With the sun starting to peek through the heavy clouds, rain falling from the sky, and the snow-capped mountains fading away, a new season is upon us. Bringing the element of water center-stage. Through the lens of Ayurveda, spring season is considered kapha season. A time when cold still permeates from the ground, winter’s heaviness continues to linger and there’s a slowness about each day. As the season progresses, winter’s energy fades away and summer begins to arrive. During these transitional periods, some of us may experience the onset of the flu, allergies or lethargic vibes as the body calibrates to shifting weather patterns. One to way support ourselves during these periods is learning how to sway with the new season, rather than be led by its force.
Like any long-term relationship cultivating harmony is essential for success. A part of this process is getting to know your partner, in this case, kapha dosha. This is where the gunas or qualities of Ayurveda come into play. A set of keywords, these adjectives deepen our understanding of the season, ourselves, and our imbalances. Allowing us to live rhythmically simply by integrating these words into your daily life. They not only bring a new perspective to healthy living, but these keywords can also serve as a guide to make balancing diet and lifestyle choices with greater confidence.
WHAT ARE THE GUNAS?
The gunas, or qualities are a set of twenty keywords, that are the polarities of all the forces in the universe. Complementary with today’s commonly used health terms, in Ayurvedic Medicine, they are the key to fostering balance and describe a doshas’ personality. The specific traits that occur when two elements are combined. For example, when air and ether are combined, they form vata dosha. A dosha that inherently has a dry quality. The opposite quality, wet or moisture is where the solution lies to balance vata’s dryness. At first glance, this may seem too simple to be effective. However, considering Ayurvedic Medicine’s unwavering lifespan, the counterbalancing concept–like attracts like and opposites balance, has worked for centuries.
Developed by the Rishis, the Sages, over 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda was formed to make healthier living accessible and simple. It was intended to empower people to live their full potential, cultivate self-awareness, and help people know the impact of their choices. The gunas play a key role in this process. They not only describe the doshas to a tee, but they also help us understand how the dosha manifest within us.
A set of simple terms, the gunas give us the words to describe how we or something feels. They foster our intuition and allow us to tap into our hearts. With practice, our innate wisdom develops allowing us to decipher what is or is not healthy with greater confidence.
The gunas, like the doshas–vata, pitta, kapha, exist in all life. The two go hand in hand. At the same time, just like the quantity of each dosha differs in a human being or from season to season, the quantity of each guna will also differ in the same manner. The varying quantities in both the qualities and dosha are what makes us unique. Or seasonally speaking, how people living in different parts of the same State experience the same season differently.
THE GUNAS AND THE SEASON
For example, seasonally speaking, kapha season, which begins to present itself in the late winter differs up, down and inland in the State of California. In some areas, the climate is wetter and less cold than others. In higher elevations there is snow, making it drier and colder. From the southern tip to the northern tip or from sea level to mountainous regions the quantity of moisture differs. While every area is experiencing spring or kapha season, the varying quantity of each guna–wet, moist, dry, cold will create different weather patterns. It’s these qualities that will help us choose our outfit for the day. Will we need snow boots, a down coat, and gloves, or a light raincoat and sneakers.
THE GUNAS AND THE INDIVIDUAL
On a personal level, when we can pinpoint to which guna(s) has over-accumulated in the mind-body, we can lean on the opposing guna to help us recalibrate, by using the counterbalancing technique. During kapha season, a common imbalance is to feel heavy, whether it is emotionally or physically. The antonym for heavy is light. The opposing quality leads us to the solution. If we know we are subject to feeling heavy every spring, then we know to reduce our intake of heavy foods. Perhaps as early as winter to try and prevent the sense of heaviness in the spring. Or we need to start increasing movement to reduce stagnation and promote circulation. Or it could mean spending time in lighter, airier spaces with more sun, and oxygen.
THE GUNAS SIMPLE, YET CHALLENGING
Although the gunas are simple keywords, they are robust in meaning with vast interpretations. They can be applied across a broad spectrum of our lives. From describing a season, our personality, the bodily tissues, and everything we take in via our five senses. Including our food, actions, thoughts, and emotions. In using the same terms across a spectrum of our lives begins to reveal patterns and connections. If one keyword takes center stage, we may want to stop, reflect and assess the situation. Then choose whether or not we need to make any shifts.
The challenge with the gunas is they are not always clear cut and tactical. Don’t let this turn you off as they are intended to ignite our intellectual fire. Making us stop, feel and move out of our heads and into our hearts. Through daily use, the gunas begin to reveal insights in new and profound ways. Enhancing what we may already know, bringing a new perspective and enabling us to have more agency in our wellbeing.
To help get you started, we have created a list of the eight opposing gunas or qualities for kapha season. These keywords will help you sway with the season. Live with its rhythm, and not be taken under by its force. Along with each quality, there are synonyms to show the various ways to interpret one guna. And examples on how they can be applied to your diet, or what comes in via your ear, eyes, or how you communicate, think or feel. They will guide you not only to live harmonious with kapha season, but also with the kapha dosha that lives within us all.
THE EIGHT KEYWORDS FOR SPRING
KAPHA QUALITIES + SYNONYMS
HOT | WARM, WARMING, WARMER,
With cold still permeates in the spring air enjoy warm meals and beverages for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy warming spices, warming foods and fruits like citrus and pineapple. Speak warm, loving thoughts to soften the heart and reduce fear. Choose activities that warm you up like a dry sauna, baths, exercise or yoga to promote circulation and help prevent feeling internally cold.
LIGHT | LET GO, LESS WEIGHT, BOUNCY, AIRY, SUN
Spring is the season to shed. Lighten up to reduce kapha accumulation or mucus, phlegm, and congestion. Choose lighter easier to digest foods like cooked greens, seeds over nuts, quinoa over sticky rice. Reduce accumulation by purging away with the old and creating space to bring a lightness to your space. Listen or read books that foster laughter and joy.
DRY | CRUNCHY, SOAKS UP MOISTURE,
Kapha tends to be water heavy, which is why when there is excess kapha, our bodies and thoughts can feel heavier. Enjoy foods that are more astringent. Astringency draws out excess water and tonifies. Pulses, lentils, cruciferous vegetables, herbs like hibiscus, fennel and cardamom also aid with water reduction. Instead of porridge, opt for granola. Integrate dry-brushing, dry-saunas, invigorating activities to aid the body releasing excess water.
HARD | TONE, DISCIPLINE, MOTIVATING,
This slow-moving dosha can lose momentum at times, feel lethargic and lack motivation. But when it sets its mind, there is consistent energy that will get any job done. Sometimes the kapha dosha in us all needs motivation, support, a little discipline, and a little push to keep motivated to continue to move. This could come via listening to inspiring speakers, visionaries or joining hands with an active friend who is always on the go.
ROUGH | INVIGORATING, STIMULATING, ENERGIZING
Stagnation is a common kapha trait, whether it is in ideas, values, circulation, or emotions. To create movement, kapha needs support, as it tends to move slower. Whether it’s eating more roughage, like collards, spinach, dandelion to detoxify, or dry-brushing to promote circulation or diffusing essential oils bergamot, orange, lemon, or a Zumba class. Or its taking to time reflects and assess if there are blockages preventing you from growing.
CLEAR | CLARITY, LIGHT, TRANSPARENT
Since kapha is a combination of the earth and water element, it has a thick, muddy, foggy quality. Diet wise instead of pureeing vegetables, which makes them denser and heavier, eat them whole or in clear soups. Warm, clear broths also support a light cleansing action, thinning out the thick, heavy, mucus-like accumulations that lead to stiffness in the body. Foster clarity of thoughts by fostering the circulation of prana, through taking deep long breaths, with slow exhales. Diffuse essential oils like rosemary, eucalyptus, cloves that help open up the breathing passages to reduce mental fog.
SHARP | PUNGENT, PENETRATING,
Kapha is the dosha of endurance, in a balanced state it can hold space for intense situations. More kapha prominent people have thick skin and can handle more intense massages with oils like mustard, sharper skin treatments like dry-brushing, pungent foods like onions, radishes, garlic, dry ginger, chilies that have a sharpness to tackle excess kapha like mucus, phlegm, congestion. The heavy, cloudy, sticky qualities need a pungent, penetrating, sharp quality to restore balance.
MOBILE | MOVE, ACTIVE, RESPONSIVE
A slow-moving dosha like kapha is balanced when it moves, keeps active, and fosters circulation. In a season, where the air can feel heavy, moving through it can take time, but as long there is movement, there is less stagnation. Which can help boost immunity, lift the spirits, and foster creativity.