An Ayurvedic Tool Box for Spring: Food, Movement, & Breath for Kapha Dosha
Happy Spring Everyone! This is the moment where nature is starting to come back into life and full bloom, but along the way things can get really heavy, wet, and stuck. Today, I’m going to walk you through what’s happening in our bodies and in nature from the Ayurvedic perspective and give you tools to stay well, balanced, and light during this season.
We are right in the thick of Kapha season. Kapha is the dosha composed of the elements earth and water. Right now there is more of this dosha, and these elements present in our environment than at other times of the year. We all have some degree of kapha dosha in our own personal make up as well. Some of us have a ton, and some of us have a little, but we all have some.
Natural Laws: Like Increases Like
There is a basic natural law that like increases like. It’s super simple. If I’m hot, and I put on a sweater, I’m going to be more hot. If I’m cold, and I take off my sweater, I’m going to be more cold. Like increases like. That applies to us as humans in relation to our environment as well. If I already have kapha dosha in my make up, and my environment starts to have more kapha as well, I’m going to have more kapha. For some people it won’t be too much. For others, it will be. When we have too much kapha dosha the body will give us signs that things are out of balance.
Symptom Check List for Too Much Kapha Dosha
When we remember that kapha is earth and water, it can be easier to understand how too much of their qualities can show up. Here’s a little check list for you. If you are experiencing several of the symptoms below, there’s a good chance you have too much kapha right now.
- loose joints
- emotional instability
- lack of affection
- inability to forgive
- loss of physical strength
- weight gain
- pale complexion
- excessive sleep
- yeast infections
- lack of motivation
Hopefully, you can feel how all of these symptoms harken back to too much earth, and too much water. What that might feel like is a general sense of heaviness, and sluggishness, and slowness.
I go over all of this in a ton more detail in the What is Ayurveda and How Can It Help Me course. If you’re interested in going deeper, this self paced course of 35 videos and 4 quizzes is the ideal way to dig your teeth in.
What is Ayurveda & How Can it Help Me?
Creating Balance in Spring Time
In Ayurveda we are always trying to keep the body in balance. Ideally, we can recognize signs of imbalance and correct them before they ever have a chance to turn into a disease. The list of symptoms we just went through are things that are more likely to happen to the general public in spring than during other times of the year. There’s good news! There are foods and practices that can help balance our kapha both if you’re already experiencing symptoms of too much kapha build up, and to possibly prevent those problems from every happening as well. Let’s start with foods. We’ll cover this in four parts, a spice water, a churna, a tea, and a kapha reducing diet.
Kapha Spice Water
First, a spice water is exactly what it sounds like. It’s water with spices in it. The water should be warm to hot, like tea water. The spices you add to the water do a specific job. In this case, the kasha spice water is used to reduce and balance kapha dosha.
Kapha Spice Water
- Fennel 6 parts
- Coriander 3 parts
- Cumin 3 parts
- Turmeric 1part
- Ginger 1part
- Cinnamon 1/2 part
- Clove 1/2 part
- Pepper 1/4 part
My favorite way to make and use a spice water is to make a large batch in the morning that I’ll use all day. I have a large Stanley thermos that’s a wonderful go to for keeping the water hot all day long. For this spice water, you can grind up all the ingredients and put them into those neat little DIY tea bags. If you don’t mind the texture of the spices in your water you can do this without the tea bag too, it’s just whatever is your preference.
We can also use a kapha churna to help balance kapha dosha. A churna is a spice mixture that goes on you food. Ayurveda uses spices as powerful medicine. A good spice blend can completely alter the properties of a meal and make it more, or less, digestible. A Kapha churna is a wonderful thing to add to your meals in the spring time to keep kapha in check. You’ll combine all of the ingredients below into a spice grinder (a coffee grinder will get it done too) and store the mixture in an air tight container to be used on meals.
- fenugreek seeds1tbl
- coriander seeds 2 tbl
- ground ginger 1 tbl
- ground turmeric 1tbl
- ground cinnamon 1 tbl
- dried sage leaves 1 tbl
- ground cloves 1 tbl
- cayenne petter 1/2 tbl
In Ayurveda there’s a hierarchy of what types of foods have the most impact. This means if I eat the vegetable or the grain that isn’t the perfect one for your personal body type, it’s way less of a big deal than if you eat the wrong oil or the wrong spice. Spices are boss at making or breaking the impact food has and our ability to digest it. If you’re feeling a little heavy and sluggish as we hit the spring season and the height of kapha time this is one of the easiest ways to try to stay in balance. Grind up these spices, add them to your food, and see what happens!
Now, let’s look at a tea designed to balance kapha dosha. This works really similarity to how the spice water works. If for whatever reason you hate the kapha spice water, here is another blend that can still be really helpful. Of course, you can buy kapha balancing tea through Mapi or Banyan, but you can also make it at home on your own. Here’s a simple recipe:
- ginger 1part
- cardamom 1part
- cloves 1/4 part
- turmeric 1/8 part
- saffron 1/16 part
Again, you can mix these spices up in a DIY tea bag and enjoy. This tea blend can be especially helpful to take after meals, where the spice blend is intended to be sipped all through out the day.
Kapha Reducing Diet
Last but not least, let’s hit the high points of a kapha reducing diet. This comes back to the understanding of like increases like. If I have kapha in me, and there’s lots of kapha in my environment, and I eat a lot of kapha heavy foods, I’m probably going to end up with too much kapha and the symptoms and problems that come with it. If instead, I balance the kapha abundance with foods, spices, and practices that keep it in check I’ll have a much better time at making it through spring without yellow snot, allergy attacks, and exhaustion.
I think it might be overwhelming to get into the nitty gritty here of a kapha reducing diet, so I’ll give you the overarching principles so you can use logic and apply them in your own life.
In general, we want to stay away from oily, cold, and heavy foods. Those are all qualities of earth and water, and we already have enough of that right now. In general, we go light on or stay away from the tastes sweet, sour, and salty. This is a good time to go light on dairy and large quantities of ghee as well. It’s also a good time to go lighter on lots of rice, wheat, and oats. Hopefully that gives you a mental picture of the types of things that aren’t super helpful right now.
Best Foods For Spring
In contrast, we do want to eat foods that are light, dry, and warm. We want to favor the tastes of pungent, bitter, and astringent. Think kale cooked in fennel seeds. This is a time where we lighten up the diet because everything else is heavy, dense, and wet.
It’s always true that we want to eat seasonal, organic, whole foods. This is a wonderful time to add in:
- green leafy veggies
Food is medicine my friends. When we’re using food properly amazing things can happen. This doesn’t need to be complicated or even expensive. Make real food. Favor light, dry foods right now. Top off your creations with the kapha spice blend. Enjoy some kapha tea after your meal. If you’re still feeling heavy and sluggish and needs some extra help, sip the kapha spice water throughout the day. Let is be simple, and do able, and hopefully also very healing and helpful.
Movement for Spring
Let’s talk movement. Again, let’s return to that universal principle of like increase like. We’re in a moment that has a lot of slow, heavy, dense, and wet energy. I need the opposite qualities in my movement to help maintain balance. This is a great time for sun salutations at the pace of the breathe. It’s also a wonderful time to practice deep twisting.
When we look at nature, it helps us understand what’s happening within our selves as well. Right now, the earth is creating the fertile ground that will help bring life back into bloom. We can create the same environment within ourselves using food, movement, and breath. When we twist deeply it literally, physically, compresses the organs. When we release a twist fresh blood is flooded into those spaces. It’s like an internal clean up. Sun Salutations get the body moving and help avoid stagnancy and lethargy.
There are so many wonderful places to take a good yoga class these days that talking you through a practice here feels a little silly. Instead, I’ll encourage you to go take that class that you already know is wonderful and makes you feel good. Or, add to your home practice some twisting and a few extra rounds of surya namaskar. Use movement as a big tool to help you stay balanced and well.
Breath For Spring
Last, I’ll give you a great breath practice, or pranayama practice, for spring time. Pranayama is when we control the breath, or our own life force. This practice, bhastrika pranayama, is all about cleaning, energizing, and awakening. It is however counter indicated in a small slew of people. If you are pregnant, high blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, epilepsy, vertigo, significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, recent abdominal surgery, and anyone at risk for stroke- stay away from this one. Also, if have serious asthma, please practice this with a good teacher instead of on your own.
Now the good stuff! I think of this as the spring cleaning of breathing. It’s powerful and it takes some effort. Bhastrika helps with allergies, it burns up ama, it stokes digestion and agni, it improves circulation, it helps oxygenate the blood, and cleanses and rejuvenates the lungs. It’s good stuff!
Bhastrika is often referred to as bellows breath. Its much like the bellows that stokes a fire. The emphasis of the breath is on the exhale and the inhale happens subconsciousness as a result of the slightly forceful exhale. Both the inhale and exhale happen through the nose. If this is a new practice for you, start slow. If it’s familiar if can get to be pretty fast. New friends, hands on your belly might help you connect to the active exhalation. If you get light headed or dizzy gently release the practice and pat your self on the head with your eyes closed. That will help ground you back into your body.
How to Practice Bhastrika Pranayama
To practice, sit well and allow the eyes to fall closed. If this practice is new to you put your hands on your belly. If not, they can rest on your knees on in your lap. First, take in a full breath to your belly and let it all go through your mouth. Next, take in a breath to about 50% and actively exhale the breath though your nose, you will feel your belly pull in. Continue to focus on the exhalation of the breathe and make sure there is still an inhale between each exhale. If it’s new, try around 10 rounds to start. With more practice you can go for a much longer amount of time.
At the end of your breath practice pause with your eyes still closed. Observe any sensations that stand out to you. Notice your energy level and the quality of your mind. Eventually, bring your attention back to the sounds around and open your eyes when you’re ready to do so.
Stay Well This Spring
Spring can be a really tricky time to stay well. If you’ve already been down the yellow snot rabbit whole and you’re dreading the great pollinating that comes next I feel you, but it’s not too late! These tools and practices can help you. Choose to eat foods that will work for you. Make the tea, make the spice blend, enjoy the lightness they create! Move your body. Move as as act of celebration of life. A way to say thank you for a body that’s able to support your life. Move because you can. Breath. For some of us, that’s harder right now than others, but the bhastrika pranayama practice can help.
Take good care of yourself good people. Happy spring. I hope it’s bringing to life something in you that needs to be born. Be it an idea, a project, or a literal human being like me, keep creating and living. May these tools help you stay well and feel good.
This article is also an Ayurveda Podcast