Seasonal allergies got you down? Counter them with an Ayurvedic approach.
One of the most fascinating things I have learned about health and wellbeing through Ayurveda is the power of seasonal transitions. If we don’t cleanse our systems and prepare for the upcoming months as the seasons change, we open the door to mayhem when we carry the properties of one season into the next. This is the primary cause of aggravation and imbalance of the doshas within our own bodies.
For example, when the fall and early winter Vata season ends, and if your own personal Vata isn’t in balance, you will carry those properties to the Kapha season of early spring, which can compromise your health. “The snow begins to melt, and rain becomes more frequent, resulting in the earth holding onto more water. This is nature’s response to a long and dry winter,” writes Dr. John Douillard.
Kapha is made up of earth and water elements, and the word “Kapha” itself means “to stick together.” This is the season we tend to hold on to more water, feel more congested, and battle excessive mucus. Kapha-type allergies are the most likely to be exacerbated in this season.
I saw a friend recently, whose personal prakruti (constitution) is Kapha-Pitta. Her workout motivation can be stunted by her Kapha qualities (which encourage her to stay on the couch and not move), thus causing her Kapha qualities to become imbalanced. She said, “I have been retaining a lot of water of late. I am not sure why. My nose also feels stuffy.”
The most common allergy symptoms this time of year affect the nose, sinuses, lungs, and eyes. Kapha is primarily seated in the lungs. One of Kapha’s gunas, or qualities, is that it is sticky. Mucus and rheum (discharge) in the corner of your eyes—they are sticky too. Spring allergies show up as a runny nose, watery eyes, congestion, hay fever, asthma, sinus infection, water retention, sleeping disorder, and sneezing. Other symptoms are sluggishness and fatigue. In the digestive tract, allergies can create a sense of heaviness in the stomach and impaired digestion.
Some primary causes of allergies according to Ayurveda:
Weak agni (digestive fire)
Accumulation of ama (toxins)
Person’s state of vikruti (doshic imbalance)
Person’s basic prakruti
State of the dhatu agni (digestive fire of bodily tissues)
Weakened immune system
Number of allergens in the body
How to Navigate Kapha-Type Allergies This Spring
Do a cleanse: Consider doing a cleanse to transition smoothly from Vata to Kapha season. A cleanse resets the digestive system and eliminates ama from the body, balancing the doshas. The ultimate goal is improved health and wellbeing, right? Ayurveda treats the root of the problem as opposed to the symptom.
Use a neti pot: This is one of my favorite cleansing techniques. Jala neti is the practice of pouring warm salt water through the nasal passages. It moistens the mucus membranes and gets rid of any allergens, dust, dirt, and excess mucus.
Practice nasya: I bring a bottle of nasya oil with me on every trip. Right before the flight takes off, I lubricate the nasal passageway with 3-5 drops of oil in each nostril. Doing nasya makes the sensitive nasal tissues less reactive to airborne irritants and dryness. In Ayurveda, our nose is considered the door to our consciousness. “Medications that are administered via the nasal passages affect the mind, prana vata, tarpaka kapha, sadhaka pitta, and majja dhatu,” says Dr. Vasant Lad.
Avoid Kapha-provoking diet: Cold, heavy foods, processed foods, fried foods, dairy, wheat, meat, sugar, leftovers, and iced beverages should be avoided, as they can slow down digestion and increase mucus. Kapha is also aggravated by the sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
Favor these foods: Warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne should be prioritized in your cooking. Kapha is balanced by the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Drink warm water throughout the day.
Change your beverage of choice: Sip on ginger tea throughout the day, as it ignites agni. Drinking clear herbal teas can also help eliminate excess Kapha, per Dr. Vasant Lad.
Movement is a must: Exercise daily, for 45-60 minutes. This can be a brisk walk, a Vinyasa yoga class, a hike, a bike ride, or a dance class. Sun salutations and poses centered around the chest should be a priority. Exercising will help stimulate agni and eliminate ama. But if your allergies include respiratory problems or any kind of difficulty breathing, be mindful of your tipping point.
Daily pranayama: Out of the eight limbs of yoga, pranayama is considered the fourth limb: the practice of breath regulation. Shortly after practicing pranayama, you will notice a difference in the subtle aspects of the mind-body. Pranayamas also lower stress and balance the nervous system, which in turn supports the immune system. They also empower the respiratory passages impacted by allergies. See if you can develop a daily pranayama routine in the morning that includes Kapalabhati (Skull-Polishing Breath), Dirgha (Three-Part Breath), Ujjayi (Ocean-Sounding Breath), and Bhastrika (Bellows Breath). I practice all of them, especially during Kapha season.
Say no to diwaswap: In Ayurveda, daytime napping is called diwaswap. Sleeping during the day during Kapha season will increase Kapha in the mind and body. Think grogginess, heaviness, puffiness, and drowsiness. I have even known people to crave sugary products after their afternoon nap.
Ayurveda works on the root of a problem (including spring allergies) instead of just treating symptoms. That’s why I always recommend working with an experienced Ayurvedic professional to learn the best Ayurvedic cleansing techniques and yogic practices for you and your needs.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
Experiment with yoga for allergies and seasonal colds.