Kapha Dosha is the mildest of the three Ayurvedic Doshas; Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
The Charak Samhita Sutra, a foundational ayurvedic text, describes Kapha as:
श्लेष्मणः प्रशमं यान्ति विपरीतगुणैर्गुणाः||६१||
Heavy, cold, soft, unctuous, sweet, stable, and slimy,
the properties opposite to these help to balance the kapha.Charak Samhita, Sutrasthana – 59-61
What is kapha dosha?
Doshas are metabolic patterns and are prone to imbalance. Of all three doshas, Kapha Dosha produces fewer disorders in the body compared to the Vata and Pitta dosha.
Because Kapha Dosha is the least disturbing or polluting metabolic pattern in the body, Kapha is always mentioned last in the dosha hierarchy.
The main function of kapha is anabolic. It helps to create and maintain the body tissues.
Does kapha work only inside the human body?
As the water and earth elements work throughout the universe, so does the Kapha dosha. In this sense, Kapha and other doshas are not only metabolic patterns. In a deeper sense, they are bio-physical energies that run the universe.
According to Charak Samhita, the moon is the reflection of Kapha system in the universe. It is believed that the moon has healing and rejuvenating properties. This is the reason for preparing healing moon water in many ancient traditions.
Vedic culture believes that moonlight has a soothing and rejuvenating effect on all living beings.
What constitutes kapha?
के न जलेन फ़लति इति ।
The one that is produced from the water/earth elementSushrut Samhita
The Kapha dosha emerges as a combination of the water and earth elements. Both elements are nourishing and stabilizing. The water element brings moisture and harbors life. The earth element provides the stability for growth and evolution.
Therefore, Kapha dosha is more concerned with growth, development, and repair functions. Naturally, it creates very few health problems.
10 characteristics Of Kapha Dosha
To understand Kapha better, it is useful to break it down into its characteristics:
- Soft & Flexible
- Protective & Covering
To follow, we are going to explain each of these 10 characteristics in detail.
#1: Kapha Is Heavy
There can be no material existence without the earth element. One of the unique qualities of the earth element is the mass, which is absent in pure energy (air element – kinetic energy, and fire element – heat energy).
The water element reflects the adhesive forces that work throughout the universe, whether it is the atom or the solar system. But mass is a dominant feature in the earth element. As the earth element exists only in the Kapha dosha, all the body mass comes from the Kapha dosha. This mass allows Kapha to make the tissues and govern all anabolic or building-up processes inside the body.
This is the reason Kapha dosha is the dominant metabolic pattern during childhood. Childhood is the time when the body is getting formed. In fact, even the early period of gestation is the Kapha phase that ensures the basic formation and rapid growth of the fetus.
Kapha is also responsible for all mass-enhancing factors – like fatty tissue (adipose tissue), cholesterol et cetera.
Heaviness has two factors – density and volume. And Kapha works on both. It increases density. Thus, Kapha is responsible for high density in the bones. It makes the bones heavier and stronger.
Another important in the context of heaviness is obesity. An excess of Kapha dosha leads to an increase in fatty tissue and weight gain.
A moderate amount of weight gain is important. Fat is the medium that helps to absorb and store vitamins like vitamins A, D, and E. And a balanced Kapha metabolism leads to balance in weight gain.
However, if you consume very heavy food, it may lead to excess Kapha and obesity (a heavy body).
#2: Kapha Is Slow
It is difficult to move fast with a heavy load. An excess of Kapha heaviness may lead to an overly slow metabolism. A slow metabolism fails to use all the calories ingested and thus leads to immediate weight gain.
Probably, therefore, another ancient Ayurvedic text Ashtang Hridya defines the second quality of Kapha dosha as mand (slow).
This slowness in body function is also a natural result in the case of hypothyroidism. In the case of hypothyroidism, the overall body metabolism becomes very slow. This slow metabolism leads to excess weight gain or heaviness.
Hypothyroidism also leads to low thermogenesis in the body which may lead to a feeling of coldness. Thus, abnormally slow Kapha metabolism also produces excess coolness in the body.
#3: Kapha Is Cooling
With the water element as one of the base elements, coolness comes naturally to the Kapha metabolic pattern. The coolness of Kapha comes from its capacity to absorb heat and expand.
For example, when you have a cold and fever, mucus in the body takes up the heat and dissolves to give you a runny nose. Thus, the runny nose acts as a small sink for abnormal body heat during a fever.
Thus, the Kapha metabolism always tries to balance the excess heat of pitta dosha by absorbing the excess heat in the body through different means.
So, in a way, the Kapha metabolism serves as the water-based engine cooling system in old cars. The water in the cooling system is used to absorb the heat and help the car to cool down.
The Kapha factors in the body – tissue fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, pleural fluid, and pericardial fluid – all help in two ways – they not only cool the body but also help to maintain warmth.
Both Vata and Kapha produce a cooling effect. However, the effect of Vata dosha is akin to steam. The water absorbs the heat, turns to vapor, and produces cooling. On the other hand, the Kapha dosha produces a cooling effect by melting, just like the ice absorbs the heat and melts, thereby producing a cooling effect.
Another very interesting example of cooling is sweat. Sweating is the most effective cooling mechanism for the body. However, sweat comes under the pitta metabolism. And its mechanism is very similar to the volcano expelling lava!
However, excess cooling with an imbalance in Kapha dosha can bring havoc to the body. Most of the metabolic functions require a specific body temperature. Excess coolness in the body can hamper these functions.
#4: Kapha Is Soft & Flexible
The Kapha metabolic pattern governs the fat metabolism and muscles in the body. Fat tissue and muscles are the softest tissues in the body.
The water element also brings softness to Kapha dosha. This softness is extremely important for the body for the sake of flexibility.
For example, muscles are the abode of Kapha dosha. Its softness and flexibility is instrumental for movement. On a microscopic level, the softness and flexibility of the cell membrane promote endocytosis, in which a cell wraps itself around a particle to take it in.
This softness brings flexibility to almost all body parts like the nerves, blood vessels et cetera. Thanks to this soft flexibility, the heart can pump blood and the blood can ooze out of the blood vessels!
Kapha is normally less powerful than the Vata and Pitta. Thus, the loss of softness is a marked consequence when Kapha is invaded or suppressed by other doshas.
The synovial fluid in the joints lubricates and ensures softness in the joints. However, an excess Vata can dry out this soft lubrication and make the joints stiff.
#5: Kapha Covers & Protects
The Kapha softness is also a great help as a shock absorber in the body.
The soft layer of tissues (muscles and fatty tissue) around the vital organs in the chest region protects them. And interestingly, the chest is the region for Kapha dominance.
Similarly, the soft membranes around the brain protect and nourish the nerve cells.
However, in the case of any imbalance in the Kapha dosha, this cushion or protective covering may deteriorate and lead to cellular damage.
For example, deficiency in Kapha dosha leads to deterioration in the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord, exposes nerve cells, and may lead to disorders like meningitis.
#6: Kapha Is Oily
Oiliness is one of the distinctive qualities of Kapha. Kapha oiliness is moistening, mild and nourishing like coconut oil, as opposed to the petrol-like oiliness of Pitta dosha.
Almost all body fluids are emulsions with oil as an indispensable component. The oily medium helps the body store and preserve the excess fat and vitamins in the adipose tissue. In fact, this oily medium helps to preserve the entire body from inflammation, dryness, and damage.
For example, oil glands in the skin create an oily layer that protects the skin from excess dryness and infections.
Much of the body’s fat is found in the brain region. In fact, more than 70% of the brain is made of fats. These fats facilitate structural development and nerve functions. Fats also help to improve memory and retention.
The oiliness of Kapha dosha is the vehicle for proper brain function. Therefore, ghee or Indian clarified butter is called an elixir for intelligence, memory, and retention.
However, excess oiliness in the body may lead to disorders. A simple example is oily skin. A balanced amount of oil secretion from the skin glands protects the skin, but excess oil can trap germs, and dirt and may block the skin pores, leading to skin problems like acne, itching, inflammation et cetera.
#7: Kapha Is Sweet
The dominant elements of Kapha water and earth also constitute the sweet taste. Hence, sweetness is a natural property of the Kapha dosha.
The sweet taste is also naturally cooling, heavy and nourishing. This also refers to the presence of glucose or the availability of ready-to-use energy.
This energy-abundant Kapha metabolism is instrumental for the anabolic or building-up processes in the body, whether it is the cellular multiplication in a fetus or the height increase in an individual.
However, excess sweetness in the body may result in disorders. According to Ayurveda, an imbalance in Kapha dosha is one of the main reasons for diabetes!
The Psychosomatic Effect of Kapha Sweetness
One interesting feature of sweet taste according to Charak Samhita is its soothing effect. Sweet taste is called ahladhyakar (the one that brings pleasure). Probably, for this reason, Kapha dosha is the driving factor for taste sensation – it ensures that in normal conditions, the tongue is most sensitive to the sweet taste!
According to modern science, the sweet taste stimulates the satiety center in the brain and creates a temporary feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. Hence, people tend to eat more sweets when stressed!
Since sweetness is an inherent trait in Kapha metabolism, the Kapha dominant people are normally “sweet” by nature! They are normally satisfied, peaceful, and forgiving.
#8: Kapha Is Stable
Before you start walking, you need to stand stable. It means that the start of everything needs stability. For this reason, all metabolic activities in the body, whether it is the formation of a fetus or the start of the digestive process, start with the phase of Kapha.
For example, the first phase of digestion is called – Madhur Avastha Pak, or the digestion of the sweetness. This phase is Kapha dominant and leads to the release and absorption of sugar. Also, in case of a Kapha excess, this is the time when you may feel heaviness after a meal!
Another example is the classification of lifespan (of all living beings) according to the dosha phases. The first phase of life – childhood – is Kapha dominant. In this phase, you may notice less mobility (inability to walk properly), and more stability (infants sleep for most of the day).
Hence, all metabolic processes including life itself, start with Kapha as they need a safe, secure, and stable environment to develop and grow.
The stability of Kapha is also helpful while walking. This sense of stability provides balance and gait for movement. In the case of a Kapha imbalance, you may feel dizzy while walking.
Kapha is the binding agent that keeps things in their place. It is also responsible for repairing wear and tear. For example, the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones are tied together by a special type of Kapha. Avalambaka Kapha holds everything together to form the joints.
This stability of Kapha also refers to the rate of metabolism. Kapha helps to maintain the normal biorhythm or the rate of metabolism.
However, in the case of Kapha imbalance, you may experience abnormal rates of metabolism (hypo or hyperthyroidism). It may also lead to diseases related to abnormal bio-cycles like insomnia, anorexia, irregular menstrual cycles et cetera.
The Psychosomatic Effect of Kapha Stability
Every dosha affects both the physiology and the psychology of an individual. Kapha brings stability not only to the body but also to the mind.
And the Kapha people are stable-minded people with intense levels of perseverance and consistency. They are reliable friends in need and loyal supporters with unwavering faith.
These are the people a company can rely on to develop a loyal customer base because they rarely switch their preferences.
However, an excess in thought stability may result in a limited worldview.
#9: Kapha Is Slimy
This property of Kapha dosha is significant, especially in transport inside the body. The natural sliminess of the Kapha dosha lessens friction and provides the lubrication required for movement.
This factor is applicable to all kinds of movements inside the body. For example, the slimy mucus that lines the entire alimentary canal helps to move food, right from the mouth to the colon.
In the form of saliva, it helps to move the food inside the mouth and ensures proper chewing.
This sliminess also helps the muscular layers, tendons, and ligaments to move or rotate in their position without wear and tear. It helps the muscular layers in the chest to slip over each other and allow respiration in the lung or hand movement.
However, excess sliminess is a problem. This excess sliminess may lead to dysentery, where you have excess mucus in the stool.
#10: Kapha Is Sticky
Another classical Ayurvedic text, Ashtang Hridya mentions a similar quality of Kapha dosha – stickiness.
Dry slime may result in stickiness. This sticky mucus offers a lot of protective functions in the body.
For example, sticky mucus protects the internal channels from inflammation or dryness, or the mucus lining in the stomach protects the stomach walls from the corrosive effect of digestive acids.
However, excess stickiness in the respiratory tract may lead to breathing problems, sore throat, hoarseness in voice, cough, and similar obstructive Kapha disorders.
The Kapha dosha is heavy, cool, soft, oily, sweet, stable, and slimy. It is the anabolic force in the body.
The Kapha dosha creates metabolic building blocks, stabilizes, nourishes, and repairs the body tissues. Dominated by water and earth elements, it is the dosha that hails the start of all metabolic processes and secures a strong foundation for them.
It is the cool and soothing dosha that balances the drying hyperactivity of Vata and fiery damages of the pitta dosha. However, an imbalanced Kapha can lead to all kinds of obstructive and congestive disorders.