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April Newsletter: Freshen Up Your Spring Self-Care with Ayurveda

Greetings friends!

Growing up in northeastern USA, the springtime saying is "April showers bring May flowers," and I think that still holds true here in middle Tennessee. However, "spring flowers" start growing as early as February in the South and really announces the arrival of Kapha's influence in the environment starting in late winter. Still, the Vernal Equinox in definitely establishes my region of the world in the multitude expressions of Spring excitement like the mating songs of birds, or bees buzzing around the wild flowers popping up in my yard (and for many of us unfortunate souls, daylight savings happens now, too).

Springtime is a direct expression of Kapha and in many cultures around the world Spring is the first season of the new year--just like how kapha season is connected to birth & childhood as the first "season of life." With the influx of kapha energy in nature, keeping this dosha in balance within your mind-body can be challenging this time of year. However, everyone can maintain balance with the Right attitude, the Right knowledge & the Right self-care.

Pronounced “kup-PA,” the ancient Ayurvedic texts consider this dosha of water & earth as the most beautiful of the three. It’s expressed in the mind-body as the essence of physical & mental cohesion, so there’s a sense of oneness & wholeness present in Kapha. This dosha governs the protection of your bones and creates the shape of your body with fat & muscle tissues. In addition, Kapha is also connected to the sensation of taste & smell; the tongue & the nose; the saliva in your mouth & the mucous in your nasal/ sinus cavities.

Dr. Vasant Lad, the famous Ayurvedic doctor credited with introducing this ancient Indian practice to the West, says Kapha is "the energy that forms the body's structure, and provides the 'glue' or cohesion that holds the cells together... It lubricates joints, moisturizes skin and maintains immunity.” However, even with all the beauty of Kapha, when it’s out of balance it can manifest as congestion, edema, respiratory syndromes, cysts, tumors & other abnormal growths, cognitive disorders, weight gain and poor circulation.

Emotionally & mentally, when a Kapha-dominant person is in a harmonious "sattvic" state, they have a calm, peaceful and compassionate nature. Since this dosha creates cohesion, a sattvic Kapha personality is stable, consistent, loyal, patient, devoted, supportive, forgiving and nurturing. However, when Kapha is in an overactive "rajasic" or a destructive "tamasic" state, this person moves from cohesion to controlling; from stability to stagnation; from compassion to closed-off.

According to Dr. David Frawley, one of the few Western-born Ayurvedic doctors that is also highly recognized as an expert in India as well, a Kapha dominant person has a tendency toward "watery emotions” like love, desire & romance on the positive spectrum, or greed, lust & hoarding on the negative spectrum.

"They are kind, considerate and loyal, but not always capable of change or adaptation,” says Dr. David Frawley. “They can be slow to respond, conservative, shy and obedient. Or, they can be obstinate, fixed in their views and unwilling to make efforts."

The positive essence of Kapha is called "Ojas"—the inner life waters that keeps your vitality flowing. When this dosha is in sattvic balance you naturally have strong Ojas. This fine essence of Kapha is expressed physically through strong & resilient immunity; lasting stamina & a fertile/ virile reproductive system; healthy hair, skin & nails; clear & bright eyes; strong teeth & gums; sound digestion & elimination; healthy lubricated joints; and healthy muscle & fat tissue. Mentally & emotionally Ojas shows up as a good memory, graceful patience, a calm demeanor, and a sense of "grounded” stability.

So, now that you have a basic understand of what Kapha is and how it shows up in the mind-body, what can you do to keep this doshic energy in sattvic balance?

From an Ayurvedic perspective, it is held that “like attracts like” so Kapha attracts more Kapha, thus creating excess that can lead to imbalance. The changes in the life cycle, the seasons & the times of the day can all affect balancing of the three doshas—Vata, Pitta & Kapha—in your unique mind-body constitution. Keep in mind that it’s normal for the doshas to fluctuate, but long-held, chronic, unrecognized & unmanaged doshic imbalance leads to the onset of disease.

To keep the natural fluctuation of all the doshas in a more sattvic state, Ayurvedic wellness uses “opposite therapy” to balance their natural qualities. The elements of earth & water comprise Kapha and establishes its various physical, mental & energetic qualities. Earth element is heavy, dull, static, hard & dense whereas water is soft, cool, liquid, slimy & oily; so Kapha is naturally cold, heavy, thick, moist, smooth, sticky & cloudy. To prevent these natural qualities from accumulating, Kapha is balanced by integrating the qualities of heat, lightness, dryness, roughness, reduction & clarity. An easy way to remember this is through the Kapha-balancing key words of Heat, Invigorate & Stimulate.

Whenever introducing new lifestyle practices into your everyday routine, start with the easiest things to change first—these will be the things that make you feel excited to do them & require minimal effort. In addition, try not to overwhelm yourself with change even if your super excited to take it all on—just start with introducing 1-3 new wellness rituals at a time and observe the shifts these lifestyle practices are creating in your whole being. Last thing to mention is Ayurveda is about whole-life longevity in body, mind & spirit, so take your time and learn to listen to your Self-wisdom so you can shift & change throughout your whole life just like the seasons.

Below are some easy Kapha self-care rituals you can start incorporating into your Spring season to stay light in the body, clear in the mind & full of love in the heart!

  • Break a sweat & keep if going for at least 45 minutes with vigorous cardio exercises--lately I've been enjoying Barre classes!

  • Go for daily walks and take in as much as you can experience with your five senses

  • Be out Nature through hiking, open-water swimming, gardening or yardwork

  • Be spontaneous and go for unplanned adventures

  • Start waking up early (7am latest) to practice morning yoga asana, pranayama & meditation

  • Tend to your hygiene every day & elevate your rituals through practices such as tongue scrapping, dry-brushing or a quick cold-water blast at the end of your shower to stimulate blood-flow

  • Eat 3 satisfying yet light meals at regular times daily; make sure to spice up your dishes, let lunch be the biggest meal & avoid grazing

  • Drink room temp or warm water w/ lemon; avoid frozen foods & beverages, adding ice to beverages or eating chilled/ cold foods

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