How to Balance the Heavy (Kapha) Period
The Menstrual Cycle Part 3: The Kapha Period
In the first part of this series, we looked at the components of a healthy cycle from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Remember that your cycle experience (including any imbalances) can fluctuate from month to month, and you can use the previous month's activities as clues to help you identify what worked for you in your lifestyle and what may have caused some imbalance.
Kapha dosha is made up of water and earth, and its qualities are heavy, cold, dull, oily, smooth, dense, static, liquid, and soft. Using the basic principle of Ayurveda that like increases like, we know that anything with those same qualities will increase kapha.
Some strong triggers of kapha are cold and damp weather, such as the late winter and spring, feasting on heavier foods seasons—especially fatty, oily, very sweet or salty foods, dairy, daytime napping or too much sleep, and poor activity or a very sedentary lifestyle.
When kapha dosha is elevated in the body, this can manifest as a general feeling of heaviness or malaise, attachment or feeling stuck and unmotivated, or physical symptoms such as retention of fluids and congestion.
When you look back on your previous month, do you see these kapha qualities reflected in your diet, lifestyle, or environment? Is the weather damp and cold? Did you gravitate to more kapha-provoking foods that are heavy, sweet, and salty or are cold? How was your sleep? Did you have a hard time fitting in enough exercise and movement?
The more kapha-provoking your diet or lifestyle is, the more kapha is likely to show up in your body and mind—and that includes your cycle.
As we discussed in the first part of this series, your cycle is a window into your health, and you can use it to identify and then correct imbalances that show up.
Characteristics of a Kapha Cycle
Understanding the above qualities gives us some insight into the characteristics of the kapha cycle. Density and heaviness may cause tissue accumulation, immobility may lead to stagnation, and more water may cause swelling and an occasionally heavier flow.
If you have excess kapha in your system, you may experience:
- Dull pain
- An occasionally heavier and longer flow due to tissue accumulation and kapha in the reproductive tissues
- Increased mucus in the flow and flow may have a slight yellow tinge
- Emotions of depression
- Emotional eating
- Occasional swelling and water retention in the breasts, legs and hands, or in the face
- Increased sluggishness and sleepiness
When kapha is elevated, you may experience additional signs of kapha elsewhere in the body, such as:
- Slower metabolism leading to increased weight
- Difficulty losing weight
- Sinus congestion and allergies
- Greed and feelings of attachment
- Tissue density elsewhere in the body
- Thick skin
Balance Kapha, Balance Your Cycle
Another major principle in Ayurveda is to bring balance with the opposite qualities. So to bring balance to kapha's qualities, we will work with the balancing qualities of warmth, mobility, lightness, and dryness.
To put this into practice, you can focus on staying warm, incorporating warming and astringing spices into your cooking, adding more movement, and adding some lightness (this could be interpreted in many ways—more lightheartedness, light foods, and so on).
Ultimately, reflect on your daily routine, what you eat, and what herbs you use. You can structure each of these areas to bring the balancing support kapha needs.
Equally important is to focus on strengthening your digestion (agni) since this is key to countering the heavy, sluggish metabolism that kapha can cause.
And herbal formulas can be incredibly helpful in correcting cycle imbalances. Women's Support is an excellent choice as it is tridoshic, meaning it is balancing to all three doshas, and it works throughout the physiology to support a healthy, balanced menstrual cycle.
Consider the following suggestions as straightforward steps to take toward balancing kapha, bringing some lightness, warmth, and stimulation into your day to day activities.
Simple Tips to Balance Kapha
- Use herbs. Consider Healthy Kapha, which blends cleansing herbs that move fluids and kindle agni. For added digestive support, try Kapha Digest. Triphala Guggulu can help if you need support with kapha in the circulatory system, and Kanchanar Guggulu can help if you have more density and accumulation in your reproductive tissues.
- Hydrate! Hydration is always key in menstrual support.
- Bring warmth with ginger tea. Also consider Ginger Liquid Extract for an easy go-to form of ginger. Not only does ginger help balance kapha in general, it can help decrease kapha in the tissue layer that creates the menstrual cycle.
- Follow a kapha-pacifying diet. Eat lighter foods (for starters: not oily, less sugar, less dairy), avoid snacking between meals, try to lightly sauté or cook your foods to aid in digestion, and supplement with agni-promoting herbs that balance kapha like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric).
- Reflect on your daily routine. Work toward balancing kapha in your activities. Some basic tips: eat your biggest meal at lunch and your last meal before sunset, and practice kapha-pacifying pranayama like Kapalabhati Pranyama.
- Get enough activity. Shoot for 45 minutes at least three times a week (ideally five times a week). Choose more faster-paced and active yoga sequences, like Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) at a quicker pace with a focus on standing poses. Hot yoga may be just right for you, as you want exercises that will stimulate sweating and movement of circulation.
- Balance your sleep. Do not nap during the daytime and wake up early (by 6.a.m. is ideal).
- Use castor oil packs. Castor oil is also great for kapha because it relieves stagnation and supports the body in its natural detoxification process.
We always recommend that you work with a qualified practitioner for more serious imbalances, but hopefully these steps give you a good starting place to create more balance.
Specific Advice to Support Your Cycle
While the above focuses on how to bring balance to kapha in your system so you can remove any excess kapha in your cycle, here’s some supportive advice specifically for your cycle. This advice applies to all women, regardless of what imbalances may show up from month to month. I encourage you follow some or all of these simple steps.
- Start a menstrual calendar. Note when you start, if you have any symptoms before, during, and after, what the flow is like (any days of spotting, when you start a full flow, how many pads you use or would have gone through), and when it ends. By keeping a calendar or journal, you can also begin to decipher what a “normal” cycle is for you.
- Slow down during your menstrual cycle. Even if it means taking a twenty-minute break at the end of your day where you do nothing but breathe, take some time to become aware of your body and its subtle changes. See if you can correlate changes with the fluctuations of your schedule or anything that was particularly impactful from the month before.
- Check in with your digestion. The health of your cycle is affected by the strength of your digestion, your doshas, and any toxins you may have built up. Getting in touch with your digestion can teach you a lot! How is your appetite and how well do you digest your meals?
- Focus on balanced doshas. In this instance, you’re working to balance kapha. Also tune in to your health regularly to see if you have imbalances from pitta or vata showing up. (Taking the Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz can help determine what dosha is out of balance.)
- Tune into your current attitude. What is your relationship with your cycle? Do you dread and resent your cycle, or do you appreciate it for what it is telling you? If you find you have trouble embracing your cycle, what can you do to begin to develop a new attitude toward it?
- Stick with it! It can take time to strengthen your digestion, balance the doshas, and cleanse toxins. Bottom line is—do not give up. You can always consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for more help and personalized advice.
- Keep reading. For more information, read the Guide to a Healthy Menstrual Cycle, which has all of this information and more!
Looking at the big picture, balancing kapha will bring balance to your cycle, and balancing your cycle will create positive change for your overall well-being. Let your cycle be a window into your health, honoring it for all the wisdom it has to impart to you.