulders and the center of the palms. Let your breath flow smoothly through the central channel of the body as you invite a subtle pulsation into the spine. Imagine mirroring the rhythm of a defrosting river finding its flow.

In terms of diet, the junction of winter and spring is the quintessential time to do a thorough cleanse. It’s recommended that we minimize heavy, hard to digest food like cold dairy, meat, sweets and fatty fried food. Eating lighter in general, with our largest meal at lunchtime and vegetarian soup at dinner, provides the liver with much needed detoxification while we sleep.

Rising with the sun and finding time to dance, sing, start new projects and express joy are great ways to embody the lightness of being that spring invites.

As the days grow longer and hotter, we will find ourselves adapting to summer with ease if the heaviness of late winter and early spring is not lingering in our systems like mud under a canoe. It will only be harder to get “unstuck” in the summer when the heat requires us to slow down.

There is a saying, “where the attention goes the energy flows.” In any season we have the opportunity to observe the wisdom of the natural world and align ourselves with that sacred rhythm. Living with a curiosity to observe and adjust to the constant flux of life yields an ease of wellbeing, vitality and joy, which is our birthright.

“…There is a season turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven…”


Relephant Read:

What We Didn’t Know About the Seasons & Ayurveda.


Author: Emmie Stamell

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Biegun Wschodni/Unsplash


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