Ayurveda is understood by the five elements that are found in our universe – Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. The elements are understood by the energies found in our environments known as the gunas; hot & cold, wet & dry, heavy & light, and mobile & stable.
Ether is cold, dry, light, and stable.
Air is cool, dry, light, and mobile.
Fire is hot, wet, light, and mobile.
Water is cool, wet, heavy, and mobile.
Earth is cold, wet, heavy, and stable.
In Ayurveda, the body is made up of three basic energies known as the doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which govern our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual makeups. The Vata dosha consists of ether & air with the qualities of cold, dry, light, and mobile. The Pitta dosha is made up of fire & water with the qualities of hot, wet, light, and mobile. The Kapha dosha is a combination of water & earth with the qualities of cold, wet, heavy, and stable. Each of us has a unique combination of the doshas, which make up our constitution, one being prominent, one secondary, and the third less present.
Ayurveda also believes there are three seasons each year represented by these three doshas known as the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha seasons. Each year these doshas go through three stages where they build and accumulate, then increase or aggravate and finally alleviate and rest.
This month we will be discussing the Kapha dosha, which is a combination of earth & water elements and has the inherent qualities of cold, wet, heavy, and stable. This dosha increases during the cool and damp fall months, and then escalates coming to a peak during the colder, stagnate, and wet winter months and finally alleviates during the dryer and warmer spring and summer months.
The qualities of Kapha are responsible for the structure of the body, lubrication of the joints, skin, and tissues and provide stability, stamina, and strength. People with a more prominent Kapha nature tend to be physically heavier and sturdy with large bones and thick and soft skin and hair. They usually move, think, and speak slower and, when balanced is unconditionally loving, calm, devoted, consistent, tolerant, dependable, and patient.
However, when out of balance, they are physically prone to upper respiratory illnesses, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, and mentally can procrastinate, be inflexible, lethargic, stubborn, depressed, and over-attached.
Ayurveda uses the five sense therapies to treat imbalances, which include: Sight - color therapy, Hearing - mantras and chanting, Smell - aromatherapy, Taste - food, beverages, spices and herbs and Touch - massage abhyanga (massage) and gemology.
When treating Kapha imbalance, we incorporate the opposite qualities of warmth, dryness, lightness, and mobility. A lighter diet is suggested using warmer spices like cloves, cinnamon, and ginger with minimal dairy, nuts, or added fats. Sweeteners are very tonifying. They are not recommended for Kapha, but if one is to be used, then honey is the choice because it is heating.
Wearing and being surrounded by warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are invigorating. It is essential to get out in the sunlight and have a regular exercise program that boosts metabolism.
The yoga practice for the Kapha dosha should be energetic, stimulating, challenging, and warming. The poses should be repeated and held longer with conscious breathing. All standing poses, inversions, and especially backbends are essential. If you have a pranayama practice, you should be doing Kapalabhati, seated Ujjayi, and Solar Nostril Breathing, all of which are more cleansing, energizing, and warming.