Winter Yoga: Build heat and keep Kapha in balance

Winter YogaAn Effective Winter Yoga Practice Balances Kapha

Do you suffer from the “winter blues?” 10 million Americans are impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder, the most common form of which is winter depression. Yoga and Ayurveda offer guidance on how we can create a winter yoga practice and adjust our lifestyle to combat feelings of depression and lethargy. 

According to Ayurveda, all living things are composed of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Our constitutions are a delicate balance of these elements, and each of us has a unique blueprint with one or two tending to dominate. This mind-body type is called your dosha. There are three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Kapha has the qualities of strength, slowness, steadiness, oiliness, coldness, and softness. These qualities are crucial to our health, as they provide our body with structure and lubrication and are essential to a healthy immune system. When in balance, Kaphas are generally the healthiest dosha because of their immune system strength.

Kapha Season 

Ayurveda also divides the seasons of the year by dosha, with winter being referred to as Kapha season due to its wet, cold qualities. During this time, we tend to stay indoors and slow down more than any other time of the year, which offers us the opportunity to rest, reflect, and find calmness. This is excellent for our sense of well-being, balancing the movement and activity of the Summer and Fall.

Kapha Imbalance

Any portion of our constitution — Vata, Pitta, or Kapha — is susceptible to becoming imbalanced, regardless of our dosha. If Kapha becomes imbalanced, it can cause symptoms like emotional heaviness, loneliness, sadness, weight gain, depression, and lethargy. It also shows up in the form of colds, flu and congestion, which are naturally a greater risk already during the winter because we are cooped up indoors with incubating germs.

Are you suffering from the symptoms of Kapha imbalance? Use the following tips to come back into health and happiness:

  1. Nurture yourself: Keep the lymphatic system working properly by getting regular massages, either from a professional or by doing warm Abhyanga self-massage. Stay warm and avoid damp environments, but work in daily outside time to absorb the natural healing benefits of the sun.
  2. Adopt a Supportive Diet: The body needs more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter, which is why you may crave larger quantities of food. To pacify Kapha, eat warm, well-spiced foods and drink warm beverages. Avoid chilled drinks, but don’t forget to drink enough water!
  3. Build heat: Participate in some sort of vigorous exercise daily. A winter yoga practice is very powerful if it’s one that creates invigoration, warmth and movement. Sun salutations, expansive lateral poses, backbends, and core strengthening poses are excellent for reducing Kapha. Allow the practice to build in both intensity and duration. Create long, smooth inhales, making your inhales longer than your exhales if it’s comfortable, to invigorate the body and bring in energy.