Ayurveda

Ask Dr. Sheila: How to Balance Kapha

Woman sitting on the floor and writing in a lavender field, with mountains in the background.
Woman sitting on the floor and writing

If you’re feeling a little unmotivated, lethargic, dull, or have put on some extra weight, have sluggish digestion, or can’t get out of bed, there’s a likelihood that this is an expression of excess Kapha in your mind-body physiology.

This is fairly common this time of year due to the heavy energy that has accumulated over the winter and early spring. A few questions that have come in over the last month relate to some of these symptoms. Balancing Kapha is the key.

For more tips on Kapha balancing, check out the Spring Release and Renew program in the Chopra App.

One important point to understand first is that it is very easy for any or all of the doshas to get out of balance in our modern world. We have overstimulation of the senses and late nights that get Vata out of balance, there is overworking and overachieving that gets Pitta out of balance, and we are more sedentary as a species than ever before resulting in Kapha imbalance.

Although we need to pay attention to all the doshas, and whether they are in balance or out of balance, we’ll focus right now on balancing Kapha, as this is usually what gets out of balance as we come out of winter into spring in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, this information applies to you as well, although at a different time of year.

Where you live on the planet also dictates how much Kapha imbalance you accumulate over late winter and early spring. If you already live in a cold, wet climate, you may notice more Kapha imbalance. This can show up as not just “the blues,” but as Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you live in a very cold, snowy climate and have very little activity in winter, you may notice more weight gain than elsewhere on the planet. As I’ve seen in my practice, this can even result in, higher blood sugars or cholesterol.
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So how can we keep Kapha balanced? Here are some specific tips that relate to balancing Kapha now and any time of year:

Balancing Weight

The key to weight management with Kapha imbalance is to get moving! The more active movement, the better (taking into account any physical limitations you may have). This can include brisk walking, jogging, biking, rowing, aerobic classes, or dancing. This may also include more active flow yoga classes where you sweat and get the energy moving.

Of course, find something you enjoy and grab a friend to join you to make it more fun and stay accountable. When Kapha is out of balance, by definition, we feel unmotivated, so finding an exercise partner can help.

Remember to take into account your primary dosha(s) and any other imbalances. If you are burned out and fatigued due to other imbalances, start slow with movement and work up as you tolerate. You may have other imbalances that keep you from vigorous movement, so always listen to your body.

Of course, eating to balance Kapha will also help lighten the body along with movement. With a light Kapha-balancing diet that focuses on pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, which include lots of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, spices, and beans, eating most of your calories in the middle of the day, and no food after 6-7 pm, weight and cholesterol should move toward balance.

Try these Ayurvedic tips with your meals to stimulate digestion and metabolism:

  • Drink ginger tea with meals – sipping a bit of ginger tea before a meal, or during the meal, can improve digestion and metabolism. There are a few studies, although small, that show some benefit in decreasing appetite and reducing weight. Of course, this needs to be done in the context of other dietary changes and does seem to have more effect on some people than others.
  • Sprinkle some spices into your food that help to activate digestive enzymes and boost metabolism. Pick one you like: black pepper, cayenne, turmeric, (these also help you to minimize salt, which is good for balancing Kapha).
  • Add invigorating herbs to your plate, like fresh rosemary, oregano, or parsley, to aid in detoxification via high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

Learn more about Food as Medicine with these videos on Chopra's IGTV:
Intro to Ayurvedic Nutrition
Ayurvedic Detox at Home
Healthy Habits

Feeling Congested?

In addition to the above, this is a great time to pull out your neti pot and nasal oil to clear out congestion, prevent allergies, and breathe in springtime comfortably.

You can use nasal oils that have natural decongestants such as eucalyptus and camphor. There are several good-quality oils available online.

Balancing Low Mood

Although often attributed to a Kapha imbalance, depression is a complex issue and Ayurveda recognizes the multiple factors involved. Ayurveda also describes different types of depression, based on the root dosha imbalance. Often, an in-depth evaluation is needed.

To balance Kapha imbalances in the mind, use the senses of sound, sight, and smell to invigorate and stimulate. Here are some tips:

  • Sound: listen to music with a good beat (it usually makes you want to get up and move, or at least move in your chair)
  • Sight: wear bright and energizing colors like red, orange, and yellow and lighten your environment by getting pillows, throws, or flowers that brighten things up.
  • Smell: try essential oils either on your skin, or candles/diffusers for your room; use invigorating smells such as eucalyptus, rosemary, sage, or peppermint.

Notice the difference when you fill your senses with light and stimulating input.

You can also learn more on this IGTV video on Balancing Kapha to Get Unstuck.

Other Factors that Affect Mood

In addition to dosha imbalances, there are qualities of the mind, called mahagunas, that affect the quality of our thoughts. When we cultivate the qualities of sattva through meditation and states of being, such as love and compassion, we feel light, pure, and healthy in the mind.

When we cultivate rajas through movement, we can stimulate the body and mind to perform our functions in the world. However, if we cultivate too much rajas via too much movement or too much thinking, we can feel agitated. Tamas creates inertia, dullness, and heaviness in the mind, and can even lead to addictions. Thus, cultivating sattva and rajas can keep tamas in balance.

This also applies to the movement we do. We need movement to balance Kapha, but we need to know what movement is best for us. This is where taking into account your dosha and time of year make a difference. Springtime is a good time to move more for all of us, and the amount that is right for each person varies.

Keeping Kapha balanced during the winter and early spring months allows you to make the most of the beauty of spring and feel your best all year.

Release winter stagnation and refresh your energy for lighter, brighter days ahead with Dr. Sheila’s Spring Release and Refresh program, available now in the Chopra App.