Balancing Kapha Dosha
Denver Clark, C-IAYT, ERYT-500, LMT #89197
As important for our homes as it is for our bodies and souls.
In the ancient practice of Ayurveda, we learn of the 5 great elements.
Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Ether.
These 5 elements combine into 3 primary Doshas that represent the energy of all living things.
Every person, animal, food and season embodies a specific balance of these energies and from the end of winter through the beginning of Springtime is the time of Kapha Dosha, or the elements of Earth and Water. These elements embody the qualities of Dampness (think melting snow or spring rains), heaviness and cold. The continued darkness of late winter and early spring, coupled with these energies in the atmosphere begin to impact our physical energy and mental state, leading to the wintertime blues. To combat these feelings within and without, our body naturally desires the opposite. We reach for warm, stimulating foods with spices such as ginger and cinnamon. We long for the warm summer sun and begin preparing our bodies for heat by increasing our levels exercise and minimizing heavy foods from our diet, we begin to lighten our homes by cleaning out closets and donating the things we no longer need, practicing non-attachment.
We are born with a natural intuition but when keeping up with the demands of modern life, it’s easy to forget where we came from. Ayurveda inspires us to return to harmony with the natural impulses of the world, and the more we can tune into our natural impulses, the easier it is to find our way back into balance and health.
Below are a few practices you can incorporate to help you ride the transition into Spring gracefully.
- Wake up early – The circadian rhythms of the clock have energies and between 6-10am is the time of Kapha dosha. The later we sleep in, the more difficult it becomes to awaken. Setting the alarm for 5:30am allows us to rise with the lightness of Vata time of day, when air and ether are more prevalent, when the atmosphere is infused with quiet and spiritual energy. This also inspires us to be more productive during our day, fighting off that heavy Kapha sluggishness.
- Shift toward lighter foods – Kapha embodies the qualities of density (earth) and moisture. When the atmosphere gets cool & dry in winter, it’s no wonder we reach for dense and heavy root vegetables and thick stews. Now is the time to apply the opposite energies to our diet. Light, warming and simulating tastes such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric and smaller more frequent meals can help us avoid sluggish digestion and a feeling of heaviness in the body that can transfer to our mental state. Kapha taste is sweet, cold and oily (think bananas & avocados), so try to minimize those flavors during this time and favor drying, pungent, bitter flavors instead such as apples, broccoli and cilantro. You might also look into an Ayurvedic “cleanse” with a mono-diet of healing Kitchari for 3-21 days to soothe the digestion and reset the system.
- Get moving – The antidote to depression is movement. So is the antidote to stagnant, Kapha energy in body and mind. Get out in the warm sun (even if the air is cool, the sun can help counteract that!) take a walk, breathe fresh air and stimulate your circulation with warming, invigorating activities. Lifting weights can also help you channel the stability of Kapha into productive energy that fuels your body, mind and soul. 30 minutes a day is enough.
- Set Goals – The blessing of the damp, cool earth brings with it new growth in nature and it can do the same in our personal lives as well. Now is an excellent time to sprout new seeds of growth, challenge yourself to begin a new habit and stimulate your inner Tapas (fire). What are you most excited about? Lean into the energy of renewal in spring. Sit with your journal, make your vision board, speak your desires aloud. Now is the time!
- Pay attention to your breath – The clearest way to invite Prana (life force) into your body is through the intake of the breath. BKS Iyengar says that the inhale is the intake of cosmic, universal energy. The pause at the top is the union of the cosmic with the individual, the exhale is the sharing of individual energy with the universe and the pause at the bottom of the breath is the moment we witness the union of our own energy with the cosmos. By focusing our attention on conscious breathing for a few minutes every day or even through practicing stimulating breath techniques, we can inspire movement of stagnant energy and improve our vital functions in the gross physical body as well as the flow of energy in our subtle body. Bonus points for practicing this outside in the fresh air!
- Practice loving self-massage – Using a light and absorbent oil such as sweet almond oil, we can practice abhyanga massage (self-oil massage) to stimulate cardiovascular and lymphatic circulation, increase muscle tone and bring self-love energy into our body and mind. You can even incorporate your favorite essential oils into a custom blend if you like **Check out our Abhyanga oil tutorial here** This can be done in the morning or evening to reset the nervous system and support better health. If you already have a lot of Kapha energy, you may also want to consider purchasing a garshana glove. This is a raw silk glove that can be used for self-massage to stimulate and enliven the body and can be a better alternative to oil for those who already have a lot of oil in their skin. Dry brushing is also wonderful. Remember to always massage from the end of the limbs inward to return lymphatic fluid into circulation.
Happy Spring to you and may you flow fluidly through this changing of the seasons into a bright and brilliant Summer!