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Understanding Kapha

By Samantha Case

The Energy governing Structure, Cohesion, Stability

Ayurveda is founded on the belief that everyone and everything is composed of a combination of Earth’s five elements: space, air, water, fire, earth. These elements are split into three primary energies called doshas, which include Vata (the energy of movement), Pitta (the energy of digestion and transformation), and Kapha (the energy of lubrication and structure).

We’re each composed of a unique combination of these energies, but one or two tend to be more present than the others. People with more Vata are often enthusiastic, creative, and more prone to restlessness and anxiety while Pitta types tend to be more driven, active, and more susceptible to anger or frustration. Kapha types on the other hand are patient, loving and, when out of balance, can gravitate toward depression and lethargy. If you don’t yet know your Dosha type, take this simple and informative quiz to find out.

Kapha In Focus

The main translation of Kapha is “that which holds things together.” Kapha contains higher amounts of water and earth than Pitta and Vata, which have more space, air, and fire qualities. Kapha dosha is the primary energy of earth and water and embodies stability, lubrication, and substance. It’s composed of cold, wet, heavy, dull, slow, sticky, soft, cloudy, and dense qualities. On a chilly, rainy day, don’t you want to snuggle under a soft blanket with a hot cup of tea and have a restful and slow day? That’s Kapha in action!

Kapha manifests in the body as its physical structure, regeneration, strength and stamina, memory formation and retention, and growth. We also see Kapha in characteristics like patience, compassion, forgiveness, contentment, and ease.

Kapha types tend to…

  • carry a well-developed body

  • have thick, curly, or oily hair

  • have smooth and oily skin

  • have excellent stamina

  • be a naturally deep sleeper

  • favor routine and security over instability

  • be compassionate, gentle, and calm

  • have a stable temperament

  • be approachable and friendly

When Kapha is out of balance or when there’s excess in the bodily system, it tends to manifest as slow or dull digestion, stagnation and inertia, slow and sticky bowel movements, excess mucous, a tendency to hold onto jobs or relationships long after is necessary (attachment challenges), overly sentimental, excessive napping or difficulty waking, foggy mind, depression, and more.

Kapha’s main location in the body is the chest, and excess Kapha tends to appear in this area as mucus, colds, sinus congestion, allergies, and asthma.

Spring and Kapha Season

Spring hums with life. The songbirds return with their music and the bears awaken, stretch, and reenter the world from hibernation. Farmers plant new seeds and flowers poke from the soil to reach toward the sun. Temperatures progressively rise and rivers grow full from melting snow and spring showers. Animals with winter-grown coats begin to shed them. And like them, humans enter spring with their own winter coats: Kapha accumulation.

During winter, we tend to accrue more Kapha in our bodies to balance out the qualities of Vata that are present in the external environment. The wet qualities of spring differ from winter’s dry environment. Despite spring’s sense of liveliness with budding plants and increased daylight, it also represents sluggishness and dampness as winter melts away into a new season. With its nurturing presence and increased moisture, spring is the season of Kapha.

In Ayurveda, like increases like and opposites balance. When we don’t balance our internal environment with the external environment by incorporating opposite qualities into our lives, we risk throwing our bodies out of balance. Therefore, to balance the qualities of a particular season we have to integrate opposing qualities into our bodies and lifestyle habits. That’s why in winter our bodies tend to favor Kapha qualities (heavy, sweet, dense, and oily) that pacify Vata.

Now that we’re entering spring with an abundance of Kapha, everyone is more vulnerable to colds, congestion, allergies, and lethargy. Kapha types are especially susceptible at this time because they naturally embody spring-like qualities (remember: like increases like). Thankfully, an appropriate seasonal routine can help rebalance Kapha.

Balancing Kapha in Spring

Kapha is best balanced by inviting more Pitta and Vata qualities into your life, especially during the spring season. The light, sharp, dry, and hot qualities of Pitta and Vata offset the heavy, soft, and dampened qualities of Kapha and spring. In particular, Kapha can best be kept in check with the following habits:

Eat a Kapha-pacifying diet.

In general, eat lighter and wholesome foods, avoid snacking, and eat less Kapha-producing foods like dairy, meat, fried or oily foods, and processed foods. Instead, eat warmer foods with dry qualities.

Emphasize pungent, astringent, and bitter tastes in your diet (like leafy vegetables and legumes) and eat less sweet, sour, and salty tastes, which are typically better in winter. Also try to avoid heavy or watery fruits and vegetables like avocado, banana, dates, figs, sweet potatoes, cucumber, pineapple, and summer squash.

Dandelions are an especially supportive (and free) treat during this time that you may see popping up around your area. It’s amazing how nature knows what we need and when we need it! Here’s a nice Kapha-pacifying recipe to try: Dandelion Greens with Lemon and Mint.

Create space in your day-to-day routine.

Though it’s never a bad idea to incorporate more space into your life, spring’s heavy and watery qualities make it a particularly good time to do so. One effective way to invite more space is through a regular yoga and meditation practice, which slows down the mind and body. Spending time in nature is another great way to create space, and what better time is there than now to observe what’s happening in the environment around you? From budding flowers to longer days, the world calls for your attention.

Get your body moving.

Excess Kapha can promote feelings of laziness, especially this time of year. That’s why physical activity is an important way to balance that excess. Exercise is especially important in the morning during the Kapha time of day, between two am and six am. Whether it’s yoga, running, biking, or any other form of exercise, physical activity improves circulation, increases heat, and brings about a feeling of lightness, which will counterbalance feelings of laziness. In the same light, try to avoid napping which will only produce excess Kapha.

Live a more spring-supportive lifestyle.

Spring is beckoning everything in nature back to life and is inviting us into a period of renewal and awakening. It’s a vibrant time of year that encourages play, socialization, light-heartedness, playfulness and adventure. Allow yourself to break free from your routine a bit. Try not to even get too caught up in an effort to balance your doshas or release excess Kapha. Instead, see if you can let your focus be on simply enjoying the season and what it offers. Pay attention to what nature is up to, and invite it to bring out the same qualities in you. During spring, take time to play outside, reach out to friends, seek outlets for expression, and let go a little.

During this season and time of worldly uncertainty, we could all stand to let go a little.

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