Kapha Dosha is the soft, yet powerful energetic force residing in the body, comprised of both the Earth and Water elements. Kapha is typically considered the stable, sturdy, gross (as in solid) and unctuous property in the body. As a biological force, its main functions include support, lubrication, nourishment, strength, stamina and physical growth. When Kapha is in balance it brings a sense of groundedness, stability, compassion and contentment. If Kapha is increased in the body, however, these positive traits may turn into laziness, lethargy, poor metabolism, low motivation, depression, attachment and greed.
If you are experiencing a Kapha imbalance this may manifest in a number of ways. Here are some common disorders that typically show a heightened state of Kapha in the system.
Common Signs of Kapha Imbalance:
- Lethargy, laziness
- Slow, dull, sluggish mind
- Cold, cough, runny nose
- Pulmonary congestion
- Sinus congestion
- Lymphatic congestion
- Low digestive fire
- Sleepiness after food
- Overweight, obesity
- Swelling, edema
- Excessive sleep
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Lipomas, tumors
The first line of treatment for any imbalance is to REMOVE THE CAUSE. If you have a Kapha imbalance, these tips will help to alleviate the symptoms; but without removing the initial cause, the imbalance will always remain. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some common instigators in the provocation of Kapha.
Common Causes of Kapha imbalance:
- Sweet, salty, sour foods
- Heavy foods (dairy, meat, gluten, wheat, refined grains)
- Oily, fatty foods
- Sugar (especially refined)
- Cold food and drinks
- Drinking too much water
- Eating food past 7pm
- Snacking; grazing; eating meals too close together
- Emotional eating
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Too much sleep
- Humidity and dampness
- Winter and Spring seasons
- Incompatible food combinations (click here for complete chart)
Once you have discover the cause, you can then work on removing it. Unfortunately, the longer the provocation, the stronger the imbalance will be. This simply means that the treatment time will increase for more chronic disorders. Whether your Kapha imbalance is lifelong or just manifested, these simple, yet powerful tips will help your body and mind find a state of balance.
How to Balance Kapha
1. Wake up by 6am everyday.
Kapha imbalances will typically cause one to oversleep, further increasing the Kapha. If your Kapha is high, getting up each day by 6am will help to reduce the Kapha and increase energy and motivation. Of course, this may not happen immediately, but after the body and mind get used to this new schedule, then the positive effects will be felt. If you feel groggy after awakening, try splashing some cold water on the face while keeping the eyes open. This will definitely wake you up! And lastly, avoid all napping. Napping is a major cause of Kapha imbalance and should be avoided at all costs when Kapha is high.
2. Scrape the tongue each morning.
Typically a Kapha imbalance comes simultaneously with toxins in the system, manifesting a strong coating on the tongue. Taking a minute to scrape the tongue each morning will remove this layer of dead bacteria and prevent it from reentering the system. Since the tongue is a distal reflection of our organs, this scraping motion also acts as a stimulater to awaken these related organs, spark the digestion and get them ready for the day. The best tongue scraper for Kapha types is the copper variety due to its naturally heating and cleansing properties.
3. Take warm honey water each morning.
Honey, when used in the proper dosage, is a great way to reduce Kapha due to it’s “scraping” properties. Crystallized honey is even better yet. Start each morning with 8 ounces of warm to hot water, mixed with 1 tsp of honey. Add a squeeze of lemon for even more Kapha reducing action. ***Please note that honey should never be heated over 108 degrees. This not only kills the vital nutrients, but also changes the molecular structure making it a toxic unrecognizable slug to the body.
4. Ginger, ginger, ginger!
One of my most favorite and versatile herbs; this spicy root is one of the greatest options for reducing Kapha, boosting the digestion/metabolism and increasing the circulation. During a Kapha imbalance, drinking ginger tea each day between meals is essential for removing the slow, dull qualities this doshic imbalance brings. Besides drinking the tea, one can also add ginger to each meal and even soak in a stimulating ginger and baking soda bath. Click here for our simple Ginger Tea Recipe.
5. Avoid ALL snacking.
If Kapha is high, there is a really good chance the digestion and metabolism are low. During times of low digestion, it is crucial to avoid all snacking and stick to eating 3 meals a day (at proper times). Eating between meals during a Kapha imbalance will over tax the already weakened digestive fire, create indigestion and toxic build-up. This bad habit will also negatively effect the pancreas and should be avoided by anyone with diabetes or insulin resistance.
6. Do not eat past 6pm.
Although this is a hard recommendation for most people to follow, this is extremely vital for any Kapha disorder. Taking in food after 6pm will further increase the Kapha and decrease the digestion/metabolism. Alternatively, eating a light, easy-to-digest dinner each night between 5pm and 6pm is a powerful way to balance out your Kapha. Great Kapha food options are broth based soups, quinoa and steamed veggies, millet and veggie sauté or a bean, quinoa and salsa burrito.
7. Spice up your meals.
An easy and tasty way to combat Kapha is to simply add digestive, warming spices to each meal. This can be as simple as adding cinnamon and ginger to your oats, adding black pepper to your dinner or sautéing your veggies in cumin, coriander and fennel. All spice are beneficial for Kapha, however, these are the best choices: turmeric, dry ginger, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, coriander, fennel, brown mustard seed, ajwain, cinnamon, cardamon, clove and fenugreek. ***Salt is very Kapha provoking and should be used sparingly.
8. Get moving, everyday!
Although this should be a given for every-body, this holds especially true for those with a Kapha imbalance. Taking 20-30 minutes each day to be active and get the blood pumping, is a simple, yet powerful way to reduce Kapha build-up in the body and the mind. Some wonderful and realistic options include: taking a 20 minute brisk walk after lunch (or anytime), 30 minutes of the elliptical machine (non-weight bearing), 30 minutes of a moderate yoga practice, 30 minute exercise video, 30 minutes of biking or a 30+ minute hike. Exercising doesn’t have to be overly time consuming or exhausting. Keep it simple, as daily consistency is the key to permanent changes.
9. Perform 10 Sun Salutations each morning.
Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation, is a great way to start the day, awakening the body and mind. The sun salutation is exceptionally great for Kapha imbalances due to the warming nature of the practice. Perform these each morning upon awakening to start your day fresh, vibrant and energized. To begin, you may want to start with 5 sets and then add a couple each week until you have reached the full ten count. Be consistent and make sure to make this a daily practice 5-7 days each week.
10. Kapala Bhati Pranayama.
Kapala Bhati is the Yogic breathing technique that comes from a quick, “force full” diaphragm exhalation out of the nose. This movement is great for toning the abdomen and increasing heat, circulation, metabolism and digestion. This pranayama practice is a powerful way for balancing Kapha, as it stimulates both the body and the mind. If you have been trained by a knowledgeable teacher, you can practice this breath work for 108-1008 breaths per session. The best time for this is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. You can fit this in either directly before the Sun Salutations or directly after.
11. Perform an Abhyanga massage with Kapha Oil two times a week.
A stimulating self-oil massage is a great way to remove stagnation throughout the body and get things moving. A Kapha-style oil massage should be performed at the beginning of the day. This massage should be done using a Kapha oil that is infused with heating, stimulating herbs. One should start at the feet and work their way up the body, with quick movements to awaken the energy. Keep the oil on for at least 30 minutes before taking a warm shower to rinse it off (do not use soap!). If the oil is too heavy for you, one can perform a dry massage with an exfoliating shower brush. ***Oil massages should be avoided if there is a heavy coating on the tongue or other clear signs of toxins in the system.
12. Trikatu Churna.
Trikatu is a tradtitional Ayurvedic formula consisting of the “three pungents”. These three powerful herbs are essential for a Kapha reducing regimen and can be taken 3 times daily, before meals. Mix this formula with a tsp of honey and 1/4 cup of warm water for best results. Alternatively, these herbs can be added directly to the food.
13. Kapha-reducing herbs.
Herbs can be a powerful compliment to these other diet and lifestyle changes being implemented. Most Kapha herbs will be either bitter, pungent and/or astringent, as these tastes generally reduce Kapha. They are typically penetrating, heating and sharp in quality to stimulate the system, enhance the digestion and remove stagnant Kapha toxins. The best choices for removing Kapha from the system offered in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopia include Punarnava, Neem, Kutki, Kalmegha, Turmeric, Ginger, Pippali, Black Pepper, Trikatu, Mahasudarshana, Gokshura (for kidneys), Guggulu, Punarnava Guggulu, Kanchanara Guggulu, Shilajit and Chitrak. ***Please note that these herbs are only to be taken when under the guidance of a knowledgable Ayurvedic Practitioner. Taking herbs “blindly” can lead to further imbalance if one does not look at the whole picture.