Kapha embodies the stability and cohesiveness of the earth element. The watery energy of loving compassion and deep kindness are also associated with this dosha. Healthy kapha is essential to growth and development. It provides the building blocks necessary for physical growth as well as psychological groundedness. It has close ties with the immune system—keeping the joints lubricated, protecting the tissues, and moisturizing the skin.
By appreciating the individual characteristics and tendencies of each of the doshas, we are able to choose a diet and lifestyle that is optimal for our personal constitution. We become sensitized to the qualities and symptoms of imbalance within the system and learn how to maintain or restore harmonious equilibrium.
Ayurveda recognises the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth), as the most basic building blocks of the entire material universe. Each dosha is composed of a pair of elements, each with unique mental, emotional and physical characteristics. Kapha is composed of the earth + water elements.
Qualities of Kapha (gunas)
The qualities of Kapha are reflective of the earth and water elements. Once we are familiar with these gunas, the balancing of Kapha dosha becomes an intuitive process. Ayurveda teaches that by favouring the opposing qualities of a particular dohsa, we encourage balance. The simple formula is: like increases like, and opposites balance. The qualities of Kapha are as follows:
- Dense, thick
- Dull, slow
- Sticky, oily
- Stable, solid
- Soft, smooth
Each dosha will share qualities with specific seasons. This results in an increasing chance of imbalance of a particular dosha type during their associated season. Kapha predominates during spring.
Kapha and the spring season share the energy of growth. In the springtime, fresh, young flowers grow from the sticky, heavy, and cool earth. During this season, we also become more susceptible to an increase in kapha-like qualities within the body. This can often manifest as coughs, colds, congestion and seasonal allergies.
In the wet months before the warmth of summer reinvigorates the body, we may feel lethargic and a little heavier than usual. We should therefore favour opposing qualities during this time to maintain a healthy internal balance.
Main Site in the Body
Although all three of the doshas are distributed throughout the body, each has a main seat where they predominate. Kapha dosha is most in evidence in the upper third of the body. Its main site is in the lungs. Kapha can sit heavily in the chest and sinuses, producing mucus or causing congestion. For this reason, those with kapha predominant constitutions are more likely to suffer from sinusitis, asthma, and chesty coughs.
Time of Life
All three of the doshas are present within the body at all times. However, at certain stages of life we have a tendency towards a particular dosha and its associated qualities. Kapha is most evident during the early years of life, beginning in utero until approximately age 30.
Kapha provides structure, lubrication, and cohesiveness to the body. It plays a fundamental role in the production of new cells. Kapha can be considered the bricks and mortar of the body. From conception, through childhood and puberty, kapha prepares and builds the adult body. Babies are perfect examples of kapha in action! They are soft, plump, and dense—full of the earth and water elements. In this tender time of life, kapha supports their immunity and helps them to grow.
Time of Day
Just as each dosha is associated with different times of life, they each are heightened at specific stages throughout the day. Kapha is dominant between 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. In order to maximize our efficiency and use of time, it is recommended that we structure our daily routine according to the qualities of the presiding dosha.
The steadiness and stability of kapha makes it very supportive of focused work. The kapha hours of the day are a great time to do your daily exercise or movement practice, to get some work done, and to wind down, relax and restore the mind and body.
Physical and Mental Attributes
- Kind, compassionate, loving
- Trustworthy, loyal, generous, moral
- Steady, dependable, calm
- Slow to learn, but retains information well
- Larger, softer physical frame
- Strong bones and muscles
- Thick and luscious hair, strong nails, smooth skin
- Good immune system
- Strong, good endurance
- Enjoys routine and structure
- Deep voice, steady gait
Causes of Imbalance
- Eating a diet consisting of heavy, dense, oily, cold, sticky, or processed foods
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Not getting enough physical movement or heat-promoting, cardiovascular exercise
- Not getting enough mental stimulation
- A lack of variety in your daily routine
- Cold and wet climates
- Isolation, or spending too much time alone
Internal imbalance usually arises due to unsupportive diet and lifestyle choices, or emotional stress such as trauma or grief. Once an imbalance has occurred, the natural equilibrium of the whole bodily system has been disturbed.
Most often, people experience an imbalance in their predominant dosha, as we are more susceptible to aggravation where we already have excess. However, any dosha can be thrown out of alignment due to a combination of dietary, environmental and emotional factors. When aggravated, each dosha disrupts the body in its own unique way and initiates a chain reaction of imbalance in the mind and body. Therefore, the sooner we recognise and address imbalance the better.
Kapha imbalance can be recognised by the following symptoms:
- Feelings of depression, heaviness
- Lethargy, lack of motivation
- Attachment, jealousy, greed
- Weight-gain, obesity
- Excess water retention, puffiness, swelling
- Sluggish digestion
- Coughs, colds, congestion
- Seasonal allergies
- Lung and sinus-related problems
Ways to Balance Kapha
- Eat warm, freshly-prepared meals, using a generous quantity of warming digestive spices, such as ginger, black pepper, and turmeric
- Favour light-weight and simple meals, such as steamed veggies and simple grains
- Avoid heavy foods, animal products, wheat and sugar
- Encourage internal heat, stimulation and detoxification:
- Warming spices
- Sauna, steam, deep tissue massage
- Dry brushing, exfoliation
- Invigorating exercise, such as: vigorous yoga incorporating lots of twists, inversions and flows; brisk walks; hiking; dancing
- Stimulating pranayama exercises, such as kapālabhātī and bhastrika
- Encouraging more variety in your life, trying new things
- Keeping the brain and body active
When balanced, kapha dosha is loving, supportive, and physically and menally grounded. Kapha forms the basis of our immune system and our ability to grow and develop healthily. We live in a fast-paced global society, so now more than ever we should be tending to the steady, calm and compassionate kapha dosha.
To maintain and support the functioning of healthy kapha, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of its nature and fluctuations. Learning to recognize the causes and symptoms of imbalance allows us to avoid lifestyle or dietary choices that may cause internal discord. Being familiar with the positive attributes of healthy kapha encourages us to strive for the restoration of balance.