According to Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three doshas (a.k.a. humors) present in every cell, tissue, and organ of our body that govern our psychobiological functioning. These doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—comprise the five potential states of matter (i.e., space (or ether), air, fire, earth, and water). All five of these elements are present in each dosha, but the two predominant elements in a dosha determine its defining qualities. When in balance, the three doshas create health; when out of balance, they cause disease. They are also responsible for the vast variety of differences and preferences that exist among individuals, and they inﬂuence all we are and all we do, from our food choices to the ways we relate to others.
As the forces that govern our physiology, the doshas regulate the creation, maintenance, and destruction of body tissue, as well as the elimination of waste products. They also act as psychological drivers, governing our emotions and mental state. When in balance, the doshas generate understanding, compassion, and love and sustain mental health. When their balance is disturbed by stress, improper diet, and environmental conditions, they give rise to disturbances such as anger, fear, anxiety, confusion, depression, and disease.
The kapha dosha combines the prithvi(earth) and apa(water) elements. In ancient Sanskrit texts, kapha is conceptualized “that which holds things together, embraces, and provides coherence.” It is slow, heavy, cool, dense, soft, greasy, unctuous, sticky, cloudy, liquid, and sweet. Kapha holds the body together, giving it shape, form, and stability. The combined elements of kapha are responsible for the gross structure of the body and for its solid and liquid components including phlegm, mucus, synovial fluid, and plasma. Kapha also fills the intercellular spaces of the body as connective tissues such as tendons.
Kapha occurs mainly in the chest, throat, head, pancreas, lymph, fat, nose, and tongue, but its primary site is the stomach, where much of our immune system resides. As the dosha that regulates body’s protective and immune functions, kapha is related to ojas(our innate reserves of strength, vigor, and resistance to disease). In addition to building immunity, kapha promotes growth.
The water element of kapha softens the earthen structures of the tissues, moistening and lubricating the skin, joints, and respiratory system. These watery qualities also help heal wounds and support our sense of smell and taste.
Psychologically, excess kapha is responsible for the emotions of attachment, greed, lust, and envy. When kapha is in the balance, it expresses love, calmness, and forgiveness; when out of balance it gives rise to heaviness, slowness, coolness, oiliness, dampness, and stasis.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.