In Ayurveda, it’s recognized that the different seasons are ruled by different doshas. Pitta — the dosha of fire — rules late spring summer, as is evident by the heat we feel. Vata — the dosha of air and ether — rules fall and early winter. Vata creates motion and dryness, which we can see in the heavy winds of fall and the drying out of leaves and often, too, our skin. Kapha — the dosha of earth and water — rules late winter and early spring, the season which is upon us now.
It’s easiest to understand how Kapha affects both nature and our bodies by looking at a winter in the mountains. Throughout the winter, snow accumulates on the mountains and makes many a skier and boarder giggle with pleasure. Snow is comprised mainly of water, which is a an element comprising the Kapha dosha. As the northern hemisphere begins to tilt back towards the sun, heating up our snowy mountains, the snow starts to melt and, with enough heat, will run off of the mountains and fill our rivers with a rushing, blue-gray runoff. This same effect occurs in our bodies — as springtime comes and the temperatures get warmer, the mucous that has accumulated in our body to protect our lungs from winter germs starts to liquefy and runs out of our noses, not unlike the mountain runoff.
The qualities associated with Kapha dosha, and thus springtime, are wet, cloudy, heavy, static and cold. During the time that Kapha is dominant, we will naturally have more Kapha influence in our bodies. We may find we have more mucous, we may tend to get mucousy colds or flu, our digestion might feel more sluggish, we may have more allergies or experience water retention. The changes in our bodies could be subtle or great, depending on what unique blend of doshas we are and what, if any, imbalances we are experiencing right now.
If you notice they symptoms listed above, or just want to transition into spring gracefully, there are some easy dietary and lifestyle changes you can make. Mother Nature is the great provider, and luckily for us, she provides us with the perfect foods to mitigate any Kapha symptoms. Look no further than your local farmers market for appropriate foods for the spring season. Choose foods that balance the qualities listed above and remember that in Ayurveda, we always treat with opposites. So for symptoms that are wet, cloudy, heavy, static and cold, balance your body with foods and activities that are dry, clear, light, mobile and warm. Foods that fit this category have the bitter, pungent, or astringent taste (the tastes that balance Kapha).
Foods in this category are traditionally grown North American spring-time foods — leafy greens, asparagus, radish and other raw, pungent and bitter vegetables. Fruits like apples, apricots, and berries are also good, and so are light grains like amaranth, quinoa and corn. Use a few more pungent spices in your food if you’re having sluggish digestion (Now is the season to eat that burrito that is too spicy for summer!). Avoid eating too many foods that are sweet, salty and sour, which can increase symptoms related to Kapha. These include heavy, dense and sweet foods like oats, wheat, bananas, avocados, nuts and excess salts and sweeteners.
Physical activity is a great way to move Kapha out of the body. So grab a friend and hit the beach, go for walk, try a yoga class, or get into that new Barre craze that every one’s been talking about. Now is the time!
The same qualities that affect our bodies can also affect our mind. When Kapha is balanced in the mind, it creates stability and the ability to weather any storm. When it becomes out of balance, it can manifest as depression, stubbornness, lethargy, or an over-attachment to material things. So if you notice yourself feeling a little blue or like you’ve adopted a couch-potato mentality for the season, recognize that it could be too much Kapha bringing you down. Call your nearest Vata friend and make a coffee date (you know your Vata friend — the one who talks a mile-a-minute and is always enthusiastic, bubbly, and constantly changing subjects). Of course, if your mental blues don’t go a way, be sure to call a mental health professional to help you clear out the clouds.
Have a lovely, balanced spring everyone! Celebrate the return of sun to our hemisphere and enjoy the longer hours of sunlight (clocks turn back March 11!). And for those of you actually taking my advice, remember — don’t go overboard. If the farmer’s market has beautiful avocados and you want one, go for it! These tips are just guidelines for those who notice symptoms of seasonal Kapha imbalance or those who want to feel more balanced as they move through spring-cleaning season. And, like I always say, use the 80/20 rule — what you do 80% of the time is what matters, so give yourself the day off the rest of the 20%.
Peace, love and light,