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 adjustto this disruption to our our circadian rhythm.
According to Ayurveda, spring is kapha season. One of the three doshas, or constitutions, in Ayurvedic wisdom, kapha is a combination of the elements of earth and water, and is characterized by the qualities of heaviness, dullness, slowness, denseness, softness, oilyness and cold. Kaphais 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, as well as increase nausea, weight gain, and lethargy.
Kapha tends to accumulate during the winter months. In spring, you need to shed this excess kapha or risk becoming vulnerable to seasonal allergies or head colds which can be compounded by the increased fatigue resulting from the shift to DST. But not to despair, there are 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, they are often referred to as the “energetic seat” of kapha. To keep kapha energy from stagnating, try incorporating deep, rhythmic breathing, 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 Pose (Adho Mukha Savasana) and standing forward bends (such as Uttanasana) strengthen the diaphragm and encourage excess mucus to be excreted through the mouth and nose. Similarly,poses such as Chair Pose (Utkatasana) and Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) create heat in the body, improving joint mobility, aiding digestion and elimination, and increasing circulation, all important to keep kapha energy from stagnating.
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 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. Legs-Up-the-Wall (or Viparita Karani) is a wonderful pose you can do in bed (see video at bottom of page).
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!