Kapha Season: Combating Seasonal Depression and Weight Gain

WinterThawAccording to Ayurveda, the 7,000 year-old system of mind, body, and spirit holistic health, if you’re anywhere in the world where winter is transitioning into spring, it’s Kapha season. Here in the Northeastern United States where I live, the transition is evident. Although there’s still a lot of wind (Vata element) we’re seeing more moisture in the form of wet snow or rain. The earth is damp and it’s no coincidence that the elements associated with Kapha are water and earth.

While every living thing, whether plant, animal or human, is comprised of all five elements–ether, air, fire, water and earth–there is usually a predominance of one or two elements in each individual’s constitution. Ayurveda refers to this as your dosha, or biological humor. Today I’m focusing on the Kapha dosha so that we can strive to stay in balance during Kapha season.

Note: If you are unsure of your dosha, take this simple quiz now.

I’m already noticing that friends and clients are mentioning they feel lethargic, a little depressed, congested, and stuck in the mud. Welcome to Kapha season! In all seriousness, it doesn’t have to be that way. The beauty of Ayurveda is that it teaches awareness of your unique qualities–the good and the not-so-good–and gives you tools to maintain balance, inside and out.

We all might notice an increase in some of the symptoms I listed above, but an individual with a predominant Kapha dosha will notice it much more, and Kapha season can be extremely hard for them to get through.

Kapha dosha is slow, steady, heavy, oily, cold and soft. It is responsible for structure (earth) and lubrication (water) in the body. A healthy immune system depends on Kapha.

Physical characteristics of Kapha:

  • Larger in stature, with sturdy bones
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Large strong teeth
  • Strong sense of taste and smell
  • Eyes are usually large, warm and almost liquid in appearance
  • Thick, shiny hair
  • Strong clear nails
  • Steady appetite
  • Deep sleeper

Positive traits of Kapha dosha:

  • Loving, loyal and kind. Kaphas are usually the glue in a family. Everyone loves a Kapha!
  • When in balance, Kaphas are generally the healthiest of the doshas.
  • Strong, sturdy and steady
  • Warm and compassionate
  • Even-tempered
  • Hard-working

Traits of an out-of-balance Kapha:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy (too much of the earth element)
  • Water retention (too much of the water element)
  • Laziness
  • Buildup of mucus (spring colds and allergies are common)
  • Unforgiving and stuck in the past. Kaphas have memories like elephants!
  • Passivity
  • Unable or unwilling to change

Keep in mind that just like there is Kapha season, there is also a Kapha time of the day. Between the hours of 6-10am and 6-10pm, Kapha qualities predominate. Because Kapha is slow and can be lethargic, sleeping past 6am can aggravate this dosha. That’s the reason many of us want to crawl under the covers at that hour, but in fact, it is not the most rejuvenating sleep for the body. Best to rise by 6am, if at all possible.

And the flip side is that from 6-10pm, the Kapha element in our body naturally makes us slow down and prepare for sleep. Nature intends for us to go to bed as close to sundown as possible. In our busy world this is unlikely to happen for most of us. But it is really important to get to bed before 10pm when Pitta time kicks in and we get our second wind. More on this when Pitta season arrives late spring into summer.

Some tips to maintain balance during Kapha season:

  • Vigorous exercise every day is vital for Kaphas. Because there is a tendency for lethargy, it is really important to pick an activity that you love. Weight-lifting, walking or jogging are all great choices. Morning exercise is best to boost your metabolism for the day.
  • Sip hot water throughout the day to keep the channels of the body clear. However, if you suffer from water retention like many Kaphas do, don’t overdo your water intake. You can add stimulating spices such as cloves, cinnamon and ginger.
  • Wear invigorating colors like red, orange and yellow.
  • Get outside in the sunshine every day. Get a light box when sunshine is lacking to combat depression, and have your Vitamin D3 levels checked and supplement if low.
  • Like increases like, according to Ayurveda. So eat foods opposite of Kapha qualities. Good choices will be dry, warm, light and stimulating foods. Kapha can tolerate most spices. A great source of food choices is the Ayurvedic cookbook Eat, Taste, Heal. Most Kaphas love to cook!
  • Avoid dairy–it can be very-mucus producing.
  • Honey is the sweetener of choice for Kaphas (in moderation). Raw, local honey is believed to help with seasonal spring allergies.
  • Of all three doshas, Kaphas can fast. Skipping a meal, especially breakfast or dinner, can be beneficial for some Kaphas. Generally, they should eat a light breakfast, substantial lunch, and very light dinner.
  • Keep clutter to a minimum. Kaphas are savers and can become hoarders if they get really unbalanced. It’s hard for them to let go of things and people. This can lead to frustration and depression.
  • Stay warm and avoid damp environments.
  • Get regular massage to keep the lymphatic system working properly. You can do a daily dry massage before your shower with garshana gloves.
  • Maintain a daily routine, as best you can. Rise with the sun and don’t take naps during the day. Kaphas love to sleep and most of the time get too much of it.

Kaphas are so loveable that I hate to see them suffering in the springtime. Anyone, in fact can suffer a Kapha imbalance, especially at this time of year. Kapha is not my predominate dosha but after my Kapha partner, Ralph, died, I went through a grieving process that was very Kapha-like. I gained weight, slept more than I ever have in my life and really slowed down. It was very out-of-character for my Vata-Pitta constitution, but I think my wise body knew that I needed some grounding and nurturing (both Kapha qualities). I joke that my sweet guy left some of his Kapha energy behind for me.

Ah, the wisdom of Ayurveda. I hope some of these tips will help you ease through this seasonal transition effortlessly. If your loved one is very Kapha, show them some of the nurturing love and support that they so willingly give all the time. And remember, warmth and sunshine are just around the bend!

Barbara Sinclair is a visual artist, holistic health and energy healing practitioner in NYC. You can read more articles on her blog at barbarasinclair.com.

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