Now that the winter has turned wetter and heavier we find ourselves gravitating from Vata (dry and windy) season to Kapha season (wetter and heavier). For those of you still covered in snow, you will find this is the season that the snow is much heavier and has a tendency to “stick” slowing everything down. As we move into the Spring, almost every part of the northern hemisphere will find “spring showers” the norm and this brings “wet” illnesses like upper respiratory tract infections with mucous and catarrh, slow and heavy digestion, and a general all around feeling of lethargy.
I just recently fell prey to Kapha season with a wicked flu and my very Vata baby girl followed suit, both of us ending up with spells in the hospital!
What is Kapha and why should I care?
Kapha dosha people, by nature, are loving, steadfast, loyal, sweet and a tad bit shy. They have a tendency to be bigger boned (though because of the duality of nature and the fact that many of us have two prevalent doshas this is not always the case). They have a tendency to hang onto emotions and material things. (Kaphas are, when out of balance, natural packrats, and when in balance, can be chronic organizers due to the desire to “lighten up”).
People with a strong Kapha dosha will find this the most challenging season, often because, even though they are in their element, the tendency towards heaviness and slowness will be exacerbated. The desire to sleep more will, most likely, overtake you, and, while listening to your body and resting when you need rest is important, being extra diligent about going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier is the easiest way to make sure the ‘dark days’ of winter don’t get you down.
Kapha season encourages not only Kaphas but all of us to stay warm, dry and light but also encourages us to get moving to counteract the dull heaviness of this season. It’s time to switch gears from hatha or vinyasa flow to ashtanga (which is a more dynamic energizing yoga). Hot yoga can be helpful at this time of year.
When practicing yoga postures like those of the Sun Salutations invite heat and mobility to counteract the cold and stable qualities of kapha. They’re a great way to get the circulation and lymph moving first thing in the morning. Twisting chair pose builds heat in the legs while simultaneously pushing out the stagnation that can build up in the chest and lungs from excess kapha. Moving from side to side with the breath, as well as longer holds, can be beneficial.
This is the time to take a new hip hop dance class (or even pole dancing) or, if walking is more your thing, to quicken your pace. Switching over from Vata calming Charlie Parker and Miles Davis to happy upbeat music with a beat is the quickest way to keep your mojo humming along during Kapha season.
Kapha season is the best season to unclutter and detach from material possessions that may no longer serve us. (Think Spring cleaning!) Those that are natural Kaphas might find this difficult to begin but every dosha, if uncluttering during Kapha season, can benefit from lightening their load.
Since this tends to be an emotional time of year (being as many are stuck in doors and emotions tend to run high in close quarters) feelings can get “stuck” and anger and resentment can build up. This is exacerbated in Kapha individuals however can affect any combination of doshas. As you declutter your material objects, practicing releasing and forgiving “trapped emotions” that no longer serve you is incredibly healing this time of year.
For Kapha doshas staying in balance, while it may seem like it would be easy, can be challenging at a time when heavier comfort foods are the norm when the weather is still cold. Kaphas struggle with weak digestion as a rule (digestive fire or agni is down to a flicker especially during kapha time). Eating lighter, spicier but still warm foods are best for Kaphas during this season. Incidentally, Kaphas are the most likely of all doshas to do well with a diet high in raw foods Vatas can tend to get very spacey on them. They can also skip meals while Pittas are more than likely to get very “hangry” (angry hunger) when they skip meals.
Asian food suits Kaphas this time of year as it leans towards light but spicy. Kaphas, in general, don’t do well with dairy but when eaten, especially in excess, this time of year can lead to a great deal of stagnation and mucous.. Also favor spicy soups lentils, if eating grains, quinoa, plain white rice in small amounts, and millet, , veggies of all kinds, onion, citrus fruits, pomegranate, berries, melon, arugula, spinach and chard. Kaphas should enjoy spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, chili flakes, tumeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and fennel.
How to survive Kapha season when you aren’t a Kapha?
If you are a Vata
Since lightness, movement, and dryness are the primary characteristics of Vata, Kapha season can actually be a good time for Vata types during the latter part of early spring as the temperatures begin to warm up. This nice mix of wetness and warmth can be soothing for your drier “windier” nature. Remember though that early Kapha season is also cold, and even as the temperatures moves towards warmth you may be sensitive to this transition.
Coming out of Vata season, it’s important to focus on the centering, grounding aspects of Kapha season. If you live in a cold winter climate, you will face weather that may keep you indoors. Use this to your advantage. Cultivate habits that allow you to enjoy your time inside. Become one with the season, keeping in mind that many of its qualities (aside from cold) are, in fact, balancing to your constitution.
Here are a few more ways for Vatas to embrace the season:
Feed your soul. Enjoy that great novel you’ve been wanting to read. Spend time with your friends and family. Go deeper into your meditation practice and focus on centering. These practices will help you occupy your Vata mind in what could otherwise be an aggravating few months.
Stay warm. When the weather allows you to venture outside, make sure you stay warm. Dampness brings its own special kind of cold, even on semi-warm days, so stay covered up and insulated. It’s especially important to keep your head and ears covered, along with your extremities.
Be good to your body. Give yourself an abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) every day before or after showering, depending on preference. Jasmine, rose, sweet orange, and other relaxing scents are a good combination to use in a massage oil. Sesame and almond oils are the heating bases that should be used as carrier oils.
Eat for your dosha. While your Vata dosha is usually soothed by sweet, sour, and salty tastes, this time of year may present some challenges. This is because the very tastes that pacify Vata also increase Kapha. The best approach to diet during this time of year is to concentrate on herbs and foods that carry dual tastes to avoid aggravating your Vata nature while balancing the effects of your Kapha environment.
The following herbs and spices are recommended as they help balance both Kapha and Vata:
It’s best to slightly increase the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes in your meals during Kapha season. However, as a Vata it’s important to pay attention to your sensitivity to these tastes, and learn to adjust your diet according to the daily conditions. For example, if it’s a strongly Vata day ( dry and windy) despite being Kapha season, focus on more Vata-balancing foods and tastes. Otherwise, eat to balance Kapha and Vata with warming meals. Also be mindful of your agni or digestive fire. Since Kapha season can contribute to sluggish digestion, eat at regularly scheduled times without skipping meals or overeating. As for every dosha, eat your largest meal at lunch, when the digestive fires of Pitta are strongest.
What if I am a Pitta?
Kapha season is a bit of a mixed bag for Pittas. While its cooler temperatures may be balancing to your fiery nature, the practices that best help balance this season invariably involve warming which can work against Pittas. So while Vatas and Kaphas need to protect themselves from the cold, you may actually need to spend some time in it. You will still need to keep yourself warm with layers but you will need fewer of them than your Vata or Kapha counterparts and may even relish in being a bit cool. Pittas are natural skiers and snowboarders. They tend to enjoy playing outdoor sports in winter and spring when everyone else may not want to see the light of day until the barometer starts rising. Just remember to stay dry. Cool is good; cold is bad.
Eat for your dosha: Kapha season brings about the need for more pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. As a Pitta, you will do well to increase the bitter and astringent tastes in your diet, while decreasing the sweet taste, which increases Kapha. Including the sweet taste will help balance out your Pitta but be careful of its Kapha-increasing effects. Many people will want to add extra spice or sourness to their foods or drinks during this time for their phlegm-loosening effects, but Pittas need to be careful of the choice of herbs and spices this time of year. Here are a few that will help balance Kapha without irritating Pitta:
Licorice in particular is good for you at this time of year as it is Pitta-pacifying and phlegm-loosening. It is also adaptogenic which appeals to your propensity for adrenal burnout.
Pittas also need to avoid stimulants like caffeine during this time of year. Many warm drinks that are appealing in cold weather, such as chai, coffee, and hot chocolate, contain caffeine, and you may end up inadvertently increasing your caffeine intake. Be aware of this as it can contribute to a Pitta imbalance and symptoms of irritability.
Late winter and early spring is one of the most challenging of all times of year to balance but with a little forethought and being extra diligent creating more movement in your life can make it one of the greatest times of year to really “awaken” both body and soul.
What’s your favorite way of balancing during late winter and early spring?
Wishing you health, beauty and elegance,