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About Kapha

BY Claudia Welch ON June 12, 2013

The main qualities of Kapha are unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft and stable. It is also dense, cloudy and viscous. Not sure about your constitution? Take our Dosha Quiz here. Having a Kapha-predominant constitution means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional and physical make up. You may find them reflected in your strengths and weaknesses. 

  • The unctuous quality can allow for smooth joint function but, if pronounced, can lead to excess mucous.
  • The cool quality may manifest as cool skin and a laid-back, cool temperament.
  • Heaviness may manifest as a large, sturdy, grounded physical and emotional constitution and, in excess, as being overweight or experiencing a subjective feeling of heaviness in the mind.
  • Slowness may manifest as a slow gait or a slow, steady pace that you can maintain. In excess, you may get stuck in a pattern that may not be the best for you.
  • Softness can manifest as a soft heart that is easily empathic. Another manifestation of this quality is having soft skin.
  • Stability can be an asset that friends, family and colleagues probably recognize and perhaps lean on, but in excess could become stubbornness or sluggishness. You could become so stable that you are disinclined toward any physical activity.
  • Density can manifest as good stamina and strong, well-formed muscles and bones. This enables the Kapha constitution to withstand vigorous exercise. This quality is also responsible for dense, luxurious hair.

Decreasing or Balancing Kapha

A basic tenet of Ayurveda is “like increases like,” therefore, increasing the inherent qualities of Kapha will increase Kapha in your body, mind and spirit. For example, because Kapha is inherently cool, heavy and wet, cold weather, heavy foods or wet seasons tend to increase Kapha. Knowing this can help identify which lifestyle choices, foods or environments will bring balance to your constitution.

Example: You are a Kapha individual. Kapha is heavy, dense, wet, cold and static. If you eat a large bowl of ice cream (heavy, dense wet and cold,) at night (cold) in winter in Vermont (cold, wet), you can be sure that Kapha will increase in your system. The next morning you may find yourself with a cold, having gained a pound or two (the increase of heavy and dense) and less likely to move than ever (static).

Opposites as Medicine

Each of us has a unique proportion of the three doshas in our constitution. Ayurveda teaches us that if a dosha increases beyond its original, natural proportion for us, it fosters an environment where disease can flourish.

It is common for our predominant dosha (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) to increase more quickly than other doshas because we tend to perpetuate what we know best.

Example: If your dominant dosha is Kapha, due to the slow quality of Kapha you may be naturally inclined toward calming activities. In excess, this quality may lead to stagnation.

If a dosha increases in our bodies, Ayurveda suggests that we will want to decrease it in order to restore a healthy balance to our constitution.

Medicines are substances that decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities to it.

Example: If Kapha has increased due to excess stagnation in your life, activity can be a medicine. If it has increased due to excess coolness, you can use heat as a medicine. Too much heaviness? Use lightness.

One of the practical aspects of Ayurveda is that anything can be used as a medicine because everything that exists has a quality. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, foods, drinks, environments, colors, smells and lifestyles.

Qualities opposite to Kapha are predominantly warm, dry, light and active. It is therefore best for Kapha individuals to seek out physical and emotional environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities.

Diet as Medicine

Tastes That Decrease and Increase Kapha

Along with the main qualities of Kapha, it is also helpful to know those tastes that increase or decrease Kapha.

  • Sweet, sour and salty tastes increase Kapha by increasing bulk and moisture in the body and mind, and by perpetuating the qualities of Kapha. An example of the naturally sweet taste is wheat; of sour: a pickle; of salty: salt.
  • The pungent, bitter and astringent tastes traditionally decrease Kapha by drying the body and providing the opposite qualities to those of Kapha. An example of the pungent taste is chili pepper; of bitter and astringent (which are often coupled): many leafy greens and many herbs.

Kapha Diet Guidelines

A Kapha individual does well to have a moderate amount of warming, light, freshly cooked foods to maintain balance.

Because pungent, bitter and astringent tastes decrease Kapha, these tastes should be predominant in your diet.

Herbal Support for a Kapha Constitution

Using herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle. Bibhitaki , Chitrak and Punarnava are three of the primary herbs used to remove excess kapha from the body and maintain balance.

Lifestyle as Medicine

Kapha Lifestyle Suggestions

  • Although Kapha may be able to tolerate a wide variety of temperatures, the ideal environment is a warm and dry one.
  • Active sports like jogging, hiking, biking or competitive sports, especially in the morning, are best.
  • Aromatic, invigorating or heating scents, like essential oils of hina or myrrh and light and lively music are also good “medicines” for Kapha.
  • A vigorous, daily, 10-20 minute self-massage with warm sesame oil will help keep Kapha from becoming stagnant.
  • One of the best medicines for Kapha is activity. It is well worth the effort for the Kapha individual to find that golden key to what motivates them.
  • Example: If you have a difficult time motivating yourself to exercise regularly, you could enter yourself in a local bike race. This may give you just that extra push and you may be surprised by how much you enjoy yourself.

ABOUT Claudia Welch Dr. Claudia Welch is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator, and the author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness Through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western Science. Dr. Welch lectures internationally on Oriental and Ayurvedic medicines and Women’s Health, bringing a depth of knowledge and a sense of joy to her presentations. She has served on the teaching faculty of The Ayurvedic Institute, Kripalu School of... Read more>>

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