Spring is finally here, and just like we clear out the garden to prepare for the spring harvest, it's important to prepare the body for nature's new year, says Larissa Hall Carlson, co-leader of Yoga Journal's online course, Ayurveda 101. "The Ayurvedic focus for spring is on clearing out the clutter and the congestion that has lodged from the winter, and starting the spring season feeling fresh and vibrant," she explains. Here are Carlson's 3 favorite self-care practices to cleanse and rejuvenate the body for spring.
3 Self-Care Practices for Spring
1. Scrape your tongue.
When you wake up in the morning, take a look at your tongue in the mirror. If it's covered with a thick white coating of toxic ama (undigested food sludge), then you definitely need a tongue scraper, Carlson says. "What's showing up on your tongue is representing the ama in the gut," she explains. "Scraping the tongue immediately eliminates toxins from the tongue while stimulating the purification of the whole digestive tract." Plus, cleaning the tongue supports fresh breath and helps to improve the sense of taste, she adds.
Obtain a metal tongue scraper, either copper or stainless steel. First thing in the morning after brushing your teeth, scrape the tongue from the back down to the tip 3 to 5 times, rinsing the tongue scraper in between each swipe. Use firm but gentle pressure (don’t get too rough). Optional: Follow up with 30 seconds of saltwater gargle to clean toxins from the throat.
2. Use a neti pot with saltwater.
We can build up a lot of congestion during the rainy, cold days of early spring (kapha season), and using a neti pot with saltwater can help, Carlson says. "Using a neti pot with saltwater is a very popular practice for removing sinus congestion, along with the bacteria and germs that get embedded in the congestion," she says. "It's excellent for preventing sinus infections, colds, and even seasonal allergies."
Purchase a ceramic or metal neti pot and some high-quality neti pot salt. When your neti pot is new, sterilize it by boiling it in water. Fill the neti pot with warm water, not hot (as the neti pot directs water into the sensitive sinuses, it's important to use filtered or purified water to ensure a healthy and safe practice). Stir in about 1/4 teaspoon of neti salt until it dissolves (you might like more or less salt). Leaning over the sink, insert the neti pot into one nostril. Tipping your head slightly forward and slightly to the side, raise your arm enough to allow gravity to pour the water from the neti pot through the nostril, and it will flow down and out the other side. Use half the neti pot for one side, pause, and gently blow the nose, cleaning out the water and congestion. Do the second side. Rinse the neti pot thoroughly for the next use. Repeat this practice 3-5 times a week throughout the spring. Enjoy deeper, clearer breaths! Note: avoid using a neti pot for active sinus infections, nosebleeds, or if you have a deviated septum.
3. Practice garshana.
Garshana is a dry, silk glove exfoliation massage that sloughs off dead skin cells and revitalizes the skin. This invigorating and stimulating massage helps to increases circulation and decongests the lymph nodes, removing excess kapha.
Purchase garshana (dry raw silk) gloves. Put on the gloves, and give yourself brisk strokes up and down the long bones of the body and the circles of the joints, passing over each body part 3-5 times. Repeat 3-5 times a week throughout the spring season. Your skin will feel rejuvenated and soft, giving you a radiant glow!
The key to true mind-body balance? Understanding your body’s natural needs—how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal—through each season. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda, and John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga's elemental sister science. Sign up now!