Kapha, Kapha Dosha

Seasonal Living: Kapha Dosha – What is it?

Maybe the word “Kapha” (pronounced Kah-fah) has been floating around in your ether, you’ve seen posts, taken a “what’s my dosha” quiz, you have a kapha imbalance, or you’re curious and want to know more. Well, hopefully this post will explain what kapha is, how to recognize its energy, and why understanding it can help you stay healthy.

To understand kapha, we first need to know that it is 1 of the 3 doshas in Ayurveda. Doshas are particular patterns of energy that are expressed through physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Each dosha—vata, pitta, and kapha—are composed of 2 of the 5 elements, or pancha mahabhutas, which are considered to be the building blocks of the universe. Ether, space, fire, earth, and water are the 5 elements, which when paired, produce the 3 doshas.

Kauais during kapha dosha hoursDoshas surround us and exist in every cell of our body. Although, we are composed of all 3 doshas, each of us has a primary and secondary dosha. Similarly, each dosha has a primary function, and a strong presence in certain tastes, places, times, stages of life, and seasons. For good mental, spiritual, and physical health, the goal is to keep our doshas in balance. To do this, understanding the particular qualities of each dosha and how their energy manifests within us and around us is key. This knowledge will help you to make healthy choices that are specific to your constitution  and align with the seasons.

10 qualities of kapha dosha: moist, cold, heavy, static, sticky, soft, cloudy, smooth, dull, and slow

Of the 5 elements, earth+water form kapha dosha. The combination of these 2 elements produces 10 qualities. I like to think of these qualities as kapha dosha’s essence. They lead to the physical, mental, and emotional characteristics that help further contextualize kapha dosha’s energy.

An important point to remember is that no one only has kapha energy. To say “I am Kapha” is saying you are only earth + water. We are also ether, air, and fire! Trust me, you want to be made up of all of these elements.

the soft, moist, heaviness of the green leaves shows kapha energy compared to the light & dry debris on the left, which has more vata energy

To recognize the presence of kapha dosha, knowing and understanding its 10 qualities (and the 2 elements), along with when its energy manifests, is a very good place to begin. This knowledge will help you direct your diet, exercise, thoughts, and routines to align with kapha dosha. Adjusting your lifestyle to kapha season—whether it be the yearly season, the time of day when kapha dosha is prominent, or during the kapha stage of you life—will allow you to live in harmony with nature.

For example, one quality of kapha dosha is cold. During the winter (kapha season), cold air is prevalent. To align with the season, you want to direct your actions to manifest the opposite quality of cold. Since kapha dosha is dominant during winter, this dosha is already active, so you want to ensure your actions are also activating vata and pitta energy. One way is through your diet. Choosing to eat foods warm in temperature and foods that produce warmth within you, like cinnamon, will counterbalance the cold, in turn creating balance. This approach will prevent excess kapha, such as cold and congestion, as your actions are not attracting the same cold quality. Instead, you are using the opposite quality (warmth) to create balance (more to come on counterbalancing).

The energy of kapha dosha:

  • Primary function is to protect
  • Governs structure, sense of taste, and lubrication
  • Forms muscle, fat, bone, fluids, reproductive tissues, blood, and marrow
  • Controls weight, growth, moisture, and is responsible for our lymphatic and immune system
  • Its primary home within our physical body is the stomach
  • Associated with sweet (earth+water), sour (earth+fire), and salty (fire+water)  tastes—kapha tastes
  • Its energy is apparent from winter through spring—kapha season
  • Strongest from 6am-10am and 6pm-10pm—kapha time
  • Until puberty, we are in the kapha cycle of our life—this is the time we are growing, building immunity, and forming our tissues.
The physical and mental/emotional traits of an elephant are connected to kapha dosha. Photo courtesy of my friend, Joel Key.

An elephant is a good persona of kapha dosha. Many physical and mental/emotional traits of an elephant are connected to kapha dosha’s qualities. Photo courtesy of my friend Joel Key.

How to understand kapha dosha’s 10 qualities within your physical, emotional, and mental characteristics, the seasons of the day, of the year & your life. 

When trying to determine if something has kapha-dominant energy, describing it and then seeing how your words connect to the 10 qualities is one way to recognize the energy. The other is to use the 10 qualities themselves and see if they connect to what you are trying to determine as kapha energy. I will be writing a post on the common characteristics, which will help to clarify this—stay tuned!

A Simple Practice to Begin…

When I started studying Ayurveda, The Sky During Kapha HoursI began just noticing the air at particular times of the day and connecting its qualities to the qualities of each dosha. For kapha, I would try to feel and see the qualities in the air from 6-10 in the morning and the evening. Was the air more moist, heavier, cooler, windy, or static than a few hours earlier or later? I also like to garden, and would use a similar approach, but I’d look at the role of soil (earth) and water and compare it to the role of kapha in my body and mind. In correlating kapha’s essence and functions to my surroundings, I slowly learned how to understand this 5,000-year-old wisdom. Eventually I began to recognize kapha dosha’s energetic patterns within myself and others.

Final Thoughts

In the beginning, this can all be very overwhelming, as the 10 qualities are simple, yet multi-faceted. Trust me, it starts to sink in. Take baby steps, wear your cute philosophical hat, and start by knowing the essence of kapha dosha. Once you understand its 10 qualities and 2 elements (earth+water), you will know how to relate it within broader characteristics, contextualize it, and keep it in balance. In the meantime, I recommend just getting familiar with kapha’s essence and know that you are on your way to understanding your health by balancing the 5 pillars of the universe—ether, air, fire, earth, and water—within you. It sounds complicated, but overtime my definition of healthy has broaden, become more personal and as a result less complicated.

Lad, Dr. Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda. Albuquerque, NM; The Ayurvedic Press, 2002
Kerala Ayurveda Academy. Lessons 101-109. Foster City, CA, 2009
Kshirsagar, Dr. Manisha and Magno, Ana Cristina R. Ayurveda: A Quick Reference Handbook. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; Lotus Press, 2011

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