Kapha

What is Kapha Dosha?

What is Kapha Dosha

According to Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three doshas (a.k.a. humors) present in every cell, tissue, and organ of our body that govern our psychobiological functioning. These doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—comprise the five potential states of matter (i.e., space (or ether), air, fire, earth, and water). All five of these elements are present in each dosha, but the two predominant elements in a dosha determine its defining qualities. When in balance, the three doshas create health; when out of balance, they cause disease. They are also responsible for the vast variety of differences and preferences that exist among individuals, and they influence all we are and all we do, from our food choices to the ways we relate to others.

As the forces that govern our physiology, the doshas regulate the creation, maintenance, and destruction of body tissue, as well as the elimination of waste products. They also act as psychological drivers, governing our emotions and mental state. When in balance, the doshas generate understanding, compassion, and love and sustain mental health. When their balance is disturbed by stress, improper diet, and environmental conditions, they give rise to disturbances such as anger, fear, anxiety, confusion, depression, and disease.

The kapha dosha combines the prithvi(earth) and apa(water) elements. In ancient Sanskrit texts, kapha is conceptualized “that which holds things together, embraces, and provides coherence.” It is slow, heavy, cool, dense, soft, greasy, unctuous, sticky, cloudy, liquid, and sweet. Kapha holds the body together, giving it shape, form, and stability. The combined elements of kapha are responsible for the gross structure of the body and for its solid and liquid components including phlegm, mucus, synovial fluid, and plasma. Kapha also fills the intercellular spaces of the body as connective tissues such as tendons.

Kapha occurs mainly in the chest, throat, head, pancreas, lymph, fat, nose, and tongue, but its primary site is the stomach, where much of our immune system resides. As the dosha that regulates body’s protective and immune functions, kapha  is related to ojas(our innate reserves of strength, vigor, and resistance to disease). In addition to building immunity, kapha promotes growth. 

The water element of kapha softens the earthen structures of the tissues, moistening and lubricating the skin, joints, and respiratory system. These watery qualities also help heal wounds and support our sense of smell and taste.  

Psychologically, excess kapha is responsible for the emotions of attachment, greed, lust, and envy. When kapha is in the balance, it expresses love, calmness, and forgiveness; when out of balance it gives rise to heaviness, slowness, coolness, oiliness, dampness, and stasis.

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Eating for the Season: Recipes to keep Kapha in Balance!

Eating for the Season

Ayurvedic dietary principles call for us to largely avoid refined sweets and excessively cold, dry, unctuous, salty, and fatty foods. I know this seems hard during the holidays, but if you keep this wisdom in mind, you may notice the ease that it brings to your body and mind. Because winter is considered a primarily kapha season, the meals you eat during this time should incorporate slightly more of the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes that pacify this dosha. However, winter’s heavy, moisture-laden atmosphere frequently gives way to the dry, windy conditions of the vata dosha, so it’s also important to focus on vata-balancing foods and tastes on days when this type of weather prevails. Overall, you should eat warming meals that balance kapha and vata and help you adjust to the predominant weather conditions. Also be mindful of your agni, or digestive fire. Since kapha conditions can contribute to sluggish digestion, eat at regularly scheduled times without skipping meals or overeating. As always, eat your largest meal at lunch, when the digestive fire of pitta is strongest.

Here are some simple, tasty recipes that will make it easier and more enjoyable to maintain a dosha-balancing wintertime diet.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup (serves 4)

·      ½ gallon water

·      1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

·      ½ cup rolled oats

·      1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

·      1 tablespoon cumin powder

·      1 teaspoon coriander powder

·      ½ teaspoon turmeric powder

·      ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

·      1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

·      juice of 1 fresh lemon

·      1 tablespoon rock salt

·      1 tablespoon soya oil

·      2 scallions, chopped

·      parsley

·      watercress

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add squash, oats, cilantro, and spices, including black pepper and salt, fresh ginger, and lemon juice. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 35 minutes. Transfer to the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot. Heat oil in a small skillet, and sauté scallions for about 2 minutes; then add to the pureed soup. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley and watercress.

Seven-Grain Bread (serves 4)

·      1 tablespoon natural yeast

·      ½ cup warm water

·      2 tablespoons sesame butter

·      ½ cup spelt flour

·      ½ cup unbleached whole wheat flour

·      ½ cup soya flour

·      ½ cup millet flour

·      ½ cup oat bran

·      ½ cup rolled oats

·      ½ cup cracked wheat

·      1 tablespoon Sucanat

·      ½ teaspoon rock salt

·      1½ cups warm water

Dissolve the yeast in warm water; then dilute the sesame butter in the yeast solution. Combine the flours, bran, rolled oats, cracked wheat, Sucanat, salt, and remaining water; then add the yeast-sesame butter mixture. Knead into a sticky dough. Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover securely and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes. Punch down the dough, cover, and let rise again for 40 minutes, until it doubles in size. Form dough into four rolls, and place on oiled baking trays. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Whole Mung Dhal (serves 4)

·      1 cup whole mung dhal

·      2 ¼ cups water

·      ¼ teaspoon turmeric

·      1 pinch sea salt

·      1 tablespoon ghee

·      1 minced green chili pepper

·      ½ teaspoon grated ginger

·      1 tablespoon masala

·      1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Wash mung dhal until water runs clear. Soak in 3 cups of cold water overnight. Drain. Boil 2 cups of water and add dhal, turmeric, and salt. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 50 minutes. In a small skillet, heat ghee, green chili pepper, and ginger for a few minutes. Add the masala toward the end of browning. Add to dhal with lemon juice and remaining water. Cover and continue to simmer for an additional 30 minutes over low heat.

Sautéed Golden Beets with Masala (serves 4)

·      4 golden beets

·      1 tablespoon sunflower oil

·      1 tablespoon masala

·      2 yellow onions of shallots, cut into half-moon slices

·      1 teaspoon rock salt

·      1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Scrub the beets and cut into bite-size pieces. Heat sunflower oil in cast iron skillet. Stir in masala and cook until slightly browned. Add shallots, beets, and salt. Stir in two tablespoons of water. Cover and allow to cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve hot.

Caraway Brown Rice (serves 4)

·      2 cups long-grain brown rice

·      3½ cups boiling water

·      1 pinch of sea salt

·      2 teaspoons of caraway seeds

Wash rice until water runs clear and add to boiling water. Add salt. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 25 minutes. Dry-roast caraway seeds in a small cast iron pan until golden. Add to rice mixture and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Red Cabbage and Onion Soup (serves 4)

·      ½ gallon of water

·      1 small red cabbage shredded

·      2 red onions, chopped

·      1 tablespoon coriander powder

·      ½ teaspoon cayenne powder

·      1 tablespoon dried dill

·      1 tablespoon dried parsley

·      2 cloves of garlic

·      1 tablespoon of rock salt

·      ¼ cup cashew butter

·      1 red onion, cut into thin half-moon slices

Bring water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the cabbage and onions, along with the coriander and cayenne powders, dried dill, parsley, and salt. Lightly crush the garlic cloves with a handstone and remove the skin. Add the lightly crushed cloves of garlic to the soup mixture. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 35 minutes, until onions are practically dissolved. Add cashew butter to the soup and stir until it dissolves. Garnish the hot soup with thinly sliced red onions; remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve hot with a heaping dollop of Millet Supreme.

Millet Supreme (serves 4)

·      3½ cups water

·      2 cups millet

·      ¼ cup fresh peas

·      ½ teaspoon turmeric

·      ½ teaspoon cumin powder

·      ½ teaspoon ajwain seeds

·      1 teaspoon rock salt

·      1 tablespoon sunflower oil

·      ¼ cup currents

·      ½ cup roasted almonds, slivered

·      juice of ½ lemon

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Thoroughly wash the millet, and add to boiling water, along with the peas, turmeric, cumin powder, ajwain seeds, and salt. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a small skillet, and add the currants and almonds. Stir for another few minutes until currants begin to swell. Add the lemon juice. Add to the millet, and continue cooking for 10 minutes more. Serve warm.

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Balance Kapha

"Snigdhah shita gururmandah shlakshno mritsnah sthirah kaphah".— Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana 1:12

Kapha is unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static. Understanding kapha’s qualities is the key to understanding how to balance this dosha. Having a kapha-predominant prakriti(constitution) means that these qualities will express themselves throughout your physical, mental, and emotional makeup.

A basic tenet of Ayurvedic medicine, is that “like increases like.” So if kapha is your dominant dosha, cold weather, dense foods, and all things inherently cool and heavy will increase the kapha in your system. For example if you’re a kapha person living in Boston who drinks a large frozen smoothie on a cool evening, you may wake up the next  day with a cold. This is because you’ve amplified the heavy and dense qualities throughout your body, making it even more difficult to move out kapha, which is already stagnant in nature and therefore hard to dissipate. 

It’s common for our predominant dosha to increase more quickly than the others. If too much of one dosha accumulates in the body, we naturally want to decrease it to restore a healthy balance to our constitution. In Ayurveda, “medicines” are substances that do this by providing qualities that are the opposite of those inherent in the overabundant dosha. In the case of kapha, those opposing qualities are dryness, lightness, warmth and activity. Therefore it’s best for people with a kapha imbalance to seek out environments, foods, and routines that embody these qualities both physically and emotionally.

A person with a kapha imbalance will do well with warming, light, freshly cooked foods. Foods and herbs with a bitter, pungent, or astringent taste will also help decrease kapha. These tastes should predominate in your diet. Bibhitaki, chitrak and punarnava are three examples of herbs that help remove excess kapha from the body and maintain balance.

The ideal environment for a kapha person is one that’s warm and dry. Take extra care to stay warm and dry in cold, wet weather and during the winter. Activity can be one of the best medicines for kapha. Try to find something that motivates you to exercise regularly. Consider signing up for a race or a competition to give yourself that extra push.

Daily self-massages with warm sesame oil will help keep kapha from becoming stagnant. Make sure that you massage yourself vigorously and that the oil you use is warm to the point where it’s almost hot. You can capitalize on the warming properties of aromatics such as juniper, eucalyptus, marjoram, and clove by applying them to your clothing or putting them in a diffuser in your home, car, and office.

These are just a few tips. If you would like more information on how to balance kapha, schedule an online appointment here.

Visit the Kapha Yoga tips article to know how to customize your daily yoga practice to balance kapha.

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Kapha Dosha Yoga Tips

The main qualities of kapha are unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and stable. It’s also dense, cloudy, and viscous. A yoga practice for a kapha individual should aim to create space, stimulation, warmth, and buoyancy. Kapha types have the most stamina and strength of all the doshas, but when out of balance, they may suffer from lethargy and excess weight. If you are predominantly kapha, a stimulating, energizing yoga practice is ideal. It’s important to challenge yourself and create heat in your body to counter the kapha individual’s natural tendency to feel cold and sluggish. Move through your flow sequences quickly (though always with conscious awareness) to lighten and warm your body. Most of the standing poses are invigorating, especially if you hold them for an extended period. Try maintaining your asanas for up to 20 breaths. Back bends are also heating, helping to open the chest and circulate the life-giving energy of prana throughout the body. 

Doing your yoga routine during the segment of the morning when kapha predominates (6 a.m. –10 a.m.) will help keep you energized and motivated throughout the day. At the beginning or end of your practice, you can practice bhastrika(“bellows breath”), which cleanses the body and energizes the digestive system. Kapha individuals can cultivate all these benefits by following some basic guidelines:

  • Execute the poses at a vigorous pace and with intensity.

  • Focus on the subtlety of the pose and how it creates an expansive presence in the body and balances the energy field that surrounds you.

  • Practice in a warm space.

  • Sustain strong, forceful breathing during practice.

  • When you are ready to release the pose, take one more breath.

  • Keep your chest and shoulders open and lifted as you practice.

  • Maintain a sharp upward gaze.

  • Feel a sense of lightness in your poses.

  • Pause for a moment between your inhalations and exhalations.

  • Challenge yourself.

  • Keep moving. Take a short rest between poses.

  •  Enjoy a restorative pose for final relaxation.

  • Strive for precision in your poses.

  • Pay close attention to your alignment.

  • Don’t give up!

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.