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Tailor your practice to the season. Try these Ayurvedic tips in your sequences to boost energy in preparation for your best summer yet.
As seasons transition from dark, cold winter to bright, hot summer, springtime can be damp, cloudy and cool—depending on where you live. (Even in sunny Southern California, we experience a bad case of “June gloom.”) That’s all kapha’s handiwork.
Springtime Is Kapha Season
One of the three doshas in Ayurvedic medicine, kapha, which begins to accumulate in late winter. “In the spring the qualities of heavy, dense, damp and cool are in the environment, and because of seasonal effects, we as humans start to accumulate some of those same qualities in our bodies, especially after the wintertime when we’ve been eating warm, heavier foods that mitigate the cold and dry qualities of winter,” explains Erin Casperson, an Ayurveda Health Counselor and Yoga Journal LIVE! presenter.
Symptoms of Kapha Imbalance
A kapha imbalance in our bodies, which can look like excess mucus, allergies, and/or congestion. Our bodies often become lethargic and slow without the sun’s energizing light, and our minds become foggy and dull. (Sound familiar?)
Carry those kapha qualities (and their accompanying mucus) into summer and you’ll create a pitta imbalance, which can look like inflammation or stagnant lymphatic system. Then rather than being able to take advantage of the natural fire of pitta season, you may keep some of that gloomy dullness all summer long.
How to Balance Excess Kapha
Since the qualities present in springtime are heavy and dense, our diet should have the opposite qualities. That means no meat, wheat, dairy, or sugar during heavy kapha days. Instead focus on leafy greens, light grains, lightly cooked seasonal vegetables, and lots of berries.
According to Casperson, we must adjust our yoga practice according to the season. “In the spring we want to create a little bit of warmth and circulation in the body to help balance the heavy, stagnant, cold qualities of kapha.”
9 Kapha-Crushing Asana Tips
As far as your practice and classes go, there are a number of things you can do as a teacher to help burn off any excess stagnation, heaviness, and dampness in preparation for summertime.
1. Brighten the room.
While practicing by candlelight can be a nurturing experience during the dark winter seasons, it’s not conducive for mitigating the dark and dense qualities of spring.
2. Wear brighter clothes.
Don’t wait for summer to put on your fluorescents and patterned leggings, start wearing more visually stimulating clothes in the spring to wake up your students sense.
3. Pump up your soundtrack and voice.
Your voice, the music you play, everything should be adjusted to be more engaging and enlivening for our students.
4. Turn up the room temperature.
The room should be a little warmer to create more heat and circulation. Not too much heat though; we don’t want to aggravate pitta before the summer season. Somewhere in the 80s should suffice.
5. Build heat slowly.
Keeping in mind that you will have kapha, vata, and pitta type people in the room, a good balancing kapha class slowly builds heat in the body.
6. Use dynamic movements.
Dynamic movements—pulsing in and out of poses—are a great way to create warmth in the body as well as circulation.
7. Add more squats and bent-knee pose.
Its probably not a surprise that bent-knee poses generate more heat than straight leg poses, however, did you know that kapha lives in the fronts of the legs? Pitta lives on the sides of the legs (inner and outer) and vata lives in the backs of the legs. We need to create a little bit of warmth and circulation in the thighs (the bulk of the legs), and kick start the lymphatic system.
8. Incorporate twists.
Twists stimulate digestion, breaking away any stagnation. Pulsing side to side in Twisted Chair Pose, for example, will generate warmth, bring the heart rate up, stimulate digestion and circulation.
9. Work in Kapalabhati.
The gold standard of heat building pranayama, Kapalabhati pranayama helps enliven the mind, energize our bodies and clear mucus from our systems. It’s a great pranayama to do first thing on those cloudy spring morning if you’re having a difficult time getting motivated.