The Physics of Spring! Getting the Bounce Back into Kapha
By John Peterson, M.D.
Are you sleeping in late and having a hard time getting going in the morning? It's spring and you're not ready to come out of your cave! Spring is Kapha season, and that can be hard on those who don't know the secrets of getting the most out this special time of year.
Sir Isaac Newton described inertia as the resistance an object has to a change in its state of motion unless acted upon by an outside force. An object at rest wants to stay at rest. If it's in motion, it wants to stay in motion, at the same speed and in the same direction. Sound familiar? Inertia and stamina are the two sides of Kapha's coin. It's hard for people with Kapha qualities in their physiology to get going, but once they've gotten in gear they can go on forever without getting tired.
So how do people with Kapha in their constitution—thick, oily hair or skin, heavy-set body and a general tendency towards lethargy and congestion—get going in the mornings?
The first secret is to go to bed early the night before, during evening Kapha time Have you noticed you start to get sleepy around 8:00 or so, but if you force yourself to keep going you get a second wind after you're supposed to be in bed? This is all about Nature's diurnal Vata/Pitta/Kapha cycles:
Kapha time is 7-11 (DST), both morning and evening.
Pitta time is 11-3 (DST), both morning and evening. Pitta governs digestion, which is why the Ayurvedic prescription for getting the most out of our food is to eat your biggest meal mid-day, when the sun is high overhead.
Vata time is 3-7 (DST), both morning and evening.
If you give in to your Kapha nature during Kapha time of night (early to bed!) you will get a nice long, sleep. Remember Kaphas need more sleep than their Vata or Pitta counterparts. Go to bed at 9 and sleep for 9.5 hours. You'll wake up before the sun rises and catch the Vata wave! Vata time of morning is full of energy, vitality and movement. Maybe there's some boiiiiing! in Spring after all!
When you wake up, warm some purified water to slightly above body temperature and add a spoonful of raw honey and the juice from a fourth of a fresh lemon. Because heated honey is considered a poison by ayurveda, make sure the water is not more than luke warm. Stir well and drink down quickly. This will flush out toxins that the body has been processing during the night and stimulate a morning bowel movement (so important for good health!). Then if you like you can put the teakettle on to make a big hot mug of Raja's Cup, a powerful anti-oxidant and delicious coffee substitute.
If your schedule allows you can take a short walk outside. Let the tender rays of the rising sun wash away inertia and depression. Another way to warm up your body is to perform the traditional moving yoga form called Surya Namaskar, or Salutation to the Sun. During the practice of Surya Namaskar every part of the mind and body is refreshed.
Now that you've put attention on purification and revitalization it's time to prepare for the rest of your day's activities with the ayurvedic morning routine, which includes a brisk self-massage, shower, yoga asanas, pranayama, meditation (I recommend the Transcendental Meditation® program to my clients) and then exercise. Vigorous aerobic exercise energizes Kapha. Remember the concept of inertia—once Kaphas get going they have a lot of strength and endurance. And Kapha bodies have well-knit joints that support vigorous exercise.
Then it's time for breakfast and off to work or study you go, with plenty of energy for the rest of the day. Appetite and digestion aren't strong for Kaphas in the morning, so breakfast should be light. Maybe just an apple or a pear cooked with cloves, or a small bowl of hot cereal with Kapha churna. You can add honey, an ideal Kapha pacifier, if the cereal has cooled down to a temperature safe to give to a small child.
If you really want to increase your vitality, take Organic Premium Amla Berry with warm water an hour after breakfast and lunch. This traditionally prepared preparation made from the magical Amla plant increases vitality, scavenges free radicals, helps your cells regenerate and maintains proper nitrogen balance while helping the body build balanced muscle tissue. Charaka, author of the Charaka Samhita, an ancient treatise on ayurveda, says that Amla is the best among rejuvenative herbs.
Let's take a moment to think in general about the place of exercise in a healthy lifestyle. Adequate rest and activity are keys to perfect health and vitality. A good night's sleep and regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation program take care of the rest part of the equation. Our work or study during the day—in accord with correct dharma (that activity which uniquely upholds and supports our evolution)—takes care of our mental activity. What about physical activity? What does the ancient Vedic tradition say about physical exercise?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of MAPI, always said, "rest before activity" —i.e. meditate before your exercise program, either in the morning or evening. Whatever type of exercise you choose it should be suitable to your physiology and part of a balanced daily routine.
The great Vaidyas, or masters of ayurveda, all say that daily exercise is important because it improves digestion and metabolism, and when done properly it infuses bliss into the mind and body. Exercise should be enjoyable and suited to your constitution. It should give you energy, not wear you out. It's good to exercise just to the point when the tip or your nose or your forehead begins to sweat and then back off. You can feel that your heart has definitely picked up speed but it's not pounding alarmingly. You want the physiology of the body to be stimulated, but not damaged or injured.
A brisk walk in the coolness of the morning or evening is an ideal exercise. Walking in the early evening when the stars first come out is beneficial for both the body and spirit. During my evening walk I always try to find the Big Dipper and then the North Star, because the polestar is so important in human navigational history.
Our prakriti (mind/body type), the time of day, and the season all play a role in our choice of exercise programs. Vata folks tend to have less stamina and can easily overdo it. Light walking, biking and swimming are ideal. Sometimes just yoga asanas are enough. The main thing for Vata is that exercise should be a part of a daily routine. In the winter Vata folks need to bundle up with layers of appropriate clothing so that Vata doesn't get aggravated from being too cold.
Pitta types have more stamina and can handle more vigorous exercise, but their competitive nature can easily tempt them to overdo it. They can damage their knees and backs with long distance running, and can overheat and get dehydrated, especially when they run in the late summer and early fall. During the Pitta-aggravating season, which is July through October, Pitta types need to take in plenty of room-temperature fluids and avoid exercising when the sun is high overhead. Walking, biking, swimming and cold-weather sports are better for Pitta.
Kapha types with their athletic joints and greater strength and endurance need to exercise more often and for longer times. They can handle the aerobic exercise programs better than the other doshic types, and in fact need to exercise regularly to avoid getting fat and lazy. However, the intensity guideline of working out to the point of faster heart rate and forehead sweat, and then backing off a notch, still applies even to Kaphas.
As we get older, a program of finely tuned yoga asanas twice per day before our meditation programs combined with easy walks is the perfect combination. The key is to understand our constitution and to keep paying attention to how we feel during the changing seasons of our day and life.
So, if you are feeling sluggish today, go to bed early tonight and get a jump on the day before Kapha time rolls around tomorrow. Even if you aren't Kapha, this is a good season to get outside. Shed the body's winter fat and get more exercise. Then you can really enjoy the beauty of the May flowers that are brought to us by April's showers.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.