As the sister science to yoga, Ayurveda plays a significant role in the Axis Yoga Teacher Training program. Students complete an experiment applying Ayurveda to their life to see how it effects their health and well-being. This student’s efforts to care for her Kapha dosha lead to a sense of awareness and empowerment.
Tag Archive for: Kapha
Anyone who knows anything about Ayurveda can take one look at me and guess that I am kapha. I have the dark curly hair, curvy body, softer than soft skin, and a soothing voice. All of this is obvious. As I read and learned more about the kapha dosha it became more and more apparent how much of my composition is taken up by this abundant dosha. Slow moving, check. Satisfied doing nothing, check. Prone to depression, check. Full of compassion, smothering, great memory, codependent, clings to emotions, radiates love, full of mucus, overweight, easily chilled. Check, check, check! The good and the bad, I have got them all.
At moments I am representative of kapha in balance. Unfortunately, I often exude many of the characteristics of kapha out of balance. My experiment was to challenge myself to treat my kapha well by reducing it and not allowing it to overflow in its abundance. I started with the observation that I am kapha dominant. I then formulated the hypothesis that my general well being would improve by reducing kapha in my life. To reduce kapha I decided to wake up earlier, get more vigorous exercise, keep myself warm by using sauna and limiting cool drinks, and eliminating sugar. My experiment was ten days total. I happened to be sort of sick for the first 8 days of the experiment. This caused me to be a little more lax than I would have liked to be. Maybe it was the illness, or it could have just been my kapha nature to resist the challenge of change. Either way, I learned a lot from my life style modifications even if they were less drastic than I had originally intended.
While kapha is the majority of my constitution, I am also easily vata aggravated. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at age 14, a typical vata ailment. I am very sensitive in every possible way, including having a sensitive nervous system and subtle body. So part of my challenge is to reduce my kapha while also taking care of my vata. My vata has been very out of balance in the past few months for obvious reasons. I am busy, plain and simple busy. This leaves me with the obligation of getting active to reduce my kapha, but to also do less to take care of my vata.
Sleep is one area that I am not a typical kapha. I do usually sleep hard and well, but I am not a marathon sleeper who can sleep the whole day away. I typically go to sleep by 11 and wake up without difficulty by 730. I thought that reducing my sleep could still be useful. Day one of the experiment I woke up at 6:15 AM, a full two hours before I really needed to be awake. I woke up early just fine, but then was a typical kapha. In those two hours I did not accomplish much of anything. I took my sweet time with my morning cleansing and breakfast. I crawled back into bed at least three more times. Never with the intention or want to go back to sleep, it just felt good to lay there. I thoroughly enjoyed the extra time in the morning and loved my new sense of awareness of my tendency to want to chill out and do nothing. More than anything it made me smile to myself. That first day I was painfully tired by 10AM. I recognized that I pushed myself a little too far by waking up a full 2 hours before I needed to. The remainder of the experiment I woke up between 6:45 and 7:30. There were a couple of days that I really struggled to pull myself out of bed, but I never got tired throughout the day again.
The main thing that I did accomplish in those two hours was practicing my sadhana. Up until this experiment I had only been practicing in the evening. Switching to the morning has revolutionized my personal practice. When I was doing it in the evening it felt much more like a chore than something that I was doing for myself. It added to the list of things that I needed to do, it added to my vata anxiety. I have started doing sadhana that is good for vata. I am doing a lot of belly breathing and bee humming breath followed by So Hum meditation. Throughout the entire experiment I made time for at least a short sadhana practice. My anxiety has been greatly relieved in the past two weeks. This could be for a variety of reasons but one factor is definitely waking up early. Waking up early has allowed me to integrate sadhana into my life in a much more meaningful way. Waking up early also ensures that I have time every day to do the cleansing practices of neti and tongue scraping. Both of which are very helpful for my mucous friendly kapha body. Extra time in the morning also allows me to check a few things off of my to do list, which is tremendous for reducing my anxiety. For example, I usually think about and maybe prepare my breakfast and lunch at night. Now I stop myself the second I start to think about the next day’s food because I know I will have time to be more present while preparing food the next morning. I get home from work around 8 pm so even small tasks like thinking about breakfast or sadhana become overwhelming with so little time before I need to go to bed. I have recognized for years that my energy is drastically different in the morning than it is in the evening. In the early morning I am more productive, optimistic, impulsive, emotive, and creative. In the evening I tend to be duller. This correlates with the doshic times of day and makes sense that I am better served to leave simple tasks to the morning rather than overwhelming myself in the evening.
When starting the experiment I envisioned myself working out in the gym and going to hot yoga classes to do more vigorous exercise. Doing vigorous exercise while sick was against my intuition. I did increase my activity level though. 6 out of the 8 days that I worked during the experiment I made time for a brisk walk during my lunch break. Some days I only had time for 15 minutes of walking quickly but others I had 30. On two days when I was not working I went on long walks, about two hours each. One day I taught a fast paced yoga class to friends which served as a work out for me as well. I also made time to go to a kundilini class as well as an ashtanga class with Richard Freeman. Both classes were very vigorous. The most enlightening thing about the exercise portion of my experiment was realizing that I have been drawn to appropriate exercise for kapha for several years. While I enjoy relaxing and restorative yoga classes, my yoga preference has always been kundilini which tends to be physically challenging and creates sweat. I also love heated yoga. Particularly, heated fast moving yoga. The experiment reinforced the fact that I need to make time for such practices. Keeping myself warm was easy during the experiment because the weather was very warm for many of the days in the past two weeks. I made sure to get time in the sun to heat myself up in that way. I also went in a sauna one time. The main thing I have done to keep warm is increase my intake of warm fluids. I have had an aversion to really cold water for a long time, but I often find myself drinking it because it is what is available. I usually drink room temperature water. During the experiment I started drinking significantly more luke warm and hot water. This seemed to help control my temperature and keep me more comfortable. It also felt soothing to my throat and chest and greatly improved my digestion. I have started drinking a cup of warm or hot water as soon as I wake up which instantly induce a bowel movement. This is a practice that I see myself keeping up with.
Eliminating sugar and reintroducing it has been illuminating. I have always noticed that I am more sensitive to sugar than other people. I eat it and often develop a stomach ache and sometimes my throat becomes inflamed. I had eliminated sugar for 28 days during our first experiment. That is the longest I have ever gone without sugar. The first time I had it my throat was immediately on fire and I woke up the next morning to my gums bleeding. When I ate it a couple more times the results were not as dramatic but my stomach did hurt if I had more than a couple bites. Then I went off sugar again for this ten day experiment. I reintroduced sugar a couple of days ago. I had some rice pudding with a large meal in the middle of the day. No negative effects were apparent. The following day I ate a lot of sugar throughout the day and then ended my day with a cookie minutes before getting into bed. I woke up early to terrifying anxiety inducing nightmares. The anxiety lingered through the first 4 hours of being awake. It is apparent to me that sugar acts like poison to my body and it is my duty to greatly limit it in my diet.
While I learned a lot through the whole experiment the greatest gift has been to begin to really cultivate my sadhana practice. This was only able to happen with waking up earlier. It has been a pleasant surprise that reducing my kapha has helped balance my vata as well. I have gained a new sense of awareness which empowers me to make better decisions about how to treat myself on all levels.
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