Picture it. You exercise and still gain weight. Or, you find that you can sleep for hours at a time and still wake up tired. Or, you suffer from sinus headaches all the time and can’t get rid of all that mucus. With the colder weather, it’s even harder for you to get motivated as all you want to do is stay inside and find heat. If you identify with any or all of these traits, chances are you might have Kapha as your dosha type.
The science of Ayurveda has been around for over 5,000 years and includes holistic healing methods to help maintain the mind-body connection. It recognizes that you need to maintain a natural balance in your mind-body connection. That balance includes your emotions, physical well-being, health and your mental state and emotions and is made up of the elements fire, air, earth, water and ether.
With Ayurvedic guidelines as a roadmap, you can find the unique balance for optimal health and well-being. But, what does it mean to have a Kapha Dosha? How do you know if that’s your dosha or makeup? And importantly, how do you keep Kaphas balanced?
What is Kapha?
According to Ayurveda, there are three doshas/constitutions/humors, or life force energies. They circulate in the body and govern your physiological activities and personality. Their names are Kapha, Pitta and Vata:
- Kapha (water, earth) provides protection and its qualities include static, heavy, oily, smooth, gross, moist, dense, cool, cloudy, soft and slow.
- Vata (ether, air), is King of the doshas and responsible for movement, energy, nerve impulses, breath, digestion, speech, circulation and respiration.
- Pitta (water, fire) is responsible for digestion, transformation and heat.
Kapha Ayurveda Characteristics
Because Kapha dosha includes water and earth as elements, it governs muscles, bone formation, all body fluids and is essential for lubricating the joints, aiding in digestion and adding moisture to the skin. It’s responsible for fluids like mucus, secretions, serous and synovial fluid, tears, urine and other liquids in the body.
Kapha protects the body and stabilizes it. When unbalanced, joint pain, weight gain and arthritis can develop.
A few of Kaphas characteristics include:
- Cool: Kaphas are refreshing, soothing, very open, supportive and talkative. They have fire and heat, but not dominantly like Pitta. Kaphas stay cooler because of their water and earth elements. Because they are prone to moisture and coolness, they have lower temperatures and may need dehumidifiers as dry heat works best to reduce their asthma symptoms, excess mucus and respiratory illnesses. Kaphas are not as cool as Vatas who experience cold in their hands and feet but Kaphas should dress in warm layers. Dense and Heavy: Kaphas tend to have larger builds or they may be big-boned. Not necessarily obese, they are usually larger than Vatas or Pittas. Kaphas usually have thick hair, thick eyelashes, thick skin and big eyes. They have good stamina, strong teeth and nails. But, with slower metabolism levels, they may be more sedentary.
- Moist and Oily: Because of the water element, Kaphas may have oily skin and their joints stay lubricated. A drawback is Kaphas are prone to respiratory infections because they produce excess mucus. They may retain water and may experience weight gain and swelling from water retention.
- Smooth and Slow: Kaphas move slower than other doshas. Kaphas will take their time, while Pitta might rush. The difference here is Kaphas give more attention to detail. They don’t like to be pushed because they are very thorough, graceful and reliable. Even their speech is deliberate and thoughtful. They like to complete projects fully and make sound decisions.
- Stable, and Structured: Because of its dominant earth element, Kaphas are nurturing, supportive and dependable. They offer stability and love routines. They make good life partners and do well in partnerships because they don’t quit. However, they can become complacent and sometimes suffer from depression if they don’t feel valued in their work. Periodically, they should reflect on if they want to continue an assignment, path or project.
Kaphas as the Dominant Dosha
When exploring if you have Kapha as your dominant dosha, it’s important to review the characteristics to determine if they line up with your body type or makeup.
Kaphas possess specific common traits. Hence, if you do not relate to any of these, review the other articles about Pitta and Vata. Usually a person has a primary dosha and two that are passive. Ideally, you should be tridoshic where all three doshas are evenly balanced but some people have combined doshas. Or, they might be tridoshic and imbalanced. Hence finding balance with your doshas is essential but they won’t always stay balanced.
Each dosha can dominate over the other doshas at different times of the day or in different seasons. Hence, it’s fun to study the doshas so you can learn about your body type, emotional state and mood triggers. You can also learn how to rebalance your doshas, reduce your predisposition to diseases and what foods promote healthy digestion and waste elimination.
Each dosha has times when they are dominant during the day and dominant in specific seasons. Because Kaphas have characteristics that are moist and cool, their time of year is late in the winter into the early spring season. That means that if the air is cooler and has more moisture, it’s an ideal time for Kaphas.
Another aspect of the weather is that spring is associated with new beginnings and new growth. This is reflected in Kaphas. Creative and goal-oriented, they love to spearhead new tasks.
Kaphas are dominant and more stable from 6:00 am to 10:00 am and then from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Hence, if you are planning exercise, yoga and other daily living habits, keep these times in mind. The timeframes are ideal for physical movement as well as checking in with family and friends.
If Kapha Becomes Unbalanced
Of all the doshas, Kaphas are the most grounded. Given their earthy qualities, they are excellent decision-makers with sharp memories. Very focused, Kaphas are not superficial and can become experts in any subject. Kaphas have good digestion and regular bowel movements. With strong joints and bones, they are very flexible.
Generally speaking, when Kaphas are in balance, they are patient, very compassionate, supportive, strong, nurturing, sturdy, good decision-makers, tenacious and caring. Conversely, if they become out of sync, they may sleep all day, suffer from depression and become congested. You might need to meditate with calming Kapha music.
Kaphas can be fearful, heavy and become lethargic. They also don’t like damp and cold climates which can trigger Kaphas. Without stimulation, their metabolism drops and they gain weight. Then, once they start feeling depressed, they can become lazy, and may detach and blame others. Hence, balance, diet and exercise are important as Kaphas are prone to diabetes, depression and asthma.
To keep Kaphas balanced, have an atmosphere that is light, dry and stays warm. Wear and decorate your home with earthy colors, use warm scents and have dry massage. Do cardio exercise. Kaphas need to periodically clean out their closets as they sometimes hold onto things too long and can be resistant to change. For more tips on balancing Kapha, watch this helpful video.
Maintain a Consistent Routine
Because Kaphas can become sedentary, lethargic and complacent, keeping a routine can help them stay active. Listen to your body and when you feel detached and like you’re unmotivated, get up and change your routine.
Start each day early with the 6:00 am to 10:00 am time slot in mind. Since Kaphas sleep deeply, they might oversleep, so use an alarm. If excessive grogginess persists, get to bed earlier and don’t have stimulants (coffee, soda) before bed. Try to get up each day before sunrise.
Kaphas need motivation, stimulation and energy because their qualities are stable, heavy and cool. Hence, regular exercise, yoga, meditation and breathing are recommended. They can help to improve your mood, raise your metabolism and reduce depressive thoughts.
If you do yoga early, consider these poses:
As a back bending pose, this asana gives a gentle stretch to the abdomen and organs. It also increases Agni, your internal digestive heat/fire.
Half Moon Pose
As this asana stretches the waist and abdomen, it can help to improve digestion and reduce Manda Agni (excess Kapha). The asana works to awaken the digestive organs and also opens the lungs. Hence, it can reduce the build-up of phlegm.
While this asana requires assistance if you are a beginner, reversing your blood flow can help improve digestion. The pose also lifts the stomach contents and can improve digestion. Additional benefits for Kaphas include that the inverted position reduces fluid to the legs and ankles that build up from excess Kapha. However, avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, other eye diseases or suffer from migraines.
Sun Salutation Pose
Kaphas stay cool, hence, this yoga pose can draw in heat and help them start their day effectively. This asana is also a way to increase circulation and promote a healthy lymphatic system.
To build confidence, stand tall like a tree on one leg. This is a grounding pose that balances Kapha’s earth element. Hence the need for this pose, which is light and spacious to counter Kapha’s heavy and dense traits.
Similar to Half Moon Pose, the lateral flexion here can improve digestion, open the chest and lungs. It’s also good for toning the back, core and legs.
Twisting Chair Pose
As a way to reduce stagnation, this pose draws heat to the legs. Because Kaphas tends to retain water, pushing out fluid is essential. This pose can also reduce Kapha as you move side to side. Hence, hold this asana longer and work on your breathwork to open the chest and lungs.
Upward Plank Pose
To warm up Kaphas, this asana can produce heat as it expands the chest, arms, legs and back. It’s also a great way to draw strength from your core and distribute it to your legs.
Warrior II Pose
This heat-producer can help to burn Kapha. You are lifting and opening the body (chest, heart, lungs) as you have your arms outstretched. This move also opens the hips and builds courage and strength.
Dry Brushing and Massage
Before taking a bath or shower, consider dry brushing as Kapha’s earth force needs stimulation. Dry brushing can help improve lymph flow and circulation. And, you can use a body brush or silk garshana (lymphatic) gloves.
Simply use the brush or glove over your dry skin in long strokes going up toward your heart for 10-minutes daily to release excess Kapha and raise your metabolism level. If you find that you don’t like having the coarse bristles on your skin, another option is to massage your skin.
If you do self-massage before your bath or shower, use almond, mustard or other light oils. Mustard oil is preferred for Kaphas because it can penetrate deeply into the skin and helps to remove excess Kapha. It has a hot potency effect making it ideal for Kapha types who stay cool. But, if you find it too strong, dilute it with coconut oil.
For a revitalizing massage, after your bath or shower, scent your massage oil with bergamot, grapefruit or tulsi. These are refreshing scents and the strokes across your legs, thighs, stomach and arms can help with relaxing your muscles and tissues. It’s also essential for improving range of motion and decreasing areas in the spine where you might have subluxations or decreased nerve compression.
Are you a Kapha who feels sick all the time? The good news is that it’s not you. It’s the mucus your body produces! Because Kaphas are prone to excess mucus, they may suffer from respiratory infections, allergies, stuffy noses, headaches, postnasal drip and asthma. Extra phlegm in the nasal passages can cause sinus headaches, coughs, colds and a suppressive appetite (which can lead to unhealthy eating).
Kaphas with too much mucus or sputum in their lungs can suffer from blocked airways. They might experience asthma attacks or asthma-like symptoms due to restricted airflow. Other illnesses might include bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis.
Once Kaphas become sick, they can feel miserable, lethargic and unmotivated. They might fall into a depressed state and isolate themselves like couch potatoes. They might sleep longer at night and nap during the daytime. This can disrupt their metabolism and lead to weight gain.
A neti pot is recommended to help to clear up your sinus cavities. Use a Jala neti जलनेति technique to clear your nasal passageways. This type of neti pot fits into the nostrils to help you clean your nasal cavity. Only use warm, purified water, non-iodized salt that is ground finely and ceramic neti pots. It’s a natural remedy that can reduce postnasal drip. The nasal solution can remove excess mucus and viruses that enter the nose to help you stay healthy (and you’ll sleep more soundly without a stuffy nose!).
Here are more helpful tips on Jala Neti for beginners.
Because Kapha has foundational earth and water elements, their qualities are cool, oily, sticky and heavy. Hence, Bellows Breath breathing or Bhastrika is pranayama that can help. Its qualities help to remove excess Kapha and it is stimulating, stokes the circulation and provides warmth. Bhastrika is best when you feel congested, sluggish or unmotivated as it opens the flow of prana in the nadis (energy channels).
To do Bhastrika, start with an empty stomach and have tissues available if your sinuses start draining. It is not recommended if you are pregnant or for those with respiratory conditions or heart-related illnesses.
Sit with your hands in your lap and shut your eyes. Relax your face muscles and breathe in deeply as your rib cage expands. Then exhale fully. Continue doing this for 15 to 20 seconds and then return to your regular breathing. Other Kapha breathing exercises include Victorious Breath (Ujjayi Pranaya) and Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati Pranayama).
Kaphas have amazing endurance and more ojas and stamina than the other doshas. Because they are prone to weight gain with their water element, they need physical movement.
Kaphas may want to walk, hike, dance, do warm yoga sessions and run. These are all ways to sweat, release extra water through urine and increase their heart rate. Here are a few more tips on Kapha routines.
Vigorous workouts can also help reduce complacency and sedentary living. If routines become boring, mix it up with new stimulation. Walking around the mall can raise the heart rate, expel extra energy and it’s therapeutic. Or, try a group yoga class to make new friends. Kaphas are naturally social and supportive and enjoy being around others.
Eat a Kapha Diet
With a Kapha diet, it’s important to pacify Kapha and eat foods that can help reduce it. Kaphas are prone to heaviness and slow metabolism. Because the qualities for this constitution are heavy, damp and cold, eat foods that are warm, light, dry and energizing. Kapha types do best with foods that are pungent, astringent and bitter, while they prefer sour, salty and sweet foods (but they should have the latter in moderation).
- Avoid pickles and salt as the latter causes water retention.
- Avoid junk food and fried foods. Instead, have raw and dry fresh fruits and salads. Too much oil is disruptive to Kapha and can cause congestion and digestive problems. If you do add oil, let it be sunflower or olive oil in moderation. It’s also important to skip processed foods and sugar as Kaphas can develop diabetes. Instead, have jaggery as a natural sweetener, or enjoy nuts soaked overnight as a snack.
- Avoid yogurt and other dairy products. Have low-fat milk and ghee in moderation.
- Eat astringent foods like apples, corn, legumes, millet and rye.
- For bitter foods, have arugula, brussel sprouts, cabbage, dandelion greens.
- Fruits Kaphas can enjoy include melons, grapes, apples and pomegranates. Cooling vegetables include asparagus, cucumber, potatoes, pumpkin and calabash.
- Spices can include black pepper, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, dry ginger and radish flavors.
- Use warm spices, eat fresh foods that are raw and have hot ginger tea. Add a teaspoon of Chyawanprash to it before you start your day.
Not sure what to eat/avoid? Learn more about balancing foods for Kapha and the top 10 foods Kapha’s need.
Kapha is a dosha/constitution or life force energy. It governs your personality and physiological activities and is responsible for the bones, muscles and fluids in the body. Composed of elements of water and earth, its qualities are heavy, cool, cloudy, moist, dense, static, oily, smooth, gross, slow and soft.
Kaphas usually have a bigger build. They may be thick, big-boned or stocky.
When Kapha is aggravated it can lead to weight gain, oversleeping, depression, a slow metabolism, poor digestion and fluid retention.
Avoid pickles and salt as they increase water retention. Skip the processed and fried foods and limit oil. It’s disruptive, causes congestion and digestive problems. Skip sugar (diabetes risk) and limit dairy. You can have yogurt, ghee and low-fat milk in moderation.
Kaphas are prone to diabetes, depression and allergies. To avoid these, limit junk food and sugar. Mix up your routine, don’t nap during the daytime and exercise. Avoid dairy and oil that can trigger allergies.