I was blessed last week with the opportunity to teach at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat with many other wonderful teachers of Yoga, meditation and Ayurveda medicine.
During one of the lectures, a student asked the teacher what he thought of coffee, whether it was good or bad. The teacher answered that coffee could be handled by some constitutions and not by others. The question and answer made me want to explain that more than just what you consume is dependent on your constitution.
The thing is, your constitution is changing constantly. What your body needed, and could handle, 10 years ago is very different from what it can handle today. In fact, your body and its needs vary from moment to moment, day to day.
If your body is inflamed or full of dampness, like when you have a cold, it requires very different nutrients and foods than when your body is too dry, under-hydrated or under-slept.
Your body, you see, is an ever-changing living, breathing organism. Just like the weather and the seasons, your body is constantly adapting and changing along with the environment, both the outside environment and the inside environment, which includes your thoughts, emotions, and state of nutrition or strength.
Your body changes as you age and according to the weather patterns.
You are not separate from the world around you or the seasons. Perhaps you have allergies at a given season, so you note that. Perhaps you might note that you want to stay in more and rest during the winter seasons.
You might think that it’s because you don’t like the cold or to be outside, but your body may want that too, as it is the season for the body to hibernate and store fuel, rather than use it.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body is viewed as a landscape of nature, living in harmony with the surroundings, and part of the whole picture of life as well as the seasons.
Humans, as the belief goes, are directly and indirectly influenced by changes in the weather, so that the ability to maintain a balanced life and health involves living in accordance with the seasonal changes, eating, moving, sleeping and socializing as the season allows.
Now let’s think about the season we just finished going through, winter, and the season we have now moved into, spring.
How did you feel during the winter months? What did you choose to eat? Many of my patients and clients complained of gaining weight, feeling less energy, and coming down with colds.
What is important to know is that winter is the time for us to slow down and to save our energy, a time where we are building our strength to get going and moving in the spring.
During winter, TCM recommends we eat foods that are high in protein and fat, like beef, eggs, duck, dates, mushrooms or nuts, and to increase bitter foods like asparagus, celery, coffee, kohlrabi, radish leaves, kale, vinegar and wine.
The problem often lies in our desire to get comfortable when it is cold and we are hibernating, so many folks choose foods that are high in grains and carbohydrate-load, as well as sweets and foods that are too salty.
This often leads to the body gaining more weight, feeling more lethargic and damp, and this also adds on to a metabolic rate that is already slow because of the season.
The good news is, much of that weight can come right off as you move into spring, a time for new birth and new growth, and movement! According to TCM, the liver is the dominant organ functioning at this time, and the liver likes it when you move. This means exercise, walk outdoors, dance, do Yoga, or get your metabolism moving.
Recommended foods for this time of the year include onions, leeks, leaf mustard, Chinese yam, dates, cilantro, mushrooms, spinach, and lots of dark leafy greens.
The key always is to get acquainted with your body, and how it responds to different foods or activities during different times of the day, week and year. You will notice that you are a constantly changing and adapting being that can live in concert with nature.
Pay attention to what is growing locally, and try to eat the organic foods coming from your local farmers. Pay attention to when you are feeling damp (have a cold) or dry (are constipated) and notice what foods you may have eaten or what thoughts you might be upholding.
Remember, you are not separate from nature. Move with nature and nature will move with you. Love your own nature, and your love will bring you into a state of harmony and health.