Editor's Note: A form of this article was originally published in The ChalkBoardMag, for whom founder Shrankhla Holecek has written a series of articles on Ayurveda and its powers of natural healing.
Within Ayurveda, energy is a function of the Kapha principle. Lack of energy, lethargy, and listlessness can be attributed to an imbalance in the body’s Kapha. As we delve into understanding Kapha imbalance and how to counter it, it is interesting to note that the Kapha principle also governs the anabolism function of the body (anabolism is defined as constructive metabolism, in which larger, more complex molecules are formed from smaller ones). Excess Kapha leads to increased anabolism. It should come as no surprise that poor energy and sluggishness is often accompanied by another symptom of the Kapha imbalance: weight gain.
To beat fatigue, we’re going to draw upon a comprehensive approach rooted in Ayurveda wisdom that focuses on lifestyle habits, diet, meditation, and natural remedies.
Honor Your Emotions
I'd like to talk about your emotional lifestyle. Within Ayurveda, we are encouraged to observe emotions and allow them to dissipate. Repressing emotion will cause mental imbalance which invariably manifests itself into imbalances of a physical nature, causing discomfort and disease. The Kapha principle naturally tends to create traits of attachment, possessiveness, greed and envy. So is the recommendation to exhibit these traits in full force as they arise? Not quite, and the distinction from repression is subtle, though very powerful. When we experience these feelings—which are often considered socially-unacceptable—instead of going with our knee-jerk reaction of hiding them away in the darkest parts of memory, we must allow ourselves to observe and release. Let’s say you’re feeling greed come on: allow yourself to become aware of it, watch the greed unfold, learn about it, watch it reach its natural peak, and then release it. Once you stop judging your emotions, you will find it easier to not repress them, and eventually to release them fully. Naturally, your Kapha will become balanced (or, in the case of other feelings, Vata- and Pitta- imbalances will similarly heal) and you will find yourself delightfully energized.
Follow an Ayurvedic Diet
Avoid foods that increase Kapha. This includes cream, cheese, yogurt, and sweet-and-sour fruits like grapes, oranges, plums, and grapefruits. Sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini are also not recommended. For animal proteins, avoid pork and beef. Foods to eat include: apples, apricots, pomegranates
, pears, peaches, persimmons, asparagus, beets, eggplant, garlic, leafy greens, cabbage, lettuce and mushroom. Oils are to be consumed sparingly, and preferably use almond, or sunflower oil when you do. And while regular cow dairy products increase Kapha, goat’s milk can help to reduce Kapha.
At mealtime, try to observe the following discipline: Your stomach should be filled roughly a third with food, another third with water, and the final third with air. Ayurveda encourages sipping water during meals (though fruit juice with your meal is to be avoided).
It's important to note that routine is considered essential to individual health within Ayurveda. Waking before sunrise is encouraged, as is morning exercise, breakfast before eight, lunch before noon, and dinner before sundown.
Consider Yoga and Pranayama
Yoga and Pranayama, rather expectedly, can have a profound impact on improving energy levels and fighting fatigue. Starting the day with Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salution, not only creates a healthy circadian rhythm and helps the body capitalize on the energy of the sun, but also unlocks energy reserves in the body to support an even energy flow and healthy metabolism throughout the day. In addition, focusing on asanas that create focus and blood flow in the stomach, head and chest invigorate a healthy Kapha, as do strengthening and stretching motions (bonus benefit: fat loss and toned muscle!). Try spinal twists and back bends (camel, bow, boat) to release spinal energy and lion, palm tree and half-wheels to gracefully harness your new-found energy flow.
Kapalabhati Pranayama or “Cleaning Breath” is a powerful breathing technique to stimulate energy. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and taking in a deep inhale. Exhale rapidly in quick, short powerful breaths (some inhalation after each exhale is to be expected and normal). Perform for 5-6 minutes, alternating one minute of breathing exercise with one minute of rest. This exercise is also believed to help tremendously in fat metabolism.
Incorporate Natural Herbs and Botanicals
Alfalfa (try it in a tea!) and Aloe Vera are excellent natural remedies for balancing an aggravated Kapha. Cinnamon is a detoxifying herb that also strengthens and energizes tissue. A decoction of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and clove is a powerful Kapha balancer. Essential oils have a long history of providing great support to improving your energy levels, and in fighting fatigue. Peppermint, Rosemary and Eucalyptus can help naturally unlock healthy energy reserves that will last you through the day. Uma’s Pure Energy Wellness Oil blend harnesses the powerful effects of these and six other carefully selected essential oils formulated in expert traditions to provide all day health energy, all naturally.
Kapha is one of the three main principles that govern the human constitution. Within the practice of Ayurveda, all matter is believed to be made up of five elements: Prithvi (Earth), Agni (Fire), Jal (Water), Vayu (Air) and Aakash (Ether). They manifest in the human body as three basic principles: Vata (Ether and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). These three principles—vata-pitta-kapha—govern all the biological, psychological and physiopathological functions of body and mind. Disease and bodily discomfort is considered to be created from an imbalance in these principles.
To learn more about the Ayurvedic principles refer to A Guide to Understanding the Ayurvedic Doshas.