We still have a few weeks to wait before celebrating spring, but the end of February brings with it a different sort of seasonal change: Mid-winter marks the transition from vata season to kapha season.
Rather than dividing the year into the four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and autumn, an Ayurvedic worldview marks the passage of time by the dominance of the three doshas, or energies expressing the five elements. Pitta season runs from late spring to early fall; vata season carries us from mid-fall to mid-winter; and kapha season takes us through the wet season, lasting until the middle of spring.
While vata, the dosha of movement and change, kept us buoyant (and maybe a little anxious) during the hectic holiday months, kapha is grounding and protective, qualities that may have been hard to come by in the flurry of end-of-year celebrations and New Year’s resolutions. Kapha is the dosha of stability, and its anchor can provide a welcome reprieve from the motion and change inherent in each New Year.
However, in excess, kapha can promote feelings of sluggishness and stagnation, slowing you down and keeping you from tackling your goals. Kapha types are especially prone to an imbalance this season, and the shift from cold to warm weather during kapha season can be disorienting for all dosha types. But making a few small lifestyle changes can keep you balanced, allowing you to utilize kapha’s strengths while generating the warmth to keep you cruising into spring.
What to Eat in Kapha Season
During each doshic season, deciding what to eat is a matter of balancing choices that offset excesses of your individual dosha type (kapha, vata, or pitta) and those that offset excesses of the season’s dosha. Eating what’s in season is always a great way to bolster your health and stay in tune with nature’s rhythms. Check local farmers markets to find out what’s growing in your area—depending on where you live, great kapha season choices may include:
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Brussels sprouts
To fight kapha’s natural lethargy, increase your intake of foods that are warming, bitter, or astringent, such as:
- Leafy greens
- Grains such as buckwheat, millet, barley, and rye
Foods that are heavy, sweet, and salty increase kapha in the body, so cut back on the root vegetables that grounded you during vata season. Anything high in fat also increases kapha, so decrease your intake of dairy, oils, avocado, nuts, and fried food.
Keep the same principles in mind when choosing what to drink. Bitter teas like dandelion and peppermint provide an energizing counter to kapha’s tendency toward sluggishness, and ginger tea helps fire up digestion.
How to Exercise in Kapha Season
In mid-winter, after well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions are forgotten, it’s tempting to go into hibernation mode until Punxsutawney Phil tells us spring is coming. To fight that urge, the best movements for kapha season are energizing and even strenuous.
Focusing on aerobic exercise, even gentle walking, can keep excess kapha at bay. Running, cycling, hiking…anything that gets your heart rate up is a good choice. Kapha-balancing yoga styles include vigorous vinyasa and structured practices like Iyengar, and you can pacify your kapha in any yoga practice by picking up the pace, incorporating a heating breath, and focusing on backbends.
If you cling to your usual workout routine, now is the time to mix it up. Love yoga? Try aerial silks. Spend most of your workout time on the treadmill? Replace one session a week with a dance cardio class. If you box, try kickboxing, or find out what that trampoline trend is all about. Engaging in something new stimulates both body and mind, countering the stubbornness kapha may engender.
How to Self-Care in Kapha Season
Kapha season is cold and wet; to practice the best self-care, think warm and dry. Try one of the following if your body feels cold or congested:
- Dry brushing increases circulation to counter stagnation
- Although baths are a mainstay in winter, also try heating pads for dry warmth
- Self-massage (Abhyanga) with sesame or almond oil also warms the body
- Jala neti—clearing your nasal passages with a neti pot—helps relieve congestion
- Sunlamps may help those with the winter blues
Although wet and cold kapha season can promote stagnation in some, it can be extremely balancing for vata and pitta types. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and if you notice anxiety or stress, take advantage of kapha season’s invitation to be grounded, still, close to the earth, and introspective.