Central to Ayurveda is the concept of the 5 elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), all of which are present in the universe as well as in the human body – the human body, according to Ayurveda, is viewed as the microcosm of the macrocosm that is this universe.
These elements combine to form the constitutional makeup of our bodies – known as ‘doshas’ or bodily humors. These are Vata = Air & Ether, Pitta = Fire & Water and Kapha = Earth + Water.
There are qualities associated with each element, which determine the qualities of the Dosha. The qualities of earth are heavy, cold, dense and dry. The qualities of water are heavy, cold and moist.
Qualities of Kapha – Heavy, Cold, Moist and Dense
Kapha gives the body structure and stability. Kapha is our lubrication around the joints, in the brain, our reproductive fluids, and is responsible for building most of our tissues. It is closely associated with our lymphatic and immune system.
Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Kapha dosha have a broad frame with a heavier build. They tend to have larger facial features and smooth, oily skin and thick hair.
Functional characteristics: Kapha types have a low to moderate appetite and sluggish digestion and metabolism. They are usually not hungry upon waking up. They tend to have 1 bowel movement a day. They are heavy sleepers and have trouble waking up in the morning. Their speech pattern is slow and deliberate. Because the presence of water in their constitution they may present with clammy hands and prefer dry climates.
Symptoms of Kapha dosha imbalance include nausea, weight gain, swelling, water retention, diabetes and sinus congestion.
Emotional Characteristics: Kapha types are patient, sweet, gentle, calm, loving and loyal. They are good listeners and very accepting of others. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine.
When Kapha is imbalanced, one can become stubborn, greedy, possessive, complacent, lethargic and depressed.
Ayurveda balances the doshas, using a simple yet powerful concept and that is the ‘principle of opposites’. In Ayurveda we treat the imbalance by bringing in treatment modalities (food, herbs, lifestyle practices) with the opposing qualities that the Dosha is presenting with.
In the case of Kapha imbalance, the main qualities that are in excess (or imbalanced) are heavy, cold, dense and moist. Hence we balance Kapha by incorporating light and dry foods with pungent spices, dry-brushing the body with loofah to increase circulation and by performing an energetic and stimulating yoga practice incorporating Sun Salutations and powerful standing postures. Lastly, cultivating non-attachment is an important way to balance Kapha in the mind – volunteering and giving away things are ways to achieve this.
Sandhiya Ramaswamy CAS, PKS is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and an Ayurvedic chef. She is a faculty member at the California College of Ayurveda (CCA) and the Director of the Southern California Campus of CCA. Born and having lived in India, she has had a lifelong and intimate connection with Ayurvedic healing. Her practice Green Lotus Wellness www.greenlotuswellness.com is based in Dana Point, California.