After emerging some few thousand years ago, Ayurveda (the knowledge of longevity, or ‘science of life’) has survived and thrived throughout the ages, and stands today as not only the East’s traditional healing modality, but a fascinating tool for everyday life in the modern Western world.
Ayurveda is essentially a way of living and being in harmony with nature, the seasons and stages of life, and getting to know yourself so you’re able to cultivate a lifestyle that suits your unique prakriti or ‘nature’.
Throughout Ayurveda, there are three prevailing doshas that you’ll hear about as soon as you look into this health system. The word ‘dosha’ means ‘fault’, but it doesn’t refer to anything negative, rather it links to the parts of ourselves that make us human: our reaction to stress, our digestion, energy levels, personality, body type, work ethic, creativity, ability to tolerate heat and cold, and so on… Just like the physical fault lines that make a particular country more susceptible to earthquakes, each person’s different ‘fault’ or ‘dosha’ makes them susceptible to different things in the world around them.
The pitta dosha is related to fire and water, and a sort of hot, oiliness. Pitta people are more susceptible to becoming angry and short tempered due to their fiery temper, they’re good leaders but can be overly domineering. Physically, they’re often more sensitive to the sun and can burn easily.
Sound familiar to anyone?…………….
The three doshas are Vata, governed by air and ether, Pitta, governed by fire and water, and Kapha, governed by water and earth. Each person usually has one or two dominant doshas, and one of Ayurveda’s main concerns is applying different lifestyle practices to help balance each of these doshas. (if we look at our Pitta person for instance, they’d be advised to consume cooling foods and herbs, to take part in relaxing and calming practices, and to stay away from having large amounts of things like coffee and chillies which can be stimulating and heating). The various seasons are governed by a particular dosha too, which means all of us can become more susceptible to the energy of the dominant dosha during that season.
Late Winter and early Spring are governed by the Kapha dosha. Kapha’s earth and water elements make this time of year cool and damp, but also usually quite pleasant and heavy. There can be a tendency to feel more lethargic and sleepy at this time of year, or to experience digestive issues or water retention and bloating. Kapha’s link to growth and abundance is evident in the sense of renewal during Spring; new life growing around us, and the weather conditions suited to growing plants and nourishing animal life.
Kapha is all about growth, abundance, accumulation, and stability, and a person who has an overriding Kapha dosha will often exhibit these tendencies, as well as a sense of loyalty and lovingness. When a person have an excessive amount of Kapha energy within them, they can exhibit lethargy, possible weight gain and a habit of holding grudges. Many Kapha types also ‘collect’ things, and find it difficult to throw them away – whether physical in the form of possessions, weight, resentments, attachments to people, or comfort eating.
In terms of the physical body, Kapha types are usually sturdy and strong, with soft skin, well – lubricated joints, beautiful eyes and thick, soft hair. They usually shy away from physical exercise but once they get going, have brilliant endurance. Kaphas can quite easily go for long periods without eating, but they enjoy eating nonetheless (especially things that are sweet and salty). As loyal and loving people, they are wonderful at nourishing a family, and work well as teachers, in a caring role, or in an environment where they’re connected to nature.
Each dosha also relates to the body’s limbs and organs, with Kapha governing the lubricating elements like synovial fluid, phlegm and mucus, and the tissues such as muscle and fat. Kapha energy tends to be stored in the lungs and stomach, and an excessive amount of Kapha often leads to congestion and sinus issues.
Whether you’re a dominant Kapha type or not, we all have at least a little bit of Kapha within us, so it’s important to make sure we know how to balance this element during Spring in order to feel optimally well.
Nature is a wonderful teacher, and as we move into Spring, it demonstrates exactly what we need to be doing; Waking up and moving! After a few months of hibernation, animals and plants burst into life, and this is the perfect opportunity to do the same. Kapha season is very supportive in terms of helping the body feel strong, as the lubricating and earthy aspects of this dosha are helpful for protecting the joints (compared to Vata which governs Autumn, and can make the joints feel cold and stiff).
If you’re able to get enough sleep, try waking up with the sunrise, or at around 6am. This time of day is thought to support a feeling of ‘lightness’ and peacefulness, and is very conducive to meditation. Hitting the snooze button and sleeping in until midday however, is the exact sort of thing that encourages an accumulation of heavy, lethargic Kapha energy, so is best avoided. Begin the morning with a few deep breaths, followed by cleaning the teeth and tongue, and dry body brushing. Sip some warm water and lemon, and aim for 20-30 minutes of movement (a walk, a yoga practice, dancing in your pants in the living room – whatever works for you!)
Spice It Up
Your spice cupboard is basically a medicine cabinet, and can be utilised to support your health all year round. As Kapha season is predominantly heavy, cool and damp, specific spices can be used to bring about the opposite qualities, supporting wellbeing and balance. Spring can compromise the digestive system, meaning finding ways to support healthy digestion and a proper ‘flow’ (ahem….) are vital, as digestion is one of the most important aspects when it comes to maintaining optimal health and absorbing nutrients. Choose spices such as ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, cayenne, caraway and fennel. These can be ground to create a seasonal spice mix, and sprinkled in your porridge, through a smoothie, or taken in a mug of warm milk.
Lighten The Load
This is the perfect time of year for a cleanse or gentle detox. Instead of fasting and feeling tired and irritable, try a mono diet of kitchari, a juice cleanse, or a combination or soups and juices for 3-5 days. It’s important however, to note that if you’re a predominantly vata person, or you’re prone to low body weight or anxiety, that you consult a practitioner or trusted person before embarking upon any sort of cleanse. In terms of ‘lightening the load’ this can also be applied to the mind and home; perhaps dedicate a couple of hours to clearing out any old and unwanted items, and giving them to charity. This sense of space can have a profound impact on how much space you feel in the mind too. To Spring clean even further, try writing a list of 5-10 things you know you haven’t really ‘let go’ of, and ask yourself if they’re really worth holding on to. This could be a resentment against an old friend, an argument with a loved one, or a sense of fear about moving forward in your job or life. Forgiveness and forging new pathways are very much supported during this season of rebirth and renewal.
Tune Into Your Senses
What we see, smell, taste, hear and touch can have a profound subconscious effect, and making small seasonal changes can really help the body and mind adapt to a new season.
- Colour: Add bright yellows, oranges, red, green and vibrant purple to your surroundings to help revitalise the eyes and boost energy levels.
- Scent: To decongest blocked sinuses or any sense of heaviness, try a combination of eucalyptus, camphor and clary sage in a diffuser, or pop a couple of drops of each into a bath. Your self-massage practice (known as abhyanga) can also be enhanced during Spring with stimulating and uplifting oils such as a mixture of ylang-ylang and peppermint.
- Taste: Remember this phrase and use it to guide you through your meal decisions: Like attracts like, and opposite bring balance. As Spring is cool, heavy and damp, try foods and spices that are light, warming and dry.
- Sound: Play uplifting music in the mornings to help you wake up, and if you’re upping the ante when it comes to exercise, use your favourite up-tempo songs.
- Touch: Stay warm as the end of Winter lifts, and try the dry heat of a sauna to sweat out any leftover toxins. When it comes to textures, swap soft deep fabrics for something more sturdy and light when the weather turns warmer.
To learn much more about Ayurveda and Springtime wellbeing, join me on Saturday 24th March at Be-Yoga in Haywards Heath, Sussex, for a workshop all about maintaining optimal health and wellness at this time of year. Everyone who comes receives a seasonal spice blend, an abundance of knowledge, and specific practices to take home!