According to Ayurveda, we are all made up of the 5 elements; ether, air, fire, water and earth. The 5 elements combine to create the three doshas; Vata (air and ether), Pitta (water and fire) and Kapha (water and earth.) We are each born with varying quantities and qualities of the doshas, denoting our unique psychobiological make-up or constitution. One of the three doshas is usually primary, one secondary, and the third least prominent. Health depends on maintaining this proportion in balance. When you know your constitution, and thus your strengths and challenges, you can design your diet, daily routines and habits to regain and maintain a state of health and balance throughout the seasons and your life. It is through knowing yourself that you become your own healer.
Ayurveda classifies the seasons according to their predominant dosha. Since we are in the seasons of winter and early spring which have the dark, heavy, damp and cloudy qualities of kapha, we will discuss the fundamental aspects of kapha dosha, the kapha individual and how to care for kapha to avoid the colds, coughs, allergies and sinus congestion common in winter and spring.
Kapha is a combination of water and earth. It is the energy that forms the body's structure. Kapha supplies the liquid needed for the life of our cells and bodily systems. It lubricates our joints and skin, helps to heal wounds and maintains immunity. Kapha promotes anabolism, the process of building up the body, growth and creation of new cells. The qualities of kapha and winter alike are heavy, slow, damp, oily, slimy, soft, static and sweet. Understanding and recognizing these qualities are important for self healing. When an imbalance has manifested, successful treatment requires increasing opposite qualities.
The kapha individual is the synthesis of grace, calm and sensuality. A kapha type has a solid, sturdy body with large bones. Kapha is the archetypal Mother Earth. Kapha individuals are grounded, connected to the physical world and are known as the best huggers. Due to the presence of water kapha individuals move with a slow and luxurious progression forward in life. In balance Kapha is expressed as love, calmness, forgiveness, strength, vigor and stability.
However, when out of balance, their waters can become muddied by excessive and unconscious intake of foods, visuals, sounds, all of the sensual pleasures, which make them lethargic and can lead to deeper waters of depression, melancholia, and excess bodily weight. Kapha imbalance can also cause congestion, fatigue, poor circulation, unexpressed emotions, grief, sadness and attachment.
Maintaining good health during the seasons requires living in harmony with the natural cycles and bringing compassionate awareness to ourselves and our daily actions. The following are suggestions for adjusting our lifestyle to the changes in the outer environment that occur in winter and early spring:
- In order to counter heaviness and depression, kapha needs to make a firm commitment to maintain a non-sedentary life and stay motivated.
- Upon awakening, do some yoga asanas, including the Sun Salutation, Fish, Locust, Boat, Bow ,Lion and Camel and inversions. These postures help to open the chest, relieve congestion, stretch the throat and drain the sinuses. Do a rigorous practice and work up a good sweat.
- Follow your yoga postures with some Pranayama. Bhastrika (breath of fire) will cleanse kapha dosha. Follow this with a few minutes of Right Nostril breathing, which promotes circulation and heat.
- Follow your breathing exercises with some quiet meditation. During the vulnerable season of winter, kapha types need to remain aware of their emotional self and observant of their nature to turn inward in order to avoid inertia and depression.
- Nurture yourself through invigorating and stimulating body therapies.
- Do dry brushing and give yourself vigorous salt scrub with essential oils such as grapefruit and cypress, which are uplifting, decrease edema and increase lymph circulation.
- Give yourself a full body massage before taking a warm shower. Use sesame oil, which is heating and beneficial for all body types in the winter.
- In order to counter the cold quality, which creates poor circulation, drink a warm tea of ginger, cinnamon and a pinch of clove to increase heat, improve circulation and eliminate mucus from the system.
- Wear warm clothing of bright warming colors such as red or orange. Always wear a hat during the winter.
- When the slimy mucous quality is high, avoid mucous accumulating foods such as cheese and ice cream. Eat foods that are warm and stimulating. Steamed vegetables and well seasoned mushy soup with ghee and crunchy croutons would be an ideal meal.
- Naps are not recommended during winter because it will increase kapha, slow down metabolism and reduce the fire necessary for digestion.
- Attachment is a quality that can be very strong for kapha's, so they must practice detachment from material possessions, comforts and emotional upsets. Clear excess clutter, acknowledge and then let go of emotional upsets as they come along.
Through knowing your true nature and applying compassionate self awareness you can take charge of your health and healing. When this happens you will really fall in love with your life!