This three part series is meant to share some important fundamental lessons so you can better understand kapha’s qualities, strengths and weaknesses and the routines and adjustments that will best support this dosha during its prime vulnerable season, end of winter-early spring. This also serves as an introduction to a mid-march class (date not set yet. see more at end of this post) that I will be hosting with Dr. Bhavna Singh who was one of the instructors in my Summer Wellness Series last year.
So, before we go deep I want to make sure you have a footing on your three doshas, their qualities and elements and a basic understanding of Ritucarya, the seasonal behaviors and routines that Ayurveda recommends. Also, this first post emphasizes why it is so important to tend to your vata dosha no matter what season or month it is (I cannot stress this point enough) and though it may be tricky to create a balancing act between two polar opposites like kapha and vata it is indeed possible and luckily I’m here to break it down for you.
So with that said, let’s begin…
What are Doshas?
According to Ayurveda there are three biological energies that control every single function of your mind and body.We are all three doshas but depending on our parents and their constitution at the time of conception, we have one or two that are dominant over the other. This makeup is our prakruti and it never changes. It is our blueprint. Our DNA if you want to think of it that way.
At their best, doshas work together, as each has its unique strengths and so when unified they form a complete whole system. When your doshas are stable you are stable and your body and mind are feeling and looking their absolute best.
Our doshas though are triggered and upended by our bad habits, negative thoughts, poor quality nutrition and seasonal and other environmental changes and once triggered and unnoticed, one or more doshas will infringe their havoc either in their own designated spaces in the body (i.e. pitta’s spleen and large intestine, kapha’s joints and respiratory system or vata’s colon and limbs) or if unmanaged for too long, deeper into the body and tissues.
How Do Doshas Move Throughout The Body?
While pitta and kapha’s accumulated water element seep toxicity into the body, extinguishing all its agnis along the way, vata has the ability to pick up and move wherever it wants and can even take pitta or kapha along with it, usually to vulnerable or pre-diseased locations deeper in the body.
I can’t stress enough the importance of stabilizing your vata.
More About Doshas
Doshas are also in charge of specific functions in the body. Vata is responsible for movement (in and out) of the body. Your breath, heartbeat, flow of blood through a vessel and elimination through the colon and bladder are all Vata. Pitta is responsible for the transformative fire that processes and digests your foods and thoughts into either nourishment or waste and kapha is responsible for our body’s structure, stability and nourishment. Our ojas (immunity in its most pristine state) is the purest essence of kapha so that means at its absolute best, kapha represents your immunity so a happy kapha is a happy body. Speaking of happy, Kapha at its best is known for smiling, fun and adventure and a “no worries” and “live and let live” way of being. Not much can upset the content kapha (except a few things of course…).
Doshas also have specific qualities and dietary and lifestyle routines that best serve their constitution. For example, kapha is heavy, cold, moist, unctuous, soft and dull so when kapha is accumulating in the late winter and spring, you may want to make sure to eat foods that have the opposite qualities. They are lighter, more penetrating (bitter and pungent), dry and astringent but at the same time those qualities are what can destabilize vata (more on this below). You may also want to break up some of that heaviness by getting outside for a run during kapha time which is 6-10 a.m. and use warming and pungent oils (think black pepper, clove, cinnamon and ginger in a sesame oil base) to give the body a nice vigorous massage.
And finally, each dosha (vata, pitta and kapha) is made from of 2/5 of the Panchamahabhutas (five earthly elements). These are air, space, fire, earth and water.
Kapha is made of earth and water (pretty clear no?), vata, air and space (will be more clear as you read below) and pitta, fire and water, which may seem like a contradiction but in fact pitta’s water element tempers pitta’s fire and allows our 13 agnis (digestive metabolic fires) located throughout the body to not overheat our systems and tissues.
**If you aren’t sure how to move forward start with an “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” attitude to avoid putting too much weight on one or two things (that are likely affecting one or two doshas more than the others). Take your time and feel your way through your process.
Ritucarya ~ Seasonal Behaviors & Routines
So now that you are a little more versed on your doshas, let’s talk Ritucarya and the impact that seasons have on our mind/body experience and the recommended lifestyle and dietary changes to help us adapt to them. But before we go too deep we have to keep in mind that Ayurveda is an individualized medicine and treats the person not the symptom. So while there are seasons, there are also our individual bodies, our prakruti and how these are uniquely responding to what is happening around us.
This self-awareness is important but not if we ignore what we are observing and knowing to be right (or wrong) for us. We often hear that inner voice telling us not to eat or do something but we ignore it and instead comfort our imbalances and weak spots with the things we know aren’t in our best interest. Looking to do better and heed the call more often will only leverage you to be more aligned with our fickle seasons, more able to protect all of your doshas at the same time and more confident in knowing what tweaks/additions need to be made to benefit your day-to-day experience.
Perfect Example: It is end-winter / prime kapha season here in Los Angeles but it is not at all cold, raining and icy, qualities that when accumulated will aggravate kapha come spring when they “thaw” in the body and that cold fluid seeps everywhere. Instead high 70’s, very dry and very windy, conditions that mirror vata i.e. windy (mobile) and dry and if i am not mindful they will trigger a negative response, so I make sure when that dry wind hits to coat my ears and nostrils with a little oil and have oils on my body and scalp. These protect, weigh vata down and nourish the body.
Vata is always vulnerable no matter what because fickle non-seasons is all vata. Our life that is in constant motion, moving at warp speed is all vata. We are unfocused, anxious, worried, fearful, constipated, in pain, twitch-y and restless. All vata. We cannot sit still, we don’t make time for any kind of grounding. All vata. From an Ayurvedic perspective, even Covid, while at its core is a Kapha virus because it is targets the respiratory system (kapha territory) it is also symbolically vata because every single movement in the respiratory tract (breathing, swallowing, coughing, sneezing, clearing throat, talking) and body is vata. And the mobility and fast transformation of the virus is all vata. Even looking at images of it, it’s most definitely vata ready and roaring to go cause trouble.
And if all that wasn’t enough add to it all of the cold foods, raw salads, cold-pressed juices, acai bowls, ice cream and iced teas that we consume all day every day that is aggravating vata ( as well as p & k too) to the point of no return in some cases.
And this season is tricky because vata and kapha are polar opposites and that will benefit you if you are in that cold, rainy and icy climate. Then your kapha is accumulating and that, in a stable scenario can only benefit vata (moisture to vata’s dry, stability to vata’s constant motion, unctuous to vata’s rough) so eating the quality of foods like pungent, dry and astringent that help penetrate kapha and absorb it from seeping to deep in the body wont be such a disturbance to vata because the body has that cushion of excess kapha. It’s when you live in a climate like mine that the concern is more about my vata getting aggravated. Balancing these two takes deliberate action because if we want to lighten kapha, we can increase the rough, dry vata and if we want to ground vata we may increase kapha. We have to just be really observant of how we are feeling (dry, hyper, unfocused or calm, content and strong) and the quality of our negative thoughts (anxious and afraid Vata or depressed, lethargic and uninspired kapha?).
Honestly it’s just all about balance and like I said earlier, avoiding too much of the same thing.
Here Are A Few Of My Favorite Ways To Balance Kapha And Vata Simultaneously
- When it comes to diet, take the “little bit of this and little bit of that” and change it to “a little bit of this (maybe some sesame oil, nuts and dark meat chicken for vata) but more of that” (bitter, pungent and light foods for kapha) if you have been experiencing a cold wet winter. I will get more specific with what foods are best for kapha in the next post.
- Really try to start the day by 6 a.m. during Kapha season. If I can get back on it, because yes I am not perfect either, anyone can! *This is not the time to sleep in or nap mid-day. Remember kapha is heavy, unctuous, dense and wet so sleeping late just adds to that and creates a stagnant, sluggish and lethargic mind/body experience. *Ayurveda says sleeping in or taking a nap mid-day is allowed during the late winter / spring season if you are pregnant, not well, a child, elderly or frail person.
- Keep both doshas in check with a mindful routine that include those bitter, astringent and pungent tastes for kapha with a little sweet to nourish vata. Sweet does not mean refined sugar but rather dairy (ghee), basmati rice, dates and sweet fruits to name a few. Honey is the chosen sweetener of the season because of its astringent quality making it ideal for kapha. I get my bitter pungent tastes from my danta churna tooth powder that is made to specifically remove morning buildup of kapha in the mouth. I also get these rasas (tastes) plus more from my chyavanaprash, which has all six rasas so a perfect daily tonic to nourish all doshas. I also get a lil sweet and grounding from my warm almond milk that I mix my herbs in, one of which is turmeric and great for kapha. I drink turmeric ginger tea in the morning tea which supports all doshas. Your routine is the best superpower you have for maintaining a healthy vata and this is why they are so fundamental in Ayurveda. They combine all that vata creativity, adventure and imagination with more thoughtful, clear and deliberate movement.
- No Cold Foods. This is core to any Ayurvedic wellness protocol but late winter and spring is when you must heed the call most. Kapha has enough cold elements ready to thaw and seep in the body come spring and impairing our body’s ability to process and transform our foods and thoughts into their proper waste or nourishment. That means we are left with a damp, cold body that is saturated with ama, the toxic sludge formed from everything left unprocessed and undigested. In Ayurveda they don’t believe we are what we eat, they believe we are what we digest.
I am going to leave it here for now (a lot of information).
Next week I will share the best foods, spices and lifestyle routines to support kapha through theh spring and in my last (third) post of this series I will share more details and a unique protocol to help stabilize both your vata and kapha doshas.
Any questions, leave a comment below and definitely sign up for my donation-based Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse class on Sunday, March 14th. Until next week…