All About Kapha : Springing Forward Strong in Body + Mind

As the cold of winter thaws, and spring arrives we say goodbye to days ruled by vata dosha, and hello to the cool, wet, heavy, damp, slowness of Kapha – the dosha that governs spring. Rain soaks the land, and the earth itself feels heavy with moisture as the landscape becomes a wellspring for new life. We feel this shift in our bodies too; a feeling of “at last!” and an eagerness to spring forward, shed our layers, bask in the sun and take hold of this opportunity for a fresh start and new beginnings. That renewed sense of joy and inspiration you’re feeling? That’s nature calling you to balance out the vata and kapha swirling all around you. But it’s important that we shed those blankets wisely.

Ayurveda doesn’t take this uplifting sensation or the transition to spring lightly. In fact, this small window – between the end of winter and the beginning of spring – is considered one of the most important times of the year to gently tend to our internal landscape to set our body-mind systems up for success in the seasons to come. It’s a season of deliberate detox…but not in the way that Western medicine and diet culture would have you think.

All winter long the hard work of storing nutrients, protecting against the cold, and stockpiling for the year ahead have been happening in our bodies, minds, and all around us in nature. We may have noticed this as a few extra pounds (natural!) craving for more nutritionally dense and comforting foods, a natural draw to warmth, coziness, and hibernation. Those inclinations – and that extra moisture we’ve generated to help our bodies with these tasks – are no longer serving us as the weather warms and now it’s time to shed this moisture and emerge healthy and strong. We’ve quite literally been bolstering against vata by building kapha, and now that the kapha season has arrived, it’s time that we unload some of that excess to keep our bodies on balance.

If we don’t we’ll find that our spring is rampant with allergies, illness, heaviness, and feelings of lethargy — kapha embodied.

What is “kapha”?

Kapha is cloudy, dense, slow, steady, cold, and sturdy and it governs all stability, grounding, structure, and endurance in nature, and in our bodies. If we want to know what kapha looks and feels like, taking a peek outside on an early spring day will tell us; Kapha is sturdy, soft, slow, steady, and strong. Our modern lives are often lacking in these qualities; we’re bounced around by the inputs, experiences, and over-movement of our vata-dominant days, and we are rarely soft, slow or steady with ourselves. While we may be strong and enduring, too much strength and endurance can equate with stagnation – in nature, and in our lives.

What are the qualities of kapha dosha?

Kapha dosha is…

Those dominant in kapha dosha are often naturally calm and it’s difficult to ruffle their feathers. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life, and love routine. Patient, steady and loyal, kaphas are often too quick to hold onto relationships, habits, and objects even long after they have served their purpose and are no longer nourishing or necessary. Resistance to change, and unwavering endurance and undeniable stubbornness are qualities of excess kapha.

What does kapha in balance look like?

When in balance, kapha invites us to be calm, thoughtful, present, and loving. We’ll feel strong, patient, steady, supportive, and supported. We’ll experience healthy endurance and stamina, and a balanced relationship with commitment and routine. All of us have a bit of kapha dosha within, and it’s important that we maintain and cultivate this dosha to keep the balance in our high-achieving, over-active lives filled with passion.

What does kapha out of balance look like?

Out of balance, excess kapha looks like:

What does that mean for athletes?

As athletes and high-achievers, we are likely particularly wary of kapha. We don’t want anything holding us down or keeping us back! BUT, kapha is an important tool for us to embrace because kapha IS our ability to maintain endurance, and stamina, as well as to stay grounded in our worlds that are constantly spinning with activity and “to-do’s.” Without kapha, we lose it all.

This time of year is particularly important for athletes, as it’s very possible and even likely that we burst out of our doors and into spring, without gently warming our body-mind and melting off the excess kapha in the system. We’ll know we’ve missed the mark if we find ourselves feeling lethargic, or uninspired, come down with seasonal allergies, or early spring colds, or have a hard time losing those naturally occurring winter pounds.

Rather than experiencing a lack of inspiration, athletes and active folx experience reduced immunity as the number one sign of an overabundance of kapha in the system. Colds, flu, seasonal allergies, digestive congestion, and water or weight gain are all signs that kapha is abundant in our systems – none of which we want to threaten the success of our spring and summer. This makes honoring rituals of transition between winter and spring all the more important for us!

It’s easy being green!

So, how do we balance kapha?

As with anything, the best way to balance kapha is with opposites. Since kapha dosha is cool, wet, slow, and heavy anything (and everything!) that is warm, drying, energizing, and light will help us to balance out the kapha in our days and reduce kapha in our bodies. Think lighter meals, brighter flavors, uplifting activites, vigorous movements, and embracing the vast, lively, expansive possibilities of spring and summer beyond.

Because kapha is slow and steady, spontaneity can also help to mix up kapha. Because kapha is static, anything that involves moving and grooving – in body and mind – also helps kapha to balance. Listening to uplifting beats, spending time in nature, and taking deliberate breaks from screens and digital inputs to breathe in the freshness of spring also will help that excess of kapha to melt away.

For athletes and highly active people, these practices are all the more important. Hopefully, over the winter months you’ve allowed your training, movement and daily practices to trend toward stable, slow, warming, nourishing and gentle. But now that spring is calling you out, it’s time to use up all of those backstocked superpowers to express your enthusiasm, vivacity and the spring in your step…but don’t forget to KEEP WARM while you do!

Doing it right: head out for your workout or into your day with enthusiasm. Get your heart pumping and your brain moving. Stay bundled and warm through your day, and continue sipping on warm beverages, enjoying soups and lighter fare to fuel your day.

Inviting imbalance: underdressing, over-training too early, drinking ice-cold beverages, continuing to eat heavy foods or making most meals all about salad.

Eating and drinking for kapha:

By supporting our bodies with a diet that focuses on lightness, sharpness and dryness, we can help our natural biological processes of “shedding” excess kapha from the system.

General foods that help to balance kapha:


Seasonal swap examples: 

Moving for kapha:

Movement during the spring isn’t a hard sell for athletes and high-achievers – we’ve been waiting MONTHS for this! But, it’s important that we continue to keep warm while we move through the spring. The biggest key to making these energizing movements successful in freeing us from kapha’s grasp is making sure that we STAY WARM. Be sure to wear or carry ample layers when you head out, and strategize your recovery meals and drinks to be warm. Even on a sunny day, favor room temperature foods and drinks over cold ones to keep the physical kapha moving through and out of the body, then bolster healthy energetic kapha by ensuring you recover properly with some much-deserved downtime after your activity. Spring is the time to gently warm your body-mind system up for a successful summer. Don’t over do it by blasting out of the gate too quickly (or with too much wind at your back!)

The bottom line:

When the spirit strikes us to burst out of winter energetic and vivatious, this is a sign from nature – both internally and externally – that it’s time to shake things up! This inclination is evidence that we’ve arrived at the tiny season of the year when our bodies can use our support to melt away the grounding, moisturizing, comforting energy that kapha has been building all winter, so we can burst into spring strong, healthy and balanced. If we spring too soon, and fail to keep the body warm as we get out and get after it, we’ll find that our immunity is reduced, and the heaviness of kapha in the form of mucus, stagnation, sickness, swelling and weight gain follows us into spring and summer. Keep warm, keep active, stay bright and get after it!