Over winter, toxins can build up in the body. It is cold, moist, heavy, dull, and static, tending to cause stagnation. We are prone toward a more kapha lifestyle routine in the winter, as we slow down and opt for sedentary, indoor activities. Kapha is the heaviest of the doshas, comprised of the earth and water elements.
Our own digestive fire, called agni in Ayurveda, also plays a role. Overeating during the holidays, and overall poor eating habits, can dampen agni and lead to a build-up of ama – which results in sluggishness, extra pounds, poor sleep amongst other things.
The build-up of ama, or undigested material, ends up stored in our cells and circulatory channels, slowing everything down and gumming everything up, including the digestion and elimination processes.
Signs that we need to cleanse some accumulated kapha and ama buildup can include lethargy, weight gain, indigestion, a white coating on the tongue, water retention, swelling, congestion, and slow thinking or “brain fog.” Even seasonal allergies can be caused by a buildup of kapha dosha within your system, and can be alleviated by a seasonal routine. Given the right nudge, the body will detox naturally – it’s built to do that.
It’s said in Ayurveda that every three months we should take at least seven days off, around the equinoxes and solstices. Eight days before these seasonal junctions is an ideal time to dedicate to a personal practice for cleansing and rejuvenating. Even if you can’t fully take time off of work, you can create your own retreat at home to facilitate seasonal balancing and a purging of excess toxin build-up.
You may still be accustomed to eating lots of rich curries and cheeses, but it’s time to let go of all of those kapha-heavy foods and start integrating more kapha-pacifying foods. That means avoid anything too heavy, sweet, salty or sour: bread, pasta, red meat, winter squashes and roots, fried food, excessive dairy, yogurt, any processed or canned foods, and leftovers (the longer you leave it in the fridge, the heavier it gets). Reduce your intake of these foods, or cut them out completely to while cleansing.
Opt for foods that are lighter and dryer, with bitter, pungent and astringent flavors. Bitter, leafy greens should be your best friend right now. Light grains and baked, boiled, or grilled seasonal vegetables are great to incorporate. Lighter soups flavored with turmeric, cumin, ginger, cayenne and pepper will help you to burn ama and increase your digestive fire. Start integrating what you see in the local market—more green vegetables and fruits are starting to come into season.
Since kapha is cool and springtime hasn’t yet brought the full heat of the summer, it’s good to keep warm and build your digestive fire with more pungent spices. These include turmeric, cinnamon, clove, garlic, pepper, chili, and ginger.
Most importantly you need to take your intake of liquids up to almost 2-3 litres in order for you to purge & cleanse the body. The best way to do this is through fruit, vegetable & leafy green juices and spiced herb-infused waters.
Make sure to eat light, easy to digest foods with along with the juices or simply fast until dinner for a week. Do nt drink your juices & teas along with food & always keep a 30 minute gap between meals & drinks. Also consume enough luke-warm water through the day.
Just like the animals in nature begin to shed their winter bulk, spring is also the time for us to let go of some of those pounds and turn light & airy for the warm season ahead.