The Function of Kapha Dosha
Kapha Dosha represents the abstract quality of structure at the finest level of creation. It gives rise to the primordial “element” known as Earth and interacts with Pitta to give rise to Water. The qualities of Kapha reflect our surface-value associations with the terms earth and water. When balanced, Kapha stabilizes mind and body in the face of change. It gives strength, potency and fertility. It fosters love, courage, generosity and other highly-valued emotions.
|Qualities||Effects of Balance||Effects of Imbalance|
|Cold||Stability, firmness||Sluggish digestion|
Kapha is seated in the chest and stomach. Those with a Kapha-dominated Prakriti (constitution) tend to have a large, powerful chest and well-developed muscles. Their skin is smooth, oily and soft. Bones, joints and veins are well-covered. Their eyes are milky white. Their teeth are large, white and well-formed. Kapha-types tend to dislike cool damp weather. When they get cold, it affects them all over.
Effects of Kapha Imbalance
Due to its inherent stability, Kapha is the least likely of the Doshas to go out of balance. But when it does, bad things happen. Generosity can degenerate into greed. Strength and heaviness can become corrupted by obesity and/or diabetes. Slowness and calm can slide into lethargy and depression. Less severe imbalances may simply give rise to respiratory problems like colds and bronchitis. Also, Kapha is associated with swelling and tumors including cancer.
Note that Ama, the toxic products of faulty digestion and major contributor to disease, has qualities similar to that of degenerate Kapha. In particular, Ama is sticky and tends to accumulate in places of pre-existing weakness where it causes blockage or attracts Dosha imbalance. Ama is a major factor in many chronic conditions.
Kapha Periods in the Cycles of Nature
Kapha dominates in the first third of life, in the spring, the first hour after eating and in the hours following sunrise and sunset (6-10 AM and 6-10 PM). This is why we feel sleepy in the evening and will enjoy greater rest and rejuvenation if we get to bed before 10 PM. It is also why we may feel groggy and lethargic throughout the day if we sleep past sunrise. The Kapha period in the morning is the best time for vigorous exercise. A brisk walk in nature during the first hour or two after sunrise is nature’s best antidote to stress, anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, our physiology doesn’t support exercise in the evening as well. This is because the fine channels shrink down for the night. Also, evening exercise may interfere with sleep.
Young healthy children exemplify the bliss and joy of balanced Kapha. Because Kapha is seated in the chest, when children get sick, they commonly suffer respiratory problems. Induced vomiting is an ancient method for eliminating excess Kapha. During my medical training, we sometimes used syrup of ipecac to treat refractory asthma. Excessive vomiting, however, severely weakens the physiology. This is one of the toxic results of bulimia.
As we’ve already seen, the junction between winter and spring is the optimum time for detoxification. Kapha needs a much lighter diet than would satisfy the average person during winter (Vata season). This is why spring is such a good time to begin a program for sustainable weight control or to at least initiate a habit of fasting on liquids one day a week.
Putting all this information together, we can see that Kapha needs lots of physical activity to counter-act the tendency toward couch-potato stability. A light, warm diet is also important with a predominance of bitter (greens), astringent (beans) and pungent tastes. Raw honey, taken in moderation, is the best sweetener for Kapha balance – as long as it is not heated much above body temperature. In addition, those who want to balance Kapha should awaken before 6 AM and take their main meal at noon. They should also avoid foods and drinks that create dullness (Tamas) in the nervous system such as peanuts, garlic, mushrooms and fermented products including alcohol.