Every day in May is precious.
Where I live, the months of February through April are often the most challenging – January and the post-holiday, beginning of year hope always seem to fly by, but it’s in February, and March, and April that every day can feel like a grind.
It’s not the sunshine that May can bring that necessarily turns it all around for me. I do love the sun and warmer days, but I also enjoy the rain.
It’s the flowers and the fully leafed out trees that late winter and early spring lacks. The sheer density of foliage that has returned by early May.
A heavy blanket or extra padding of plant life that soothes my nervous system as I go out into the world, making everything hard, more bearable, and everything mundane or merely good, elevated.
The twenty Gunas valued in Ayurvedic medicine.
One thing that is inevitably helpful from day to day, whether it’s in those more difficult late winter and early spring months, in May, or in the heat of peak summer, is tuning into and adjusting my food and lifestyle choices based on the energies around and inside me. What I’m referring to are the 20 Gunas in Ayurvedic wisdom. These are a set of 10 pairs of opposing qualities or energies that describe the different attributes inherent in all substances.
For instance, a rock is hard. Feathers are soft.
A rainy day is wet. A clear, sunny day in August in Oregon is dry.
Fresh ginger is heating. Coconut milk and coconut water are cooling.
What is so powerful about observing these qualities in your body and everyday life, and then using them to make subtle food and lifestyle adjustments, is that it’s a way to bring balance to your body, mind and health.
This daily adjusting is especially helpful as a preventative measure, but should also be used when there is clear illness or disease. Our body’s prefer to operate at homeostasis. Even with everything we do in our everyday that knocks the body out of homeostasis, its object is always to return to ‘baseline’ as quickly as possible. When there are too many blocks in its ability to do so, that’s when illness and disease, abnormal lab values, pain and aches, and injuries occur.
The 20 Qualities are:
Heavy | Light
Cold | Hot
Soft | Hard
Oily | Dry
Smooth | Rough
Dense or Solid | Liquid
Slow or Dull | Sharp
Stable | Unstable or Mobile
Cloudy, Sticky or Slimy | Clear
Gross or Big | Subtle or Small
Observing and using the 20 qualities or gunas is a way to help the body system return to homeostasis. How you do that is for every quality that is out of balance, utilize the opposite quality instead.
For instance, if I am currently experiencing hot, itchy skin rashes or acne, I know that adding more heating substances, foods, and heating spices will further increase the heat condition. Reducing the amount of spices in food, the type of foods that are hot in nature, and increasing cooling foods will help to clear the heat. Adding cooling, bitter vegetables like broccoli and asparagus and more cooling spices and herbs like fennel, coriander, mint and cilantro, instead of eating a dish with garlic, onions, ginger, mustard seeds, and chili peppers will slowly (or sometimes quickly) assist in coming back to equilibrium.
Or say I have a tendency towards being constipated and gassy, and I eat lots of dry, airy foods. Snacking on popcorn, granola, chips, crackers, yeasted bread, and raw, crunchy salads, which I eat while on the go, or eat while talking. All are dry and/or contain a lot of air.
A way towards balance is to increase the moisture — both through adding liquid into the foods consumed, and cooking foods until they’re soft, and by adding liquid fats and oils instead of dry, crunchy roasted nuts or seeds, etc.
A Daily Check-In
One way to begin to use this method is by doing a short daily check-in. Take a few minutes near the beginning of each day to journal or jot down the answers to these questions:
– What is Present today?
– And What is Needed?
Getting more granular, it can sometimes be helpful to do a quick scan or review of different body systems, the mind and emotions, and the weather to help. Is something feeling dry? Hot? Slimy and mucousy? Slow and sluggish? Adjust your food and lifestyle choices with the opposite qualities, and see where it begins to bring more balance.
As we weave into the summer months in the northern hemisphere, it’s often that the qualities on display in the environment become hotter, dryer (or more humid, depending on where you live), and this can be mirrored in the body more rapidly, especially when we likewise choose heating and drying foods. Here’s a recipe for summer that can give you a good example of how to balance the heat and dryness with cooling spices, coconut and gently cooked, more liquid-containing meals.
Observing what’s occurring internally and externally and adjusting to quickly reach equilibrium is the very definition of true intuitive eating. It’s tuning into what the body needs rather than what the mind craves.
If you’d like to know more, I work with clients in individual nutrition consultations, and as a Licensed Dietician / Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist, use medical nutrition therapy, integrative health measures, and a root cause approach to heal imbalanced health conditions.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve your symptoms of imbalance, I’d love to speak with you in a quick phone consultation!