How to Shake Off Your Winter-Kapha
by Delight Yoga
While still in winter mode
There is nothing wrong with some extra Kapha in winter, provided it is good Kapha. In fact, it is preferable to have some extra dose of Kapha in colder climate zones. This is for two reasons, firstly, it insulates, and secondly, it is good fuel, which we need in winter as so much extra warmth is needed to be generated. Therefore, see your Kapha-management in this light, and do not eat too much of no-fat products in winter, you would not be doing yourself a favour by doing that.
But yes, good and wise Kapha food is important, namely, good dairy (if you are not vegan), good nuts, oils and fats, and maybe even good meat (if you are not a vegetarian, of course). And consuming good quality grains and root vegetables is also very important. And – as always – be sure to have a digestive fire that is working well and strong, otherwise the good Kapha becomes ‘(partly) undigested stuff’ in your system, and it will make you prone to mucous diseases like colds, flus, nasal congestions, and the like.
As to your doshic constitution and winter-kapha management
- Vata types: Stock up on extra Kapha, and of course, you need to take special care of your Agni, as that is naturally irregular in your type.
- Pitta types: Stock up on a medium amount of extra Kapha, and as long as your Pitta is healthy, you will digest this extra Kapha easily.
- Kapha types: You already have your natural stock of insulation and fuel, but a little extra will be fine and useful. But be sure to take care of some extra stimulating and lightening fire as well, otherwise you will get stuck to the couch in the winter time, due to too much lethargic heaviness
When winter is over and spring breaks through
At some point in early spring, the ice starts to melt, the fluids start to flow, and new life bursts to the surface. More warmth becomes available from outside and this will help wake up ‘sleeping winter life,’ and we see sprouting occur all over the place in nature outside.
A similar process takes place inside of us, the winter Kapha starts melting, and it makes way for a new flow of fluids in your system. You can help that process a bit, guided by the wisdom of nature. In particular, stop eating too much heavy Kapha foods, reduce – at least for a while – some of the more heavy dairy, fats and meat-stuff, if you are a meat-eater. Focus on lightening and warming, so that the solid stuff in your system can liquify a bit.
Part of that is naturally already happening, you may experience more mucous setting itself free through your nose, throat, bronchi, and lungs. It is a time to take extra care of these areas, so that they can expel freely and do not become breeding grounds – with that flow of mucous – for pathogens such as bacteria, the common cold virus, and other temporary ‘friends.’ Instead, we should help the old winter Kapha move out smoothly, and liquify and burn it up while on its way out.
How can we support ‘departing’ Kapha?
We can help old winter Kapha leave our system in different ways. One way is to include more properties that diminish Kapha dosha. To do so, we have to know the properties of Kapha and then choose the most effective counter-properties:
Kapha naturally represents the following properties (all coming from the elements of Earth and Water, the key elements in Kapha dosha):
- Cold → Ingest more warming foods and also continue using spices and herbs just like in winter.
- Fatty → Use dryer foods, and use less fats and oils (note: a bit of good quality fat and oil is always necessary, don’t forget).
- Liquid → You can actually support this quality a bit in order for old Kapha to flow out of the system. A fabulous herb to support this is liquorice, but be careful though when there is high BP. You can also use – for a while – more smoothies or similar liquid food diets, but be sure to make sure your smoothies are warming rather than cooling (add some ginger!), and do not drink them (ice-) cold, but rather luke-warm (or warm, as a soup).
- Heavy → Eat food/dishes that are lighter, fast for a short time, or try a longer mono-diet fast, just like every traditional culture does during springtime.
- Stable/Static → Eat some more foods with stimulating properties, it will make things move a bit more; or just get into more activity and move a bit more.
- Hard → Make sure you do the things to resolve ‘hardness’ in the system; the winter Kapha might have solidified too much here and there.
- Dense → Eat lighter and more subtle things and reduce - for a while - denser food such as meat, cheese, and nuts.
- Slow → Get moving and eat food that moves quicker through the digestive tract; more roughage in the food often leads to faster-moving bowels
- Sticky → Avoid sticky foods in the spring season; the channels in the body need to be open, both to remove old winter Kapha but also to allow for new fluids and life to start flowing.
- Slimy/Smooth → As long as it is not sticky, this quality actually helps in just that, what is mentioned in the point above; it helps to support flow in the channels.
- Cloudy → We need clarity now, when spring is breaking, in terms of food, in terms of thoughts, and in terms of weather.
The counter Kapha tastes that need attention
When moving out of the Kapha season, we need more of the Kapha reducing tastes. Those tastes are:
Interestingly, those are exactly the three tastes that nature offers in abundance in the spring season, in the form of sprouting foods, especially vegetables. Therefore, it is recommended to ‘fast’ for a while on more of these fresh spring produce foods, it will naturally help you remedy old Kapha.
Do not forget that a bit of the other three tastes is necessary as well. A balanced meal should always consist of all six tastes, but you can modify each one of them according to the needs and circumstances.
During spring, for good Kapha management, eat:
- Sweet/neutral taste → Choose the lighter varieties of this taste group, such as lighter grains, sprouted grains, roasted grains, and, of course, many mild sweet/neutral vegetables; reduce heavy sweet/neutral foods such as dairy, etcetera.
- Sour taste → Reduce this taste, particularly in the form of fermented dairy, and only use minimal amounts, just enough to support digestion.
- Salt taste → Salt is hydrophilic, it holds on to water, and as we need to make sure old stagnant water can easily flow out of the system, it is better to reduce it a bit. However, moderate salt added to the food is still useful for correct digestion.
- Pungent taste → Spices are good, herbs are good, AND sprouts are good - specifically, fresh spring sprouts. You will often taste some pungency, which is in fact the self-made internally-generated heat of the plant as it produces its new life.
- Bitter taste → This is a subtle, cleansing, and clearing-of-the-channels kind of taste; just what we need in our spring cleanse, and nature offers it in abundance in all kinds of fresh spring produce, particularly fresh leafy greens.
- Astringent taste → A bit of this taste is also more abundant in nature during spring; all new skins of things growing in nature are naturally more astringent, as astringency protects the outer layers of juicy foods with a dry layer. In other words, astringency also helps to dry things out.
In terms of movements, yoga asanas, and pranayama
Kapha can have some Tamasic effects which are owed to its static properties. This can have both physical and mental effects that are more Tamasic. The best remedy for those kinds of Tamas is some more Rajas, ‘get your butt moving’ or ‘get your mind busy with fresh new things’!
- Physical Exercise & Movements
Make sure to increase a mildly more active exercise practice, but be careful while also fasting (do not overdo it), and keep yourself warm while Kapha melts.
- Asanas and Pranayama
Make sure to include things that are heating while simultaneously producing some healthy flow and opening of the channels: more heat-generating asanas and practices, more heat-producing pranayama such as Kapalabati and Bhastrika.
- Mental Regime
Focus on new projects, get out of sleepy and stagnant mental patterns, and freshen yourself up with some heat-producing and stimulating new projects or challenges; think of yourself as spring itself!