Category Archives: Ayurveda

Thriving through the kapha time of year

Spring sows a sense of renewal within us. At this time we become acutely aware of the feeling deep within ourselves to move our bodies and to cleanse all that has accumulated through winter.

Kapha season is defined by moisture, softness, and denseness. The earth is awakening. This is the unctuousness of the earth brings growth and transformation. These qualities are needed. However, the qualities that are naturally presiding in kapha can present challenges for the individual if we are not in balance. We must be mindful not to encourage through lifestyle choices that enforce the qualities of kapha such as heaviness, dampness, and congestion.

Often at during the kapha season we take the time to cleanse the body. Just as the earth is becoming soft and moving, so is our bodies and minds. During the kapha time of year there is a tendency toward congestion, runny noses, and colds. Those who are kapha dominant can struggle to maintain balance at this time of year. Consider if you are in balance within your own doshic constitution before making any large changes to work with the seasonal considerations.

Generally, in spring we look to move away from eating warm, heavy stews and consider lighter, cleansing choices for meals and snacks. My friends, my students and I have talked about how we often feel hungry in spring. The need to feel satisfied and content is a hallmark of kapha. We must listen to our bodies and choose to nourish ourselves differently. I include dandelion tea in my diet during spring which is very cleansing and also wonderful for pitta constitutions. Ayurvedic doctor and teacher Dr. V. Lad recommends avoiding dairy and cold drinks and to incorporate legumes, ginger, cinnamon, spinach, honey and spices. The spices should only be incorporated if they can be tolerated within your constitutional makeup as hot spices are agitating to vata and pitta dosha constitutions. Too much oil is Kapha promoting, ghee or clarified butter can be used instead. Light meats are suitable but heavy dark meats and seafood should be avoided as they are heavy on the system.

The kapha season is a time of renewal, to clear away stagnation and to sow the seeds to move into the growth and focus of purpose in the summer. Kapha must have stable nutrients for health to be maintained through the hot, focused, and intense time of the summer. Without a foundation of support and unctuousness from spring, we could feel frazzled and irritated when the demands of the heat of summer are upon us.

Beyond food we can support ourselves through this season by incorporating physical movement and activity. Without the heat of the pitta season, now it the time to find ways to move. I am a proponent of finding something you love to do that is suitable to your health abilities. It could be dancing, cycling, swimming, or hiking. Check with your physician if you plan to start something new. If you love your yoga practice, consider warrior poses, back bends and lateral movements. This is the time to also enjoy a beautiful sun salute practice and long strong holds in your poses. Breath practices needed for this season are cleansing in nature. Consider Kapalabhati or bhastrika breath. Both are cleansing and promote a sense of lightness to the body and mind. You can also consider a hasta mudra or hand mudras which balance that heavy downward movement.

Being mindful is key. Notice what you are feeling in the moment and if you are choosing food, activities and thoughts that increase the heaviness you desire due to the time of year. Take pause and see if you can lighten your meal and move your body to stoke the fire to decrease congestion and the feelings of stagnation in the body and mind.

Recipe -The Art of Less Cinnamon Sweet Potato Soup

The cat is out of the bag. I love sweet potato. I realized the last recipe post I put up was also sweet potato based. While the last soup was spicy and warm, this version is calming and satisfying. It is also even more simple to make with fewer ingredients.

I appreciate simple flavours. We tend to over complicate our food – we feel the need to make it “fancy”. More and more, I like uncomplicated cooking and flavours.

I have come to realize that while I don’t dislike cooking, it is not the highest on my list of my preferred things to do. I prefer hanging out with people, being outside, exploring yoga, teaching yoga, travelling, working with wool and a whole host of other things before I enjoy cooking. I do like the result of cooking and I am always happy when I have made something tasty, and healthy.  In yoga, I am always looking for efficiency for myself and my students. This recipe ticks those boxes.

In this recipe, paprika is the little gem and it is based on a a couple of different recipes that I had found and amended. I use my pressure cooker, which I would highly recommend but the soup can just as easily be made on the stovetop with a little extra time.

As always, there are some options for this recipe. I prefer it with chicken stock but it is just as good with veggie stock or even water. I have also made it without garlic and it was still lovely. However, if I were to make it with water again, I would add more oil/ghee and paprika and perhaps some turmeric. In the spirit of keeping it simple here, is the recipe.

Simple Cinnamon Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

1 Medium Onion (chopped)
3 to 4 Medium to Large Sweet Potatoes (cubed)
1 clove of Garlic (chopped)
2 tbl. Oil (olive, coconut, ghee)
1 teaspoon of Salt (dependent on the stock – less with high sodium stock)
Pepper to taste
4 cups (give or take) broth (chicken, veggie) or water
1/2 teaspoon (rounded) Cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon Paprika

Directions

Heat oil in pot or pressure cooker. Add onions and heat until the onions are translucent. Next, stir in garlic. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add cinnamon and paprika. Stir and cook for another minute. Add sweet potatoes, and the broth.  Typically the broth will just cover the sweet potatoes.

Heat under pressure for about 20 minutes. If you are using the stovetop it will take about 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Boil until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked and slightly cooled. Use a wand, food processor or blender until the soup is creamy.

Garnish with a bit of ground cinnamon. Enjoy.

Less Stress in Fall with Yoga and Ayurveda

The change in seasons has a profound effect on our systems. Fall, for many, often seems particularly harsh. Fall is a vata time of year according to Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga) and several of the many qualities of vata are the qualities of wind, dark, dry and cold. More than any other season, fall is where I notice a change in me, my students and my clients.

Here in eastern Canada we have yet to see the true fall chill, or the winds, but we have certainly felt the effects of the busy schedule and the effect of rising and having dinner in the dark. We might see the sun if we can get away from our desk during the day. In the fall, we start back to school, and our traditional work schedules fall back into place. We are all well immersed in our volunteer work, activities, sports, family support demands, appointments, work trips, and we crave to fit in some plain old pleasure. The summer is now simply beautiful memories and photos.

Starting in September the family finds itself going all different directions. And while thrilled with the new and interesting activities, the consensus remains that it is darn busy. For many fall is a favourite time of year. It has beauty and the joy of crisp refreshing air, the beautiful colours, cosy sweaters and cups of steaming hot tea. Amidst this joy we find ourselves fighting the effects of so much activity, darkness, winds, and dryness.

I notice these changes in myself. I start to crave soups and I have a natural desire to do more grounding meditations. I have learned over the years to put some things off until later in the fall or winter to distribute the amount of things I am doing. I am slowly learning that “no” and “later” are great words for this season (no, this isn’t my very robust procrastination abilities speaking.) I am busier and I have to find ways not to add on to the controlled chaos.

I see the effects in my students. The meditators seem more anxious, the minds much more unwieldy than in the summer. Many of my yoga therapy clients can be more achy, and restless. Even the clients with the best outlooks can become easily frustrated and overwhelmed. The group classes are just plain chatty. It is a joy to see them all tucked into savasana, warm and balanced after a practice.

Here is where the concepts used in Yoga and Ayurveda can come to our rescue. Ayurveda very much considers taking the seasons into consideration and that our choices can help us balance our system. For our physical practice we can look to have grounding practices – think forward folds, balancing postures and poses like parsvotanasana and grounding a child’s pose and legs up the wall. For breath work consider Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breath and a breath that has the same length of inhale and exhale. These will help with keeping yourself feeling balanced and calm. Remember, inside and out, warm and oily is good. Warm baths, steam and using warm sesame oil on the body will help warm, balance and ground you. With respect to vata soothing foods, think warm proteins and vegetables with fats and spices. At this time of year cooking your vegetables helps with effects of vata. You can get back those crisp salads in the summer.

Instead of fighting your way through the Fall “vata” season, meet it joyfully with some simple tools and techniques from Yoga and Ayurveda.

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Kimberly Mantas lives and works out of Ottawa, Canada. She is a Yoga Therapist, Meditation and Hatha Yoga Teacher with Mantas Yoga and loves to hang out at Blue Bamboo Yoga and Beyond Yoga and her health partners. She thinks yoga therapy rocks and is an always curious sort – ever excited when people get to know their bodies and minds better.