kapha

Wednesday Wellness: Balancing Your Dosha, Part 3: Kapha

Every Wednesday I’ll hand over the blog to my cousin and yoga expert, Lisa Veronese, to help you and I open our minds to different ways to treat our body well.


Balancing your Dosha, Part 3: Kapha

by Lisa Veronese

Note: If you haven’t yet completed the dosha quiz from last week to discover your dominant Ayurvedic constitution, you can do so online. 

Kapha is one of the three doshas, or constitutions, in the Ayurvedic wellness system. This is the dosha that “makes things stick together”, and governs moisture and mucous in the body.

You are a kapha type (or are experiencing elevated kapha energy) if:

  • you have a solid body and great stamina, but have difficulty losing weight (you also tend to retain water);
  • your skin is thick and “juicy”, and you have large round eyes and big, white teeth;
  • your hair is thick and shiny;
  • you tend to be sluggish or slow-moving, and can be lazy;
  • when you get sick, your illness lingers in the lungs (congestion);
  • you typically sleep soundly—but you also have difficulty getting out of bed;
  • your default negative emotion is depression, and you may be clingy, resistant to change, and can suffer from addiction.

A kapha person in balance is contented, easy-going and a comfort to those around them. They are friendly, steady people. An aggravated kapha type is obsessive, depressive, lazy and insensitive. Physically, a kapha imbalance is experienced as weight gain as well as an increased mucous production in the lungs (chronic bronchitis, phlegmy cough, asthma), and the intestines (seen in elimination). They also suffer from allergies (watery eyes, runny nose).

Ways to bring kapha into balance:

DIET:

 

  • Dairy is one of the worst dietary triggers for kapha as it increases mucous production (and is high in sugar). Use only small amounts of low-fat milk or yogurt, or eliminate it entirely.
  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, but stay away from heavy fruits (think bananas, avocados, coconuts), and the starchy, sweeter vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash). Cook your vegetables by baking, broiling or grilling rather than wet methods like steaming or poaching.
  • Spices are great for kapha types (except for salt and sugar, which increase water retention and weight gain). Kick up the fire in your foods with ginger, pepper, cardamom and clove and make the bland or bitter vegetables (that are good for kapha) more palatable.
  • Choose beans, eggs and lean white meats for your proteins. Avoid too much red meat.
  • You are the dosha with the sweet tooth! Stay away from pastries and other foods which combine sugar and fat.
  • Because kapha digestion is more sluggish, food sticks around in the system longer increasing the possibility for toxins to be absorbed. Choose only organic fruits, vegetables, seeds and sprouts and wash your food well. Increase the amount of fibre to keep things moving!

 

MOVEMENT:

 

  • When kapha is out of balance, it may be hard to leave the house, let alone get a workout in. You, more than anyone, need to set schedules and stick to them. Cardio and high-energy movement is perfect for kicking your sluggishness to the curb.
  • Avoid overly calm practices like walking, and gentle yoga. Unless you are just getting back into exercise, build heat! Kapha is like a frozen river—you need heat to thaw it!
  • Join a class or find an exercise partner who will help get you out the door and keep you accountable.
  • No matter how tired you may feel during the day, kapha types should avoid napping. Stick to a regular sleeping schedule, and eat your largest meal at lunch to give you the energy you need to get over the mid-day slump.

 

SELF-CARE:

 

  • Stay warm, and avoid damp environments. Run a dehumidifier in times of high humidity.
  • Spice up your life! Kaphas are creatures of habit and can easily become disengaged, stagnant and resistant to change. Sign up for a special interest class, explore new neighbourhoods, break your daily patterns as much as you can.
  • Exercise every day, even if that means your “day off” is a walk around the block. Try to vary your activities (biking, running, hitting the gym, rock climbing, kayaking). Kaphas tend to want to do the same activities every day, but then find themselves bored and give up. Stay fresh.
  • Keep to a regular sleep schedule, and consider it a priority, but avoid over-sleeping and giving in to the lulls in your day. If you feel yourself getting sleepy, incorporate some stretches, go for a short walk (or sprint!), and eat something light and spicy.

 

Kapha types tend to fall into a deeper imbalance in the wet, sloppy winter months. Daylight is at a minimum, outdoor activities are limited, and everyone feels more sluggish and sleepy. In these months, stay warm and dry and find winter activities to keep you engaged and moving.

 

I have accumulated a lot of this information from various sources over the years, and also from my own training in yoga philosophy. If you are interested in further reading, one source that I find particularly informative is Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley.


photo- Lisa VeroneseLisa Veronese is a yoga instructor and writer living in Toronto’s East end. Read more, or find her complete teaching schedule, at www.lisaveronese.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook

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pitta pic

Wednesday Wellness: Balancing Your Dosha, Part 2: Pitta

Every Wednesday I’ll hand over the blog to my cousin and yoga expert, Lisa Veronese, to help you and I open our minds to different ways to treat our body well.


Balancing your Dosha, Part 2: Pitta

by Lisa Veronese

Note: If you haven’t yet completed the dosha quiz from last week to discover your dominant Ayurvedic constitution, you can do so here

Pitta is the dosha (element/constitution) of fire/digestion/energy. It governs the body’s ability to digest not only nutrients but also thoughts and emotions. It is responsible for the energetic and metabolic processes of the body. While we all have some pitta in our constitution, some individuals are dominantly represented by this element.

You are a pitta type or experiencing elevated pitta energy if:

  • you are of medium shape and build, build muscle easily, and have warm reddish skin.
  • your eyes are small or piercing, and hair tends to be thin and oily.
  • you have good circulation and are often warm.
  • you have strong appetite and thirst.
  • you are highly driven and motivated, and also have a temper.
  • you are prone to skin irritations and inflammation responses such as acne, rosacea, red blotchiness and hives.

When pitta is in a state of balance, the individual is warm, friendly and offers great leadership. They have strong opinions and voices, are energetic and magnetic. A pitta out of balance can be controlling, easily angered, judgmental, reckless and vain. Since pitta is the element of heat and energy, anger is the default negative emotion for a pitta type.

Ways to bring pitta into balance:

DIET:

  • Eat high-prana foods such as raw leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (think kale smoothies, brussels sprouts salad, endive, broccoli and cauliflower), which helps to provide the energy you need for intense activities. Beans, oats and barley are also great foods for a pitta type.
  • Drink cold liquids rather than warm drinks to help cool the body. Raw juices with cucumber, kale, celery and mint are great, but avoid the ginger as it’s a heating food.
  • Avoid too many sour fruits (mostly citrus) and strong, pungent dairy. Choose creamy, mild cheeses only.
  • Avoid fermented/pickled foods, spicy food (much too heating for pitta), and any other foods that stand out as salty or sour. Foods that balance out pitta taste in balance: think mild, no overly-forward tastes. Many pittas are by nature drawn to extremes, and often select foods that reflect this (the stinky cheeses, the kimchi, the hot peppers), further aggravating the imbalance.
  • Add raw cooling herbs such as mint, cilantro, fennel, basil and parsley into your diet as much as possible. Lay off of the peppers of all kinds, salt, ginger, mustard and garlic.

MOVEMENT:

  • Pittas are naturally drawn to hot, sweaty, vigorous workouts. They are strong and motivated and often excel at these types of movement. When balanced out with more “cooling” activities, these workouts can be fine, but a pitta has to be careful not to let these hot practices tip the scales.
  • Allow plenty of time for cool-down after strong movement-based activities. Slow stretches and forward folds are pitta-pacifying and can help calm the critical or frustrated mind.
  • Take time for slow, meditative walks, or even seated meditations. Breathing deeply and steadily will also help you to cool down.
  • Fight your natural instinct to head only to powerful sweaty workouts, and throw in a yin, restorative or slow movement class. It might feel like torture at first (mostly for your mind), and your ego may try to convince you that you are wasting your time. Give yourself permission to settle into these moments and both your body and mind (and probably the people around you!) will thank you.

SELF-CARE

  • Slow down! Is there anything you can take out of your schedule to make your life less chaotic? Leave yourself time to do what may feel like “nothing”. Read, watch a movie, go for a slow walk, do a puzzle—anything that slows the clock and allows you to be fully present in one place. Let your mind rest on a task rather than on what it needs to do next.
  • Give yourself a goal that focuses on the betterment of others rather than that of the self. A pitta type tends to set goals that focus on self-improvement, which only exacerbates the cycle of perfectionism. Find a charity or a place where a bit of your time can serve the needs of others.
  • Develop a meditation practice, but try not to make it just another activity that you want to master. Just sit and breathe. If you find your mind takes over and you drift to critical or self-involved places, find a mantra (words of power and intention) for your mind to focus on with each breath. Try to choose a mantra that sends out thoughts of compassion and love for others. Pittas hold a strong capacity to lead and to influence the lives of those around them; when they shift their gaze from self to other, they can create positive change.

If you are a pitta type, you may find yourself increasingly aggravated in the summer heat and also during busy holidays or whenever you are over-scheduled. Even non-pitta types may find that they develop a pitta imbalance during these times. When you notice yourself becoming increasingly critical, quick to anger, overly driven or even obsessed with a goal in the direction of perfection, it might be time to turn to the cool and the quiet.

I have accumulated this information from various sources over the years, and also from my own training in yoga philosophy. If you are interested in further reading about your dosha, one source that I find particularly informative and helpful is Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley.


photo- Lisa VeroneseLisa Veronese is a yoga instructor and writer living in Toronto’s East end. Read more, or find her complete teaching schedule, at www.lisaveronese.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lisaveroneseyoga.

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March 4 - vata pic

Wednesday Wellness: Balancing Your Dosha, Part 1: Vata

Every Wednesday I’ll hand over the blog to my cousin and yoga expert, Lisa Veronese, to help you and I open our minds to different ways to treat our body well.


 

Balancing your Dosha, Part 1: Vata by Lisa Veronese

Note: If you haven’t yet completed the dosha quiz from last week to discover your dominant Ayurvedic constitution, you can do so here

 

Vata is one of the three doshas, or constitutions, in the Ayurvedic wellness system.   Vata governs the nervous system, movement and elimination. Vata is the wind/ether element in the body, and like wind, vata types are light, dry, mobile and changeable. Everyone has some vata in the mix, but many individuals find they are primarily vata.

March 4 - vata pic

You are a vata type or experiencing elevated vata energy if:

  • your skin, hair, and nails are dry; your joints are prominent and mobile and often crack.
  • you are likely tall and thin, with long fingers and small, clear eyes
  • you can be energetic and talkative, enthusiastic and creative, but experience burn-out and fatigue quickly.
  • your brain is often working overtime, and you may have difficulty settling the mind.
  • you are often cold, have poor circulation, and dry elimination/weak digestion.
  • your default negative emotion is anxiety and worry; you can be nervous and suffer insomnia.

A vata person in balance is highly creative, flexible, and is a great communicator. A vata out of balance is worried, restless, overly talkative and erratic. Since vata is the air/ether element, disturbances are usually of the mind (ether) or digestion (air).

 

Ways to bring vata into balance:

DIET:

  • Raw foods can make a vata imbalance worse. Eat foods that are prepared as closely to their digested forms as possible (think soups and stews).
  • Consume a lot of grounding foods to help you settle yourself. Choose well-cooked root vegetables such as beets, carrots, parsnips, turnip, and celeriac. Avoid beans as they aggravate wind!
  • Warm milk with honey before bed (and even a spoon of ghee mixed in) will help to calm vata.
  • Drink tulsi tea (holy basil). It’s available at most health food stores, and is very relaxing and calming to both the mind and the digestive system. Take a cup whenever you’re feeling flighty and frazzled.
  • Incorporate as many warming spices into your diet as possible. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove and fennel are great choices.
  • Avoid eating dry fruit and nuts, and instead choose ripe, heavy fruit such as melon, mango, avocado, coconut.
  • Increase your intake of healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, flax and ghee to help lubricate your joints.

MOVEMENT:

  • When vata is out of balance, you may find you tire easily and quickly. You may also find yourself to be easily injured.
  • Warm up the body slowly, be sure to pay attention to joint stability and proper alignment. Choose movements that are flowing and focus on hips and spine. Be careful not to stretch ligaments, however, as vata types are already loose in the joints.
  • Avoid workouts that will further exhaust you. Instead find more prolonged, steady types of movement that will work up a sweat gradually.

 SELF-CARE:

  • Get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour (early, if possible), and rise early.
  • Keep yourself warm with layered clothing, and protect the neck area when you’re out in the cold. Scarves are essential.
  • Take warm baths scented with calming oils such as lavender, vanilla, cinnamon or fennel.
  • Massage your body with pure organic sesame oil (a practice called Abhyanga) after the bath. This massage will help increase circulation, lubricate the joints, moisturize the dry skin, stimulate the nervous system in a balanced way (helps fight fatigue), and help you sleep soundly. This is an excellent daily practice, and it will help to balance all of the doshas.
  • Make time for meditation. The mind needs just as much care in vata types or in states of imbalance as the body. Take time for long, quiet walks or after you have moved through a workout, clock in some quiet seated time to breathe deeply and sweep out the mind.

If you are vata, you may find yourself in great need of balance in the fall season when the air is windy and dry. Stay attuned to your body and mind and when you notice agitation, anxiety, sleeplessness and fatigue moving in, make some changes to invoke harmony and stability.

I have accumulated a lot of this information from various sources over the years, and also from my own training in yoga philosophy. If you are interested in further reading, one source that I find particularly informative is Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley.


 

photo- Lisa Veronese

 

Lisa Veronese is a yoga instructor and writer living in Toronto’s East end. Read more, or find her complete teaching schedule, at www.lisaveronese.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lisaveroneseyoga.

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ayurveda overview wellness

Wednesday Wellness: What’s Your Dosha?

Every Wednesday I’ll hand over the blog to my cousin and yoga expert, Lisa Veronese, to help you and I open our minds to different ways to treat our body well.

Whats Your Dosha? by Lisa Veronese

Ayurveda is often referred to as the “sister science” of yoga. It is a holistic medical system that has been practiced widely for thousands of years throughout India. It encompasses the treatment of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. A foundational principal is that effective digestion leads to optimal well-being—a philosophy that is gaining favour as we learn more about the connection between food, inflammation and disease.

 

According to Ayurveda, we are composed of three elements or humours called doshas, each represented in varying degrees within us. When these doshas are in a state of relative balance we are in good health, and when one of them becomes overrepresented or agitated, we become susceptible to disease and illness.

 

The three doshas are vata (wind/ether—governing the nervous system, movement and elimination), pitta (fire/bile—governing digestion), and kapha (mucous—governing bodily fluids, mucous production). Most of us have a constitution where one of these three doshas is chronically overrepresented.   Once we have deciphered our dominant dosha, we can begin to seek healthy harmony by making small changes in our diet, exercise or habits of self-care in a way that serves our particular needs. A small percentage of people might find they are an even mix of the three (tridoshic) and may only fall out of balance at certain times of the year (i.e more pitta in summer, more vata in fall, more kapha in winter).

 

There are many quizzes on the internet designed to help you discover your dominant constitution, but one that I find particularly extensive can be found online here.   Take your time and answer according to your body, mind and emotions from within your most recent phase of life. Don’t worry about how you were in the past; our doshas tend to shift with age.

 

Go ahead and take the quiz, make note of your dominant dosha, and then stay tuned over the next few weeks when I’ll be digging deeper into each one, highlighting some small changes you can make to keep yourself feeling balanced, steady and strong.

 

ayurveda overview wellness

 

For further reading on Ayurvedic health and the doshas, check out a wonderful book entitled Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley.

 

 

photo- Lisa Veronese

 

Lisa Veronese is a yoga instructor and writer living in Toronto’s East end. Read more, or find her complete teaching schedule, at www.lisaveronese.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lisaveroneseyoga.

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nadi shodhana

Wednesday Wellness: Breathing for Balance

Every Wednesday I’ll hand over the blog to my cousin and yoga expert, Lisa Veronese, to help you and I open our minds to different ways to treat our body well.


 

Breathing for Balance by Lisa Veronese

 

Feeling a little frazzled, spaced out or scattered? In need of peace and calm? Use your breath to help clear your mind and find your focus!

 

There are many breathing techniques used in yoga, and each holds unique benefits for the body and mind. One of my favourite breathing exercises (pranayama) is called Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).

 

Nadi Shodhana is a great pranayama to use when you’re feeling tense or agitated, when you’re having trouble focussing, or when your mind just can’t seem to settle.

 

In yogic philosophy, it’s believed that by encouraging air to flow evenly through both the left nostril (Ida channel) and right nostril (Pingala channel), we can harmonize the feminine energy (yin, moon, parasympathetic nervous system) and masculine energy (yang, solar, sympathetic nervous system) respectively. In other words, taking a few minutes to breathe exclusively through the left nostril would bring calm and relaxation (great for before bed), whereas breathing exclusively through the right nostril for a few minutes would increase your energy and focus (great for waking up in the morning). Breathing equally through both channels will lead to a feeling of being grounded and balanced.

 

If pranayama is new to you, you might be reading this with a skeptic’s eye. How could the way in which I’m breathing bring about feelings of calm or mental/emotional stability? Give it a try and see for yourself the power of the breath!

 

How to practice Nadi Shodhana:

    •  Sit up tall in a comfortable seated position (on the floor, a meditation cushion or even in a chair). Lift your spine long, draw the shoulders back if they are slumping forward.

 

    • Bring the first two fingers of your right hand to rest on the forehead between your eyebrows.

 

    • Place the thumb lightly against your right nostril and rest the forth finger against the left.

 

    • Gently press the right nostril closed and inhale deeply through the left side. Press both nostrils closed and take a short pause. Release the right nostril and exhale completely. Inhale through the right nostril, closing the left. Plug both sides and take a short pause. Exhale completely through the left side. Inhale deeply on the left. Continue moving back and forth from nostril to nostril, alternating between inhalations and exhalations.

 

    • After a few minutes (2-5), complete with a final exhale through the left nostril and then allow your hands to rest on your thighs. Take a few regular breaths here.

 

nadi shodhana

Practice nadi shodhana anytime you feel the need to settle down, to calm the body and mind. Please let me know how you did by leaving a comment below.


 

photo- Lisa Veronese

 

Lisa Veronese is a yoga instructor and writer living in Toronto’s East end. Read more, or find her complete teaching schedule, at www.lisaveronese.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lisaveroneseyoga.

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