04/14/2020 Mind-Body Health
Using the intuitive tool of Ayurveda, or the science of life, you can work to maximize your immune capacities and place yourself in the best possible physical state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
From an integrative Ayurvedic perspective, your natural state is one of balance. This is exemplified by movement and circulation in the body or ojas. When there’s a lack of movement and circulation, it creates ama or congestion, inflammation, and, ultimately, allows in disease such as COVID-19.
Particularly in the face of COVID-19, a highly contagious and severe virus, Ayurveda can empower individuals to not just focus on the physical management of symptoms but also on the restoration of the body and mind to its natural state of balance or homeostasis. This is achieved through tiny shifts in daily routine and diet, simply favoring one choice over another with nature as the guide.
As a main tool to restore balance, Ayurveda uses the qualities of natural elements as its foundation. These elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth exist in the external world around you and within you. By understanding your current mind-body constitution, or combination of earth elements known as a dosha, you can more quickly return to homeostasis and bring the immune system to maximal capacity.
Through the lens of Ayurveda, COVID-19 is a viral infection that creates a severe imbalance of Kapha in the body. Kapha is the elemental combination of earth and water and in your physical body it is dominant in the lungs and the protection of your joints. The qualities of Kapha are cool, damp, smooth, and heavy.
When there’s a state of balance in the body, Kapha is stable, grounded, and assists in increased physical stamina. When there’s excessive Kapha, the body becomes stagnant and immovable. Within the physical body, the result is congestion in the lungs and sinus, and inflammation throughout the body. As the COVID-19 virus localizes itself in the lungs, it’s important to keep Kapha balanced in the body and maintain maximum circulation right now in particular.
Even if your primary dosha isn’t Kapha, this is Kapha season: March, April, and May. During the spring, Kapha increases in the body for everyone. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kapha-balancing tips are applicable and encouraged for all.
The following are three easy tips for balancing Kapha in your body.
1. Reduce Your Intake of Sweet, Sour, and Salty Foods
Instead of focusing on a foods caloric value, Ayurveda looks at the taste quality of food known as the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Each taste either increases or decreases a dosha in your physical body.
To balance Kapha and reduce stagnation, reduce your intake of sweet, sour, and salty foods such as dairy, grains, vinegar, and sugar. At the same time, increase your intake of spices, green leafy vegetables, and beans. To increase lightness, a Kapha-balanced diet features food and drinks that are both warm and light in nature and are smaller in size.
2. Choose Daily Movement and Exercise that Warms the Body
The qualities of Kapha are damp, heavy, and cool. To balance those elements in the body you want to create both warmth or heat in addition to lightness. Creating movement and stimulation each and every day is key to balancing the stagnation that can occur when Kapha is out of harmony.
It’s important to integrate exercise or vigorous yoga that is warming in nature to the body and requires rapid breathing to inspire more movement and circulation back to the body—and particularly the lungs. Yoga practices like vinyasa, or yoga in a heated room, along with brisk walking (or running) are ideal to balance Kapha.
3. Daily Invigorating Abhyanga Massage
Abhyanga or self-massage is a cornerstone Ayurvedic practice intended to restore circulation and movement in the body. Remembering the primary qualities of Kapha are cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static, daily abhyanga is ideal for restoring the balance of Kapha. Perform abhyanga daily—and vigorously—with oils that are warming but not too thick or heavy on the skin (like almond oil or sesame oil).
In Ayurveda, health isn’t just the absence of disease. Health is, rather, your most natural state, which is balanced and vibrant. It’s from this place of well-being that the immune system can best function to meet the challenges that arise in your environment. You can return to homeostasis by making small yet consistent changes in your daily routine. Regardless of your primary or current dosha, you can benefit from understanding how the accumulation of Kapha manifests itself in the body and make simple changes to maximize movement and circulation.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
Interested in learning how to become healthier and stronger? Want to choose the best foods, exercises, and lifestyle practices to benefit your unique mind-body type? Sign up for our introductory online course with Deepak Chopra, Discovering Ayurveda, and you’ll discover how to incorporate ancient healing wisdom into your daily life. Learn More.