Yup, it's true. Winter is here: colder temperatures, dampness in the air, more layers. Some of us love it and some of us dream of being on a Caribbean island – regardless we all have to endure it. You'll notice that winter shares the same qualities as Kapha – cold, moist, heavy – along with dull, soft, sticky and static. In Ayurveda, we learn that due to the change of seasons (Kapha, Pitta, Vata), our doshas go through the cycles of sanchaya (accumulation), prakopa (aggravation), and prashama (palliation). Leaving Vata behind and entering Kapha season means that we are experiencing Vata prashama and Kapha sanchaya.
What does all of this even mean?
Well, it means that our bodies are moving from the light, cold, dry qualities brought on us by the Vata season, to the more heavy, cold and moist qualities of Kapha. It means, we hopefully boosted our immune system during Vata season, and are now ready to enjoy the heavier, damp qualities of winter (notice that both doshas share the cold quality). And by enjoy I mean incorporating subtle changes in our routine to keep ourselves balanced and nurtured by this season's qualities, rather than becoming overburdened by them.
Food. It's everything. In general, we want to focus on eating types of food that balance the qualities of Kapha – things opposite in nature, hot, dry and light. Keep in mind that we want all six tastes in every meal (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent) – we want to increase the three that are opposite in nature to the current season, while taking into account our own nature, to maintain balance.
· Increase bitter (detoxifies and lightens tissues): dark leafy greens, herbs and spices
· Eat more hearty and heating vegetables like: cooked spinach, onions, garlic, carrots and other root vegetables
· Increase pungent (Stimulates digestion and metabolism): garlic, ginger, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, chili peppers, cayenne, herbs and spices
o If you find that you are already hot in nature (Pitta types) you'll need to be careful in balancing kapha without aggravating pitta, so here are some spices for you: coriander, cardamom, turmeric, cilantro, and licorice
· Increase astringent (Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats): legumes, herbs
· Cooked grains like: oats, quinoa, brown and basmati rice, wheat
· Cut down on sweets, salty and sour tastes as they aggravate kapha
· Eat more baked, broiled and grilled warm foods
· Drink room temperature, warm and hot beverages – avoid cold and iced drinks
· Avoid cheeses, ice creams and yogurts
· You may also notice that an occasional one-day water or juice fast works wonders on your body during this junction time that I described above, if you are prone to kapha type imbalances like colds, coughs, and congestions.
Taking care of the external body is equally important. Remembering that kapha tends towards heaviness and stagnation, if we aren't careful we will find ourselves feeling lethargic, heavy and experiencing a weak agni (digestive fire). Up the ante on your exercise routine, incorporate invigorating, stimulating and energizing practices.
· Bhastrika pranayama – breath of fire
· Sun salutations
· Shoulder stands
· Lions breath
· Heart openers: ustrasana, urdhva dhanurasana, dhanurasana
· Core and third chakra work: navasana, utkatasana
· Avoid day time sleep and naps
· Again, for my naturally fire people, you'll want to use this season to stay cool (not cold). Light and non-competitive outdoor activities strike just the right balance for you. Just remember to stay dry.
Kapha season is about rejuvenating ourselves, so take the time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of Pitta and Vata (summer and fall). Live on the wild side and sleep in till 7am! Get stylish with your layers and warm fuzzy accessories, always keeping your head and neck warm when outside. And enjoy retiring earlier with a soothing foot massage using sesame oil on your scalp and feet to help promote a restful sleep.