From rural streams and creeks encrusted in ice to bustling cities blanketed in snow, there’s no doubt that our winters are every bit as picturesque as our spring and summer seasons. But the magic of the season doesn’t affect everyone equally as many people struggle to fend off the winter blues and find their holiday spirit. If you experience this year after year, it’s probably because you’re a kapha individual.
According to Ayurveda, there are three basic biological energies (doshas) in all of us that govern our bodily constitutions. Kapha is associated with coolness and heaviness, which is why kapha individuals are more affected by the low winter temperatures and are also more likely to suffer from common winter ailments. Lifestyle changes that include the opposite qualities (warm and light) can help to restore a kapha imbalance and keep you healthy this winter.
Dosha Balancing Modifications for Winter
Balancing your doshas is not as complicated as you might imagine – all you need to do is make a few diet and lifestyle changes. These changes are aimed at lowering kapha, which will keep your doshas in balance.
According to Ayurveda, the best time to wake up is approximately one and a half hours before dawn; this is called brahma muhurtha. If this is not an option for you, decide on a specific time to wake up on a daily basis and keep it to within an hour of sunrise.
Woman enjoying hot tea on a cold winter morning
- Cleanse – As soon as you wake up, rinse your face with warm water and then gently wash your eyes. Massage your eyelids using circular motions, then blink seven times and rotate your eyes clockwise and anti-clockwise and splash your face with water once again.
- Practice oil pulling (gundusha) – no matter your dosha type, this should be a part of your daily routine, especially in winter, as this ancient Ayurvedic technique extracts ama (toxins) from the body and improves oral health. The buildup of ama in the body is closely linked with aggravated or excess kapha.
- Regularize bowel movements – kapha imbalances often manifest as suppressed metabolism, which results in an uncomfortable sense of heaviness in the stomach coupled with indigestion and poor appetite. Regular evacuation can help to curb this problem so make it a daily habit.
- Massage yourself – Ayurvedic dry massage (garshana) is a technique that promotes lymphatic cleansing and removes ama (toxins) from the body. Use a body brush with natural bristles to dry-scrub your entire body as this will mitigate kapha and help to counteract lethargy and sluggishness. Follow this up with a light but warming breakfast before you leave for work. Drink a cup of freshly brewed ginger tea before you head off for work.
Leave from work on time so that you can go for a run or hit the gym before heading home. Kapha qualities include unctuous, heavy, and slow, which means that you will probably be tempted to skip your evening workouts in winter. It is important to stick to your fitness regimen as daily exercise balances kapha. When you get home from your workout, have a warm shower, but make sure that you use a natural body lotion once you are done as this will prevent dry skin problems – a common kapha complaint in winter.
Individuals with a kapha dosha are more likely to be affected by the cold temperature and should avoid going outdoors on windy days, especially early in the morning and late at night when the temperatures are at their lowest.
The type of food you eat plays a large role in your dosha balance. You may have noticed that you tend to feel more lethargic and listless after you’ve had pizza or processed foods – this is because these foods aggravate vata. Instead, balance the cold and smooth qualities of kapha with warm and rough (foods that are high in roughage) foods.
|Heating energy is vital for anyone with kapha dominance. This means you should include cooked foods and herbal teas, served either warm or steaming hot.||Salads may be healthy, but they are also cooling, which means that they aggravate kapha. For the same reason chilled foods and beverages like frozen yogurt, ice cream, juices, and colas should be avoided.|
|Include more vegetables and pulses like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and beans as they are high in roughage and will help to mitigate kapha||Avoid cucumbers, celery, zucchini, and similar veggies than have a high water content because of their cooling effect.|
|To keep kapha in check, focus on foods that have naturally pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.||Avoid sweet, sour, and salty tastes as they increase the risk of kapha aggravation.|
|Focus more on light fruits that are not sweet, including the likes of apricots, figs, berries, prunes, and pomegranates.||Limit your intake of heavy or sour fruits such as oranges, bananas, and avocados.|
|Herbs and spices like ginger, clove, and fenugreek are some of the best ingredients for balancing kapha, but you can use the entire range of herbs and spice.||While you have access to a whole range of herbs and spices, you need to limit intake of salt and mayonnaise.|
Do not drink water with your lunch as this will dilute your stomach acids and impede digestion. You should also avoid lassi and chaas as milk has an aggravating effect on kapha. You can have a cup of freshly brewed herbal tea in the afternoon to pacify kapha imbalances. Avoid desserts, even healthy ones such as rice pudding as they tend to aggravate kapha.
Yoga & Physical Activity
Kapha imbalances often cause lethargy and leave you feeling dull and foggy. You may find it difficult to wake up in the morning and when you are done with your work day, you just want to get home and laze in front of the TV. However, skipping your daily workouts is a bad idea as exercise helps to balance kapha. In fact, kapha individuals should opt for high intensity workouts in winter to ensure that their doshas remain in balance. Kapha individuals also tend to gain weight in winter, which is one more reason you should stick to your exercise regimen.
Man weight training in a gym
Kapha qualities include cool, sticky, and heavy, so pranayama techniques with opposing qualities help to prevent and treat this type of dosha imbalance. Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) increases the flow of prana through the body’s energy channels (nadis) and reduces congestion in the lungs. Bhastrika is one of the best techniques for balancing and harmonizing kapha.
Some of the best yoga poses for kapha imbalances include Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar), Tree pose (Vrksasana), Triangle pose (Trikonasana), and Upward Plank pose (Purvottanasana). These yoga asanas are ideal for kapha individuals as they focus on warmth and stimulation.
Quick Fixes for Kapha Aggravation
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, you can also use natural Ayurvedic herbs and formulations to prevent and treat kapha imbalances. Triphala tablets and Brahmi extract are excellent Ayurvedic remedies for kapha that can be consumed on a daily basis during the cold months of winter.
Keep in mind that Ayurvedic herbs and formulations can help to prevent and treat kapha imbalances, but lifestyle and dietary changes are necessary to ensure that they have the desired effect.
- Lad, Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing. Lotus Press, 1984.
- Tiwari, Maya. Love Your Body Type The Ayurveda Way. 1st ed., Mother Om Media, 2012.
- Cavanagh, Danny, and Carol Willis. Essential Ayurveda: A Practical Guide to Healthy Living. Ayurveda UK, 2004.
The information on this page has been contributed by Meghna Unhawane, B.Sc. Home Science & Nutrition and is intended for the sole use of Allayurveda. Information contained within this article may not be reproduced without the explicit permission of Allayurveda.