Updated: Apr 25
<sung like that one song in that one movie….Disney, please don’t sue me!>
“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything there is a season)”
Also often stuck in my head on repeat :)
s/o to The Byrds for this brilliance!
Back on track….and AYURVEDA!!
Say it with me:
Now 3x fast!
That was just for fun!
In recent years, Ayurveda has gained popularity, and at times is used as a buzz-word to pique the interest of health-conscious individuals to drive sales of products. While this may seem like just another health trend, it’s actually the oldest of sciences with roots during the fifth century B.C.E. through the fourteenth century C.E., there’s even an ancient word for cellular metabolism!!
For myself, learning about Ayurveda in my 200 hour yoga teacher training was a lightbulb moment, more like a lightning strike of the colliding of my science and yoga worlds! I had a brand new understanding of myself, my natural tendencies, and the ways in which I was sending myself out of balance.
At its core, Ayurveda is simple and logical. Then it gets super complicated. Then the complex intricacies are woven back together in simple patterns. Ayurveda breaks down all the pieces of the universe into 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. There is a complicated backstory to the creation of the elements, but that is another post entirely. (Hello, Samkhya Philosophy) Back to the building blocks of life, these 5 basic elements, each with their own qualities, come together to form the entire universe as we know it. Each individual is born with the perfect amount of each element in order to fulfill their life’s purpose; note this does NOT at all mean a perfect balance of the 5 elements. These elements come together to form 3 sub-types, or doshas. Air and ether come together to form vata or “that which is moved”; fire and water come together to form pitta or “that which is transformed”, and earth and water come together to form kapha, or “that which is held together”. We all have all 5 elements, and all 3 doshas, but in varying amounts and these varied amounts are PERFECT for the individual.
So if we are all born perfect, what happens? Life! Seasons change, we age, and we experience trauma. All of these events send us out of balance, which is also called dosha! Confused yet? I will use myself as an example to hopefully make it all a little more clear. I am naturally a fiery person! If we haven’t officially met, know that my spoken language is punctuated with as many !! as my writing, and I’m most likely bouncing while speaking or moving in some other way to my own rhythm. When I have an idea, I will passionately defend it and give it everything I’ve got...until the next big exciting thing sweeps me away. When I first started doing yoga, it was 90-minute hot power flow or bust! I would pride myself on not having to take any breaks, or sips of water. More times than not after class, I would end up collapsed on my living room floor unable to move or shower, and feeling all sorts of awful. I was working 3 jobs, and any days off were spent either on vacation, which I usually would get sick afterwards, or filled with multiple naps on the couch. I started having major skin issues, which resulted in multiple doctors visits with no clear diagnosis as to why my skin felt so inflamed and itchy, and many medications. Luckily, my yoga teacher training came right on time and provided me with awareness about how to shift my daily life to allow my body to right itself. I scheduled time for slower practices, ate more cooling and grounding foods, and learned the amazing power of oiling my body before showering to protect my skin and keep other systems flowing. These shifts weren’t an overnight solution, but they did provide me with a path to controlling my own health.
My story above is the one-layered version, in reality it’s much more complex. For starters, my sub-type is Pitta-Vata, which means I have a lot of both of those qualities in my constitution, and that is pretty common for most people. There are even special unicorns who are tri-doshic and have pretty much equal qualities of all three! Also, Ayurveda divides the seasons in the different doshas, which have cumulative effects on our doshic sub-type and imbalance
This ancient system of classification defines 20 qualities (gunas) of life, and the ways in which these qualities come together are the blueprint for the entire universe as we know it! The gunas of the seasons tend to blend, mesh, and transform together using a bit of elemental logistics, quantum physics, and universal law + magic.
As this is being written (January 18th), we are in slow transition period: moving from Vata to Kapha. Ayurveda doesn’t align with our traditional calendar in the sense that magicall on the 21st it’s Fall, BOOM! Rather, these gradual transitions as the elements slowly follow their nature cycle.
Similar to the “rules” of rock, paper, scissors: Ayurvedic doshas have a certain order of operations.
Kapha → Pitta → Vata (wash, rinse, repeat)
In the midst of cold, dry Vata, good ol heavy and wet Kapha shows up and slathers itself all over everything, and then reliable Pitta show up to warm the mud. Too much Pitta causes more Vata, and so it it written.
The same is true with our life cycles: juicy baby Kaphas grow into determined Pitta who age into brittle Vatas.
These rules also apply to cycles of allergies! What starts as kapha congestion turns into burning pitta irritation, and eventually leads to dried up vata.
So we are basically in the part of the year that is gearing up to hock a giant loogie?! Got it!
Keep reading for season specific tips, and know that the heat of pitta will be here soon enough to dry us all out.
The qualities of kapha:
Snigdha - unctuousness, juiciness
Shita - cold
Guru - heavy, solid
Manda - dull, slow
Slakshna - smooth (like yogurt, or cream)
Mrtsnah - binding, greasy, sticks together
Sthira - stable, steady
Madhura - sweet, pleasant
Mrdhu - soft
My favorite definition of Kapha is “that which holds things together”. Kapha is the combination of earth + water elements, which can feel heavy, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Kapha is necessary for our physical bodies to function properly, and is attributed for holding the physical structure together, and providing the liquid medium is which life's biological processes can happen. Aka.... our fat, bones, lymphatic system, and all that amazing mucous. When kapha is out of balance, it can feel like depression, smothering, attachment, fluid retention (swelling), congestion (allergies), lethargy, and holding onto excess weight. Kapha in balance feels good, has appropriate boundaries, and an energy that is sustainable.
The best medicine is to get Kapha moving! It make take a little push to get going, but a kapha in motion is much more likely to stay in motion. You can dance, take a warm vinyasa yoga class, hula hoop, it really doesn’t matter WHAT you do, only that you DO!
Try out these tweaks to your food choices during this season, or any time you are feeling some excess kapha:
More of these:
lightly cooked grains
lightly cooked veggies
dried and/or sweet fruit
Warming spices (pepper, ginger, cinnamon, etc)
Pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
Less of these:
In general, this time of year doesn't have to inspire fear, runs to the pharmacy to stock up on medications that make you drowsy, or even crazy big changes. Stay warm, embrace the transitions, and keep it moving!