Yoga For Your Doshas: Kapha
In this last part of our three part Dosha series we will visit Kapha Dosha. At home and on the couch–that’s where we’ll likely find this type. They enjoy laying low, chilling out, being quite happy and comfortable in familiar homely surroundings with their cat, dog and family around. Perhaps you’ll find them enjoying a good book or movie while munching on some healthy, or not so healthy, snacks.
As per Ayurveda, yoga’s five thousand year old sister science which divides us humans into three main types (namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha), the Kapha Dosha is the calmest and most loyal type; loving and steady.
Kapha, being associated with the natural elements water and earth (Vata is associated with space and air, Pitta with fire and water), is easy to like but also faces her, or his, own challenges in physical and emotional well-being. Kapha, most often being an endomorph body type, is the most likely of the three Doshas to face problems around weight management.
If you are a Kapha person you may have many friends who know they can always count on you. You most likely give your Vata and Pitta friends a sense of stability and a feeling of security that they may be longing for, and might lack within themselves. Community is important to you and you might sport a green thumb in gardening―tending to nature’s beautiful creations.
Kapha is very sensitive to cold and damp climates. If you live in an area with long and rainy cold seasons you may get downright miserable and crave warmth and dryness. For you, it is important to stay warm during the cold season. So make sure you keep moving to prevent stagnation in your body, and nourish yourself with spicy teas like Chai Tea or Hot Ginger Tea. You may also enjoy Golden Milk, a warm Turmeric drink.
Food for Kapha
Sorry Kapha, but even though you are probably really fond of your sweet, sour and salty flavors, these are also the ones you should stay away from. Foods that are sweet, sour, and salty in taste will increase the problematic qualities that come with a predominant Kapha Dosha or a Kapha imbalance.
This type does really well with foods that are bitter, pungent and astringent in nature, such as leafy greens, kale, spinach and collard greens, hot spices and curries, apples and berries. Kapha also wants to take it easy on oils and dietary fat, and heavy food items such as most dairy, baked and glutinous foods, cakes and ice creams.
Kapha will do well with a light and easy to digest diet consisting of small amounts of low glycemic fruit, steamed vegetables, and warm soups and stews. These are all foods that won’t weigh you down.
Meditation for Kapha
Nothing suits Kapha more then to sit in one spot for periods of time and not move. This Dosha type tends to be extremely loving, loyal and particularly devotional nature and will find bliss in joining in a spiritual practice. Finding ways to focus the mind won’t be necessary for you if you are a Kapha person; you are already calm and grounded.
A wonderful meditation technique for Kapha is a walking mindfulness meditation. Put on whatever you need to stay warm and comfortable and go for a short walk, preferably in nature, in an area you know well where you feel safe and don’t get distracted by traffic or other concerns. Let your senses―smell, sight, touch, sound and even taste―be engaged and notice your environment without getting too attached to these sensory impressions.
You may also use your walking meditation to align your breath with your step. For Kapha, mantra meditation is very useful as it keeps your mind engaged enough to not drift off into a sleepy state. Kapha should sit in an upright position with an erect spine while meditating to avoid slouching and nodding off.
Exercise for Kapha
Kapha Dosha, more so then the other two, has excellent endurance and stamina. With steady energy the Kapha person can go on, at a low intensity, for a very long time. Kapha is also the Dosha least likely to want to exercise at all. For you, dear Kapha, it is important to find an activity you enjoy so you don’t have to come up with excuses not to move at all.
You are likely to enjoy team sports or group training sessions, as they allow you to be with others and build community which you naturally thrive on. Interestingly, out of all three Doshas, Kapha is the one least likely to suffer from the ill effects running can have your joints. Though the benefits of running as a recreational activity are somewhat controversial, Kapha (with its well buffered and lubricated joints) can easily get away with it as a cardiovascular activity.
Most important for Kapha Dosha is to get moving, no matter what the activity. Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), cardiovascular training, fast-paced resistance training with more repetitions and any sport that gets the blood pumping and induces sweat.
Yoga for Kapha
Similar to other forms of exercise, the Kapha person can get away with more vigorous forms of yoga. Even though Kapha is a type that tends to be of a sturdier build, this type also benefits from great flexibility. A Vinyasa flow is a fine practice for Kapha, as are Hot Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga. The Kapha body doesn’t sweat easily, so a warm room and flowing practice will help work up a healthy sheen and flush toxins out through the skin. Poses that are particularly beneficial for Kapha are standing postures and those that stimulate the adrenal system; in particular, asanas such as Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) or Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Kapalabhati Pranayama, the skull shining breath, or the Kundalini Breath Of Fire are also beneficial for stimulating blood circulation and the respiratory system, which is especially important for Kapha who tends to accumulate mucous easily.
Each of the Doshas have their own unique strengths and challenges, and with a little awareness you can do a great deal to stay healthy and balanced. You can use this series to adjust your lifestyle and routines in a way that supports your constitution.
I suggest you take one of the many Dosha Quizzes available online that will help you figure out which type you are. If you are dealing with a particular concern, you may also seek the advice of an Ayurvedic practitioner.
Small changes can have a big impact on your quality of life. Don’t be afraid, find out who you are and take small steps. You might enjoy it.
Health Tips for Kapha, Pitta, and Vata Doshas
Now that you know which dosha (or combination of doshas) your body has, you can pinpoint even further exactly how your body works and responds. If you need a recap, remember that doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body. Important stuff to keep track of!
It’s thanks to Ayurveda that we have knowledge of the doshas. It is a holistic science of health, focusing on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began about 5,000 – 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the “science or knowledge of life”: Ayurveda.
It’s a sharp contrast to modern medicine, as in Ayurveda, every individual is unique and there is no diet or lifestyle routine that works for everyone. Modern doctors, as you probably well know, simply look at the symptoms and prescribe the same pill to everyone. In Ayurveda, prevention is key. Ayurveda focuses on providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain physical and emotional health.
As you continue thinking about your doshas, remember that food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. Try to follow the diet and lifestyle routine that fits your mind/body constitution. Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two dominate. Various Dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes (i.e. Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold, and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types). Generally these are considered to be characteristics of each mind/body type. Here are the three doshas, and the characteristics associated with each:
- Vata Dosha
The energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
Creativity and vitality
Out of Balance:
Fear and anxiety
The third dosha, Vata, tends to be the most slender of the three body types. Vata people can actually find it difficult to gain weight. Physically, Vata individuals are thin with prominent bony structures; tend to be cold all the time; have dry skin and hair; and have little muscle tone. Mentally, they learn fast and forget fast, enjoy change, and are very creative. Emotionally, Vata types are excitable, enthusiastic, but can become easily anxious.
Out of balance, Vata individuals can have poor digestion with lots of bloating and constipation. They can have dry nasal passages and easily catch colds during the fall and winter. They can also easily develop insomnia and fatigue. To help with the digestion, there is an herbal supplement, Triphala, which is a lifesaver for people with a Vata imbalance. To prevent dry nasal passages and fight off colds, Vata individuals can use a sesame oil nasal spray – you just spray 1-2 sprays in each nostril in the mornings. To fight off insomnia, a regular routine is critical, which, of course, Vata individuals tend to resist. Nonetheless, they should be waking up at the same time, eating lunch at the same time, and going to bed at the same time. Additionally, Vata types will benefit from a warm, spiced milk drink at bedtime.
The dietary recommendations for Vata individuals are to avoid dry/crunchy foods, carbonated beverages, and cold/raw vegetables. Their ideal diet consists of warm, cooked, soupy foods; cooked cereals; nuts; cooked vegetables; and hot milk. Also, ghee, which is clarified butter, is particularly good for Vata individuals.
Creative; quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget; Slender; Tall and a fast walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.
General Health Tips:
Maintain regular habits, try to eat and sleep at the same time every night. Get enough rest and choose foods that are warm, cooked, nourishing, and easy to digest. Sweet berries, fruits, small beans, rice, and all nuts and dairy products are good choices for Vata types. Exercise intensity should be moderate. A more meditative yoga, Tai chi, walking, and swimming are all good. Avoid strenuous and frantic activities.
- Pitta Dosha
Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.
Contentment and intelligence
Out of Valance:
Ulcers and anger
Pitta individuals are typically of medium build. Physically, they have good muscle tone; have a tendency to always feel warm; have premature graying hair or balding; have reddish complexions; enjoy high energy levels; and have really strong digestion – they can eat almost anything. Mentally, they are extremely intelligent, focused, ambitious people. Emotionally, they are passionate about life, have a tendency to be perfectionists, and can become easily irritated.
Out of balance, Pitta types can experience excessive anger, suffer from inflammatory conditions (such as headaches and rashes), encounter digestive problems (such as acid reflux, diarrhea and ulcers), and become over-stressed, workaholics. To help with the inflammation, Pitta individuals can do a quick coconut oil massage to the scalp and feet for 5 minutes before getting into the shower. To prevent the digestive problems, they can drink a mixture of a quarter-cup of aloe vera juice with a half-cup of pomegranate juice in the morning on an empty stomach. To help take the “edge off” at work and fight off stress in these worker bees, they should eat a teaspoon of rose petal jam – it can be taken alone or with toast. The rose petal jam is sweet and calming.
In terms of their diet, Pitta people should avoid hot spices, alcohol, coffee, vinegar, and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. Of course, these are typically their favorite foods! They should eat sweet juicy fruits such as mangos and melons. They should also include lots of cooling vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, kale and lettuce, in their diet.
Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; Aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance; Competitive, enjoy challenges; Passionate and romantic; Strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal; When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry; Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily; Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired; Perspire a lot; Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian; Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger; Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, dry or burning eyes.
General Health Tips:
It’s important for Pittas to keep cool by avoiding overexposure to direct sunlight and fried and spicy foods. Avoid alcohol and tobacco, overworking, and overheating. When aggravated, susceptible to feeling negative emotions like hostility, hatred, intolerance, and jealousy. Choose fresh vegetables and fruits that are watery and sweet, especially cherries, mangoes, cucumbers, water melon, and avocado. Have lots of salads with dark greens such as arugula, dandelions, and kale. Avoid conflicts. Cultivate the virtues of honesty, morality, kindness, generosity, and self-control.
- Kapha Dosha
Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.
Out of balance:
Can lead to insecurity and envy
Kapha is typically the largest of the body types. Physically, they have wide hips/shoulders; thick wavy hair; good physical stamina. Mentally, Kapha types tend to me slow to learn, but they have great memories. Emotionally, they tend to be very loyal, stable, and reliable – they are often referred to as the “rocks” in a relationship.
Out of balance, Kapha individuals have a tendency towards sinus congestion, poor circulation, and sluggish digestion that can easily lead to obesity. To help improve circulation, they can do a stimulating dry body massage, called garshana, performed with raw silk gloves – you can use a loofah sponge as a substitute. The massage helps get rid of excess water weight and is a natural cure for cellulite. Exercise is also critical to keep Kapha people in balance; if you have a Kapha body type, you have to get up and move!
To combat the congestion, Kapha types can add garlic to their diet or take garlic supplements. To help boost metabolism, Kapha individuals can use the herbal supplement guggul, which is a plant that is closely related to myrrh. The dose of guggul is typically 75mg-150mg a day.
Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Tend to be possessive and hold on to things. Don’t like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
General Health Tips:
It’s important to be active on a daily basis as Kapha types are prone to sluggishness, depression, and being overweight. Getting out of the house and actively seeking new experiences is also recommended. Be receptive to useful change, be intentional in implementing life-enhancing actions. Choose foods that are light, warm, and spicy. Tea with dried ginger and lemon is a great pick-me-up for Kaphas. Avoid heavy oily and processed sugars, which are detrimental to Kaphas. Use lots of spices such as black pepper, ginger, cumin, chili and lots of bitter dark greens.