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Ayurveda

Feeling Sluggish & Tired? Your Kapha Dosha Might Be Out of Balance

As we anticipate moving from winter into spring, we bring with us the malaise of kapha season. Here's how to adjust your everyday routines to stay balanced.

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As we move through the waning days of winter and into the emergence of spring, we’re simultaneously transitioning into kapha season. In Ayurveda, the seasons are divided into three, with each governed by a different dosha—pitta, vata, and kapha—all of which have distinct qualities, or gunas. Late winter to springtime is governed by kapha.

During this time, it’s important to take steps to keep excess kapha at bay so as not to experience an imbalance. Just as the ice from winter begins to melt away, the kapha we have accumulated during vata season begins to release in our bodies. This excess kapha is ideally eliminated, but if we aren’t properly aligning our bodies with the cycles of the seasons, this can lead to symptoms like excess body fluid, feeling sluggish, slow and sticky bowel movements, seasonal allergies, and excess mucus.

Here, we explain how to spot kapha imbalances, properly prepare for seasonal shifts, and take care of your body during springtime.

Qualities of the kapha dosha

It is important to understand the qualities of each dosha because in Ayurveda, doshas are balanced by incorporating more of their opposite qualities.

The kapha dosha is ruled by water and earth. Some of its qualities include heavy, moist, slow, cold, and unctuous. Since springtime is governed by kapha, it has the same qualities, which can increase the existing kapha in our systems, potentially leading to imbalance.

Signs of a kapha Imbalance

A kapha imbalance is directly related to an excess amount of earth and water in the system. When these elements become predominant in the body, they can create disruptions emotionally, physically, and even lead to disease in the long term. It’s important to spot signs of kapha imbalance to begin balancing the dosha before it continues to accumulate. Some signs of kapha imbalance include:

  • Excess bodily fluids and mucus
  • Seasonal allergies
  • A thick, white coating on the tongue
  • Sticky and sluggish bowel movements
  • Weight gain and difficult losing weight
  • Difficulty rising in the morning
  • Brain fog and lethargy
  • Feeling overly sentimental, complacent, or stubborn
  • Tendency for “emotional overeating”

How can you balance excess kapha?

In Ayurveda, doshic imbalances are remedied by incorporating food, herbs, movement, and lifestyle practices with the opposite qualities. To balance excess kapha, for example, the gunas to incorporate include hot, fast, sharp, light, dry, and mobile. During springtime, you should prioritize warmth, stimulation, and invigorating exercise and other practices to keep kapha balanced. If you lean toward moving slowly, sleeping long hours, and resting a lot, challenge yourself to live a more active lifestyle, stimulate your mind, and get your body moving.

Shift your daily routines & practices

In Ayurveda, our daily rituals and practices are known as dinacharya (in Sanskrit, dina means day and charya means routine). These rituals promote our overall health and well-being and should shift and change with the seasons to keep our doshas balanced.

Warming, invigorating, and stimulating practices can help us shake off the slower, heavier, and tired feelings of spring. Here are some daily practices to keep your kapha at bay this season:

    • Invigorating exercise: Prioritize fast-paced and heating workouts this time of year. Activities like invigorating yoga, running, weight-lifting, and other high-intensity movements are encouraged to counteract the characteristics of kapha. Try to incorporate movement in the morning to prepare your body and mind for the day.
    • Stimulating breath-work: Pranayama is a powerful way to clear and balance the mind and body. During springtime, practice pranayama that is stimulating and quick in nature. Kapalabhati breathing, or breath of fire, is an excellent option to invigorate the mind and body and increase warmth in the system.
    • Abhyanga: Ayurvedic self massage is a wonderful exercise to incorporate into your daily routine year-round. It lubricates the joints, stimulates the lymphatic system, and grounds the nervous system. During springtime, use oils that are warming, such as sesame and sunflower, to pacify excess cold in the body.
    • Try something new: Spring is the perfect time to incorporate more spontaneity into our lives. Excess kapha can lead to feelings of dullness, mental fog, and feeling uninspired. Take a new class, pick up a new craft, take a trip, and try to be more social and interactive with your community.

Balance kapha with diet changes and herbs

Diet and nutrition are integral to Ayurveda. The food you eat, as well as the herbs and spices you incorporate in your life, can be useful medicine in balancing your doshas. Choosing foods, spices, and herbs with opposite qualities of the dosha you are balancing is an important part of pacifying an imbalance.

During kapha season, try to avoid food that is moist, heavy, cold, bubbly, and thick. Instead, incorporate food that is light, with flavors that are pungent, bitter, and astringent.

Some foods to include are: 

  • Apples
  • Limes
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bell Peppers
  • Black Beans
  • Black-Eyed Peas
  • Garbanzo Beans

Foods to avoid include: 

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Olives
  • Oily foods
  • Dairy products
  • Oranges
  • Dates
  • Coconuts

When it comes to spices, prioritize warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, pepper, clove, and turmeric. These all have heating qualities, which helps stimulate our digestive fire and increase heat in the body, offsetting the cold nature of kapha.

Herbs are another powerful way to balance our doshas. Herbs with warming, clearing and somewhat drying qualities are a great way to balance excess kapha in the spring. Incorporate triphala, Pippali, Sitopaladi, Punarnava, and Bibhitaki in powder or capsule form to support your body and mind during kapha season.