As the cold and wetness of winter settle in, in the Northern Hemisphere we are moving from Vata season to Kapha season. In harsh winter climates the effects are obvious, but even in more temperate climates, you can still notice the subtler changes that come with winter. With any shift in season, there are steps you can take to stay balanced even when the weather threatens to throw you off.
While we typically think of the seasons as spring, summer, fall, and winter, Ayurveda divides the year according to the most prevalent dosha during each period. The fall and early winter are considered the Vata season, with Kapha making its appearance in the latter part of winter. Kapha season lasts from the second half of winter through spring, and in many areas that means plenty of wet weather even as the summer approaches.
Along with the cold in the earlier parts of the season, it’s this prevailing wetness that defines Kapha season. No matter what your dosha type is, you will be influenced by Kapha’s prevailing influence at this time of year. Fortunately, Ayurvedic medicine offers some powerful ways to not only balance the excess Kapha headed your way, but also to help you thrive.
Since lightness, movement, and dryness are the primary characteristics of Vata, Kapha season can actually be a good time for Vata types during the latter part—from spring to early summer— as the temperatures warm up. This nice mix of wetness and warmth can be soothing for you. However, remember that early Kapha season is also cold, and even as the temperatures change you may be sensitive to this transition.
Coming out of Vata season, it’s important to focus on the centering, grounding aspects of Kapha season. If you live in a cold winter climate, you will face weather that may keep you indoors. Use this to your advantage. Cultivate habits that allow you to enjoy your time inside. Become one with the season, keeping in mind that many of its qualities (aside from cold) are, in fact, balancing to your constitution.
Here are a few more ways for Vatas to embrace the season:
Feed your soul. Enjoy that great novel you’ve been wanting to read. Spend time with your friends and family. Go deeper into your meditation practice and focus on centering. These practices will help you occupy your Vata mind in what could otherwise be an aggravating few months.
Stay warm. When the weather allows you to venture outside, make sure you stay warm. Dampness brings its own special kind of cold, even on semi-warm days, so stay covered up and insulated. It’s especially important to keep your head and ears covered, along with your extremities.
Be good to your body. Give yourself an abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) every day before or after showering, depending on preference. Relaxing Abhy Oil is a good massage oil to use as it’s formulated specifically for Vatas. However, you can also use any of the heavier heating oils, such as sesame and almond, to balance your Vata dosha.
Eat for your dosha. While your Vata dosha is usually soothed by sweet, sour, and salty tastes, this time of year may present some challenges. This is because the very tastes that pacify Vata also increase Kapha. The best approach to diet during this time of year is to concentrate on herbs and foods that carry dual tastes to avoid aggravating your Vata nature while balancing the effects of your Kapha environment.
The following herbs and spices are recommended as they help balance both Kapha and Vata:
It’s best to slightly increase the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes in your meals during Kapha season. However, as a Vata it’s important to pay attention to your sensitivity to these tastes, and learn to adjust your diet according to the daily conditions. For example, if it’s a strongly Vata day (i.e. dry and windy) despite being Kapha season, focus on more Vata-balancing foods and tastes. Otherwise, eat to balance Kapha and Vata with warming meals. Also be mindful of your agni or digestive fire. Since Kapha season can contribute to sluggish digestion, eat at regularly scheduled times without skipping meals or overeating. As always, eat your largest meal at lunch, when the digestive fires of Pitta are strongest.
Kapha season is a mixed blessing for Pittas. While its cooling temperatures may be balancing to your fiery nature, the practices that best help balance this season invariably involve warming. So while Vatas and Kaphas need to protect themselves from the cold, you may actually need to spend some time in it. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should go outside in short sleeves while the world is bundled up. But you will benefit from using this time for some light, non-competitive, outdoor activities. Just remember to stay dry. Cool is good; cold is bad.
Eat for your dosha: Kapha season brings about the need for more pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. As a Pitta, you will do well to increase the bitter and astringent tastes in your diet, while decreasing the sweet taste, which increases Kapha. While you still want to include the sweet taste to balance out your Pitta, be mindful of its Kapha-increasing effects. Many people will want to add extra spice or sourness to their foods or drinks during this time for their phlegm-loosening effects, but Pittas need to be careful of the herbs and spices they choose this time of year. Here are a few that will help balance Kapha without irritating Pitta:
Licorice in particular is good for you at this time of year as it is Pitta-pacifying and phlegm-loosening.
Pittas also need to avoid stimulants like caffeine during this time of year. Many warm drinks that are appealing in cold weather, such as chai, coffee, and hot chocolate, contain caffeine, and you may end up inadvertently increasing your caffeine intake. Be aware of this as it can contribute to a Pitta imbalance and symptoms of irritability.
It’s tempting to think that it would be easy for Kaphas to stay in balance during Kapha season, but unfortunately that’s not true. Rest assured—you can still enjoy the season if you focus on balancing the increased effects of Kapha. The main areas for you to consider during this time are:
- Staying warm
- Being active
- Eating well
Kapha season is a great time for you to go deeper into your exercise program with specific attention placed on movement. Remember that Kapha tends towards stagnation and heaviness if it is not properly invigorated. As a Kapha type, you should be particularly sensitive to this characteristic during late winter and throughout spring. This is a time to find balance in movement.
As in most things, nature is the best teacher. While the weather and temperature may be Kapha-like, plants and animals come to life as winter becomes spring. This is no accident and something that should be mimicked. If you’re not already involved in an active lifestyle, this is a great time for you to start one. Otherwise, the increased cold and wetness in your environment may lead you towards increased sedentary ways.
Ayurveda recommends that Kaphas wear bright, warm colors during this time of year and invigorate themselves with scents such as eucalyptus, sage, and rosemary. To stimulate your circulation, perform a daily self-abhyanga using Invigorating Abhy Oil or any light Kapha-balancing oils infused with warm, stimulating aromas. You can also balance your Kapha with a daily dry massage known as a Garshana.
Eat for your dosha: Stick to your usual Kapha-pacifying diet during this time, paying extra attention to avoid sweetness and cold. Invigorating, warming spices, as always, are best for you. Limit your salt intake as well as it may cause you to retain water if eaten in excess.