Whether we recognise it or not – the weather is warming! Hard to believe this week as we brace ourselves for Siberian blasts of snow and icy wind….
But take a lead from nature and you will notice that the birds are more active (and visible), bulbs are flowering and almost every tree and shrub is in bud.
It is always difficult to feel comfortable (and achieving stasis is almost impossible) at the change of a season – and deep winter-into-spring feels like the hardest. Over winter we eat heavier foods, become sluggish and lazy – as we naturally hide away and eat our way through seasonal celebrations – and wicked weather. We fatten slightly (we need to!) and the elements of Kapha invisibly accumulate and incubate!
During February and March, on some days we are cold and damp whilst other days are sharp, dry and penetrating. That balance between Kapha and Vata elements can be tricky and needs to be reviewed daily – or at least every week. It is still precarious – but the cusp is the best time to embrace change and to adopt a new routine.
The most effective way to bring balance is through your daily rituals and food choices. If you think simplistically about the doṣa’s, then it becomes easier to correct any disturbances. Kapha is just a word, it is important to understand the elemental make up (and their qualities), how these manifest in your own body and what antagonist qualities will correct and reset, if you want to really benefit from the amazing science of Ayurveda.
As this is Kapha season, I wanted to give some hints on how to bring balance and feel vibrant – as well as listing the signs that you may have a Kapha imbalance.
Signs of Kapha imbalance / accumulation:
- Loss of appetite
- Cold fever (sweats)
- Lassitude, lethargy, laziness, lack of interest
- Heaviness in the body (and mind), loss of strength
- White, cool, itchy skin, swelling of the joints
- Numbness (and pins and needles)
- Stickiness, feelings of obstruction. Excessive secretions. Eye infections
- Dysfunction of the immune system
Kapha’s predominant site is the lungs and regions above the clavicle, as well as the large (synovial) joints. If you feel blockage or have excess mucous secretions, headaches caused by blockages etc. – then you need to re-calibrate!
Causes for excess Kapha
- Foods which are sweet, sour or salty
- Liquid, cold, hard to digest, very fatty, large (in quantity)
- Frequent over-eating
- Lack of physical activity
- Sleep during the day or excessively
- Lack of mental work and/or social interaction
Kapha, when in balance gives strength, moisture, nourishment, stability, structure, fertility, virility and longevity. In the West, I feel clients shy away from wanting “to be Kapha” and any suggestion that this may be their predominant or second dominant doṣa seems to offend.
If you are a Kapha and you can stay in balance – then you are lucky!
Foods which are:
- Bitter, pungent and astringent in taste
- Dry (rough), hot and light (easy to digest),
- Non-unctuous (greasy),
- Drinks which are hot or warm – spiced infusions are perfect to reduce excess Kapha.
- No refrigerated drinks, NO ICE or ice-cream!
Activities which are:
- Hot or warming – think sauna not steam room!
- Regular physical activity,
- Avoidance of excess sleep
Favour warm, cooked food. Add warming or heating spices, minimal salt to taste OR whilst cooking and only a small amount of oil – unless you have increased Vata, if you are unsure what is out of balance, please see a practitioner or get some expert advice.
- Fermented foods; In addition to salt and vinegars (both heating in nature) most pickles and fermented foods (kimchi etc.) will have strong, pungent spices added. Be careful of salt and sour elements – not too much, as they will add to water retention!
- Fruits; Amla, green apples, avocado, bitter orange, cherries, cranberries, coffee, grapefruit, kiwi, kumquat, pears, plums, pomegranate if juiced with seeds and some pith, raspberries, rhubarb, Sharon fruit.
- Grains; Amaranth, buckwheat, durham wheat, oat bran, quinoa, rye, sago, spelt, tapioca.
- Herbs & spices (seasonings); Asafoetida, bay, basil, black pepper, caraway, cayenne, chillies, cinnamon, clove, coriander leaves, cumin, dill, fennel seed, fenugreek (seeds), garlic, ginger, mace, marjoram, miso, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, turmeric, vanilla, wasabi.
- Most spices and aromatic green herbs
- Meats & fish; Chicken (white meat), freshwater fish (trout etc), tuna, turkey (white and dark).
- Nuts (in moderation); Brazil, apricot kernals, raw chocolate, hazel, macadamia, pecan, pine nuts.
- Seeds; Poppy, sesame, quinoa (raw).
- Oils (in moderation – for cooking only); Corn, canola/rapeseed, mustard, sesame, safflower, sunflower oils.
- Pulses; Aduki, black eyed peas, butter beans, kidney beans, lentils (brown), mung beans, pinto beans, soy (all products), Tur dal, white beans.
- Teas; Artichoke, dandelion (leaves or root), neem, turmeric – Or make your own spiced infusion!
- Vegetables; Artichoke (globe), asparagus, aubergine, beet greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chicory, dandelion (young leaves), fenugreek leaves (methi), green beans, horseradish, kale, karela (bitter gourd), kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, mustard-greens, okra, onions, peas, radicchio, radish, rocket, spinach, sprouts, squash, turnips, watercress Note: most leafy greens have a bitter taste element and form an important part of a well balanced meal. They are useful sources of traces minerals and iron, naturally detox the body, have an alkalising effect and will balance both pitta and kapha. Some raw greens have a secondary taste which is pungent.
- Starchy / root vegetables; Artichoke (Jerusalem), burdock root, carrot (raw), celeriac, chervil root, parsnip, parsley root.
If you want to greatly reduce Kapha, your plate should consist of 50% cooked, spiced vegetables with a little (or no) oil added, 25% starchy carbohydrates and 25% protein (low fat). Pulses and grains are a perfect way to prepare for the coming months and a healthy way to shift any excess weight.
As always – keep an eye on that Vata energy, it is the quickest and easiest to disturb.
Some herbal infusion ideas to follow – these are perfect as a start to the day, to get ready for sleep or to add to a hot water (drinking) bottle and will warm you on your journey to or from work.