Maybe the word “kapha” (pronounced kah-fah) has been floating around 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 kapha, how to recognize its qualities, and why understanding this dosha can keep you healthier in the spring season.
What is a Dosha?
Doshas are particular patterns of energy that are expressed through physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Each dosha—vata, pitta, and kapha, are formed by two of the five great elements, or pancha mahabhutas. The elements, considered to be the building blocks of the universe—ether, space, fire, earth, and water when paired, produce the 3 doshas.
All three doshas exist in all life, internally and externally. They surround us and form every cell of our body. Each person is comprised of all 3 doshas, but have a primary and secondary dosha, which form our prakriti. Each dosha also has a primary function, and a strong presence in certain tastes, places, times, stages of life, and seasons. According to Ayurveda, keeping vata, pitta, and kapha in balance is essential in fostering longevity within our mental, emotional, and physical bodies.
The secret to understanding a dosha, is to understand its qualities or gunas. Think of them as personality traits. They speak to purpose, manifestation, action, transformation. Whether it’s within us emotionally, physically, seasonally, during a particular time of day, or a point in our lives. In using this lens, their perspective can be helpful in making healthier choices. Specific to your constitution and to live harmoniously with the season.
What is Kapha Dosha?
Of the five elements, earth+water form kapha dosha. When these two elements are combined they create a personality that can be described by ten qualities. These qualities, traits, adjectives are the essence of kapha. Describing the physical, mental, and emotional characteristics, which bring this dosha to life.
To say “I am kapha” or “kaphas” is saying you are only made up of earth + water element. Friends, you are also made up of fire, air and ether.
The qualities or gunas in Sanskrit, give insight on a micro level. Pinpointing to specific traits. They do not exist in even quantities, giving every person with kapha dominance their unique personality or experience with this dosha. Knowing these ten qualities and keywords is like using a magnifying glass. They can pinpoint to specific traits that may need balancing and guide to choices in diet, exercise, activities, and lifestyle.
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 aka kapha season, cold has seeped into the earth. It is one quality with a long lifespan. Beginning in the fall and remaining until spring. Cold can accumulate in our bodies during this period, and for those who tend already be cold, this seasonal period can be extra challenging. However, by directing our choices using the opposite quality—warm or hot can foster balance. Either through diet, choosing warm foods versus cold foods, wearing more layers, eating more spices. A few simple, small shifts to cultivate balance.
Cinnamon is a warminng choice in the winter and spring. A few shakes daily of this warming spice will generate internal heat & promote circulation. While also curbing sweet cravings as it can balances blood sugar levels, while also preventing a build-up of kapha dosha. 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 possible. Then relate the descriptive words to kapha’s ten qualities. Or take kapha’s ten qualities and see if it describes what you’re trying to assess. For example, sadness, an emotion that can feel heavy, create a sense of static-ness, cloud our thoughts and slow us down. In identifying how sadness feels and presents itself. While diet is not the antidote to sadness, it can play a supportive role. If feeling heavy, a heavy diet and lifestyle choices may make it extra challenging to work towards feeling happier, lighter and release stagnation.
Why is Kapha Important, What it’s Purpose?
- To protect
- Bringing structure, form, cohesion through lubrication
- Formation of muscle, fat, bone, fluids, reproductive tissues, blood, and marrow
- Fostering weight, growth, and strength
- It’s responsible for our lymphatic and immune system
- Its primary home within our physical body is the stomach
- Plays a role in sweet (earth+water), sour (earth+fire), and salty (fire+water) tastes
- Its energy is apparent from winter through spring—kapha season
- Its predominant 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.
Getting to know you, A Simple Practice to Begin…
To help identify kapha dosha, begin tuning to the environment. Notice the quality of the air 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? How are your energy levels during these four hours compared to the times of the day? Compare vegetables like an earthy potato to airy lettuce or how our activities shift in the summer season compared to later winter?
In the beginning, understanding kapha dosha can feel overwhelming. The ten qualities are simple, yet multi-faceted. One word can be deconstructed into ten words. However, over time, with practice, the awareness begins. Tapping into your innate wisdom and empowering you to make healthier choices with greater confidence. Take baby steps, wear your avant-garde philosophical hat, and memorize kapha’s qualities. Once you know the ten qualities and two elements (earth+water), start looking at the 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 it can broaden and deepen understanding of the holistic self.