Maybe the word “Kapha” (pronounced Kah-fah) has been floating aroundyour 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 qualities, and why understanding this seasonal dosha help you stay healthier during kapha season.
What is a Dosha?
To understand kapha, we first need to know that it is 1 of the 3 doshas in Ayurveda, a time-tested medical system from India. 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.
Doshas 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. Keeping the doshas in balance helps foster longevity within our mental, emotional, and physical bodies.
Understanding the particular qualities of each dosha, how their energy manifests within us and seasonally key can be helpful in making healthier choices in our daily lives. Specific to your personal constitution and in harmony with the season.
What is Kapha Dosha?
Of the 5 elements, earth+water form kapha dosha. The combination of these 2 elements produces 10 qualities. These qualities are the essence of kapha dosha. They lead to the physical, mental, and emotional characteristics that help further contextualize the kapha constitution.
Reminder: no one only has kapha dosha. 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.
To recognize the presence of kapha dosha is to know and understand it’s 10 qualities and when this dosha takes center stage. These 3 things can help guide making healthier and efficient choices related to diet, exercise, activities and to approach life through preventative practices.
10 qualities of kapha dosha— keywords for late winter & spring season: moist, cold, heavy, static, sticky, soft, cloudy, smooth, dull, and slow
For example, one quality of kapha dosha is cold. During the late winter/spring (kapha season), cold has seeped into the earth. It is one quality that begins in the fall and remains until the spring. The air is cold, our hands are cold, the earth is cold. To prevent kapha imbalances, Ayurveda recommends aligning with kapha season. By directing our choices with the opposite quality—warm/hot. One way to do this is through the diet. Choosing to eat warm foods versus cold food, or food that has an inherent warming energy. To produce internal warmth and counterbalance the external cold qualities.
Cinnamon is a great dietary spice choice in the winter and spring. A few shakes daily of this warming spice will generate internal heat. While also curbing sweet craving by balancing blood sugar and preventing a build-up of excess kapha dosha in the body. Which can lead to colds and congestion, a common kapha imbalance.
How to Identify Kapha Dosha
When trying to determine if something is kapha-dominant, first try and describe it with as many words as you can think of. Then relate the descriptive words to kapha’s 10 qualities. Or take kapha’s 10 qualities and see if it describes what you’re assessing. For example, sadness, an emotion that can feel heavy, create a sense of static-ness, cloud our thoughts and slow us down. It’s qualities align with kapha qualities and is an emotion that can be related to an imbalance with this dosha. In identifying the dosha, we can try and make adjustments in our diet by reducing heavy foods that weigh us down, the quantity of food and increase activity to foster movement, helping bring new qualities to help shift the emotional state.
What is Kapha Dosha Purpose?
- 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.
A Simple Practice to Begin…
When I started studying Ayurveda, to help identify kapha dosha, I began taking note of the how the air felt during kapha hours from 6-10 in the morning and the evening. Was the air moister, heavier, cooler, windy, or static, than it was a few hours earlier or later? I also like to garden and would use a similar approach. I would feel the wet soil and assess the qualities. Then I would see where extra earth lived on my body, how did it impact me…did it bring weight and heaviness. In searching for new approaches to correlate kapha’s qualities with my surrounding, my body, and emotions, my understanding grew deeper. Enabling me to get ahead of an imbalance and try and prevent it or to understand how kapha dosha was benefiting me.
In the beginning, understanding kapha dosha can feel overwhelming. The 10 qualities are simple, yet multi-faceted. One word can be deconstructed into 10 words. Over time, with practice, the awareness will come. Take baby steps, wear your avant-garde philosophical hat, and memorize kapha’s qualities. Once you know the 10 qualities and 2 elements (earth+water), start looking at physical, emotional and external characteristics, through this lens. Reflect to see if it is in balance or out of balance, how is it manifesting for you. It sounds complicated, but over time it will help to broaden the understanding of the holistic self. Becoming more personal and feeling result less complicated. It’s worth, the sense of empowerment it provides in making choices based in our own awareness.
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