It’s Kapha Season in the Bear Den
This is my third blog post with the words “Bear Den” in the title. I’m sure that’s some kind of blogging no-no but I don’t care. It’s all about The Bear Den these days and this is my first Kapha Season here in New Hampshire. Today started out cold and snowy with big wet flakes. You could feel the heavy damp in the air. Now, the temperature has risen, it’s raining, and Mother Nature is creating a bit of a mess for us humans.
This time of year can be a real challenge for many people and so I wanted to drop in and write about why we might be feeling a bit sluggish. I’ve decided to set aside all the world’s weirdness and just share basic Ayurvedic wisdom that is helpful no matter what is happening in our outer world.
Cold, wet and heavy are a few qualities associated with Kapha dosha and therefore, with Kapha Season (late winter/spring).
Ayurveda doesn’t put exact dates on the seasons because changeability is one of its principles.
To truly live an Ayurvedic lifestyle we must try to stay in tune with Nature on a day-to-day basis.
Here in the Northeastern US where I live, the transition from Vata Season to Kapha Season generally begins around mid-February, but all you need to do is step outside and feel the sudden change from dry (Vata) to damp (Kapha). This is a much better indicator than a set date.
Think bone-chilling damp, rain, snow, and slush. Even when the sun is shining brightly you can still feel the damp.
Note: If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you might want to read up on Vata Season.
And, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere but in a warmer climate, you will likely still feel a shift, just not as pronounced as for those of us who experience more distinct seasons.
Ayurveda teaches us that the transition between seasons is perilous in terms of our health, and we need to be particularly vigilant as our body adjusts to the changing climate.
If you start to pay attention, you will notice that more people get sick (and even die) during seasonal transitions.
For those of us with a lot of Vata dosha in our constitution, this time of year usually comes as a welcome relief as Vata Season comes to an end. Anxiety might start to wane just a bit (Vata dosha rules the nervous system), as the air/space elements give way to the Kapha elements of earth/water.
But for those who are Kapha-types, or someone experiencing a Kapha imbalance, they may find themselves feeling lethargic, congested, and oftentimes depressed.
Water is Kapha’s primary element. Earth is secondary.
It’s no surprise that someone with a lot of Kapha in their constitution will often complain of feeling “stuck in the mud”, especially during this time of year.
The more we begin to pay attention to the influence of the particular dosha which dominates the day, season, or time of life, the more successful we become at achieving balance.
In the eastern system of the chakras, Kapha is associated with the first chakra (Muladhara/root – the earth element) located at the base of the spine/genital region, and the second chakra (Swadhisthana/sacral – the water element) located below the navel where the reproductive organs are located.
Kapha is Mother Earth personified – sturdy, grounded, solid, and reliable. And Kapha’s association with the 2nd chakra/water element accounts for the strong sexuality and sensuality which Kapha types embody.
Qualities of Kapha dosha are cool, smooth, oily, soft, slow, steady, dense, heavy.
Its tastes are sweet, salty, and sour, so the tastes that help to balance Kapha are bitter, astringent, and pungent.
Kapha is our body mass, structure, and fluids, and makes up our muscles, fat, and bone. It is seated mainly in the chest, but also in the throat, sinuses, nose, head, mouth, stomach, joints, cytoplasm, plasma, and especially in secretions of the body – like mucus. The mucus of Kapha protects precious tissue in the body but as it accumulates it needs to be expelled or it can lead to disease.
Roughly 10% of diseases are caused by Kapha imbalances (60% by Vata, 30% by Pitta), but stagnation and/or accumulation of mucus in the body is often the culprit. This is the reason so many of us have colds and stomach bugs at this time of year.
Eating a heavy, fat, Vata-pacifying diet throughout the fall and early winter can lead to sluggish digestion and result in mucus buildup in the stomach, especially for Kapha types. Often when Kapha season arrives, Kapha people will find themselves feeling the need to vomit. In fact, treatment in Ayurveda’s panchakarma for Kapha imbalances is known as vamana – therapeutic vomiting. (No thank you!)
Lungs and sinuses also become congested and the lymphatic system can become sluggish. Kapha season is a time for cleansing and eating more detoxifying foods. Beets, bitter greens, apples, pomegranates, millet, buckwheat, aduki beans, ghee, and most spices are all good choices for eliminating excess Kapha.
Because childhood is the Kapha time of life (birth to age 18), it’s the reason children have so many upper respiratory illnesses and seem to be forever producing mucus!
Tips for a Kapha-pacifying diet can be found here. Just don’t be too rigid in trying to follow them. Instead, look for foods on the list that you like, and eat lots of them. Common sense should tell you that forcing yourself to eat anything that doesn’t appeal to you will not have a positive effect.
Even those of us without a lot of Kapha in our constitution can benefit from an Ayurvedic cleanse in the spring and by eating seasonal foods.
Mother Nature, in all of her wisdom, provides exactly the right foods we need each season. Just by eating local foods grown by our farmers, we will be living Ayurvedically. When reading the lists below, keep in mind that we all have the three doshas in us but most of us are dual doshas. Therefore, some of us will relate to these traits a lot, some a bit, and some, almost not at all.
Physical traits of Kapha-types:
- Large in stature, with sturdy bones
- Cool, moist skin
- Large strong teeth
- Strong sense of taste and smell
- Eyes are usually large, warm, and almost liquid in appearance
- Thick, shiny hair
- Strong clear nails
- Steady appetite
- Deep sleeper
- Strong stamina
Traits of a balanced Kapha-type:
- Warm and compassionate
- Nurturing (Gives the best hugs!)
- Loving, loyal, and kind
- Excellent partners and parents
- Strong, sturdy, and steady
Traits of an out-of-balance Kapha-type:
- Attached to the material world (potential for hoarding) and to others
- Possessive and greedy
- Lethargic (too much of the earth element)
- Weight gain /water retention (too much of the water element)
- Unforgiving and stuck in the past. Kaphas have memories like elephants!
- Unable or unwilling to change
- Health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure
- A buildup of mucus (spring colds and allergies are common)
What Kapha-types need to do to stay balanced and healthy: (Note – don’t be overwhelmed! Just pick one or two of the following to focus on)
- Exercise daily (especially in the early morning)
- Get up and get moving before 6:00 a.m. (two hours before sunrise is optimal) and don’t take afternoon naps. Sleeping during Kapha times of day (6-10) results in sluggishness and a Kapha-type will lack motivation for the rest of the day. Because the water element is so strong in Kapha types, they need to keep moving or they will stagnate like an obstructed river.
- De-clutter to lighten their load, physically, mentally, and emotionally
- Sip hot herbal/spiced teas instead of drinking too much water. Avoid cold beverages altogether.
- Reduce foods that are cold, heavy, and oily. Stay away from sweet, sour, and salty, and instead, add foods that are light, dry, warm, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
- Reduce mucus-producing foods such as dairy, wheat, and oats.
- Avoid heavy meats and fried foods
- Keep warm and dry, especially during cold, damp Kapha season.
- A good Kapha-pacifying daily routine: Up before 6:00 a.m. (or, ideally, up to two hours before sunrise), meditation and morning workout, light breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Healthy lunch (biggest meal of the day) 12:30-1:00 p.m. and a light supper at 5:00-6:00 p.m. Bedtime between 10-11 p.m. Kaphas don’t need as much sleep as the other doshas (they tend to sleep too much), but a regular bedtime and restorative sleep are beneficial.
- Kaphas can fast easier than the other doshas and it will help jumpstart their sluggish metabolism. They should definitely avoid eating past 6:00 p.m., 7:00 at the latest. This will give them a mini fast each evening. The word breakfast means just that – break fast.
- Add spices to food to spark digestion. Be careful with salt intake and avoid table salt altogether.
- Raw honey is a good sweetener to reduce Kapha. Buy local raw honey during Kapha season as it can help with springtime allergies. Just don’t overindulge, which is also a Kapha trait.
Kapha types make excellent teachers, healers, chefs, or any profession where nurturing is involved. They are physically hard workers because of their incredible stamina. I doubt that there’s a person reading this article who doesn’t know and love a Kapha-type.
If you have a Kapha in your life and want to support them during this difficult season, encourage them to move (Vatas are good at this!), and motivate, fire them up, and help them organize and clear the clutter from their mental, emotional, and physical world (Pittas are good at this!). Share this article with them because it’s likely they won’t choose to read it on their own!
These are all perfect ways to show your love for a Kapha and they will return that love with the best warm hug you’ve ever had!
P.S. Are you unsure of your Ayurvedic constitution? Click HERE to take a simple quiz.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2019, and has been given a fresh update.