Spring Forward: Practices for Balancing Kapha
Like the appearance of the daffodils’ first green shoots and of tiny buds on the trees, the turning of the clock forward for Daylight Savings Time (DST) heralds the arrival of spring. Despite the excitement and anticipation of warmer days, we groan and complain about the transition, especially about the lost hour of sleep. It can take days, and sometimes a month or more, to adjust to this disruption to our our circadian rhythm.
Ayurvedic Qualities of Spring
According to Ayurveda, spring is Kapha season. One of the three doshas, or constitutions, Kapha is a combination of the elements of earth and water. It is characterized by the qualities of heaviness, dullness, slowness, denseness, softness, oiliness and cold.
Kapha is responsible for providing lubrication for our joints, as well as mucus to protect the sensitive tissues of our sinuses, lungs, and stomach. Kapha also determines the size, strength, and suppleness of our muscles.
When Kapha is in balance, we feel strong, composed, and stable. When it’s out of balance, we tend to feel sleepy, mentally dull, or even depressed. Additionally, an overabundance of Kapha may precipitate a build up of phlegm in our lungs or sinuses and increase nausea, weight gain, and lethargy.
Kapha tends to accumulate during the winter months. In spring, we need to shed excess Kapha or risk becoming vulnerable to seasonal allergies, head colds and fatigue resulting from the shift to DST. But not to despair, here are five things you can do to ease the transition.
Early to Bed, Early to Rise
One of the best ways to minimize the effect of Kapha on the mind and body is to wake with the sun, which this time of the year is around 6AM. Ayurveda also recommends going to bed by 10PM as this sets us up for 8 hours of sleep, something that is key to good mental, physical and emotional health. Experts agree that maintaining consistent sleep and wake times are important for avoiding insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
Make Time to Walk
Once you are up, get moving. The pelvis and legs represent the earthy-watery part of the body and are prone to retaining fat and water. During this Kapha time of year, our muscles are strongest between 6-10AM making morning a good time to take a walk, practice yoga or exercise. Getting sun exposure early in the day also serves to “reset” your internal clock, prompting your body to produce melatonin in the evenings so you are ready to sleep.
Practice Deep Breathing
Because the stomach, chest, throat, and head are areas that not only produce, but also tend to accumulate mucus, Ayurveda refers to them as the “energetic seat” of Kapha. To keep Kapha energy from stagnating, try incorporating deep, rhythmic breathing practices, such as Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath) and Ujjayi (Victorious Breath) into your yoga practice.
Twist and Invert
Seated twists aid in circulating Kapha by compressing the abdomen. Similarly, inverted forward bends such as Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Savasana) and standing forward bends (like Uttanasana) strengthen the diaphragm and encourage excess mucus to be excreted through the mouth and nose. Practicing Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) is an easy way to combine and practice these poses in a flowing sequence.
Similarly, poses such as Chair Pose (Utkatasana) and Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) create heat in the body. They also serve to improve joint mobility, aid with digestion and elimination, and increase circulation, all important to keep Kapha energy from stagnating.
For a revitalizing spring yoga flow, check out this blog.
Pre-Bedtime Restorative Yoga
Making the shift to going to bed an hour earlier (despite what the clock says) can be difficult as we transition into daylight savings time (DST). Preparing yourself for rest by turning off the TV and other electronics at least an hour before bed can help, as can engaging in a relaxing bedtime yoga restorative practice.
Bringing even a few of these changes to your daily routine can help ease the transition from winter’s long dark nights to spring’s sunny, bright days. Warm weather is just around the corner. Happy Spring!