The spring season is finally here.
Mother Nature is waking up from the slumber of winter. Vivid shades of green and blue return to the earth’s palette, we are greeted again by the bird’s song and the fragrant smell of fresh blooms. However, this spring is very different than previous years. Most of us are witnessing nature’s rebirth from the confinement of our homes. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been dramatically changing our lives. People are out of work and have been forced to quarantine, the economy is fragile and many lives have been tragically lost around the world. Research suggests that the virus may disappear with the summer heat before re-emerging in a more powerful second wave during the fall with the return of cold temperatures.
Meaning “the science of life” in Sanskrit, Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old natural system of healing that originated in India. According to Ayurveda, healing happens from the inside out and our health is a direct reflection of conscious diet and lifestyle choices. Ayurvedic medicine is commonly thought of as preventative medicine. It teaches that if we maintain the health of our bodies, minds and emotions; we will create a condition in which illness is less likely to form. The following article will discuss simple Ayurvedic diet, lifestyle and self-care suggestions for this unique spring season. It is essential that we practice preventative care now, in hopes of strengthening our immune systems and overall health in order to remain resilient to COVID-19 throughout the year to come.
If you or anyone you are caring for begins to experience COVID-19 symptoms, especially if over the age of 65 or with pre-existing conditions, seek medical help immediately. This virus is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime and much is still unclear about it; the following information does not replace medical assistance. If pregnant or breastfeeding, always contact your health professional before taking new herbs or supplements.
Ayurveda for Spring (Kapha) Season
Spring is known as kapha season in Ayurveda, meaning the elements water and earth are abundant in nature and in our physical, mental, emotional constitutions. When kapha is in balance, this energy promotes a grounded, calm, dependable, easygoing nature in the individual. Kapha dominant people tend to be incredibly loving and compassionate. They are supportive to their loved ones and are great listeners. The dominance of water in their mind/body type makes them feel effortlessly in touch with the emotions of themselves and others.
Kapha dosha is characterized by cool, heavy, moist, slow and stable qualities. Ayurveda teaches that our spring food choices and lifestyle routines should bring balance to our constitutions by reducing the qualities previously mentioned, especially when there is too much kapha in the body. Many of the individuals most affected by COVID-19 have pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Ayurvedic medicine explains these conditions are a result of excess kapha in the body. Adopting a kapha-reducing diet and lifestyle is the best way to achieve optimal health this spring and it could greatly improve your chances preventing the virus if you have any of the pre-existing conditions listed above.
The following suggestions should be practiced during kapha season or throughout the year if you are experiencing a kapha imbalance, such allergies, excess weight, lethargy, depression, emotional attachment, heaviness in the digestive system or any the conditions mentioned above.
Ayurvedic Diet for Kapha Season
Food choices that increase warmth, dryness, lightness and circulation in the body help to balance the cool, moist, heavy, stable qualities of kapha dosha. Hot drinks, cooked vegetables and warm soups are ideal for kapha season. Increasing the heat in our diets also improves agni (digestive fire). Maintaining strong agni is essential for healthy digestion, which has a direct effect on the health of our immune systems. Try drinking warm lemon water upon waking in the morning. Herbal teas and hot water with fresh ginger are both great for kapha. Drinking warm water with two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of baking soda in the morning will regulate pH and blood sugar levels as well as help release ama (toxins) in the body. Ama builds up due to improper diet and lifestyle practices and often leads to illness. Decreasing ama is also vital for healthy immunity.
In general, Ayurveda suggests reducing the salty, sweet, and sour tastes during kapha season while increasing the pungent, bitter and astringent tastes. Vegetables should always be cooked except during the summer; raw veggies are difficult for most people to digest and can dampen agni.
Vegetables such as dark leafy greens, fresh sprouts, asparagus, peas, green beans, broccoli, white potatoes, celery, brussels sprouts, okra, onions, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, corn and bell peppers are perfect for kapha dosha. Simply eating vegetables and fruits that are in season is an easy way to follow an Ayurvedic diet. Seasonal produce typically provides the nutrients our bodies need during that specific time of year.
Onions contain antiviral and immune-boosting nutrients such as selenium, zinc and vitamin C. Red bell peppers contain almost twice the amount of vitamin C than most fruits and vegetables and help increase antibody protection, which is ideal for fighting colds and viruses. Although oranges are great for immune health, they are aggravating for kapha dosha. Mildly sweet fruits like pomegranates, pears, grapes, fresh figs, berries, cranberries, apples, lemons, apricots and raisins are recommended. Dried fruits are okay for kapha dosha on occasion. Pomegranates are ideal this particular kapha season, as they are antiviral and promote beneficial gut flora that increase immune health. Ayurveda explains that root veggies, avocados, and dates are great for building ojas (natural immunity), but they are too heavy and sweet for kapha dosha. If you are not dealing with a kapha imbalance and already eat a clean diet, adding small amounts of these ojas-boosting foods this particular spring season will help strengthen the immune system.
Lighter grains, legumes and proteins are best this time of year to balance the heaviness of the season. Kapha-reducing grains include quinoa, couscous, basmati and wild rice, polenta, sprouted wheat bread, and buckwheat. Kapha-reducing legumes are choices such as mung beans, red lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and split peas. Oils that promote a drying quality are best for kapha dosha and should only be used in small amounts, such as almond, sunflower, and flaxseed oils. Olive oil can be used in moderation. Most nuts are too heavy and oily for kapha so focus on eating more seeds during kapha season such as chia, flax, and sunflower seeds.
Ayurveda suggests that we limit sweeteners during this time of year or if dealing with a kapha imbalance. Raw honey can be used in small amounts. Local honey is best, as it improves seasonal allergy symptoms. Fried foods create heaviness and congestion in the body, causing ama to form. Processed foods should also be avoided. Very cold foods and drinks such as ice water, smoothies, and ice cream dampen agni and therefore decrease vital immunity. Try to eat organic or even locally grown foods when able.
The best spices for kapha season include basil, bay leaf, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne, dill, cinnamon, clove, ginger, marjoram, garlic, nutmeg, oregano. fennel, mustard, rosemary, thyme, star anise, fenugreek and saffron. Warming spices are best for kapha dosha. Salt should be used sparingly during kapha season, as it increases water retention in the body. Many of the spices previously listed including cinnamon, ginger, clove, basil and garlic contain antiviral properties, making them excellent for immune health and virus prevention.
Echinacea, reishi mushroom, burdock, tulsi (holy basil) and elderberry are also powerful immune-boosting herbs that are commonly used in holistic medicine to fight flus and other viruses. Trikatu is an Ayurvedic herb that is recommended to reduce kapha imbalances in the body. Trikatu enhances slow digestion, helps clear ama, burns excess fat and supports healthy lungs and clear breathing. Triphala is another beloved Ayurvedic herb that balances all doshas including kapha. It is a digestive aid that promotes healthy elimination, gently detoxifies the system while cleansing and nourishing the colon. Tulsi (holy basil) removes kapha buildup in the lungs, lowers blood sugar levels and strengthens the immune system.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, the way we eat our food is essential. Our digestion, nutrient-intake and elimination are determined by our eating habits. Wait 3 to 4 hours between each meal. Eat your heaviest meal for lunch between the hours of 10am-2pm. This is when the sun is high and our digestive fire is the strongest. Since kapha dominant people tend to have slow digestion, they benefit greatly from eating lunch during those hours. Eat slowly and always chew food to an even consistency. Only eat until your first or second burp, this is a signal that your stomach is full. Make eating a sacred activity and eat with awareness by keeping distractions like phones and television to a minimum. Proper eating habits strengthen agni, which improves immunity and virus prevention.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle for Kapha Season
In Ayurvedic medicine, ojas (vital energy) is considered the purest essence of kapha. Ojas is the ultimate energy reserve of the body and mind. When ojas is low, our immune systems suffer and our lust for life diminishes. We increase ojas through eating foods that nourish and build tissue in the body. Just as importantly, ojas health is determined by our lifestyle choices. It is essential that we choose lifestyle and self-care practices this spring that balance kapha while also building ojas in order to strengthen our immunity and support COVID-19 prevention.
Getting adequate sleep is a vital way to increase ojas and agni in the body. When out of balance, kapha dominant individuals will feel lazy and tend to oversleep. Ayurveda recommends sleeping between 7-9 hours per night. Going to bed around 10pm is also suggested. This helps to sync the body with the circadian rhythms of the earth, increasing our quality of rest and providing us with rejuvenating health benefits upon waking.
Our exercise routines can be more vigorous during kapha season. Spring is the time we are awakening from the quiet slumber of winter and becoming more active again. Brisk walks, cardio, jumping rope and bike riding are great for creating flow in the lymphatic system and releasing ama. Anyone who is trying to balance kapha dosha is recommended to maintain energizing exercise routines throughout the year.
Spring is the time for warming, fluid yoga classes. Kapha will benefit from the heat and steady movement in Vinyasa yoga classes. Kapha types are strong by nature, making flexibility and agility a good intention for their practice. Yoga asanas (postures) like backbends, twists and lateral side body stretches are great for kapha. Asanas such as cobra, fish, wild thing, camel, bow and a simple cow pose increase lung capacity and improves blood circulation.
A beneficial practice for this particular spring season is pranayama, which is the regulation of the breath through techniques and exercises. Practices like kapalbhatu (breath of fire) and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) strengthens the lungs, cleanses the sinuses and respiratory system; which can help to prevent illness and allergies. However, excessive amounts of pranayama overtime can aggravate the nervous system.
Another helpful practice for this spring is to sit quietly and witness what is going on in the world. Feel all of the thoughts and feelings that come to you; do not label them as good or bad. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the virus and the tragedy it is causing. Recognize those emotions during meditation, then allow them to dissolve into the earth. Feel the support of Mother Earth below you, feel gratitude for all that you are thankful for this season. Having a gratitude practice is another way to build ojas on a subtle level.
Abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage) has incredibly balancing effects on all doshas, including kapha. Self-massaging stimulates circulation, boosts lymphatic drainage and combats depression and stress by increasing endorphin levels and lowering cortisol (stress hormone). Toxins are pulled through the oil, making abhyanga a gentle practice for detoxifying. The light quality of almond oil makes it best for abhyanga during kapha season. Garshana (Ayurvedic dry-brushing) is highly encouraged for kapha dominant people. It promotes lymphatic cleansing and is a powerful way to support the removal of ama.
Scrapping the tongue (Jihwa Prakshalana) in the morning is another way to remove ama because toxic residue tends to buildup on the surface of the tongue. Soaking in a bath of equal parts ginger powder and baking soda can be great for balancing kapha. The ginger powder will promote warming and circulatory effects in the body.
Spring is the time of year for new beginnings. Take time to plan new projects, redecorate your home or even purge your closet. When out of balance, kapha type individuals emotionally attach and can easily become hoarders. Spring clean by releasing all that no longer serves you and allow fresh, new things to enter your life.
Vata (air and ether) energy is unusually high right now from the anxiety and panic we are experiencing due to the virus. Make sure to de-stress this spring by doing the things you love. Read an inspiring book, journal or watch a movie that makes you laugh and uplifts your spirit. Connect with loved ones while in quarantine, if only virtually. Feeling loved and supported by those in your life will effortlessly boost ojas and increase overall vitality.
Lastly, spend time outdoors as much as possible. Spring is the perfect season to be outside. Being in nature balances us on all levels of our being. Walk barefoot on the damp grass, have a picnic on your lawn or practice yoga in the sunshine. Witness the process of Mother Nature’s rebirth this kapha season and enjoy the growing warmth of the sun as we transition into pitta (fire and water) season.
Allow the wisdom of Ayurveda to guide you into the uncertainty of the year that is to come, with a body and mind that is bursting with vital health and immunity.
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