This guide is based on the science of Ayurveda, which is an ancient healing system and science from India that dates back 5,000++ years. At the very foundation of this science is the belief that there are 5 elements that create all matter:
- space (ether)
This is true for ALL matter. These 5 elements build and create all of nature, and us, too. We are a part of the great nature and respond in good health when we are in sync with nature (and ourselves) and respond in ill health if we are out of sync with nature (and ourselves).
In Ayurveda, the 5 elements combine to form three energies or doshas:
- vata dosha (space + air),
- pitta dosha ( fire + water), and
- kapha dosha (water + earth)
ALL doshas are represented in our bodies, but to varying degrees. What creates our individuality is their combination. None of us have an identical combination of doshas which makes us unique! Some people will have one dosha that is prominent, while others will have two.
Because the doshas rule nature and us, it’s important to understand which dosha governs the season and what we need to do to stay balanced during that season.
Kapha dosha governs late winter through spring and we need to make adjustments for each season. We will talk a lot about kapha dosha in general, so you can understand what it is all about. We will all feel the energy of kapha during kapha season but it doesn’t mean we turn into kaphas. It’s just the influencer. People who are kapha by nature, will notice kapha-increasing problems faster than non-kaphas.
One of the main rules in Ayurveda is
“LIKE INCREASES LIKE. OPPOSITES BALANCE EACH OTHER.”
So, we observe the qualities and use the opposite qualities to bring balance.
KAPHA QUALITIES ARE HEAVY, WET, COLD, STATIC, DULL, SMOOTH
THEREFORE, KAPHAS BENEFIT FROM THE OPPOSITE QUALITIES OF LIGHT, DRY, WARM, MOVEMENT, SHARP, ROUGH
Kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure, made of the elements, water and earth. In our bodies, kapha is responsible for elasticity, fluidity, lubrication, regeneration, and strength and stamina. Kapha is static and does not move. Instead, it adheres until vata or pitta moves it and/or heats it. When kapha is healthy we feel calm, happy, cheerful, strong, grounded and flexible. Kapha is the strong nurturer that brings love and compassion and understanding to others. If kapha dosha accumulates in excess, we will notice imbalances like weak digestion, weight gain, obesity, lethargy, allergies, congestion, cloudy mind, water retention, cystic acne, greed, jealousy, holding grudges and over-accumulation of material things.
Because kapha is slow moving, it takes a long time for a kapha person to get imbalanced, but once imbalanced it takes a long time to bring them back to balance. Kaphas tend to be the healthiest of the three doshas because they have such a strong foundation. They are sturdy, unwavering, and endlessly loving.
Skin. Kapha skin is thick, even toned, and oily. Because of the thickness and oiliness, kaphas do not wrinkle easily, tending to look much younger than their age. They don’t need thick moisturizers or creams because they naturally have an abundance of natural oils in their skin (and body!). Rather than regular oil massage, kaphas will benefit from dry, vigorous skin brushing and massage to create friction (heat!) and release stagnation. Using a loofah in the shower with some citrus-scented body wash is a good place to start. Kapha massages usually aren’t soothing and comforting…they’re meant to break up thick tissues, encourage movement, build heat, and sweat. Invigoration! A rough massage enlivens kapha and helps them feel lighter, more alert and more energized
Kapha massage: Create some friction! All strokes move toward the heart and clockwise around the joints. If you get tired doing the massage, you know you’re doing it right!
Exercise. Because of the heavy and static qualities of kaphas, the tendency can lean toward laziness! They can be stubborn, set in their ways and hard to move. If kaphas do anything to stay balanced, moving their bodies should be at the top of the list. Moving the body will increase digestive fire and creates sweat. This is especially important in spring for all doshas. Turn up the internal heat after a cold winter and get moving! Internal heat burns off excess tissues, releases stagnation, releases excess water and our mood gets a positive boost as our mind becomes sharper with more clarity. Kapha exercise: create a consistent schedule to move your body 5-7 days a week, even if it’s a brisk walk. Cardio and sweating are best for kapha, but it has to be fun! If a kapha gets bored or too sore, they will not be motivated to do it again.
Elimination. Kaphas are poop champs! They tend to eliminate 1-3 times a day and a lot comes out! They usually do not have problems with eliminating, which is probably why they are so happy all the time (ha!). Something to look out for is oil or grease on the water or in the poop. This is a sign there is too much oil or heaviness in the diet. Time to bring in more drying and light foods like fresh veggies, lentils and barley!
Diet. In general, and especially in the spring, favor foods that are dry, light, spicy, warm, rough and bitter. Foods should be light and spicy! Bland food is not kapha’s friend. If food is vibrantly colored and well- spiced, light in texture, and flavorful, they will be satisfied with less in quantity. Overly sweet and salty foods are not good for kapha (although kaphas do crave the sweets!) because the sweet taste can “over-build” the body and salty taste increases cravings and retains water.
Foods to consider that help to balance kapha are:
Sauteed or steamed (still crunchy!) veggies, quinoa, barley, basmati rice, rice noodles, lentils and dahls. Crunchy berous fruits like apples and pears. Asian-inspired cuisine is great for kapha (skip the heavy sauced and deep fried dishes). Basil, sage, rosemary, ginger + garlic sauce. Crunchy and dry snacks like popcorn, rice crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, wasabi peas, honey.
BUT IF HONEY IS SWEET, DOESN’T IT AGGRAVATE KAPHA??
Actually, even though honey is sticky and sweet, it has prabhava (which means “special quality” in sanskrit) and it actually digests heating and scraping. Perfect to heat up and scrape out cold, goopy excess kapha.
Digestion. Kaphas tend to lack the fire element so they will need to work consistently on keeping their agni (digestive fire) strong and avoid over eating. They have a “slow burn”, meaning, they can eat a meal and it will sustain them for hours and hours. Kaphas will do best with 2 meals a day and if they have 3, they should skip dinner one night a week so their agni can catch up. They don’t get “hangry” in fact, they feel just fine without food and sometimes have a hard time understanding why their pitta friends need to eat “right now!”
Steady. When balanced, kaphas are steady, loyal, and reliable. They happily hold down the fort and are quite risk averse. Making life changes like a new job, moving to a new city, or building a new community of friends is difficult and very uncomfortable for them. They prefer familiarity. They immerse themselves in their work, community, and family and before they know it, they become the expert hosts and caretakers of everyone around them. However, a kapha might find it suprisingly delightful to put on their adventure cap once in a while! They would feel best with a vata or pitta buddy so they can figure things out together and laugh along the way.
Single-focused. Kaphas are not multitaskers. Don’t expect them to jump like a monkey from one task to the next because that’s not their nature. Kaphas prefer to focus on and complete the project at hand, whether big or small. They won’t complain about the project if it’s difficult, but the last thing they need is someone either adding more things (it interrupts their steady pace) last minute. Vatas and pittas need to be respectful of the focus and care that kapha brings to their tasks. While kaphas could work on being flexible if someone really does need have a last minute request. Spontaneity and multi-tasking is not kapha’s favorite thing unless they are watching someone else do it—and then they marvel in it like it’s a magic show!
Slow. Kaphas are not fast. They are slow and graceful, but this slow quality can irritate vatas and pittas who will want to push kapha. Heed this warning: If you are going to try and “push” a kapha, you’ll be totally unsuccessful. It’s impossible. They won’t move. However, kaphas thrive and open up when there is excitement, motivation and inspiration and they will work tirelessly. Bring joy to the process! Help them see the fabulous outcome of their efforts! Help them see the reward (and then give them one!). Who likes to be pushed anyway? Nobody. But, we all like to be inspired to do a better. So be mindful that just because kaphas are sturdy and smiley enough to take our nagging, doesn’t make it okay to do so.
Patient. Kaphas are patient and tolerant. They don’t get angry easily and will lend a hand to anyone who needs it, without question. They are patient teachers who take a light-hearted approach to challenges. They believe in and understand their own strength, however, kaphas should be mindful that others do not take advantage of their patience. Kaphas will give and give, wait and wait, and give some more. If a kapha ever does get impatient or exhausted, it is far beyond the capacity of others and it’s time for them to stop and/or say no and find some downtime to rejuvenate.
Thorough. Kaphas are very thorough, sometimes to an extreme causing a case of analysis paralysis, and they have a hard time moving on. If whatever they are planning to do is different than anything they’ve ever done, or if it typically takes a long time to execute — they may never even get started. They will research all aspects to a tee and then they will weigh everything. The great thing is that when they do make a decision, it will be a safe, risk-averse decision that is beneficial for all involved. Because of this aversion to risk, kaphas are not usually good leaders. They are followers and prefer not to make decisions if they don’t have to. They would like others to take the spontaneous, go-with-your-gut, risks and kaphas would be happy to support the efforts, thoroughly.
Envision kapha spirit exuding grace, jolly laughter, gratitude, generosity, abundance, peace and pure joy. Kapha loves to share their gifts for the benefit of others and they love to watch others thrive as a result of their help. However, kaphas often put everybody else first, leaving nothing for themselves (note: it takes a long time for them to realize this because they rarely tire of giving). If kapha doesn’t take time for self-nourishment, rejuvenation, or time to reflect on their spirit, they will get cloudy in the mind and could get depressed. Let’s talk about the balance kapha needs to keep their spirit thriving.
Honoring the kapha spirit
Simple pleasures. It’s the simple things that mean so much to a kapha. More than anything, kaphas crave a sincere, “thank you” and simple gifts full of heart. Imbalanced kaphas will crave big, expensive, excessive stuff, but that “stuff” adds to the heaviness and can cloud the spirit. And note: If they feel void of heartfelt gestures or loving appreciation, their tendency toward connection will send them off to buy “things” to fill the void.
Self-love. Kaphas are an endless well- spring of loving care and sincere generosity. However, this can be a way of taking attention away from themselves (kaphas are shy and don’t like the spotlight). And if they lack attention for too long, they can put themselves in the “I’m not worthy” category. What they don’t realize is this makes themselves AND everyone around them sad! Kaphas, people want to see you thrive and they want to help! Wrapping yourself in love will allow you to love others even more.
Beauty. Kaphas love beauty so much and they tend to collect it (given their sticky nature!). But they have to be careful because those beautiful things can turn into clutter and heaviness. Kapha’s living space should be airy and clean with just a few ROCKIN pieces of eye candy! A few pieces of beauty is enough to keep them inspired, while the space stays clutter free and spacious. Their wardrobe will likely have pretty accessories and wearing beauty really helps their spirit shine.
Finding balance in kapha
Depression. Kaphas are emotionally sensitive (though they may not show it) and can slip into an emotional darkness that can be hard to get out of. Heavy emotions or past traumas can weigh down their otherwise graceful and positive outlook. Contributing to this is eating too late or eating too heavy, so their diet is crucial to their mental well-being. While they put on a happy face in front of others, they can be deeply saddened on the inside.
Healthy Weight. Since kaphas have slow agni and are the dosha responsible for keeping things “built”, kaphas can gain weight easily. Kaphas may feel like it’s a forever struggle, but once they understand their make-up and practice new habits, they can avoid most imbalances and feel light and energized.
Allergies. In the spring, heavy rains, moisture and pollens can aggravate kapha and cause allergies. Here are some remedies to help reduce the sneezing, wheezing and congestion.
Ama (ah-muh). Ama is a collection of sticky, wet, heavy, smelly, toxins that accumulate in the weaker tissues of our bodies and can create physical imbalance. Ama is undigested food and it blocks our channels, which can cause various illness and imbalance. The root cause of ama is weak agni (digestive fire/metabolism), which is a common kapha tendency, so we need to stoke the agni to heat the ama to clean it out! One way to check if you have ama is to see if your tongue has a white coating. If it does, you have some ama. Other signs of ama include lethargy, weight gain, headache, bad breath, cloudiness of mind and maybe even mucus or oil in your poop. ICK! But there is good news. With a little work, simple cases of ama can be cleared out fairly quickly.
By incorporating these new habits in small increments, it’s much easier to keep kapha in balance. Narrow down 1 or 2 remedies for a few weeks and observe the effects. Once that becomes habit, add another.