Kapha derives from the elements of Water and Earth and translates as “that which sticks.” It is the energy of building and lubrication that provides the body with physical form, structure, and the smooth functioning of all its parts. Kapha can be though of as the essential cement, glue, and lubrication of the body in one.
The qualities of Kapha are moist, cold, heavy, dull, soft, sticky, and static. A Kapha individual will display physical and mental characterizing that reflect these qualities in a both balanced and imbalanced state.
Kapha individuals are blessed with naturally good health, rugged bodies, and mental peace. When in a state of imbalance, terms like “couch potato” and “lazy bones” may ring close to home for these types.
The body of a Kapha resembles a stone house: it’s solid, rugged, and prepared to weather most of what heads its way. While modern culture has a fascination with being thin, it was undoubtedly the Kapha types that were equipped to brave the elements in ancient times. In classical Ayurvedic texts, only 10 percent of disorders relate to Kapha, with most of these concerning excess fluid conditions. Despite this smaller number, Kapha is closely related to the epidemic rise of illnesses today, such as obesity and heart disease.
Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone, and sinew. The primary function of Kapha is protection.
Qualities of Kapha: Heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily
Physical Characteristics: Kapha types have a strong build and excellent stamina. Large, soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin; and thick hair are also important Kapha characteristics. Those who are predominantly Kapha sleep soundly and have regular digestion. But when Kapha builds to excess, weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body. When they’re out of balance, Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression.
Emotional Characteristics: Kaphas are naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. When in balance, Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. People with an excess of Kapha tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness. In the face of stress, the typical Kapha response is “I don’t want to deal with it.”
- Since Kapha is inherently cold, heavy, and dense, the key to balancing Kapha is stimulation. Kaphas tend to cling to the status quo and routine, so they need the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and experiences.
- Follow a regular daily routine, ideally awakening before 6am each morning. Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Stay warm and avoid dampness. Kaphas are particularly sensitive to cold, damp conditions and benefit from heat. Use dry heat if you are congested (a common Kapha complaint). Using a heating pad under your back or a sunlamp at your chest is often helpful. Avoid exposing your nose, throat, and lungs to cold winter air if you aren’t feeling well.
- Perform a daily garshan (dry massage) on your body to stimulate circulation. Click here for garshan massage instructions.
- To prevent congestion, the ayurvedic neti pot is a powerful tool for nasal cleansing. Read on for instructions on how to use a neti pot here.
- Clear your space. To avoid clutter from accumulating in your home, office, car, and other physical spaces, regularly clean out and give away things that you know you’ll never use.
- Get regular exercise – preferably every day. This is the best way to avoid stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in the body. Focus on building endurance. Favor running, bicycling, swimming, aerobics, and competitive sports. Dance to energizing rhythmic music.
- Use warm, stimulating aromas including cloves, camphor, cinnamon, eucalyptus, juniper, and marjoram.
- Favor colors that are warm and bright, including yellow, orange, and red.
Kapha-Balancing Nutritional Guidelines
According to ayurveda, it is important to eat foods that have a balancing effect upon the dominant dosha or that will pacify (stabilize) a dosha that has become excessive or aggravated. Because Kapha is heavy, oily and cold, favor foods that are light, dry, or warm. Foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes are most beneficial for pacifying Kapha. Reduce foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
- Try a liquid fast one day per week, ingesting only fresh vegetables and fruit juices, and pureed vegetable soup.
- Reduce the intake of dairy, which tends to increase Kapha. You can use small amounts of ghee, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt.
- Honey is a sweetener that is said to best pacify Kapha. Other sweeteners should be avoided because they increase the Kapha dosha, contributing to problems such as blocked sinuses, allergies, colds, and lethargy. Take a tablespoon or two (but no more) of raw honey every day helps release excess Kapha; please do not cook with honey.
- Drinking hot ginger tea with meals helps stimulate slow digestion and sharpen dull taste buds. Drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. Find our ginger tea recipe here.
- All beans are good for Kapha types except for soybeans and soybean-based foods such as tofu, which should be eaten in moderation.
- Favor lighter fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, and apricots. Reduce heavier fruits like bananas, avocados, pineapples, oranges, peaches, coconuts, melons, dates, and figs.
- In general, all vegetables are recommended but reduce consumption of sweet and juicy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- All spices except salt are pacifying to Kapha. Use pungent spices like pepper, cayenne, mustard seed, and ginger freely in your diet.
- Reduce intake of all nuts and seeds. Favor pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
- For non-vegetarians, fresh, organic white meat chicken, turkey, eggs, and seafood are acceptable. Limit consumption of red meat.
- A Kapha diet should be lively and full of energy to help spark the digestive and metabolic systems. Eat your largest meal at lunchtime and a smaller meal at dinnertime. Allow at least 3 hours to digest before bedtime.
- Fats and oils: Use small amounts of extra virgin olive oil, ghee, almond oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, mustard oil, or safflower oil.
- Grains: Favor barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye. Reduce intake of oats, rice, and wheat.