In the Northern Hemisphere we are moving from the Vata season to the Kapha season. In temperate climates, you will notice the subtle changes that come with the second half of winter. With any shift in season, there are steps you can take to stay balanced even when the change threatens to throw you off.
While we typically think of the seasons as spring, summer, fall, and winter, Ayurveda divides the year according to the most prevalent dosha. The fall and early winter are considered the Vata season. Kapha season lasts from the second half of winter through spring, and in many areas that means plenty of wet weather even as the summer approaches.
Along with the cold in the earlier parts of the season, it’s this prevailing wetness that defines Kapha season. No matter what your dosha is, you will be influenced by Kapha’s prevailing qualities this time of year. Fortunately, Ayurveda offers some great ways to not only balance the excess Kapha headed your way, but also to help you thrive.
Since lightness, movement, and dryness are the primary characteristics of Vata, the latter part of the Kapha season can be a good time for you. From spring to early summer, the temperatures are warming up. This nice mix of wetness and warmth can be soothing. However, remember that early Kapha season is cold, and even as the temperatures change you may be sensitive to this transition.
Coming out of Vata season it is important to focus on the centering, grounding aspects of Kapha season. If you live in a cold winter climate, you will face weather that may keep you indoors. Use this to your advantage. Cultivate habits that allow you to enjoy your time inside. Become one with the season, keeping in mind that many of its qualities are, in fact, balancing to your constitution.
Here are a few more ways Vatas can embrace this season:
Feed your Mind:
Enjoy that novel you’ve been wanting to read. Spend time with your friends and family. Go deeper into your meditation practice and focus on centering. These practices will help you occupy your Vata mind in what could otherwise be an aggravating few months.
Dampness brings its own special kind of cold, even on semi-warm days, so stay covered up and insulated. It’s especially important to keep your head and ears covered, along with your extremities. For more temperate climates, although they may not be as cold, wind and dryness can still play a big role in chilling the body so always make sure to bring extra layers if your place of living has drastic changes in temperature.
Be good to your body.
Give yourself abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) every day before or after showering. Organic sesame oil is a good massage oil to use as it specifically helps treat Vatas by warming and deeply moisturizing. However, you can also use any of the heavier heating oils, such as almond, to balance your Vata dosha.
Feed your Body, Eat for your Dosha.
While your Vata dosha is usually soothed by sweet, sour, and salty tastes, this time of year may present some challenges. This is because the very tastes that pacify Vata also increase Kapha. The best approach to diet during this time of year is to concentrate on herbs and foods that carry dual tastes to avoid aggravating your Vata nature while balancing the effects of your Kapha environment.
Here are some herbs and spices that we recommended to help balance both Kapha and Vata:
It’s best to slightly increase the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes in your meals during Kapha season. However, as a Vata, it’s important to pay attention to your sensitivity to these tastes, and learn to adjust your diet according to the daily conditions. For example, if there are prevailing Vata qualities that day (i.e. dry and windy), focus on more Vata-balancing foods and tastes. Otherwise, eat to balance Kapha and Vata with warming meals. Also, be mindful of your agni or digestive fire. Since Kapha season can contribute to sluggish digestion, eat at regularly scheduled times without skipping meals or overeating. As always, eat your largest meal at lunch, when the digestive fires of Pitta are strongest.
Kapha season is great for Pittas. However, while its cooling temperatures may be soothing to your fiery nature, the practices that best help balance this season typically involve warmth. While Vatas and Kaphas need to protect themselves from the cold, you may actually need to spend time in it. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should go outside in short sleeves while the world is bundled up. But you will benefit from using this time for some light, outdoor activities. Just remember to stay dry!
Eat for your dosha:
Kapha season brings the need for more pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. As a Pitta, you will do well to increase the bitter and astringent tastes in your diet, while decreasing the sweet taste, which increases Kapha. While you still want to include the sweet taste to balance out your Pitta, be mindful of its Kapha-increasing effects. Many people will want to add extra spice or sourness to their foods or drinks during this time for their phlegm-loosening effects, but Pittas need to be careful of the herbs and spices they choose this time of year.
Here are a few that will help balance Kapha without irritating Pitta:
Licorice in particular is good for you at this time of year as it is Pitta-pacifying and phlegm-loosening.
Pittas also need to avoid stimulants like caffeine. Many warm drinks that are appealing in cold weather, such as chai, coffee, and hot chocolate, contain caffeine, and you may end up inadvertently increasing your caffeine intake. Be aware of this as it can contribute to a Pitta imbalance and symptoms of irritability, which will inevitably create an excess once summer rolls around.
It’s tempting to think that it would be easy for Kaphas to stay in balance during Kapha season, but unfortunately, that’s not true. In Ayurveda, like increases like, therefore Kapha season will increase kapha qualities within the body. However, you can still enjoy the season if you focus on balancing these increased effects!. The main areas for you to consider during this time are:
Kapha season is a great time for you to go deeper into your exercise program with specific attention placed on movement. Kapha tends towards stagnation and heaviness but also has the most endurance compared to the other doshas. As a Kapha type, you should be particularly sensitive to this characteristic during late winter and throughout spring. This is a time to find a good balance in movement.
As in most things, nature is the best teacher. While the weather and temperature may be Kapha-like, plants and animals come to life as winter becomes spring. This is no accident and something that should be mimicked. If you’re not already involved in an active lifestyle, this is a great time for you to start one! Otherwise, the increased cold and wetness in your environment may lead you towards more stagnation and heaviness. Avoid this by starting small, begin a walking practice everyday to get the movement in your body, then increase your movement practice from there.
Ayurveda recommends that Kaphas wear bright, warm colors during this time of year and invigorate themselves with scents such as eucalyptus, sage, and rosemary. To stimulate your circulation, perform daily self-abhyanga using light Kapha-balancing oils infused with warm, stimulating aromas.
Eat for your dosha:
Stick to your usual Kapha-pacifying diet during this time, paying extra attention to avoid sweetness and cold. Invigorating, warming spices, as always, are best. Avoid excess salt intake as it may cause you to retain water.
All of these practices will help you remain in balance for this Kapha season, while also setting you up to remain in balance as the pitta season approaches. Spring is a season of birth, new beginnings, renewal, and growth—a time for the earth to manifest the potential within all the elements. Seeds are germinating, flowers budding, leaves unfurling, and the natural world emerges from its long winter slumber.
Chopra Center, Healthy Habits for the Seasons
Banyan Botanicals, Spring Guide
3 Season Diet, Vasant Lad