This is part 3 of my three part blog series on the three dosha in ancient Ayurveda Pitta, Vata and Kapha Dosha. We have discussed the two other mind-body types, Pitta and Vata. You may go back and read both part one and two posts in detail by clicking these links.
Last but not least, it’s time to discuss the Kapha dosha.
Review of the Three Dosha
- Pitta-pitta is a mind body type that aligns with the summer. It is lively, competitive, first responder, spicy, and fire based. Pitta predominant constitutions usually have a muscular build, oilier skin, are prone to bleeding or ulcers and are very intelligent and quick witted. The organs most affected include the liver, eyes, and skin. To pacify pitta imbalances, one must eat a pitta satisfying diet of astringent/bitter herbs and cooling foods/spices.
- Vata-vata is a mind body type that aligns with autumn and winter. It is sweet, airy, fluid, expressive, agile, dry, changeable and movement based. Vata predominant constitutions usually have long extremities, drier skin, large eyes, are prone to anxiety and distractibility, and are grounded by heavier or sweeter foods. Their minds never stop. Imbalances lead to a different energy blockage and stagnation of proper prana flow. The organs most affected by a vata excess include the colon, lungs, and nervous system. To pacify vata imbalances, one must eat a vata pacifying diet to include sweeter and more grounding foods.
- Kapha-kapha is a mind body type that aligns with spring and winter. It is sweet, loyal, caring, grounded, and water/earth based. Kapha predominant constitutions usually have heavier set builds, glowing skin and lustrous hair, are prone to emotional eating and clinginess, and are supported by social interaction and exercise. Emotional eating and coveting can lead to stagnation of prana that causes heaviness and depression, affected certain organs. When imbalanced, Kapha predominant types can become clingy, stingy, controlling, lethargic, sluggish, have brain fog, laziness, and even depression. They often suffer from chronic bronchitis, mucus congestion, a thick, white coating on the tongue, and can become overly emotional. The organs most affected by a kapha imbalance include the sinus cavities, stomach, and lungs. To pacify kapha imbalances, one must eat a kapha dosha satisfying diet that avoids heavy or sweet foods. should be light/spicy and easily digestible. Stimulation, keeping warm and regular exercise are paramount for Kapha personalities.
Keep in mind that we are all born with all three dosha, but 1-2 usually predominate. Some people have all three in equal amounts and are rather balanced, however.
How Do I Know If I have a Kapha Imbalance?
Many of us may be feeling sluggish due to the cold temperatures outside. After all, winter is partly Kapha season! Thats why we often hibernate inside our homes and gain weight during the holidays. Its hard not to emotionally eat with all the good food and family (that may or may not trigger emotions in us) around during this time of year. All of that can leave us feeling heavy, depressed or even fighting weight gain. You may also notice that you are prone to feeling stuffy, having phlegm, bronchitis symptoms or frequent sinusitis. This makes sense since Kapha is an earth and water mind body type, so adding heavy meals or feelings to the mix can make you feel cold and water logged. This contributes to mucus production. In fact, congestive heart failure is a sequelae of an out of balance kapha dosha. These patients are literally drowning in their own fluid.
Kapha have beautiful round faces, thick hair and white, shining teeth. They are a joy to be around when balanced. They are a bit more hesitant than the quick witted pitta, but once they have grasped a concept they never forget it. If you suspect that you are a Kapha dominant, it is important that your diet be very controlled and that you do not keep “cheat foods” in the house. If imbalanced, the downfall of Kapha is that they will eat their emotions, making this dosha very susceptible to weight gain. You may notice that these symptoms worsen in the colder months.
Symptoms of a Kapha Imbalance include: excessive mucus and phlegm, thick and white coat on tongue, sluggish bowel movements, heavy build, brain fog especially in the morning, feeling sluggish, possessive, overly sentimental, stubborn, lazy, emotional eating, raw foods may worsen symptoms, craving highly processed foods, feeling stuck, depression. Since the organs associated with Kapha include the stomach, lungs and sinus cavities, it makes sense that these organs may show signs of dysfunction when Kapha is in excess. This water based dosha can cause stickiness and mucus in the respiratory tract and lead to improper digestion concerning the stomach. Of note, shame and grief are held in the lungs so often the overly sentimental Kapha types turn inward on themselves, leading to disease in these representative organs.
How Do I Help To Correct a Kapha Imbalance?
Like I always say, be your own best doctor. Nearly every imbalance in the body can be corrected if caught in time and especially when we are armed with the right knowledge, tools and determination! If the Kapha dosha resonates the most with you, there are some lifestyle and diet changes that can help to energize and revitalize your life, while bringing you back into balance.
When the lungs and respiratory tract becomes congested, this is a sign that we are not clearing toxins properly from our bodies. Heaviness is a sign of stagnate energy, or Prana flow. It is extremely important for Kapha’s to NOT eat when they are upset or feeling down. Do not use your emotions as justification for a “deserving” meal when you know you will not be happy with your decision later. You may also notice that you sink into the couch in the winter when you should be a bit more adventurous, or that cheese (although you love it), does not sit well with digestion. You may notice that you are easily hurt by others’ comments and this you often turn inward on yourself, which makes you more prone to feeling victimized, hiding from the world and self punishing behaviors. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, you may notice that you can become clingy and possessive when these characteristics surface.
- Indian Triphala-Yes I listed this healthy digestive herbal under every dosha. It is a tridosha balancing herb used to encourage healthy elimination. If we closely examine each dosha, we see that each one has their respective organs in the digestive system. Pitta is the small intestines while Vata is the colon and Kapha is the stomach. When imbalanced, each affect proper digestion and elimination. Triphala is one of my favorite gentle laxatives to remove toxins and balance all three dosha. Not to mention it contains some of the highest vitamin C on the planet.
- Eat Foods that are Pungent, Bitter or Astringent in Flavor-kaphas are known to indulge in delicious food, however sometimes it is not exactly what is ideal for their mind and body type. Be sure to include ginger, coriander and turmeric to your daily dishes. Bitter herbs help to decrease water retention and bloating. Astringent herbs naturally help to purify the blood. As far as foods go, look for bitter melon, eggplant, fenugreek, leafy greens, barley, basil, nettle, jicama, aloe vera, green apples, pomegranate, pear, quinoa, and lentils.
- Try To Indulge in Warm Foods and Spices-Just like Vata, Kapha needs to lean towards warmer meals. Both Vata and Kapha are representative of cooler months and therefore, like to warm up! Raw food diets tend to exacerbate the stagnation of cold energy leading to depressed moods for Kapha. Look for warming spices as well as bitter and astringent. Think cinnamon, cardamom or cumin.
- HONEY-If you are not vegan, honey is your best friend as a Kapha! Honey is an excellent expectorant and coats the respiratory tract preventing infections. It can actually ward off upper respiratory infections or mucus production.
- Avoid Heavy Foods-as a Kapha, you do not want foods that are heavy in your stomach, take hours to digest or leave you feeling heavy. Avoid all the good stuff that we regret later like heavy oils, pasta, rich sauces, breads, puddings, refined sugar, processed foods, or heavy desserts. Kaphas, more so than any other dosha, should avoid dairy like the plague. Dairy CAUSES mucus production in someone who is already prone to it. This goes for the Ayurvedic staple, ghee as well.
- Break Away From Emotional Eating-Kaphas have very sensitive and slower digestive tracts so emotional eating will always be regretted later! You know what they say-a moment on the lips, forever on the hips. It is just not worth it! Try a new pattern when you feel upset or emotional. Go for a walk, go to a coffee shop, talk on the phone or keep yourself busy. Emotional eating can lead to heaviness and stagnant energy which can predispose you to the Kapha’s weakness-sinusitis and congestion. Remember that emotions pass and you can conquer your yo-yo eating by just doing something different.
- Get Out and MOVE! I can’t stress this enough. Often the thing we dread the most is the thing we need the most. Movement is key for a sluggish kapha. If you have been feeling down on yourself, heavy with brain fog and stuck in a routine, it is SO self loving to be brave enough to break out of that pattern. Be sure to give yourself 20-30 minutes of daily vigorous exercise. Ride a bike, run, do vinyasa yoga, hike, or any other challenging exercise is imperative for the Kapha.
- Be Mindful Of Clinginess and Separate Your Own Energy-An imbalanced kapha will often “covet” their possessions or even people. When feeling insecure, they can become controlling of things or those they care about. They come from a good place and often do not see themselves. If you have been feeling this way, be sure to set boundaries with people and possessions. Realize that the insecurity is from you and take back your own power by disengaging in any drama and needless worry. Don’t mix energies with loved ones as this can confuse you more.
- Daily Self Massage-also known as Abhyanga, this Ayurvedic practice relieves tension and balances bodies if the proper oils are used for each dosha. Abhyanga can nourish the body, increase immunity, decrease aging effects, and stimulate circulation. The best massage oils for a Kapha excess are warms oils, like sesame, almond, olive and even dusting powders before or after the massage such as Calamus powder.
- Keep Warm and Dry in All Seasons/Do Invigorating Activities-Kapha is cold and just like Vata, needs to be cognizant of staying warm throughout all seasons and climates. Also, be sure you are having fun everyday. Never lose your joy for life and let fear creep in to make you stagnant.
Happy Kapha Balancing!