Spring always brings a much-needed break from a cold, barren stretch. The vibrant buds and blooms are our rewards for making it through the winter, but they’re also harbingers of a variety of pollen—airborne allergens that can instigate a cascade of symptoms, including coughing, a runny or stuffy nose, and itchy eyes, nose, mouth, and throat. If you think that your symptoms are getting more severe and erupting earlier each year, it’s probably not in your head. According to the CDC, climate change may be increasing pollen concentrations and extending the allergy season.
So is relief as fleeting as a cherry blossom? Not so fast.
“Instead of thinking this is something we have to cope with, the biggest gift of Ayurveda is that it provides wisdom on how to understand what’s happening outside, how it’s impacting you within, and how to form a relationship with it,” says Indu Arora, Ayurveda and yoga educator and author of SOMA: 100 Heritage Recipes for Self-Care. “It’s important to remember that the body is only doing its best to protect us. Whether it’s experiencing sinus congestion, rashes, or digestive irregularities, the body is working to push out something that does not feel right in this moment.”
Ayurveda offers simple tried-and-true methods that can help us work with our environment rather than signal all our defenses. Arora says the Ayurvedic approach includes three main ideas: First, we need to improve our immunity, which Ayurveda translates as “digestive capacity.” We want to continually feed our agni, or digestive fire. Gentle, holistic cleanses also help—and she notes that we aren’t talking about harsh programs, panchakarma, or focusing on a single organ or body part to cleanse. Finally, eating and practicing based on our symptoms can significantly turn things around.
And it’s not costly or complicated.
“Ayurveda is a manual on self-care that is accessible. There are many practical ways to learn how to transition into spring in a way that isn’t a burden to the body and mind, and in fact we can feed on that energy of the season that helps the flowers bloom and plants sprout,” she says.
5 ways to use Ayurveda for allergies
Sip warm (not hot) water throughout the day
“It may seem like such a simple thing, but warm water has a gentle cleansing effect. It washes away mucosal congestion in the nostrils, food passages, and lungs, as well as supports digestive fire and enzymes. Over a period of time this will support immunity because it keeps tissue channels cleaner,” says Arora.
Scrape your tongue every morning
If you see kapha (mucus) or ama (toxins)—which show up as whitish or yellowish buildup, teeth marks, dullness or paleness—you’ll pick up the copper scraper. If you see deep cracks or red patches, which reflect pitta, use the steel scraper.First, you’ll need to stock up high-quality scrapers—one steel and one copper. (You can order a bundle on Arora’s website for $20 or source your own.) Then, every morning before brushing your teeth, extend your tongue and taking a look. “Use discernment on a daily basis. Yoga and Ayurveda are about living a life of awareness,” says Arora.
Do this every morning before brushing. “Gently scrape from back to forward, from side to forward, and don’t put too much pressure. You don’t want to create any wear and tear or an injury,” says Arora. Already have oil swishing in your routine? In that case, swish, scrape, then brush your teeth. “You’ll be surprised by how clean and clear it keeps your throat and your voice.”
Use a copper neti pot
If you tend to experience nasal congestion, a nasal rinse will help. Rather than opting for a ceramic or plastic product, Arora recommends using a copper neti pot instead. The reason? When you store water in a copper vessel (find it at her store for $30), it becomes ionized. In Ayurveda, copper pacifies kapha, which can easily get out of hand in the spring. Water ionized through copper conveys this intelligence to our cells and nasal mucosa, she says.
The instructions are simple: Soak distilled or plain drinking water in the neti pot overnight, so that it becomes ionized. The next morning, warm it up, add salt, and do neti.
“You don’t need to do it every day. Twice a week is enough. When we overuse it, we strip off the natural oils from the nasal mucosa, which can lead to creating more dryness in the nostrils.”
Eat and practice according to your dosha
For this one, tap into that discernment Arora encouraged: “We have to really pause and see what kind of symptoms we have. Are they kapha, pitta, or vata? How is this change of season affecting us?”
Kapha symptoms: Congestion, coughing, heaviness, dullness, weak appetite, stickiness of the eyes
“Avoid the kind of foods that aggravate kapha, like dairy products, white flour, and cane sugar, along with anything that’s dull, heavy, and frozen,” says Arora. “Instead, focus on fresh veggies and greens, which are astringent, and use black pepper and ginger in tea, soups, and salads.”
Pitta symptoms: Rashes, hives, redness in eyes, irritation, sneezing
“Avoid spicy, heating foods like red chili, garlic, onion, red bell pepper, or alcohol,” says Arora. “Use cooling, calming herbs, like cilantro, fennel, aloe vera. In fact, you can take a tablespoon of aloe vera internally at the onset of spring, daily for about two weeks, to keep pitta in check.”
She also suggests revisiting your skin-care routine, since pitta skin is reactive to harsh cleansers and chemicals. “Look at the ingredients in your cleanser, soap, shampoo, and moisturizer, and try to choose items that are organic, natural, and don’t contain many preservatives.”
In fact, Arora has formulated her own herbal powder, which includes clay, chickpea flour, sandalwood, and more, that can be used as a cleanser, scrub, or mask. “It was passed on by my grandmother to me, and I devised it again along with my own guru,” she says. The product, Yogis Glow ($50), will last for three months, if used weekly as a mask or scrub; it lasts for 6 weeks as a daily cleanser. “You can mix it with rose water, milk, aloe vera, or water. If you have a flare up, use it for two weeks and pay attention to what happens to your skin.”
Vata symptoms: Headache, dry skin, gas, constipation, wheezing breath
“Avoid raw, iced, cold, or aerated foods, and you’re good,” says Arora. In addition, to combat dryness, you can oil the openings of the body—nostrils, ears, and naval—with a drop of sesame oil (no need to insert the oil). For dry eyes, pick up some round cotton pads. Soak two in ghee, which is clarified butter, and lay them over your eyes to create some lubrication.
With each new ritual and adjustment, pay attention
“One thing that should not be missed whenever there is any kind of change is bringing reflective awareness,” says Arora. “Witness that shift so that you can become a part of it and not have resistance and aversion to it. Build your awareness, whether you call it meditation, the witness, or reflective inquiry.”
“This is the gift of yoga: It doesn’t matter how long you do it, whether that is for a minute, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes,” says Arora. “Just make it part of your life.”
Meet Indu Arora
Indu Arora, Ayurveda and Yoga Therapist considers herself a student for lifetime. She has been sharing about Yoga philosophy, Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda since 1999. She is inspired by and taught under Kriya Yoga, Himalayan Yoga, Kashmir Shivaism, and Sivananda Yoga lineages. She has studied both Yoga and Ayurveda in a traditional Guru paramapara setting.
Her teaching style is rooted in empowering and inspiring students to awaken the inner Guru. Her core philosophy is, ‘Nothing has the greatest power to heal, but Self!”
Learn more at yogsadhna.com.