Spring has officially arrived in the Northern hemisphere! And here in Nova Scotia, it’s the time of year where cool damp mornings remind us to wear layers, while melting snow piles turn to murky mud puddles, and softening gardens show hints of colourful possibility. With the change of season in the atmosphere, and the cold dark days of winter behind us, it is the perfect time to reflect on the shifts and changes that are occurring within us too.
As much as it serves us to hibernate during the winter months cuddled up under cozy blankets nestled beside a glowing fire, to remain this way, unchanged, as the world around us changes, can cause ill effects on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Ayurvedically speaking, late winter through spring, Mother Nature depending, is the time of year where Kapha dosha is naturally increased. (This means it is more easy for the inherent qualities of kapha dosha to rise.)
Kapha is the energy that promotes structure, in both shape and form, lubrication, and growth in our body and mind. It is also responsible for keeping our joints well oiled and free from stiffness, it keeps our lips and mouth moist so that we can articulate words and taste our food, and, it protects the GI tract and stomach in the way of a mucous membrane lining. Lastly, it supports all of the other systems in the body both functionally and structurally including the spine, lungs and heart.
“Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure, the glue that holds cells together.” – Dr. Vasant Lad
Comparatively, you could liken kapha’s role and responsibilities to that of your water bottle. Kapha is the bottle itself, not the water in the bottle, nor the movement the water makes when the bottle is displaced, but the container that keeps the water from spilling out everywhere. We need our containers to be supportive without begin too rigid, flexible enough to hold more or less liquid. It needs to have the right amount of stability so that we can easily hold the bottle and drink from it. Imagine what it would be like if you tried to drink from a ziplock baggie, or from a 20L jug… Long story short, balancing kapha dosha is like making sure you have the right water bottle (container), one that fits your current requirements, circumstance and environment, and, it is easy to drink from.
To help us better understand kapha’s innate qualities and influences, Ayurveda uses descriptors as a way to help us identify what, how and when Kapha dosha is present. Called gunas, in Sanskrit, the inherent qualities of kapha dosha include: heavy, slow/dull, cool, oily, liquid, slimy/smooth, dense, soft, static, sticky, cloudy, hard, gross, sweet, salty, and white. Noticing these qualities, and they’re quantity, present in our inner and outer environments, is key to ensuring the right amount of kapha energy is balanced within our selves.
When a healthy expression of Kapha dosha exists in an individual, they are more apt to express attitudes and actions that are calm and relaxed, compassionate, tolerant and kind, and they demonstrate a steady, quiet strength and grounded confidence. The unctuous/oily quality allows for smooth joint movements, and their stamina and strong, well-formed bones and muscles are a manifestation of density. The cool quality often demonstrates kapha’s laid-back, cool temperament, and their softness lead them to easily empathize with the world around them.
When kapha is in excess in an individual, you will notice a slow, heavy sluggishness in their gait so much so that they may appear ‘stuck’ in a pattern that isn’t healthy. This in turn induces excess sleep and lethargy. Often there is a lack of motivation due to too much stability and can quickly lead to a stubborn and static attitude. Many with increased kapha also experience bloating, water retention and weight gain as well as signs of excess mucus and phlegm leading them prone to frequent colds, coughs and sinus congestion.
Ayurveda teaches that like increases like and opposites balance. Thus, when Kapha dosha is in excess, we need to offset it with routines, exercises and lifestyle habits that are stimulating, warming, drying, moving, and look to increase the amount of lightness and variability in each day. Here are a few simple things you can do support yourself and prevent qualitative and quantitative kapha increases during the spring thaw. They include:
REGULARITY & ROUTINE : Create and do your best to stick to a routine. Set a specific time of day to wake/sleep, eat, exercise, work, clean, etc.
STIMULATE : Stimulate your mind, get creative, try something new. That can be as simple as trying a new recipe with different spice blends than you are used to, or trying a new hobby, or looking for a different area in your community to get out and explore. Try a new yoga class, listen to different music, or learn something new.
MOVE YOUR BODY : Do yoga, get outdoors, dance, or find any activity that gets your whole body up and moving. During a yoga practice, try sun salutations or back bends as they will help to energize the body and mind. Twists and core work are another great way to help shake off the stuck and stickiness of excess kapha dosha.
DECLUTTER & DETACH : Look around the spaces and places you spend most of your time in and declutter. Finish up outstanding projects or get rid of them. Clean out your closet, fridge and cupboards. A little spring cleaning goes a long way.
NUTRITION : This is a great time of year to increase tastes that are more pungent, bitter and astringent and to opt for foods and drinks that are more warming and stimulating. Avoid too much of the heavier, more dense and oily meals like those with meats, nuts and seeds or meals heavy with dairy. Avoid cold and carbonated drinks, as well as limiting caffeine and alcohol as it is metabolized in the liver and excess consumption can create fatty changes here.
All in all, balancing kapha dosha is relatively easy. It just takes a mindful practice of noticing what is happening, how and where, and assessing what it is that you might need to offset any excess that exists. Remember, opposites balance, so choose foods, activities, and lifestyle habits that counteract and bring back to balance your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.