Having a Healthy Winter & Early Spring – Part 1

Invigorating épices*

 

 

Ayurveda means the art of living wisely. In this small series we are going to talk about living in harmony with the natural cycle of winter and early spring. In Ayurveda this is a time of kapha. We’ll look at the fundamental aspects of kapha dosha and it’s affinity with winter, and also at the kapha individual and how to care for kapha to avoid colds, coughs, allergies and sinus congestion, all common in winter and spring. We’ll also touch on how vata and pitta individuals can approach winter. Our aim is to help understand more about what is happening with our bodies and mind at this time.

 

In this first article of our series of three we will look at the energetics of kapha and winter and  guidelines for good health. In the second, daily regimen and yoga, and in the third, diet and herbs.

 

Winter is naturally a time of dormancy, slumber, withdrawal, stillness. It is a time to rest, reflect, vision, redirect energy from an outward focus to an inward focus. At times, winter can be a bit oppressive, we can feel weighed down, stagnant or uninspired.

It is a time of cold weather with a sense of heaviness, damp moisture, and cloud-covered days.

 

The qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, damp, oily, slimy, soft, static and sweet. Like increases like and kapha dosha is increased in winter and early spring. With Ayurveda we seek to minimise the ill-effects of the season on our health by avoiding accumulation of the prevalent dosha. Each dosha increases in it’s own season, especially if one’s dominant dosha is the one of the season. When we know what kind of imbalance we’re likely to have we can take the proper precautions to prevent it form arising through diet, lifestyle, daily routine and exercise. Recognising the prevalent qualities we express is the beginning of self-healing.

 

Healthy people can follow the standard seasonal routines but if someone has an imbalance or illness, it is best that that person follows a diet and lifestyle suited to their doshic imbalance.

 

A kapha person with aggravated kapha should follow a kapha pacifying regimen which we’ll go into in detail here whereas someone with aggravated vata should follow a vata pacifying diet and lifestyle that doesn’t aggravate kapha over winter. Still it is helpful to understand all the seasons and how we relate to them to understand ourselves more and the patterns around and within us.

 

Ganeshaji

 

Kapha

 

The word kapha in sanskrit denotes that which flourishes in water. Kapha is the combination of the water and earth elements. It is consolidation, the energy that forms the body’s structure. It is the liquid needed for the life of our cells and bodily systems, lubricating joints and skin, helping heal wounds and maintaining immunity. It promotes anabolism, the process of building the body, growth and creation of new cells.

 

Kapha is the beginning of life, year, day, night and digestion. It is dominant in childhood – children are renowned for colds, congestion and mucus-related situations! They love to sleep late and eat sweet, heavy foods and are loving and innocent.

 

Kapha people embody grace, calm and sensuality, have a solid, sturdy body with large bones, strong build and excellent stamina, large soft eyes, smooth radiant skin and thick hair. Because of the water of kapha they move slowly. They sleep soundly and have regular digestion, are grounded and connected to physical world. For this reason as well as having taste and smell as dominant senses, kapha people make great homemakers.

 

Emotionally they are naturally calm, thoughtful and loving, enjoying life and being comfortable with routine. When in balance kapha expresses itself as love, calmness, patience, forgiveness, strength, vigour and stability. When out of balance, kapha is expressed in a desire for excessive and unconscious intake of food, visuals, sounds, all of the sensual pleasures, lethargy, depression, melancholia, excess body weight, fluid retention, congestion, body fatigue, poor circulation, unexpressed emotions, grief, sadness and attachment. Kapha people can hold onto things, jobs and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. They can also suffer from asthma, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, and can deal with conflict by withdrawal.

 

winter-blues

 

 

Kapha symptoms

 

In the late winter and spring as the sun heats the air the body sheds a layer of protective fat and other excess kapha releasing it into the blood stream. This is expressed as hay fever and congestion and is responsible for the colds and runny noses prevalent at this time. Following a kapha balancing diet over winter will reduce these symptoms in the spring.

Kapha sites in the body are the sinus, nose, mouth, throat, tongue, stomach, pancreas, lungs, white matter of the brain, lymph nodes, mastic tissue and synovial fluid.

 

Mild symptoms typically occur in the early stages of kapha accumulation and the places where kapha has a natural affinity are some of the first places where indications can arise. They are the mind, digestive tract and respiratory system:

 

In the Mind – generalised feeling of heaviness or lethargy, sluggishness, drowsiness, brain fog, tendency towards excessive sleep, laziness, melancholy or depression.

When the blood is too thick, circulation is affected and mind becomes dull and depressed.

 

In the Digestive Tract – sense of heaviness, uncomfortable feeling of fullness in stomach, nausea, excess salivation, poor appetite, sweet taste in mouth, indigestion, slow or suppressed metabolism. Stools are heavy, oily, pale and sticky.

Especially the stomach – mucous build up in the stomach from slow digestion is the root of all kapha throughout body.

 

In the Respiratory System – colds, coughs, excessive accumulation of mucus, runny nose, excess nasal crust, hay fever, congestion, feeling of tightness in the sinuses, throat or chest

Excess water and hyperglycaemia leads to thick layer of mucus in the lungs and GI tract. This results in congestion and improper flow of lymph. Thick mucus reduces absorption of oxygen in the lungs. To compensate the body lowers the metabolism (low thyroid) and kapha becomes psychologically overwhelmed and depressed.

 

If kapha starts to spread throughout the body we will find indications in the circulatory system, skin, muscles and adipose tissue – lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph glands, mild hypertension, pallor, cold sweats, weight gain.

Lymph – kapha people have high blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the blood

the slimy and oily quality that clogs the blood vessels. This poor circulation deprives extremities of oxygen and leads to cold extremities

Elsewhere symptoms include water retention, excess urination, low-grade fevers, excess earwax, dental tartar.

 

sauna

 

 

Winter guidelines

 

Following a kapha diet in winter is perfect for a kapha person and potentially for the rest of the year.

As we treat the individual and not the illness, for vata’s and pitta’s a more fine-tuned diet is recommended for winter.

 

For Vata

Look after vata if it is a cold windy day. Qualities of vata to look out for are cold, dry, rough, mobile. A clear day with a cold wind is typical. Eat cooked warm foods, practice abyhanga (explained in the next article).

Late Winter, Spring and early Summer can be very good for vata types due to the mix of warmth and wetness – it has a very soothing effect on their constitution.

Herbs that balance both vata and kapha are mustard, cardamon, licorice, garlic, ginger.

 

For Pitta

The general protocol for this season is warming foods so pitta dominant people must beware! Signs of pitta increasing are irritability, frustration, judgement, rashes. Outdoor, non-competitive activities are good. Cool is good, cold is not.

To keep both pitta and kapha in check increase bitter and astringent tastes, but decrease sweet.

Herbs to use are coriander seed and leaf, cardamon, turmeric, licorice. Licorice is particularly good as it is pitta pacifying and phlegm reducing. Be careful with caffeine as many hot winter beverages contain it.

If you have ulcers or tendency towards inflammatory problems, skip the ginger, cinnamon, clove tea and the stimulating kapha approach.

 

For Kapha

Stay warm, be active, and eat well. Be motivated. Kapha tends towards stagnation and heaviness if not adequately invigorated. As we have seen, the qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily. In Ayurveda we heal with opposite qualities. The key words for looking after kapha in winter are stimulate and invigorate. New things, new experiences, having a non-sedentary lifestyle counter heaviness and depression. Stay motivated and nurture yourself through invigorating and stimulating body therapies.

 

Regular exercise is the best way to avoid stagnation and accumulation of toxins. Focus on building endurance. Vigorous exercise such as running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, competitive sports, dancing and stimulating yoga are best. Do thirty minutes exercise a day.

Receiving sunlight is also invaluable. It relaxes the muscles, warms the body, mind and soul and helps maintain healthy sleeping rhythms.

 

Clear you space – avoid clutter from accumulating at home, in the office, car. Have regular clear outs and give away things that you’ll never use.

Practice detachment from material possessions, comforts and emotional upsets. Clear excess clutter, acknowledge and then let go of emotional upsets as they come along.

 

In winter with the generally overcast and cloudy atmosphere people can tend to become cloudy in their thinking, confused and this can lead to depression. Enkindling agni (digestive fire) is the ayurvedic solution. For the mind especially, nasya oil is very good. We’ll look at both of these below.

Naturally we tend to develop our colourful, artistic and creative sides in this time – one reason so much good music has come from England!

 

 

kids by the fire