In Praise of Kapha Dosha
Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India, teaches that there are three constitutions: Vata (air), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth). These three energies are present in our physical bodies, our minds, and our emotions. A balance of these three is essential to good health and mental and emotional resiliance.
In our society, Kapha is probably the least understood and least appreciated of the three Doshas. Kapha’s slow, gentle pace, generous proportions, and attachment to home, family, and relationships can seem silly, sentimental, and self-indulgent to the modern American eye. With our cruel judgements of “fatness” and “laziness”, our emphasis on speed and competition, and our impatience with the hard work of communication and relationships, Kapha seems like something we all want less of. But of course we need Kapha, just as we need Vata and Pitta. Without Kapha we would not be able to smell or taste, our bones would lack strength, our joints would have no lubrication, we would be unable to gestate or nurse our children, and we could not grow new tissue to heal a wound—major or minor. Kapha’s bulk gives us endurance and strength, its fluidity gives us smoothness and suppleness. Kapha skin stays youthful and bright the longest of the three doshas. Kapha is the most fertile, the most generous, the one who can always be counted on to help. Kapha types are the ones who keep family albums and scrapbooks, the ones who always remember to call you on your birthday, who host family gatherings and reunions. Kapha folks connect people, and keep them connected, with good food, good times, and good feelings.
Kapha dosha is made up of the water and earth elements, and is characterized as heavy, cold, slow, oily, liquid, smooth, dense, soft, static, sticky, hard, and gross (meaning material and earthy).
Vasant Lad* lists the functions of Kapha as:
- Support and Stability
- Gaseous exchange in lungs
- Gastic secretions (liquid medium)
- Water electrolyte balance
- Fat regulation
- Strength and Stamina
- Repair and Regeneration
- Memory retention
- Taste Perception
- Olfactory Perception (smell)
The emotional blessings of Kapha are:
- Unconditional Love
- Protecting and Preserving
- Family Life
- Routine and Ritual
- Pleasure in food and drink
While it is easy for us to appreciate Vata’s enthusiasm, and Pitta’s determination, Kapha is often overlooked. I believe that a big part of the reason we ignore Kapha is because it is the Dosha that moves the slowest. In our society, especially with ever-faster technology, speed seems to be our highest value. Or as my older brother would say: “America is all about faster-better-more”. I’d like to praise Kapha’s slowness; I could certainly use more of it in my life. I’d love to see a world more patient, more content, and more generous. I’m looking for ways to increase Kapha in my own life, and I would encourage you to do the same. Here are a few of the things I have found helpful:
- Take time between activities to rest and appreciate what you’ve accomplished
- Cook something from scratch
- Spend time observing nature or a small child, and try to watch without thinking about anything in particular
- Daydream without an agenda
- Spend time with friends or family without “entertainment”
Give it a try, and see how you feel. I’ve found myself a little calmer, a little quieter inside, and I think that’s a very good thing.
* (Textbook of Ayurveda Volume 1: Fundamental Principles)