Spring Into Action with Ayurveda: Healthy Tips for Kapha Season

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Springtime brings with it a burst of action as the dry, cold weather gives way to the moist, milder climate that supports new growth and creativity. According to Ayurveda, cool and moist weather aggravates Kapha dosha, the biological principle that is cold, heavy, oily, and smooth. Hay fever, runny noses, sinus congestion or sinusitis, and allergies are some of the problems spring weather can cause. Here are a few tips to help you have a sunny and healthy Kapha season.

DIET

Eat More:

Light, dry and warm foods,

Foods that are spicy, bitter and astringent

Fruits which are lighter, such as apples and pears

Raw, uncooked honey (Ayurveda considers heated or cooked honey to be toxic)

Grains such as barley and millet

Eat Less

Heavy, oily and cold foods

Sweet, salty and sour foods

Heavy or sour fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocados, coconuts, and melons

Sugar and sugar products

Nuts

Wheat, rice or oats

Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini

Salt

LIFESTYLE

DO: Exercise more, but keep your ears and head covered

DON’T: Heat or warm your honey, as this interferes with digestion

For information on consultations with Ayurvedic experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

Keeping Balanced During Kapha Season

The change from Vata season to Kapha season is not as clear as the change from Kapha to Pitta or Pitta to Vata. Both Vata and Kapha are characterized by cold. When the dry cold of fall and early winter transforms into a wetter cold, this heralds the switch of seasons. Often this change occurs in February or March. But if your climate is exceptionally cold and dry, the increase in Kapha may not happen until March.

During Kapha season, cold is accompanied by increased moisture (snow or rain), cloud-covered days and a feeling a heaviness. You may feel a tendency to “hibernate” during this time—and you may also be more likely to catch a cold or flu.

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Lifestyle Tips for Kapha Season

Here are some lifestyle tips to help you stay balanced, warm and dry during Kapha season.

Eat hot food—hot in temperature and in spices as well.

Drink hot, stimulating drinks, such as teas with ginger.

Cut down on refined sugars. Substitute raw, unheated honey instead. Honey is the only sweetener that is also astringent and has the ability to reduce Kapha. Be sure not to heat your honey and only add it to hot drinks when they are at “sipping temperature”.

Favor foods with the following tastes: astringent (such as beans), spicy (chili peppers or curry powder, for example) and bitter (bitter greens and spinach). While you may find yourself tempted to start eating more salads as spring arrives, it is better to avoid cold foods.

Early to bed, early to rise will help maintain health in both Vata and Kapha seasons.  As Kapha season progresses, the sun rises earlier and earlier. If we are constantly waking up after the sun rises, during the Kapha time of the morning from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, we will feel sluggish and tired all day. This habit can result in the build-up of impurities (ama), which can predispose us to allergies and congestion.

Try to exercise in every morning. Getting some good, brisk exercise during the Kapha time of the morning (6:00 – 10:00) will help you maintain a healthy balance during this wet and cold season. Just as sleep is the number-one tool for balancing Vata, and as diet is the number-one tool for balancing Pitta, exercise is the number one tool for balancing Kapha.

Get the Most from Your Food

Digestion tends to be sluggish during Kapha season. Here are some ways to help you perk up your digestive fires:

Try eating a ginger pickle before lunch or dinner. To make a ginger pickle, slice a thin piece of fresh ginger root (peeled). Sprinkle the slice with lemon juice and salt and eat it about 15 minutes before a meal.

Be sure to remain seated for 5 to 10 minutes after you finish eating in order to give your digestion a chance start processing the meal.

Diet

Eat More

Light, dry, and warm foods

Foods that are spicy, bitter and astringent

Fruits which are lighter, such as apples and pears

Raw, uncooked honey: honey is the only sweetener that decreases Kapha because it has an astringent quality along with sweetness. (Do not cook with honey. Honey can be added to drinks such as tea when the temperature is “sip-friendly”. Heated honey can interfere with digestion and create ama.

Lighter grains such as barley and millet

Eat Less

Heavy, oily and cold foods

Sweet, sour and salty foods

Heavy or sour fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, avocados, coconuts, melons, figs and dates

Sugar and sugar products

Nuts

Wheat, rice or oats

Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potato and zuchini

Salt

Sore Throat Relief

If you feel a sore throat coming on, try taking 3/4 teaspoon of raw honey mixed with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. The astringent tastes of turmeric and honey help to dry up congestion and prevent a sore throat. Of course, if the symptoms last more than two days, be sure to see your doctor.

Kapha season is also the perfect time to check in with an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Ayurvedic detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma). For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Rise and Shine!

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During springtime, when Kapha is becoming lively in our environment, getting up early becomes more important than ever. There is reason why early risers are said to be healthy, wealthy and wise. If you haven’t made the adjustment already, spring is the time to go to bed earlier and get in the habit waking up by 6:00 or 6:30.

  1. You’ll feel more energetic: The principles of Ayurveda recommend getting up an hour before sunrise to synchronize the body cycle with the rhythm of the sun. This time is called Bhrama Muhurta in Ayurveda and is believed to be an auspicious time where significant shifts in energy levels of the body take place. By getting up before the Kapha time of the day exerts its heavy influence (6:00 AM), you’ll feel more energetic throughout the day.
  2. You’ll have time to meditate and exercise If you wake up late your morning begins in a rush to get dressed and leave the house. Key activities that can support your quality of thought and activity through out the day, like mediation and exercise, get put aside. Waking up early in the morning gives you time to meditate, practice yoga and get some exercise, all activities proven to create a foundation of well-being.
  3. You’ll feel happier: While the energetic feeling after an early morning meditation and workout itself may be enough to keep you happy throughout the day, there is increasing evidence that early risers feel positive and more confident in their work, which results in long-term happiness. A study published in the journal “Emotion” noted that those who had their daily routine in sync with the sunrise and sunset pattern experiences more happiness than late risers.
  4. You’ll be more productive: The morning Vata period is one of the most productive times of the day. Your brain has rested well and neuronal connections and pathways have been re-charged during the night. Studies show you can think faster and have more focus during the morning hours. If you follow the rule of ‘early to bed, early to rise,’ you’ll find that much of your important work will get done in the first half of the day.
  5. You’ll get better sleep: Obviously, if you wake up early in the morning and begin your daily activities at an early hour, your body will be primed to go to bed earlier at night. According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to go to bed during the Kapha time of the day. This means closing the eyes before 10:00 PM. Evening Pitta time begins at 10:00 PM. The transformative qualities of Pitta should be used to repair the body from the wear and tear of the day’s activities. If you stay up late, you’ll find that Pitta ends up used for mental stimulation and /or late night snacking. Don’t rob your body of this important period of rejuvenation.
  6. You’ll feel happier: A study published in the Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences showed that people who stayed up late were three times more likely to experience depression as compared to those who went to bed early.

Factors That Affect Our Sleep:

Regular routine: One of the most important strategies for getting a good night’s sleep is getting in sync with our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day makes us feel much more refreshed than getting the same number of hours but at different times.

Exposure to Light: Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure, helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Our brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making us sleepy—and less when it’s light—making us more alert. This means that spending long days in an office, shielded from natural light, can impact our daytime wakefulness. And lights at night—energy-efficient LED lights and blue light from TV and computer screens—can tell body that it is time to wake up.

Exercise: Research shows that regular exercise leads to better sleep at night and increased alertness during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—helps to improve sleep quality. It is good to note that exercise is not a quick fix. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects.

Eating habits: It’s especially important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it. If you drink coffee or tea, try enjoying it only in the morning hours.

Eat a light evening meal: Ayurveda recommends a light evening meal. We want the transforming quality of Pitta in the evening to be used for self-repair and not for digestion. In addition, heavy, fatty foods take a lot of work to digest and may keep us up at night.

If you have long-term problems with insomnia and are unable to switch to an early morning routine, you may be suffering from deep-seated Vata and/or Pitta imbalances. Check with an Ayurveda expert experienced in pulse assessment to find out the specific imbalances that are keeping you from a good routine. They will be able to give you individualized recommendations to culture a more healthful sleep cycle. For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Act Now to Banish Spring Allergies With Ayurveda

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Although it seems odd to think about spring allergies when the forecast for the next week is snow flurries, mid-February is the ideal time to start taking action.

Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. For example, our agni (or digestive fire) can fluctuate dramatically during the change from hot to cold or cold to hot. Poor digestion can lead to a build up of ama (or toxins) in the body.

This is why respiratory illnesses and allergies pop up during the autumn and early spring. We especially see this in the early spring. As the weather starts to warm up, any ama that has accumulated in our tissue and circulatory channels during the winter begins to soften and liquefy, flooding the numerous channels of circulation (shrotas) throughout our body and taxing our immune system.

On top of this flood of toxins, our body has to deal with an accumulation of mucus.  From mid-February to May is the Kapha time of the year. As a response to the accumulated drying influence of the cold, dry, windy Vata conditions of late fall and early winter, our bodies start to produce large amounts of lubricating mucus. The sticky liquid can cause congestion in the mucus membranes that line our respiratory and digestive tracts, contributing to allergies and sinus conditions.

This is why late winter/early spring is the optimal time to cleanse mucus and toxins from our body. The classical texts of Ayurveda recommend specific detoxification treatments —called “panchakarma”—during the change of seasons.

Spring is nature’s natural detoxification season. The progression of the cold of winter to the warmth of spring triggers a natural process of releasing the winter’s accumulation of fats and toxins. Going through Ayurveda detoxification treatments at this time provides a boost to what our bodies are trying to do naturally: flushing out toxins and lubricating the channels of circulation. Working hand in hand with our own natural cycle allows for a more thorough and efficient removal of these unhealthy substances.

Signs of Ama

If you have high cholesterol, a coated tongue in the morning, joint pain, constipation, dull skin and eyes, gas, or excess mucus, you are displaying physical symptoms of ama. You may also feel the build up of ama as fatigue, dullness and/or irritability. Panchakarma treatments help remove years of accumulated ama (along with excess Vata, Pitta, and/or Kapha) and also help to return agni to its normal level of functioning.

Enjoying Panchakarma as an in-residence guest allows the body to get a profound rest. Pluses of an in-residence stay being protected from weather conditions, and complete ease in following a prescribed daily routine and diet, allowing you make the most of the rejuvenation experience. If you don’t have the opportunity for a residential stay, however, day treatments are highly recommended. Just be sure to follow the diet that is given to you.

Tips for Kapha Season

There are also adjustments that you can make in your home routine and diet that will help you during this winter to spring transition.

  1. Sip hot water throughout the day
  2. Eat more leafy greens. Favor the Kapha-pacifying tastes of bitter, astringent and pungent.
  3. Favor organic, fresh foods. Avoid processed foods, cold dairy products, and fried and high-fat foods. Remember, light, warm foods counter the cold, heavy qualities of kapha.
  4. Put a little zip in your food: spices like ginger, chili, cloves, and pepper help counter the cold quality of Kapha.
  5. Try not to sleep later than 6:00 in the morning. Sleeping into the Kapha time of the day can increase kapha qualities in body and mind. This means going to bed by 10:00 the night before.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Pacifying Vata to Address Back Pain

Driving through my neighborhood this last week I kept seeing people preparing their houses and yards for winter. It occurred to me that this alertness to the change of seasons also needed to extend our own physiologies. As we head into the fall season it is very important to start taking measures to pacify Vata dosha. Vata controls all movement in the body and not surprisingly, it is the first dosha to move out of balance. Late fall and winter are known as Vata season because they are marked by the same qualities that characterize Vata: cold, dry, and moving. As Vata increases in the environment it increases in our bodies.

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Vata imbalances include insomnia, aching joints, arthritis, back pain, constipation, high blood pressure and anxiety. All body types are vulnerable to Vata imbalance at this time of the year, but those whose body types are predominantly Vata need to be especially alert to staying in balance. Today let’s look specifically at back and joint pain.

The Vata/Kapha Connection

One very common result of Vata imbalance is the sudden onset of back pain. Often it seems to come out of nowhere. You get out of bed in the morning or lean down to tie your shoe and suddenly find yourself immobilized.

Ayurveda recognizes that back pain is often the result of Vata and Kapha imbalances, aggravated by a build-up of ama. This helps explain why lower back pain often appears in the fall and winter, and why the incidences of back pain often increase with age. According to Ayurveda, when we are 60 and over we are in the Vata time of life. It makes sense that Vata imbalances — and their resulting problems — appear more frequently during Vata season and during the Vata period of life.

In the case of back pain, the build up of Vata interferes with the ability of Kapha dosha to support and lubricate the spine. This dryness further aggravates Vata, creating a vicious cycle leading to back pain, aches and stiffness in the joints, and constipation or difficulties with elimination.

Ama

Ama —toxins and impurities that accumulate in body—is another factor to be considered with back and joint pain. When Vata and Kapha are aggravated they mix with the ama, creating either a Vata-aggravated ama or a Kapha-aggravated ama. This ama can become lodged in the joints, blocking joint movement and interfering with the production of fluid lubricating the joints. This leads to cracking joints, stiffness, pain, loss of cartilage and overproduced bone growth at the joints resulting in osteoarthritis.

Treatment

Effective preventive treatment for chronic lower back pain should include regular stretching, such as yoga exercises. The authentic, traditional Ayurveda treatments (Panchakarma) offered at The Raj specialize in removing ama and impurities that have accumulated in the joints and tissues.  They also help balance Vata, allowing Kapha to once again function normally.

Diet

If you are prone to lower back pain, avoid eating Vata-aggravating foods such as dry foods and raw vegetables. Also avoid root foods, which not only aggravate Vata but also have certain properties that can adversely affect joints. To reduce ama, avoid cheese, meat and heavy, fried, or processed foods. Eat your main meal at noon and take a lighter meal in the evening. Drink lots of warm or hot beverages, such as herbal teas (like licorice root and ginger teas) throughout the day. Avoid cold, iced drinks and food. This is the time of year to make sure you include ghee and olive oil in your foods, as the oil helps combat the dryness of the season.

Daily Oil Massage

Pacifying Vata is the key to keeping everything else in balance. A simple home oil massage each morning or evening can help soothe Vata and also help remove ama from the skin tissues.

Relax

Many people find that their back goes out when they are under stress. In a stressful situation the whole body can tighten, tense, and can easily go into muscle spasm, which can push vertebrae out of place. At The Raj, daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique is recommended to reduce stress, thereby reducing incidences of lower back problems.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments or Transcendental Meditation, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Balancing Kapha, Vata and Pitta Doshas: Understanding Their Dynamic Interactions

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The cool, moist spring weather heralds the arrival of Kapha season. The qualities of Kapha dosha are cold, heavy, oily and smooth. These qualities tend to dominate in the environment and in the physiology from late February to the end of May.

The role of Kapha dosha is to maintain structural integrity—to resist any environmental influence from breaking down the physiology. This is why individuals who are Kapha-types have more highly developed physical structures (such as the musculature system) When Kapha becomes aggravated, however, the qualities of heaviness and dullness increase the Kapha’s protective value becomes obscured.

Interactions of the Doshas

We should keep in mind that every point of the physiology involves the interaction between Vata, Pitta and Kapha. So when we discuss an imbalance in one dosha, there will always be interactions with the other doshas. This point is especially true with Kapah dosha, the most physically inert of the three. Usually its stability becomes disturbed through a dynamic interaction with Vata or Pitta.

Kapha Follows the Leader

Because Kapha represents the material value of the physiology, it is less likely to become disturbed than Vata or Pitta. And because it is more material and slow and steady, Kapha tends to stay stable in its own location. Therefore, it is much more difficult to move Kapha out of its proper place.

This is why the original text of Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, indicated that there are twice as many disorders and diseases caused by Vata as Pitta and twice as many disorders and diseases caused by Pitta as Kapha. This is also the reason why Kapha disorders are most commonly found associated with disturbances of Vata and Pitta. Usually, Vata is the first dosha disturbed, since it is most delicate and quick in its nature. And in its dynamic interaction with the other doshas, it can lead Pitta and Kapha to get disturbed as well.

Treatment of Kapha Imbalances

If a person has a condition involving all three doshas, an Ayurvedic expert can take into account all the imbalances and try to treat them simultaneously. At the same time, the expert can often try to treat the most fundamental, causal level first, and usually—even with a Kapha disorder—that will be Vata. As the Vata imbalance is corrected, the Pitta and Kapha often get corrected simultaneously because of the dynamic interplay between the three streams of intelligence.

One of the best things you can do for your body during the spring season is to undergo traditional Ayurveda purification, detoxification and rejuvenation treatments, called Panchakarma. These treatments are designed to balance all three doshas and rid the body of accumulated impurities, including excess Kapha dosha, resulting in a fresh, settled, balance mind and body.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com