There is no better time of year for me than spring! Flowers, fresh air, more sunlight, baby animals, starting the garden, rushing water in the mountains, and warmer temps…what’s not to love? Spring is a time of growth and building and is therefore considered kapha time in ayurveda. It’s a great time for creation and starting the beginning of a new cycle.
Let’s define what kapha means in ayurveda. Kapha is water, it is building, cohesive, stagnant and heavy. It is like the cold mud in spring, a mix of water and earth elements. It is also sweet taste and love, and is increased by fabulous desserts, dairy, and oils. Kapha is literally ice cream!
People who naturally have a lot of kapha are very lucious – big beautiful round features, nurturing and they want everybody to be happy. Everybody needs a kapha friend because the hugs are amazing! They are strong like an elephant and have amazing endurance and strong immunity.
In the spring when kapha runs high due to the cold and melting snow, some imbalances may start to show, especially for those who already have higher kapha energy. That is why spring cleanses are so popular – it’s a time when we are stronger, but can feel stagnant and need to clean out the accumulation of things that may have kapha-like stickiness.
First let’s look at a spring diet. If you consider what is naturally in season during springtime, you’ll see a lot of bitter greens. Beet greens, mustard greens, collard greens, spinach, kale, dandelion greens…all great for kapha season.
We want to favor flavors like bitter, pungent (spicy) and astringent (drying). So additional foods would include things like:
Grains: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, crackers, oats, polenta/corn, quinoa, basmati rice, granola and rye
Vegetables: the greens listed above, asparagus, cabbage, celery, chilies, eggplant, green beans, leeks, peas, white potatoes, radishes and turnips
Legumes: most beans, soy milk/beans/tofu, tempeh
Spices: onions, garlic, and almost everything except for salt (which creates more water retention) – use many many spices!
Oils: corn, flax, ghee, sunflower
Meats: chicken & turkey (white), freshwater fish, some eggs, venison
Avoid: dairy, sweets, and too much oil
Stoking Digestive Fire
Kapha can slow down the digestive fire so we want to invigorate it with some light fasting and spices.
Traditionally in ayurveda we eat three meals a day without snacking in between, but because kapha can have slower digestion, skipping a meal from time to time is helpful. Another option is to have kitchery-only days. Kitchery is a spiced basmati rice and mung bean dish that is super easy to digest and by eating that for your three meals allows for your system to chill a bit from all the crazy stuff we normally eat.
Spice foods with trikatu. Trikatu is a blend of dry ginger, black pepper and long pepper. It’s tasty and can be sprinkled on delicious home cooked meals.
Don’t drink too much water, just sip hot water or spicy teas all day. Avoid fruit juices and sodas.
Avoid snacking and emotional eating. Due to heaviness and stagnation, it’s really important not to get sucked in by donuts or Easter candies, as eating between meals will cause slower digestion and more sticky, clogging mess in our channels.
Do not nap or sleep during the day unless it is part of your routine due to work. Kaphas are so strong that less sleep is needed to rejuvenate their systems. A kapha person may only need 4-6 hours of sleep a night.
Burning Kapha Away
Kapha cannot be dieted away very easily. It is heavy and stable, which means it has no ambition to move. While this is great for grounding us in this fast-paced, crazy world, it also means feeling stagnant and lazy.
Pungent spices (like the trikatu) will do their best to clean out some kapha, but ultimately it will take some regular exercise and breaking a sweat each day.
Start each morning with pranayama and sun salutations. Grab your favorite yoga mat, roll it out, and get on it. That is the hardest part.
Begin with some cleansing breath work. Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) is amazing for spring and kapha. It cleanses the lungs which is where kapha hangs out. Kapalabhati (Breath of Fire) is great for heating up the system and cleansing as well.
Next work your way through some surya namaskara sequences. Create heat in the body with movement and ujjayi breath. Then either take Shavasana or continue on with your normal home yoga practice. After shavasana it is important to roll on your back a bit to move out the intertia and sleepy energy. After coming up to a seated position, continue with a little more breathwork, perhaps some ujjayi breath, holding the breath a bit after the inhale, or some alternate nostril breathing. This brings us into a peaceful state of mind.
And finally, find time each day to break a sweat with some exercise. The weather will be getting sunnier, the air will be feeling brisk and fresh. Get outside and enjoy a hike. Stroll the neighborhoods and gardens to see the new flowers. Take the dogs for a run and enjoy the fresh air. Tune up the bike and cruise around to see all the budding trees.
In summary, kapha is a time of creation, building, cohesiveness, water and sweetness. Nature is sprouting baby animals, flowers, budding trees, and new life. It’s the beginning of a new cycle in life, but if we’re not careful, we can take on too much or find it difficult to let go of that which is no longer serving us. Kapha loves to build and hold on to things.
Our best tools for working with spring kapha energy are spices, dryness, heat/burning, cleaning and vigor. Happy spring!