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Have you ever considered that there could be more than four seasons? Most people haven’t! According to the primary text of Traditional Tibetan Medicine, there are actually six seasons we should know about when adjusting our habits according to the seasons influences. These six seasons are a way to understand how the changes in the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind and space) are influencing the environment and our bodies at the same time. The six seasons are divided into upper winter, lower winter, early spring, late spring, summer and autumn. In this article we will talk about early spring, which is named in Tibetan cheet sar, meaning new or fresh spring. It more or less corresponds with the months March and April or, according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, the first two months starting from Losar, the Tibetan New Year.
What’s happening outside is happening inside
During the winter months the earth and water elements are accumulating internally, much like snow and ice do outside. In early spring, as the snow and ice melt, so do the internal earth and water elements in our bodies. Traditionally in Tibet it’s also considered a time of the year that drinking water is generally poor in quality due to the murkiness of water, causing further weakness of the digestion. Clearly both of these phenomenon depend on the seasonal variations in your particular climate, but as long as the basic seasonal changes exist in your location, seasonal health tips still apply. However, you can adjust them according to the intensity of the season.
Pekan: the physiological functions of the earth and water elements
In Tibetan Medicine we call the earth and water elements together in their physiological form, pekan, sometimes referred to as phlegm according to translation based on the ancient greek humors. Phlegm is a good term in this case because it describes the heavy, sticky substance of the body that often wrecks havoc on our system, but we shouldn’t understand pekan only as phlegm. Pekan in its balanced state is responsible for all the fluids in our body, lubrication and connection of the joints, physical strength, our ability to taste and feel satisfaction, and the stability of our mind. Common symptoms of excess or disturbed pekan are nausea, congestion, sleepiness/laziness, dull sense perception, and slow digestion.
Pekan has the basic characteristics of the earth and water element in our body including oily, cool, heavy, dull, soft, stable and sticky. Since in the Spring pekan is in excess and its nature is arising, we use diet and behavior that are opposite including dry, warm, light, sharp and mobile.
How to apply seasonal health tips
In Tibetan Medicine we are quite careful not to say one thing is good for everyone. We always consider the age, environment, habits, constitution as well as the season when giving diet and lifestyle advice in addition to any treatment protocol. For that reason, when applying seasonal health tips you should see them as preventive care, not necessarily a way to treat sickness. If there are existing imbalances it is always best to seek a more personalized approach with the help of a qualified practitioner.
6 seasonal health tips to spring you into spring
With all that said, here are some basic health tips that will help get you through spring feeling even better than you already do now that winter is finally over!
1. Eat hot, bitter and astringent tasting foods
This is the time of the year to get out your favorite chili peppers and spice away! It’s also a great time to eat bitter greens such as arugula and foods that are on the astringent side such as beans and lentils.
2. Sweeten things up with honey!
In Traditional Tibetan Medicine honey is considered the warmest and lightest sweetener and is therefore great for helping to reduce excess earth and water element.
3. Break it down with rough and light natured foods.
We mentioned eating astringent foods such as beans and lentils which are also rough in nature. In addition, one of the best rough and light grain options is buckwheat, a Russian staple! My personal favorite buckwheat product is soba noodles, but if you want the full rough effect, the whole grain is perfect.
4. Drink boiled hot water and ginger tea.
Tibetan Doctors are notorious for telling all their patients to drink boiled hot water. That’s because its considered to be warm and light natured, perfect for keeping the metabolic heat strong, burning away excess earth and water elements which are especially heavy in the spring. Ginger tea is even more warm natured.
5. Go hard on your exercise routine.
Spring is the absolute best time to exercise to the maximum. Tibetan doctors generally don’t tell people they should vigorously exercise all the time. It really depends on the unique conditions of the individual such as environment, age, existing conditions and constitution. But if there is one time of the year that we consider it great to keep it moving, spring is it.
6. Relax in a shady, pleasant smelling garden.
What better time of the year is there to relax in a nice garden and enjoy the fresh blooming flowers? When the earth and water elements are in excess, the sense organs become dull. By experiencing the pleasant smells of fresh flowers you are encouraging your sense organs to open up.
During the winter time, the heavy and cold nature of the earth and water elements have accumulated in our bodies. When spring comes, there is a tendency for this heavy and cold nature to arise. Therefore it is best to maintain warm, light and rough diet and behavior including hot, bitter and astringent tasting foods and staying as physically active as possible. But don’t forget to relax and enjoy the beautiful garden!