Kapha’s elemental makeup consists of water and earth. The common translation of kapha is “that which binds things” or “that which holds things together.” According to ayurveda, this is the dosha responsible for the stability, lubrication, substance, and support of our physical body.
Kapha supports our emotional calm, our mental and physical endurance, and it allows us to feel deeply, to empathize, and to be patient and compassionate.
Qualities or Attributes of Kapha Dosha
- Soft or hard (Think of mud—it can be sticky or soft and slimy or hard.)
- Steady or static
- Gross (as opposed to subtle)
Characteristics of Kapha Dosha
When kapha within us is in balance, according to our constitution, or prakruti, we feel a sense of support in bodily function. The dense, stable, conserving qualities of kapha support our body heat and protect our organs. There is a firm quality to our joints, which are well-lubricated and support the bones, and there is internal support from mucous membranes and GI lining, as well as the myelin sheath for proper brain function.
Ayurveda says that contentment is one of the benefits that balanced kapha brings to our lives.
Kapha’s ability to love and forgive supports relationships with compassion and patience.
Actions of Kapha Dosha in the Body and Mind
- Fat regulation
- Strength and stamina
- Stability in body and mind
- Support for bodily functions
- Nourishment of the the liquid body tissues; plasma
- Anabolic changes
- Lubrication; mucous
- Nourishment in general
- Repair and regeneration
- Quality of saliva (ability to perceive taste)
- Sense of smell
Characteristics of Kapha Dominance in Appearance
- Large eyes; especially the white (sclera) of the eye
- Eye color is dark and rich in tone; chocolate brown, deep blue
- Abundance of body hair and/or low hairline
- Lush, thick, sometimes curly quality to hair
- Round features
- Smooth, dense skin (oily)
- Solid frame; may be stocky or large and strong
- Deep-set joints
- Pale tongue
- Large, well-formed teeth
Examples of Kapha Dosha in Excess or in an Imbalanced State
- Slow or dull digestion
- Stagnation; inertia
- Excess saliva
- Excess mucous
- Attachment issues
- Clammy skin
- Wet cough
- Skin tags
- Edema (water retention)
- Excessive napping; difficulty waking
- Foggy mind
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling heavy or sleepy after eating
- Difficulty initiating (slow starter)
Dietary Tips to Support Kapha Balance
Foods that are great for balancing of kapha in general are pungent, bitter, and astringent in taste. Ayurveda considers these tastes to be the medicine for warming, drying, and stimulating digestion for kapha. Generally, all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) are recommended for healthy digestion!
Foods That Help to Balance Kapha
Fruits and vegetables
- Berries in season
- Dried fruit in general
- Mustard greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Dark leafy greens
- Red leaf lettuce
- Eggplant (warmed and spiced)
- Ginger root
Nuts, seeds, and legumes
(Most nuts are too heavy and oily for Kapha. If you need to eat them, it’s best to have nuts that are dry roasted and unsalted.)
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Caraway seeds
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Mung beans
- Pinto beans
- Adzuki beans
Dairy and fats/oils
- Ghee (in moderation)
- Yogurt (after meals and in moderation)
- Goat cheese (in moderation)
- Sunflower oil
- Raw honey
- Rice syrup (in moderation)
- Stevia (in moderation)
- Spicy chai
- Ginger tea
- Coffee (in moderation)
- Black tea (in moderation)
- Cinnamon or clove tea
- Orange peel tea
- Kombucha (in moderation)
- Dry wines
(If you must have meats, roasting, broiling, or baking is the best way to prepare them for kapha balance.)
- White meat
- Freshwater fish (in moderation)
Foods to avoid or consume only moderately if your constitution is predominantly kapha:
Foods that increase kapha are, in general, sweet, sour, and salty in taste. These tastes, if in excess for the kapha in your prakruti (constitution), can create heavy, sluggish, and wet digestion. According to ayurveda, this will cause digestive hardship for kapha and an eventual range of imbalances.
Examples of Foods That Can Aggravate Kapha
Fruits and vegetables
- Heavy, sweet, and sour veggies and fruits: avocados, tomatoes, bananas, pineapple, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapes, oranges, and all melons
- Rice (okay in moderation)
Nuts and seeds
- Pine nuts
- Sesame seeds
Dairy and fats/oils
- Cold milk
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil
- Saltwater fish
- Turkey and chicken (dark meat)
- Sweet fruit juices
- Aloe vera juice
- Coconut water
- Sweet teas
- Iced drinks
- Refined sugar
- Deep fried foods
Lifestyle Tips for Balancing Kapha
- Early to bed and early to rise (No snooze alarm! Wake up, and get right out of bed.)
- Practice gratitude daily.
- Go for a jog in the morning to warm up the body.
- Exercise every day for 30 minutes before 10 am.
- Practice vinyasa style yoga or attend hot yoga classes (but not in the summer).
- Practice asana or pranayama before meditation.
- Add bergamot, ylang ylang, peppermint, orange, or lemon balm to your massage oil for a stimulating self-massage (abhyanga) in the morning.
- Use eucalyptus, pine, or tea tree in your nasya (nose) oil.
- Wear more red, gold, orange, hot pink, or purple.
- Journal or talk with a friend when upset; avoid emotional eating.
- Enjoy a dry sauna followed by a stimulating cold dip!
- Have your most substantial meal between 10 am and 2 pm.
- Eat in a pleasant and enjoyable environment.
- Skip nap time.
- Try something new—perhaps a stimulating aerobics class like Zumba or step.
- Clean out your closets every season.
- Have soup or another very light meal at supper time.
- Vary your routine (hang out with a vata!).
- Listen to fun dance music after work.
- Begin a crossword puzzle.
- Hike up a hill with a friend or group.
- Learn to say “no” without feeling bad about it.
Yoga for Balancing Kapha
- Three-part breath
- Bhastrika (bellow’s breath)
- Kapalabhati (skull-shining breath)
- Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
- Sun salutes
- Chaturanga dandasana
- Cobra or upward facing dog pose
- Chair pose
- Warrior I (with arms in “goal post” position to engage the backbend aspect of the posture)
- Warrior II (with a long hold)
- Moving in and out of warrior III
- Tree pose (with arms overhead)
- Dancer pose
- Revolved half moon pose
- Squeezing and releasing the belly in standing forward bend
- Agni sara
- Uddiyana bandha kriya in downward facing dog
- Side plank (with multiple variations and long holds)
- Crow pose
- Boat pose
- Peacock pose
- Camel pose
- Moving in and out of bridge pose (also, practicing bridge with a long hold without resting on a block)
- Upward bow/wheel pose
- Pigeon pose (the backbend version)
- Hanumanasana (splits)
- Jathara parivartanasana
- Savasana with guided relaxation (to decrease the tendency to sleep, and to increase integration with awareness)
Are You Kapha?
Take our dosha quiz here.
Kathryn Templeton, MA, RDT/MT, E-RYT 500, is an Ayurvedic practitioner who has devoted her life to the health of others. A psychotherapist for more than 30 years, Kathryn is a master teacher in the field of Drama Therapy and continues to work both clinically and as an educator specializing in the treatment of individuals with complex trauma. As an E-RYT 500, NAMA Certified Ayurvedic practitioner and senior Para Yoga teacher, Kathryn has worked to develop specialized treatments integrating the... Read more>>