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Ayurveda … Doshas … Kapha …

I’ve heard much chatter about Ayurveda, but have read little. Today I decided to dabble …

Having listened to one of my favorite podcasts, The Ultimate Health Podcast hosted by Dr. Jesse Chappus and Marni Wasserman, and their interview with Julie Daniluk, I was drawn to do a bit more research. Based on their brief touch on the topic of doshas, I felt my dosha was Kapha.

I searched “Ayurveda” and picked The Chopra Centre website as a good place to start.

This site so far has some great information. Here, in PURPLE, is some of what I found regarding the dosha of Kapha … my comments are in GREEN.

Qualities of Kapha:

  • Heavy
  • Slow
  • Steady
  • Solid
  • Cold
  • Soft
  • Oily

Physical Characteristics

Kapha types have a strong build and excellent stamina. Large, soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin; and thick hair are also important Kapha characteristics. (I couldn’t agree more about the large soft eyes, smooth radiant skin, and thick hair – these all match my characterists!) Those who are predominantly Kapha sleep soundly and have regular digestion. (I’m more of a light sleeper, and didn’t have regular digestion until becoming vegan (briefly) in 2013 … then I was regular (TMI!!)) But when Kapha builds to excess, weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body. When they’re out of balance, Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression. (Overweight – check. Sleep excessively – not quite. Asthma – trouble catching my breath sometimes. Diabetes – possibly … in follow-up stages right now to determine if this is the case. Depression – in my past, yes absolutely … some low days at present, yes sometimes)

Emotional Characteristics

Kaphas are naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. (I think I thrive with routine!) When in balance, Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. People with an excess of Kapha tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness. In the face of stress, the typical Kapha response is, “I don’t want to deal with it.”

How to Balance Kapha

Seek stimulation. Since Kapha is inherently cold, heavy, and dense, the key to balancing Kapha is stimulation. Kaphas tend to cling to the status quo and routine (yes, very), so they need the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and experiences. (one reason I love the choice I made to move to Vancouver … new sights, sounds, and experiences!)

Follow a regular daily routine, ideally awakening before 6 a.m. each morning. (meh … not before 6 a.m. … but almost always by 6:30 a.m. … “sleeping in” means possibly 7 a.m.) Avoid taking naps during the day.

Stay warm and avoid dampness. Kaphas are particularly sensitive to cold, damp conditions and benefit from heat. (take me to Jamaica!!) Use dry heat if you are congested—a common Kapha complaint. Using a heating pad under your back or a sunlamp at your chest is often helpful. Avoid exposing your nose, throat, and lungs to cold winter air if you aren’t feeling well.

Perform a daily Garshana (dry massage) on your body to stimulate circulation. (have also been hearing much about dry brushing and I do have the brush required … just need to build that into my daily routine!)

Use an Ayurvedic neti pot to help prevent congestion. The neti pot is powerful tool for nasal cleansing. (I could see this being very beneficial. I have a deviated septum and often experience “nasal dripping” (gross, right!?) and congestion.)

Clear your space. To avoid clutter from accumulating in your home, office, car, and other physical spaces, regularly clean out and give away things that you know you’ll never use. (this is something I do often! If I don’t use it on a regular basis – I toss/donate it!)

Get regular exercise. This is the best way to avoid stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in the body. Focus on building endurance. Favor running (um, no. nope. not with this body yet), bicycling (yes!), swimming (yes!), aerobics, and competitive sports (does watching count!? LOL). You can also dance to energizing rhythmic music.

Use warm, stimulating aromas including cloves, camphor, cinnamon, eucalyptus, juniper, and marjoram.

Favor colors that are warm and bright, including yellow, orange, and red. (seriously!? I have always been drawn towards the cooler colours of blues, greens, etc.)

Nutritional Guidelines for Kapha

According to Ayurveda, it’s important to eat foods that have a balancing effect on the dominant dosha or that will pacify (stabilize) a dosha that has become excessive or aggravated. Because Kapha is heavy, oily, and cold, favor foods that are light, dry, or warm. Foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes are most beneficial for pacifying Kapha. Reduce foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes.

Recommendations:

Try a liquid fast one day per week, ingesting only fresh vegetable and fruit juices, and pureed vegetable soup. (this would be awesome … will have to see about working this in! I juiced 2 meals a day for about 6 weeks at the beginning of 2013 and found I experienced great health benefits!)

Reduce the intake of dairy, which tends to increase Kapha. You can use small amounts of ghee, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt.

Avoid most sweeteners. Honey is one sweetener that can best pacify Kapha. Other sweeteners, however, should be avoided because they increase the Kapha dosha, contributing to problems such as blocked sinuses, allergies, colds, and lethargy. Take a tablespoon or two (but no more) of raw honey every day can help release excess Kapha. Do not cook with honey though.

Drink hot ginger tea with meals to help stimulate slow digestion and sharpen dull taste buds. Drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. (something to try!)

Eat beans. All beans are good for Kapha types except for soybeans and soybean-based foods such as tofu, which should be eaten in moderation. (this is interesting as I find beans (canned, at the moment) really cause me to experience much flatulence. I want to try soaking and cooking dry beans to see if they better digest for me)

Favor lighter fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, and apricots. Reduce heavier fruits like bananas, avocados, pineapples, oranges, peaches, coconuts, melons, dates, and figs. (omg … how to avoid some of my favourite fruits like bananas (in my smoothies), pineapples, peaches, coconuts, dates!!! Of course I have no problem eating more pomegranates … but they are so damned expensive!)

Eat lots of vegetables. In general, all vegetables are recommended but you should reduce consumption of sweet and juicy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. (vegetables – blech! LOL … and again – how to avoid a favourite like sweet potatoes!?)

All spices except salt are pacifying to Kapha. Use pungent spices like pepper, cayenne, mustard seed, and ginger freely in your diet.

Reduce intake of all nuts and seeds. Favor pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

Limit consumption of red meat. For non-vegetarians, fresh, organic white meat chicken, turkey, eggs, and seafood are acceptable.

Use small amounts of fats and oils. Try extra virgin olive oil, ghee, almond oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, mustard oil, or safflower oil. (what about coconut oil?)

For grains, favor barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye. Reduce intake of oats, rice, and wheat. (yes – this makes sense … well, the wheat part makes sense. I thought oats were good … and they’re so easy!!)

In general, a Kapha diet should be lively and full of energy to help spark the digestive and metabolic systems. Eat your largest meal at lunchtime and a smaller meal at dinnertime. Allow at least three hours for digestion before bedtime.

What do you think? Have you read, heard or done any research on Ayurveda?

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