Tips for the Kapha Season
The Kapha season has already started and thus you may experience symptoms such as colds, flu, nose & lungs congestion, weight gain etc. Kapha dosha, translated as "mucus", is cold, wet, heavy and sticky.
Kapha and Ama (the toxins) are very similar in qualities. Therefore, when Kapha increases (due to the external factors – humidity, cold, snow, rain, heavy food etc.) the toxins may be amplified as well. The heavy meals you may have had during the holidays are not helping neither. Your body has now less capacity to digest and burn toxins and you can see that in how quickly you are getting colds and flu. An anti Kapha diet implies the use of spices & diuretics to burn the toxins and to reduce the excessive water from your body.
Here are a few hints which may help you get through the winter season in a more enjoyable way. The best medicine is prevention so please listen to your body and give it what it needs.
If you are of a Kapha constitution (that is: solid bones, big body frame, tendency to gain weight, large hips, chest and thighs) it would be a great idea to apply right away these tips in your daily life. The main line of treatment for any Kapha constitution consists in:
- Reducing the Kapha forming foods (everything that is too heavy, greasy, cold, humid).
- Eating 2 meals a day.
- Using diuretic and spicy foods.
- Keeping alert and active.
- Doing energetic pranayama.
Please remember that in Ayurveda we are treating the imbalances by applying the opposite qualities of the element which is in excess. As Kapha, just like the mucus, is cold, heavy, sticky and humid, work with the opposite qualities: warm, light, dry and energetic.
For Vata and Pitta, some of these apply as well, please consult your ayurvedic practitioner or simply follow your intuition and your body responses when applying them:
TIPS FOR KAPHA
WATER: Do not drink too much water. The 2 litters a day are no longer required during this season, especially if you are of a Kapha constitution. Kapha's main element is water and by drinking more, you only aggravate it. Drink herbal teas instead (rosemary, thyme, cardamom, cloves, ginger etc) or simply warm water with honey.
HONEY: A key element for Kapha. Do not be afraid that you may gain weight by eating honey, it is only the FRESH honey that may increase the body weight, OLD HONEY actually helps reduce the body mass. Honey is one of the most important medicines used in Ayurveda applied internally and externally to heal all kind of conditions: diabetes, obesity, asthma etc. Drink a cup of warm water or ginger infusion with a spoon of honey in the morning before breakfast. Sweeten your herbal teas, your cereals with honey. Take a spoon of honey with a half a teaspoon of lemon juice three times a day the moment you start coughing. Please do not COOK nor HEAT the honey.
DAIRY: As much as you can, reduce the dairy. Cut mostly the milk, the yogurts (mostly the sweetened and fruity ones), the cheeses and all other milk based creams and deserts (puddings, milk&rice etc.). Milk and yogurt are Kapha forming. The best way to consume the yogurt - for proteins and calcium - is by preparing Lassi: yogurt blended with water and spices. For Vata and Pitta mix 1 part yogurt with 1 part water, for Kapha people, mix 1 part yogurt and 3 parts water. To this, add the spices that you like the most (ginger, coriander, pepper, cumin, etc.)
FRUITS: Avoid all juicy and Kapha forming fruits: bananas, watermelon, juicy pears, grapes. Stick with more sour fruits, apples, berries, etc. Fruit juices can also aggravate Kapha as they are cold, sweet and heavy. As much as you can, avoid eating the fruits with the meal. Consume them at least 1h30 after the meal or in between meals.
GINGER: The miracle food. Use ginger as much as you can, add it to your soups, your stews, your salads (grated) or herbal teas. It keeps you body clean of toxins and it reduces Ama (toxins) and Kapha. It is a tri-doshic food – that is good for all the doshas and it is Sattvic – pure in qualities calming the mind. Please note that the ginger powder is more heating and thus aggravating for Pitta dosha.
FAST: Fasting is essential to reduce Kapha. During the days when you feel caught up by a cold or a flu, skip a meal or two while taking hot drinks. If you can, fast for one or two days, especially if you have a Kapha constitution. Keep drinking hot spicy herbal ginger teas with honey to clear the toxins out the system. Fasting with warm liquids one day a week is the best thing you can do for your health.
SALT: Clean your nose with salty water. Best to use is the Himalayan rock salt. The sea salt is too humid and does not have the same cleansing and anti-Kapha properties. If you can, buy yourself a "neti" pot; it is a good investment and it will help you establish a good routine for morning and night. If you do not have one available, simply add a few grains of rock salt in a cup of lukewarm water, let it melt. Pour some of that water in your palm and then by covering one nostril inspire the salted water through the other nostril. Repeat through on the other side. For best results and to avoid colds, flues, sinus infections etc is best to do it daily, morning and night.
ESSENTIAL OILS: Use essential oils. Purchase 2-3 of them and keep them with you: rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus. Apply on the chest, neck (at the base of the throat) and on the back at the chest to increase the breathing capacity of the lungs. If the cold hits you, pour a drop of rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus or ginger essential oil on a small sugar cube (best to use cane sugar) and take it 3-4 times a day until your respiratory system gets clear.
PRANAYAMA: Do pranayama – breathing Technics. "Bhastrika" pranayama is the best for Kapha dosha, as it releases toxins from the body, it helps reduce excessive fat and it increases the digestive fire. Best for the Kapha constitution; if you are of a Vata or Pitta nature do it only when you feel congested or with a flu. Do not do if high Vata, hypertension or heart condition. Here is how you can do bhastrika:
- Sit in a in a comfortable position.
- Keep the back straight and the body relaxed.
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb and both index and middle finger on your third eye.
- Raise your right elbow to the level of right shoulder.
- With the eyes closed, inhale and exhale through left nostril, from slow to a little faster for about 20 times.
- At the end of these 20 breaths a deep breath in, block the left nostril as well with the ring finger and hold it for as long as possible.
- Exhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril blocked and then repeat the same process through the right nostril.
- This is a cycle. You can do up to 3 cycles morning and evening.
YOGA: Put together for yourself a short Yoga practice of 10-15 minutes that you can easily include in your daily schedule. Better to do 10 minutes daily than 1 hour per month.
There are several Yoga postures that are best to reduce the Kapha, increase the breathing capacity of the lungs and increase the digestive fire. If you do not have time for more, Surya Namaskar is a complete exercise that could be a good daily practice for Kapha reducing, it increases the heat, it improves the circulation and it works all the joints and the body inner system and organs.
For Kapha dosha the best are the standing poses, the inverted poses, the backward stretches and the postures that are opening the body and are extending the limbs. The yoga for Kapha dosha sould be practiced in an energetic way with a more active breathing. Please remember that forward bends are increasing Kapha therefore they should be kept for a shorter time.
Facial mask for the summer
During the summer Pitta dosha is at its peak and you could easily notice rashes, pimples and redness on your skin. Apply regularly coconut oil on your body, drink plenty of water and juices, eat fresh vegetables and avoid food that is too spicy, too hot, too cooked and too oily.
As for the skin of your face, even if you are not of a Pitta constitution, you could benefit from the application of this mask once a week, mostly if you have exposed your body to the sun.
- 1 spoon grated cucumber.
- 1 teaspoon neem.
- ½ teaspoon of rose water.
- ½ teaspoon green clay.
- a few drops of coconut or sunflower oil.
- 1-2 drops of lavender/rose/sandalwood essential oil.
- 1 spoon of rice flour.
Mix the dry ingredients, add the liquid ones and mix until you obtain a rather fluid paste. If the mix is too dense, add a few more drops of rose water. If too liquid, add some more rice flour.
Clean your face first with rose water using cotton pads.
Allow it to dry naturally and then apply the mask using the back of a spoon, a big painting brush or simply your fingers.
Allow it to dry for 10 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.
Take a few drops of coconut oil and apply it all over the face massaging gently from the chin up towards the temples, around the eyes and on the forehead.
You can remove the excessive oil with rose water.
For Vata types: if your face is very dry, replace the coconut oil with pure, cold extracted sesame oil
For Kapha types: if your skin is very moist or spongy, use chickpea flour instead of the rice flour and replace the coconut oil with corn or almond oil.