Marching into Spring

image by Eileen M. Kane

image by Eileen M. Kane

Spring is edging nearer! March 20th will mark this year’s Vernal Equinox, also commonly referred to as the “First Day of Spring”; and in the Pacific Northwest Spring time is especially sweet.

The Vernal Equinox and its meaning
The equinox represents an almost neutral moment in time where the earth’s axis prepares to begin rotating its tilt towards the Sun resulting in what we experience as then end of one season’s cycle and the eve of another season’s beginning. It represents not just a neutral point between longer days and shorter nights for the Northern Hemisphere but a transition from darkness to light, as the Sun appears to travel the equator giving us warmer and warmer days leading up to what we all hope will be a glorious (and not TOO short) summer!

Inner Spring Cleaning
While we prepare for the Sun to return we reflect upon the goals many of us have made over the winter. We feel a subtle spark, a resurgence of hope that new beginnings are just around the corner and may prepare to in fact take out the old to make way for the new. Not surprisingly our bodies go through such a similar cycle when we encounter a major new environment or season change. You may notice a spike in common flu or allergy-like symptoms going around; many of us experience an excess amount of mucous or toxins preparing to leave the body. Indeed, Spring is the “detoxification” season of the year.

While a full body detox should always be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional and given plenty of time free from stressful obligations (like work or school) to complete and recover from, there are lots of little ways in which we can assist our bodies own detoxifying efforts to keep us healthy as well as a preventative form of self care to keep your immune defenses high during the year’s “cold/flu/allergy seasons”, combat stress and keep your inner fire strong!

Body Brushing
A dry ‘bristle-brush’, like the ones you find in the bath section, can be used all over the body, brushing in a gentle circular motion always moving towards the heart. Brushing upon waking and/or before bedtime, especially, is a relaxing and meditative form of self care that can be easily incorporated into any routine. It’s not only relaxing to the central nervous system, but the bristles buff away dead skin cells, keeping pores clear and skin soft. Superficial brushing movements utilizing light pressure help move LYMPH, a clear almost plasma-like substance full of white blood cells that bathes your tissues carrying away toxins and draining into the channels of the ‘lymphatic system’ to keep your body healthy. This is one great way to ensure toxins actually LEAVE your body, as oftentimes stress factors and poor diet or environment create blockages preventing lymph from traveling channels through which the body disposes of toxins. Assisting the process speeds up recovery from illness and in a daily routine will keep you feeling healthy and relaxed at the start and end of your day.

Eating Well
What you eat is a large factor in the ‘building blocks’ your body uses on the cellular level for growth, change and especially repairs. When our diet leaves out key nutrients we need for cellular repairs or to combat the stresses of our lifestyles or environment we don’t recover from stress as well and notice signs of aging. If stress levels are very high we are more accident prone and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep focus calmly in the present.. We may notice we make more mistakes at work or home, that we seem to ‘bump’ into things or even incur physical mishaps which may seem to recover slower than usual. A diet that incorporates seasonal foods doesn’t just keep allergies at bay but are more likely to provide key nutrients to combat the illnesses or stresses you are most likely to incur, season to season. Even getting a dose of local honey just a couple weeks before major climate changes each season can cut down many seasonal allergy sufferers’ symptoms.
 By keeping ‘in rhythm’ with your environment you can keep the toll stress has on the body low enough to adjust to season changes as well as lifestyle changes which can be equally overwhelming, though experienced in a different way.

Focusing on Your Sleep Cycle
Who couldn’t use some more sleep in their life? We all know sleep is the best time for the body to make serious changes and repairs but did you know that WHEN you sleep also may impart many factors into the quality of sleep you get, as well as your energy upon waking. In Ayurveda, a long-standing traditional Indian form of science, the body will respond to certain activities based on their energetic nature at certain times of day, which have their own energetic nature as well. For example, many yogis and people who meditate will utilize the ascending currents of the earth which are strongest between roughly 2:00am and 6:00 am for deeply significant spiritual meditation whereas between 10:00 am and 2:00pm are considered the body’s high points of metabolic activity and noon is considered the best time to eat your heavies to or most difficult to digest meal. As Spring approaches we notice the light waking us earlier and staying with us longer; while it may take a few tries to get into a rewarding rhythm, slowing things down as early as 6 or 7pm and aiming to get into bed and asleep by or before 10 or 11pm gives the body the best chance at getting the most out of it’s sleeping cycles, which includes waking refreshed with more energy as early as 6am. Many of us find waking early to be difficult, but getting deep restful sleep is a great combatant to lethargic mornings, especially for people who must start their days early. So aiming to get your sleep between 10pm and 6am is not only a great way to ensure your body is able to heal, grow and adapt to change but also an excellent regimen to inspire and refresh your mind and energy while you’re awake.

Kick Up The Heat!
Many of us make new year’s resolutions to incorporate or ‘beef up’ our exercise routine for a variety of reasons; weight loss, increased energy and stamina, a cleaner and healthier physical body and a calmer,less stressed mental/emotional body. Getting a daily dose of physical expression to exert energy, pump blood through the body and to give our over-stimulated minds a break is definitely a staple in any health care regimen. So what kind of exercise is indicated when you take a ‘seasonal’ approach to your self-care? To take another cue from Ayurveda, we might consider the stagnation of the state Winter tends to exhibit with the budding rebirth and renewal of Spring. While we prepare for increased light, increased energy and a general increase in life it makes sense to pick activities which feel stimulating to the heart, mind, or lungs- the same areas most prone to the ‘stagnation’ of Winter. So, what gets you passionate? What makes the juices flow for YOU? An evening solo or family ‘dance hour’ is a fun tradition to add to your household. A ‘pool pass’ instead if a gym membership is also a good way to get into the flow of Spring and re-inspire your aerobic exercise routine. Yoga or Qi Gong can provide a myriad of movements and exercises aimed at increasing energy, moving blood and Qi (“chee”) through the body and to stimulate the release of toxins. And of course, what better way to enjoy this year’s Spring ‘comeback’ than an early morning stroll through your neighborhood or favorite park; long walks give the mind space to relax and unwind increasing its ability to tackle problem-solving tasks with more creativity, while brisk strolls stimulates the extremities and invigorates the lung stimulating the expulsion of any excess chest congestion. Any physical activity that involves lots of movement, is stimulating or gets you to sweat and most importantly inspires your inner passionate side is an excellent tonic to release the Winter’s cobwebs and get a fresh, creative jump into the upswing of Spring!

Get Moving!
In addition to incorporating seasonal produce into your diet, adjusting to an early morning start and enjoying plenty of exercise to keep the flow going, remember to incorporate body work into your self care to keep healthy.

Along with invigorating exercise that gets the blood flowing and lets an over-active mind run its course adding massage to your self-care can help incorporate those many changes on a deeper level; from moving lymph, stagnant toxins and stimulating new blood flow through the body’s tissues you can also give yourself an extra “circadian reset” by taking time for deep relaxation allowing one’s central nervous system to make a ‘switch’ from a constant sympathetic “fight or flight” frequency to that restorative reset we get from the parasympathetic “resting and digesting” state. It is in this state that the involuntary systems are able to gear organ function into high gear and is thus how and when the body is able to not just help make major change happen but also deep healing. It is this same reason that getting deep, restful sleep is so integral to physical healing and regeneration.

This month’s Special, our new March into Spring hand, foot, and body treatment is a combination of relaxation and renewal as a form of detoxification, aimed to help clients not just get a physical but a psychological reset so you can tackle the onset of Spring with a little less ‘sneeze’ and a little more ‘skip’ in your step!

–Post authored by Chloe Phelps, LMT