Days like today signal that spring is just around the corner, and March is the transition time from winter to spring. Just like we change our clothes for the seasons, we need to change our eating habits and activities to suit the new weather. Warmer weather generally means lighter food and more activity. So, if you have not been exercising during the winter, now is a perfect time to restart your yoga (or other) exercise routine.
One way to help the body “reset” for the new season is to do a kind of detox diet. Detox means to get rid of toxins (“de” to reverse, “tox” from toxify). Actually, our body is always detoxifying itself – the liver, kidneys, and the lymphatic system carry out detoxification constantly. However, those organs get tired, so we need to help them by giving them a rest. Eating easy to digest foods is one way to give these organs a rest. Also, it is recommended to take some herbs or other foods that assist with detox.
Detox can have a number of good effects on the body and mind, including weight loss, improved digestion, clear skin, and a refreshed feeling. The toxins in our body are created not only from the foods we eat and the chemicals in the air, but also the emotions we have. If we hold anger, sadness, jealousy, or hatred inside, these feelings can literally make us physically ill. Detoxing the body can also help clean out the mind and heart.
Seasonal Allergies and Yoga
With the warmth of spring comes the suffering of hay fever or seasonal allergies (花粉症). On the train and at work we hear people sniffling and sighing, tired from allergy medicine and too much sneezing. The sad part is, allergy medicine makes use weaker, so that we need stronger allergy medicine as we get older. Fortunately, we CAN strengthen our immunity (免疫力) and relieve the symptoms with yoga. Of course, yoga is what we call “slow medicine”, it takes time and practice to work. But I assure you, the more you practice the better you will feel. Yoga may also be used WITH medicine to make it more effective.
Yoga practice can relieve your allergies in two major ways. First, yoga helps to strengthen the immune system by calming the nervous system (神経系). Allergies tend to make people feel irritated, what with a constantly running nose and itchy eyes. Practicing yoga forces you to slow down your breathing, which makes you calm. Inversions (逆さまのポーズ) stimulate lymph flow, which helps your body get rid of allergens (things that give you an allergic reaction). Second, breathing exercises, like Kapalabhati, help decongest the nose so you can breathe more easily. Chest opening exercises, like Fish pose, are also helpful.
Have you ever heard of the neti pot for nasal irrigation? This ancient ayurvedic technique of cleansing the nasal passages of allergens, dust, and mucus is actually recommended by doctors in the US and Japan to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. You can use other devices for washing your nose, like squeeze bottles, or any teapot with a spout, but the neti pot is the easiest to use.
More about hay fever and yoga (in English)
These days, most people’s first reaction to colds or allergies is to take medicine for the symptoms, rather than treat the source. While it may be more difficult at first, listening intently to your body will eventually help you figure out what the source of your illness, or imbalance, is. Taking too much medicine deafens us to our own bodies. Listening to your body will help you do what is good for it. Doing what is good for it makes you healthy. And being healthy helps you enjoy the beautiful spring weather ^v^