Spring into Kapha

By Diana Bellofatto

By Diana Bellofatto

Ayurveda classifies six seasons (ritus)-spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, pre-winter, and winter. Here, in the West, we are predominantly concerned with four of those six seasons-spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Vasant is the Sanskrit word given for spring.

Spring is a time of year when it tends to rain more and the winter snow melts. The spring rains and melting snow bog down the earth— making it heavy, damp, and soggy.

Because kapha is comprised of water and earth elements, it makes sense to classify spring as kapha season.

Why We Become Waterlogged and Woeful

Interestingly, our bodies mimic the expressions of nature, and in doing so, can make us experience weight gain and water retention in spring. These heavy qualities can also induce lethargy and depression.

Feeling lethargic and/or depressed at a time when the days are getting longer and warmer and the birds are chirping, is confusing. Yet, the accumulation of the heavy, wet qualities of spring are setting up camp in our containers. It is also important to note that vitamin D and melatonin wane in the dark, dreary winter months and can manifest melancholic moods in spring. Therefore, it makes perfect sense as to why we feel down when the sweet sounds and smells of spring are upon us.

However, the wisdom of Ayurveda informs us that if we are pro-active in the time leading up to spring, we can mitigate, or even eradicate, the weight gain, bloating, lethargy, and depression that accompany this time of year.

Beat the Bloat and the Blues

A main tenet of Ayurveda is to add opposite qualities to an imbalance to bring ourselves back into balance. To reiterate, the qualities of spring are heavy, damp, and soggy and can steer us into a sedentary, sloth-like state. Apply opposite qualities that are light, warm, and stimulating and can prompt us to perk up and power on!

Kapha Balancing Foods

Fruits: Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, dry figs in moderation, grapes in moderation, lemons in moderation, limes in moderation, peaches, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, prunes, raisins, strawberries in moderation

Vegetables: Artichoke, asparagus, beet greens, beets, bitter melon, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, burdock root, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, corn, daikon, dandelion greens, eggplant, fennel, garlic, green beans, green chilies, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, parsley, peas, sweet and hot peppers, white potatoes, radishes, rutabaga, spaghetti squash in moderation, spinach, sprouts, summer squash, cooked tomatoes, turnip greens, turnips, watercress, wheat grass

Grains: Amaranth in moderation, barley, buckwheat, corn, couscous, durham flour in moderation, granola, millet, museli, oat bran, dry oats, polenta, quinoa in moderation, rice (basmati, wild), rye, seitan, spelt in moderation, sprouted wheat bread, tapioca, wheat bran

Legumes: Aduki, black, black-eye peas, chickpea, red & brown lentils, lima, mung, navy, dried peas, pinto, split peas, spicy tofu, tur dal, white beans

Dairy: Buttermilk in moderation, cottage cheese from skimmed goat’s milk, ghee in moderation, unsalted, not aged goat’s cheese, skim goat’s milk, diluted and spiced yogurt

Condiments: Black pepper, chili peppers, spicy chutneys, cilantro, dulse in moderation, hiziki in moderation, horseradish, mustard without vinegar, scallions, seaweed in moderation, sprouts

Nuts & Seeds:  Charole, almond in moderation, chia, flax, sunflower and pumpkin in moderation, popcorn

Oils:  In moderation—Avocado, almond, corn, ghee, sunflower

Beverages:  Aloe vera juice, apple cider, apple juice in moderation, apricot juice, berry juice, spiced black tea, carob, carrot juice, chai in moderation, cherry juice-sweet, cranberry juice, grain “coffee”(this is a combination of barley, chicory, and rye) , grape juice, mango juice, peach nectar, pear juice, pineapple juice in moderation, pomegranate juice, prune juice

Herb Teas: Alfalfa, barley, blackberry, burdock, chamomile, chicory, cinnamon, clove, dandelion, fenugreek, ginger, ginseng in moderation, hibiscus, jasmine, juniper berry, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass mormon tea, nettle, passion flower, peppermint, raspberry, red clover, sarsaparilla in moderation, sassafras, spearmint, strawberry, wintergreen, yarrow, yerba mate

Spices:  All spices are good, fennel and vanilla in moderation

Sweeteners: raw honey, small amounts of pure maple syrup

Juicing: Favor seasonal greens, berries, apples, and add a piece of ginger to aid in digestion

In addition, 

  • Drink moderate amounts of room temperature water unless you sweat a lot, then, drink more.
  • Favor pungent, bitter, astringent foods. Reduce or avoid sweet, sour, salty foods.
  • Drink ginger tea.
  • Managing on two meals a day instead of three is beneficial (lunch and dinner). Consult with your Ayurvedic Practitioner to see if this is appropriate for you.
  • Fasting one day per week may be appropriate—contraindications may apply. Consult with your Ayurvedic Practitioner for recommendations.

SPRING DESSERT 

Serves about 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. of dried orange peel, soaked overnight in 2 tsps. of boiled water
  • 4 apples, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/3 C. dried apricots, chopped
  • Sprinkle of ground clove
  • Drizzle of raw honey

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour and then, serve.

Spice Mix for Spring

Cook with this spice mix or sprinkle it over your food just before eating.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground fenugreek
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. pink salt
  • 1 tsp. pure cane sugar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mix well and transfer to a spice jar.

Lifestyle Practices for Spring

Stay stimulated and be open to new experiences. Push towards your edge more.

Garshana (Dry Brushing)

Garshana benefits the body with enhanced circulation, immunity, anti-inflammation, detoxification, and energy! A body brush or garshana gloves can be used. Garshana gloves are raw silk gloves that have the added benefit of alkalizing the blood.

Dry brush the body in addition to abhyanga (oil massage) or as a substitute for abhyanga if your skin is feeling oily.

Brush from the bottom of the body to the top. Starting at the feet, brush the bottom and tops of the feet, use long strokes on the limbs and stomach and circular strokes on the joints; always brushing toward the heart.

Keep moving, take short saunas, get deep massages.

Exercise for Spring

Daily, strong aerobic exercise that promotes sweating is beneficial unless you are feeling depleted. Rest when necessary!

Perform any of these exercises while maintaining complete nostril breathing (no mouth breathing at all).

Perform the exercise for 30 seconds then, rest for 30 seconds before beginning the next exercise.

Start with one set and work your way up to two or three sets but only if you can maintain complete nasal breathing.

*Breathing only through your nose melts excess kapha (earth and water weight) from the inside out!

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Push ups
  • Running in place with high knees
  • Burpees
  • Walking lunges
  • Dance!!!

Yoga for Spring

In general, yoga practice can be more vigorous. Again, think stimulating and warm.

Backbends

Backbends are very heart opening. They generate warmth. When done gently and compassionately, backbends invigorate and stimulate the mind to open up to new ways of doing things and positive outcomes. Reciting a positive affirmation to yourself while practicing a backbend is a powerful gesture.

  • Wheel Pose
  • Bow Pose
  • Cobra Pose
  • Upward-Facing Dog Pose
  • Reverse Tabletop Pose

Twists

Twists are cleansing, refreshing, and revitalizing.

  • Seated Half Spinal Twist
  • Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi
  • Revolved Side Angle
  • Revolved Triangle
  • Noose Pose

Standing Poses

Standing poses done in this way will stimulate and decongest mucous and emotional heaviness of the lungs and heart.

  • Warrior I: Begin with arms by your sides and front knee bent as you inhale then, exhale, raise the arms overhead and straighten the front leg. Repeat 5 times.
  • Warrior II: Begin with arms by your sides and front knee bent as you inhale then, exhale, raise the arms overhead and straighten the front leg. Repeat 5 times.
  • Mountain Pose: Begin with arms by your sides as you inhale then, exhale and raise the arms overhead. Repeat 5 times.
  • Warrior Goddess: Inhale in the squat position then, exhale, straighten the legs and raise the arms overhead. Repeat 5 times.
  • Fierce/Chair Pose: Inhale as you squat with arms by your sides then, exhale, stand and raise arms overhead. Repeat five times.

Sample Spring Yoga Practice

  1. Seated with eyes closed, set an intention for your practice and recite a positive affirmation out loud three times, whisper it three times, and repeat it silently three times.
  2. Seated Half Spinal Twist
  3. Mountain Pose
  4. Warrior I
  5. Warrior II
  6. Warrior Goddess
  7. Fierce/Chair Pose or Revolved Side Angle
  8. Revolved Triangle or Noose
  9. Seated Half Spinal Twist or Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi
  10. Alligator or Prone Boat Pose
  11. Locust or Fish
  12. Relaxation: Seated relaxation with eyes closed for 5 minutes.
  13. 50 Kapalabhati, rest 1 minute, 50 kaplabhati.
  14. Walking Meditation

Breathwork for Spring

Practice kapalabhati with a qualified yoga teacher or, you can enjoy learning kapalabhati here.

Meditation for Spring

Do walking meditation: Kapha dosha (out of balance) is prone to being sedentary and becoming too attached. Sitting for prolonged periods, even for the benefit of meditation, might encourage laziness and unhealthy attachments. Walking on a nature trail or in a labyrinth is ideal but if that is not available to you, walk anywhere!

Walking meditation is a great way to combine breath and movement. Synchronize your steps—inhale right foot, exhale left … Another option is to EXHALE as you swing your arms up into the air and INHALE as you swing them back down by your sides.

Breathe smoothly in and out of your nostrils with your mouth closed and maintain a steady gaze on the ground six to eight feet in front of you.

Benefits of Being Balanced

  • Improves impulse control! We are less inclined to make poor food choices that don’t support our desire to lose weight and reach other goals.
  • Activates the sympathetic nervous system—calms, aids in weight loss as it allows the body to let go of excess earth and water (aka weight!).
  • Clears and cleanses the organs and systems of the body for optimal physiological functioning. The digestive fire (agni) improves digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and increases fat burning.
  • Revitalizes, rejuvenates, invigorates, and brings joy!

Make a Gratitude List

Invoking gratitude is an antidote to feeling down and in despair. It’s not possible to have negative feelings while experiencing gratitude! Start your day writing down something for which you are grateful.

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