Continuing on our discussion of Ayurveda – Yoga’s ‘sister science’ of holistic medicine and preventative health care this month we will discuss the Kapha Dosha. Kapha is the Dosha (constitution) made up of the elements of Earth and Water. We all have Kapha within us to certain degrees. Kapha gives us stability, security and groundedness. It lubricates the joints, skin and hair, supports the bones and muscles of the body, and stabilizes our movements with grace and softness. Kapha inspires patience, tolerance and a “go with the flow” attitude.
Those with a Kapha-predominant constitution would tend towards:
Strong build, physical strength, vitality, a great deal of endurance, cool, moist skin, large beautiful eyes, thick hair, large white teeth, strong immune system, tendency towards overweight.
Steady and rational in thinking, determined but adaptable, calm and peaceful, steadfast and loyal.
Very social and caring, tend towards a more sedentary lifestyle, often interested in arts, cooking, healing, and like to be surrounded by many beautiful things. Often work in the interests of community and family, with a tendency to choose roles like social work, healing/bodywork, and physical jobs like gardening and construction.
Social Workers/Carers (caring, compassionate), Healers/Bodyworkers (ie: massage therapists), Opera Singers (larger frame, rich and resonant voices). A great Kapha example is Oprah Winfrey who has large and liquid eyes, luminous skin, a larger frame, and chose a highly social career that was all about listening to and caring for people – and she shows obvious endurance and strength in the longevity of her career. Another great Kapha example would be Santa Claus, large framed, jolly, twinkly-eyed and tirelessly dedicated to spreading joy!
Understanding your predominant dosha can help you to understand what elements are of principle influence in your body, as well as in thoughts, actions, interests and habits. Balancing the doshas is a matter of balancing these elements and their qualities ie: hot/cold, movement/stability, heaviness/lightness, to make the most of your natural constitution. As well, we can discover through a study of the doshas that when an imbalance occurs, we see too much of a certain element, which can be balanced by utilizing the other elements intelligently. In the case of Kapha, often the imbalance is caused by too much Earth (steadiness) and/or Water (oil) causing the natural groundedness and moisture of the dosha to become excessively cool and damp causing congestion, overweight, lethargy and stagnation. For Kapha doshas warmth, dryness and movement are good balancing factors.
As I mentioned last month it is interesting to note that our culture is quite Pitta dominant so there is a tendency in the Western world to admire and aspire to the Pitta qualities of hard-driving success and feats of intellectual prowess. Thus, the Kapha dosha can sometimes be seen as the “lazy” dosha. This is entirely untrue. Kapha has the greatest strength, endurance and vitality of all of the doshas and this is something to invite into our lives rather than avoid. In balance, Kapha types are loyal friends, caring community members, and tireless workers.
Are you a Kapha type? Here are a few points about the Kapha Dosha…does this feel familiar to you?
Signs of Kapha Dosha Balance
- Physical strength and vitality
- Strong immune system
- Determination, mental resolve
- Rational thinking, steadiness
- Serenity, calm, peacefulness
- Endurance, stamina, consistency in action
- Adaptability, flexibility
- Ability to manage personal resources (strength, finances, emotions)
Signs of Kapha Dosha Imbalance
- Lethargic, sluggish, groggy all day
- Dull thinking, slow to comprehend
- Apathetic, lack of desire
- Depressed, sad, melancholy
- Greedy, possessive, materialistic
- Procrastinating, delaying goals
- Sleeping too much, hard to get out of bed
- Mucus and congestion in sinuses, lungs, throat
- Allergies, hay fever, sinus infections
- Tendency towards diabetes and obesity
- Sluggish digestion, bloating
- Water retention, pale cool and clammy skin
- Aching, heavy joints and limbs
- High cholesterol
- Dry skin, chapped lips, dry mouth
- Internal heat/burning
- General body aches and pains
- Unstable joints
- Feeling empty, hopeless
- Overweight, obesity
- Lung and sinus congestion/infection
Balancing Principles – How to Balance the Kapha Dosha
Encourage principles of warmth, lightness, activity, dryness
- eat warming and mildly spicy foods, avoid cold damp foods like ice cream, cheese and cold drinks
- eat until only ¾ full, do not overfill the stomach
- drink warm water between meals
- avoid snacks between meals, and focus on your meal when you eat rather than eating in front of the television
- stay active, try to have little bits of activity throughout the day
- lucky Kaphas can enjoy coffee daily as it is a great stimulant for the sluggish Kapha system – but in moderation of course.
Develop motivation, activity and vitality
- exercise daily and with some intensity – get a sweat up
- set goals and follow the steps to achieving them
- use positive visualization and affirmations
- be social; get a walking buddy, tennis partner, use your social time for more than just meals
- warming, stimulating practices like:
- stronger practices like hiking, running, and cycling are great for Kaphas
- –yoga practices that are more heating like Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow and Bikram
- –techniques like the Garshana and Abhyanga massages that we explored in the last few Messengers
- get regular massages to stimulate circulation and detox.
It’s timely that we discuss Kapha at the start of the holiday season, when overeating, lack of exercise, and a lot of socializing can put even non-Kaphas into a bit of a food-induced Kapha coma. Take care this holiday season to eat in moderation, exercise lots, and maybe make a few of your social gatherings into playful gatherings at the beach, in the snow, or on the new Wii…your New Year will start with much more vitality if you do!