Kapha Balancing Regimens

Happy Spring Equinox!

Spring is here and that means new growth both inwardly and outwardly. Hibernated energy begins to fill our body cells as we have the urge to spring clean, plant new seeds, and bring nourishment and life to the surface. The beautiful colors of nature are beginning to brighten our day and the warmth of the sun is melting away the cold. Ayurveda reminds us to create a connection with nature and to live harmoniously with her. Kapha season is here through May, which brings us the qualities of the earth and water elements. Naturally, we are stronger, well-nourished, feel a greater sense of love and the watery emotions and deep feelings fill our thoughts and hearts. We are more fertile and are able to give more.  The days are longer and this is a great time of year to cleanse the spaces we occupy as well as our bodies.

The Kapha Dosha

Kapha, which means “phlegm” is governed by two elements, earth and water and holds the the qualities (guna) of: moist, cold, heavy, dull, sticky, dense, static, smooth, and soft.  Kapha gives us nourishment, stability, support, lubrication and makes up the bulk of our bodily tissues. It is located in the chest, throat, head, stomach, lymph, fat, nose and tongue. Kapha gives us emotional support and governs the watery emotions such as compassion, love, deep feelings, modesty, forgiveness and patience.

Ojas, is the subtle essence of our life force, our immune system and is the purest form of the Kapha Dosha. The Charaka Samhita describes ojas as “that which keeps all the living beings refreshed.”

As we become imbalanced during the Kapha season we may see symptoms such as loss of appetite, congestion, allergies, weight gain, water retention, lethargy, depression and attachment. As we learn to live harmoniously with the seasons of change, it is important to understand that like increases like and that opposites cure each other. So, how do we live harmoniously with the Kapha season?

Spring: Heavy, oily, cloudy, stable, slow           Opposite: Light, dry, clear, mobile, sharp

DIET:

Kapha should only eat when hungry and take in a lighter breakfast and dinner. Drinking digestive teas such as ginger, tulsi, warm lemon water, or CCF tea will be beneficial for supporting digestion.

Kapha is balanced by foods that have the opposite qualities; hot, dry and light as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes (rasa). This will stoke or raise the agni, digestive fire and will support natural cleansing.

Foods to favor should be those that are well spiced and pungent such as black pepper, mustard seeds, fenugreek, cloves, anise, ginger, lemon and turmeric. Grains that are drier are beneficial such as rye, corn, buckwheat and my personal favorites, quinoa and barley! Astringent tastes can be easily found in apples, pears, berries and dried fruits such as cherries, raisins and prunes. Lean proteins are important and hold the astringent taste as well such as beans and lentils. Vegetables that are bitter such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, dandelion greens, chard, spinach, kale, arugula, asparagus, and collard greens should be the main serving on the plate.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa         Stewed Spiced Fruits           Sunflower Kale Salad          Tridoshic Dal      Spicy Bean, Barley & Veggie Soup

Foods to avoid are those that are heavy, moist and cold. This would include all dairy, ice-cream, milk, creamer, etc. Sweet and heavy fruits such as melon, bananas, papaya, dates and figs. All sweeteners, except raw honey should be avoided as well as heavy grains such as wheat, dense pastries, etc. Fatty meats should be avoided as well as peanuts, and an excessive amount of salt.

MOVEMENT:

Daily exercise is important for the Kapha dosha, preferably first thing upon risinkapha 2g, during the kapha time of day (6am-10am) which will help keep you more energized and motivated during the day. Exercising outdoors where you can create a connection to the elements that are most comforting is beneficial. Exercise should promote sweating such as a brisk run/walk or sun salutations. If practicing yoga, the poses should be held for one minute longer than you think you can, Kapha’s need to be challenged.  Incorporating weekly saunas can be an added benefit to induce sweating. To prevent feeling heavy and sleepy after meals, excess weight gain and to stimulate the digestive fire, agni,walk after your meals! This could be a simple walk around your office building after lunch or a walk around the block after dinner.

DAILY ROUTINES & AROMAS:

Practice neti, nasal irrigation, daily upon rising to support excess mucous and congestion.

Once the nasal passages have been cleared, a daily practice of pranayama is beneficial for increasing natural energy, it purifies, rejuvenates and invigorates the mind and body. It will help to reduce allergies, congestion, headaches and sluggishness as well as release negative emotions. There are many different types of pranayama techniques. The most beneficial for kapha is Kapalahbhati or “skull-shining breath”. Kapala, which translates to “Skull,” and Bhati, which means “light.” Kapalahbati consists of a series of forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. This is best if practiced in the morning.

  1. Sit comfortably in an upright posture with your spine straight, with your heart and chest open. Rest your hands on your abdomen or on your knees, palms facing down. If sitting in a chair, place both feet on the ground.
  2. Take a few deep inhalations and exhalations to connect with your breath and bring your awareness to your lower abdomen.
  3. Inhale deeply through both nostrils, filling your belly with air about ¾ way full.
  4. In a quick motion, contract your lower abdomen,or use your hand to gently press or force and expel all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
  5. Perform this cycle 10 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body.
  6. Repeat these cycles of 10 movements, 3 to 4 times.

Contraindication: Do not practice Kapalabhati if you are pregnant, if you have excess pitta dosha, have high blood pressure, acid digestive issues, heart disease, or abdominal pain. You should also stop or slow down if you feel dizzy, light-headed or anxious.

Abhyanga or dry brushing will support lymphatic movement, circulation and will invigorate the body. Light oils should be used such as almond or sunflower and only practiced a few times a week. Aromas that are stimulating and energizing such as lemon, bergamot, cinnamon, patchouli, eucalyptus, and ginger are useful in your abhyanga oil or to simply diffuse throughout your home or office space if sluggishness arises.

Although sleep is important for healing and to rejuvenate the body, those that are predominately kapha should wake up with the sun, avoid napping during the day and snoozing in the morning.

Lastly, lighten your space. One of the ways to keep kapha from accumulating is reducing the amount of clutter in your closets, drawers, pantries and the spaces you work and live in. In fact, this can support a healthy weight! The more you have, the heavier you’ll feel mentally and physically. So, lighten your spaces, less is more!

I hope these will bring keep you light and lifted this spring season! Schedule a spring follow-up visit to keep you balanced and motivated!

 

Vata Balancing Regimens

This season Mother Nature has shown us what a huge impact she can have on our vikruti (current state of balance). Before the weather dropped to the 30’s, I remember walking down Hood St. toward Cedar Springs Rd. to start my day seeing clients and as I was taking in the colors of the Fall, I was awestricken by a long train of wind carrying leaves. It was beautiful and swift. Right then, I said to myself, “Vata is here and she is going to bring about rapid change”. Sure enough, a few days later the weather turned from the high 60’s to mid 30’s, then to the high 70’s and now low 50’s. This is vata at her best – change and inconsistency!

The magnificent science of Ayurveda proves itself with each seasonal shift. Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle means living with Mother Nature, attuning yourself inwardly to her beauty both destructive and life-giving. The vata dosha is imaginative, on-the-go, and has an active mind. It is also dry, light and cold. Vata moves like the wind and changes direction often. When those with a vata nature lack a consistent schedule it disturbs the body’s internal energy, prana. This leads to anxiety, nervousness, feelings of overwhelm, insomnia, constipation, dry stools, bloating, gas, and dry skin. Vata does best when stable, regular routines help to channel and focus their  large, natural amount of energy, prana. With structure vata’s are able to accomplish a great deal within a very short period of time and can be more productive than any other doshic type.

DIET:

In Ayurveda, seasonal eating is primarily beneficial for prevention. A vata pacifying diet is best during the early Fall which will prevent vata from becoming aggravated in the Winter. If vata is aggravated in the winter, a vata-pacifying food program may prevent overflow or minimize symptoms.

Vata is balanced by foods that have a sweet, sour and salty rasa (taste). Foods should be heavier and nourishing and moderately spiced. This is the season for spices and all spices are good for vata as long as not taken in excess – ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fenugreek, etc. Food and drinks should be taken in warm, never ice cold, raw or uncooked as this will support a strong agni – digestive fire. For those with more vata in their prakruti/constitution, they do best when they eat more frequently, 5 times a day. Food should be taken in small amounts as to not dampen the agni. Meals should be taken at the same time each day.

Here are some of my favorite winter recipes: Fall Veggie + Quinoa Soup, Winter Chai Tea, Warm Spiced Milk, Stewed Spiced Fruits, Warm Spiced Quinoa Cereal

YOGA:

Yoga should be practiced in a warm environment with slow and calming asanas with a connection and awareness to the earth. Keeping vata grounded to prevent excess mobility is essential. For example, tree pose (Vrksasana) and mountain pose (Tadasana) root your feet into the ground, reducing anxiety and overwhelm. Warrior I and II are also beneficial, helping to ground you while building strength in the thighs, lower back and hips which are main regions of the vata dosha. Since vata is prone to constipation, standing or sitting forward bends that compress the pelvis are healing. 

Fast-paced vinyasas or flow sequences can aggravate vata. Slow movement supports the joints while quick movements increase mobility, creating dryness. To make a vinyasa more vata-pacifying, move deliberately and slowly, extending the length of time that you hold each pose. Moving through transitions between poses, with conscious awareness rather than rushing on to the next pose will help you to remain present.

Finally, vata types benefit from doing a long, deep corpse pose or shavasana – at least 15–20 minutes. Keep a blanket nearby so that after your practice, you can cover the body allowing you to contain the heat from your practice.

SLEEP:

One of the most common signs of a vata imbalance is difficulty falling or staying asleep. To much creative energy, anxiety or worry is surging through the mind and the body becomes restless. Rest is rejuvenating and has heavy and stable qualities that help to balance the light and mobile tendencies of vata. It is important to go to bed and wake up at or about the same time every day. A general rule is that we are in bed by 10:00pm and wake with the sun, sunrise! Establishing proper bedtime routines can be life saving! Avoid t.v., computer, phone, or any stimulating activities an hour prior to bed. Instead, spend the last hour before getting into bed doing one or more of the following: do a warm herbal massage, take a warm bath, meditate, curl up in bed with a warm cup of chamomile tea and a book.

AROMAS:

Vatas do best with oils that are warming and calming, think sweet and spicy! The sweeter the oil the more nourishing and the spicier, the more warming. Blending oils can help you get both qualities vata needs. Sweet oils: sandalwood, jasmine, chamomile, or lavender mixed with Spicy Oils: cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, or basil can be beneficial. You can put these into a diffuser to create an aromatic environment in your home or room. You can make a room spritzer by adding a few drops of each a spicy and sweet oil to a spray bottle of distilled water. You can add oils to your bath water to get that nice relaxing and warm sensation while bathing.

TOUCH:

Studies show that the sense of touch can bring just as much healing as the food we take into our bodies. A lead researcher, Dr. Tiffany Field from the University of Miami School of Medicine, states that, “touch is the first sense to develop and the last to fade even after sight, hearing, smell and taste have faded with age”.

Benefits of touch:

  • reduces aggression
  • stimulates growth and development in children
  • improves sleep and alertness
  • reduces pain, depression and stress by reducing cortisol levels, a hormone that rises when we are under stress.
  • increases dopamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals that improve mental outlook
  • improves the immune system and increases T-cells that fight cancer and viruses

Ayurveda massage with herbal, warm oils, is called “snehana” which means, “to love”. The daily application of oil to the body builds self-love. Abhyanga (ayurveda massage) daily can be life changing for those with a vata imbalance. The primary qualities of Vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. These qualities are opposite to those of the warmed, herbal oil. The great teacher Sushruta said, “The deranged vayu [Vata] of the body is restored to its normal condition by the help of Udvartana (oil massage).” Sushruta Vol.2, 24:28.

It is important to consider the type of oil you choose for massage. Vata benefits from warm, heavy, moist oils such as sesame and almond.

Vata Pacifying Abhyanga:

  • It is best to do the abhyanga in a warm place to avoid getting cold. I like to turn the heater on in the bathroom or place a space heater in the room.
  • The oils should be warmed (not hot) prior to application. You can do this by putting a cup of the oil into a squeeze bottle and place it in a warm water bath in a pan on the stove or in the bathroom sink filled with hot water.
  • Sit or stand on a dedicated “oil towel”, an old towel or bath mat that you don’t mind getting a little oily. I like using a bath mat and then I just roll it up after each use.
  • Without being in a hurry, lovingly and patiently massage the oil over your entire body for 10-15 minutes,
    beginning at the extremities and working toward the center of the body. Use long strokes on the
    limbs (long bones) and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise,
    circular motions. In the morning, I like to do more fast vigorous motions to stimulate lymph and circulation and in the evening I do it more slowly to promote relaxation.
  • To apply the oil to the crown of your head, put about a quarter size amount of oil into your hand and using the pads of your fingers massage your entire scalp in circular strokes. Sometimes I do a “hair oil bath” about once per month where I drench my hair in the oil and leave it over night in a towel – great for beautiful, shiny, strong hair!
  • Lastly, put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canals and to the opening and inside of the nasal passage.

Hope these recommendations bring you warmth and grounding energy this season!

Namaste,
Christina

The Ayurvedic 6 Tastes: SWEET

In Ayurveda, every food is put into one of the 6 taste categories; Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, and Bitter. Each taste feeds our mind, body and spirit in its own unique way.  It is said that if a person has all six tastes in a meal, that person will lose their cravings and leave the table satisfied without overeating.

The six tastes are combinations of the five elements of nature. For instance, sweet results from the combination of water and earth. Sour is composed of earth and fire; salty taste is fire and water; bitter taste is air and ether. The pungent taste is fire and air, while the astringent taste is air and earth.

In the US we have three major tastes: sweet, sour and salty. We often have meals that are much too salty. Or we eat too many sweets after the meal, which leaves us unbalanced, and very soon we will be craving one of the tastes that was left out of the meal. Nutritional imbalance is a primary cause of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  Balance and proper nourishment coming from nature is the key to overall good health and well-being.

The primary reason that so many individuals experiences excessive sweet cravings is due to the lack of a good source of healthy, nutritious whole grains in their diet. Whole grains provide many benefits:

  • proper digestion6 tastes
  • calming the nervous system
  • encouraging sleep
  • satisfying hunger tastes
  • reduce cravings
  • promotes energy and endurance
  • promotes good elminiation
  • improves memory
  • improves reflexes
  • promotes clear thinking.

Breakfast is an important meal of the day. For many of us, we either skip this meal or we choose to eat foods that are dry, (breakfast bars), light (dry cereal), or cold (cold milk with cereal). All in which increase the qualities of Vata.  Taking in whole, warm grains, like quinoa, steel cut oats, and rice are the best way to start your day. They will sustain your energy throughout the day and boost your metabolism.  Whole grains help your body burn more fat because they take extra effort to break down than processed grains and carbohydrates. Whole foods that are rich in fiber, like rice and oatmeal, are best. Processed carbohydrates like bagels, breads, even processed packaged oatmeal spikes up your blood sugar and stress hormone levels which will leave you crashing later.

Best Grains for Kapha:

  • Amaranth, Basmati Rice Barley, Buckwheat, Corn Flour Products (except corn chips), Couscous, Granola, Millet, Muesli, Oat Bran, Dry Oats, Polenta, Quinoa, Rye, Spelt, Sprouted Wheat, Tapioca, Wheat Bran

Best Grains for Pitta:

  • Amaranth, Barley, Basmati Rice, Couscous, Granola, Oat Bran, Cooked Oats, Pancakes, Pasta, Quinoa, Rice Cakes, Spelt, Sprouted Wheat, Tapioca, Wheat Bran, Wheat

Best Grains for Vata:

  • Amaranth, Basmati Rice, Cooked Oats, Pancakes, Quinoa, Sprouted Wheat, Wheat

Get your energy boost for the rest of the day with these power recipes and skip the calorie-laden convenience foods that leave you hungry before lunch! Any of these can be adapted with the doshic appropriate grains of your choice: stewed fruit with quinoa cereal, yummy oatmeal, rice cereal, warm cinnamon maple quinoa cereal.