Sub Types Of Kapha – Importance, Salient Features

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Most of the exterior world is covered by water body as if God has planned to place all life amidst water and provide an ideal living condition, buffer and protection to all living beings! 

Human evolution and civilization has taken place on the banks of water. Water is a witness of all historic events. Water is one of the basic necessities of life. It is used for many domestic purposes and is the most en-living element when one feels thirst, nothing satisfies better than water.

Human body also has a water component in it. The water element in our body is said to be a representative of Moon and cold energy derived from the Moon in the exterior world. This cold element in our body is named as Kapha.

Kapha forms the water body of the body and encompasses most of the proportion of the body just like the water body envelopes most of the living world outside us. It is present in the body in each and every cell in the form of water in and outside the tissues, nourishes, buffers, strengthens the cells therein and protects them from the wrath vitiated vata and pitta (and hence protects them from degeneration and inflammation). It is present in most tissues other than rakta and asthi (blood and bones) and takes part in integrating the cells and holding the structure of the body together, firm, stable and healthy. It provides nutrition, nourishment, strength, integrity, balance, immunity, calmness of mind, serenity, lubrication to cells and joints and organs, protects and buffers the interiors of many organs and helps in sustenance of life and life activities. It protects the body from wear and tear phenomenon. Balanced Kapha enhances longevity of life.

When the same Kapha is disturbed or vitiated, it causes stagnation, blocks, obstructions, swelling or edema, sluggish metabolism, lethargy, slow down or shut down of many activities and loss of integrity, strength and immunity of the system, leading to manifestation of many disorders.

Kapha is one of the 3 doshas, the basic humoral elements controlling the functions of the body. Vata and Pitta are the other two elements or doshas. Kapha cannot travel from one part of the body to the other and is helped and motivated by Vata in this process.

Kapha sub types, features

Though Kapha is a single entity, it is of 5 subtypes, represented in 5 places in the body. They are all inter-related and the function of each Kapha is dependent on the functions of other.

The 5 types of Kapha are:

  • Avalambaka Kapha – Located in the chest
  • Kledaka Kapha – Located in the stomach
  • Tarpaka Kapha – Located in the head
  • Bodhaka Kapha – Located in the mouth / tongue
  • Shleshaka Kapha – Located in the bony joints

Subtypes of Kapha points towards distribution of its functions – As mentioned above, Kapha has its representations in 5 different places of the body. This classification explains the functional distribution of Kapha. Kapha is a single entity but it bears 5 different names while located in 5 different locations of the body and also renders different functions.

Each Subtype of Kapha is governed by Kledaka Kapha / Avalambaka Kapha – According to Sushruta, among all the Kaphas, the kapha located in the stomach (amashaya) is said to be the governing unit and is said to control and monitor the functions of all the other subtypes of kapha (Sushruta has not named the individual Kaphas) by its ambukarma or watery action (promotes fluid balance in the body). Here, the stomach becomes the control station of kapha subtypes and chief organ of kapha.

On the other hand Acharya Vagbhata has a different opinion. According to him, the Kapha located in the chest, named as Avalambaka Kapha is the chief Kapha which governs the activities of all the subtypes of kapha due to its udaka karma or ambu karma (watery or fluid balancing activity). Here, chest form the control station of kapha subtypes and the chief organ of kapha.

This also indicates that much of the health, balance and activities of kapha subtypes are under the control of kledaka kapha (Sushruta) and or Avalambaka Kapha (Vagbhata). If there is imbalance in terms of quality and quantity of these subtypes of kapha, the other kaphas also get affected and will tend to get imbalanced. This imbalance of kapha subtypes will lead to many diseases in the sites of kapha subtypes or some generalized diseases may be manifested.

Thus, Kledaka Kapha and Avalambaka Kapha should be kept in balance with utmost care and caution so as to keep the subtypes of kapha and the entire water body of the human body in balance.

Each subtype of kapha has its own assigned functions – Kapha has its designed generalized functions which are applicable and operational at each and every part of the body, controlling all the functions pertaining to kapha. On the other hand, the subtypes of kapha are also assigned with specific functions which are limited to those subtypes only.

Example – Kledaka Kapha located in the stomach helps in moistening the food and prepares it for further digestion, Shleshaka Kapha locaked in the joints lubricates the joints and enables free movements in the joints, Tarpaka Kapha located in the head lubricates the brain and sense organs and help in the soft conduit of their functions.

The functions of Kapha subtypes are integrated – The coordination of these subtypes of kapha is necessary for the functions of the body to take place smoothly and uninterruptedly.

Example, If Kledaka Kapha in the stomach (or Avalambaka Kapha in the chest) becomes excess it also leads to proportional accumulation of other kapha subtypes at various regions of the body. This leads to deterioration or slowing down of the functions of the body. It leads to sluggish physical and mental activities. This will also lead to block of channels and cells of the body, fluid overload in the body, lack of supply of nutrients and essential ingredients to different parts of the body and consequentially many metabolic disorders.

Similarly if there is kshaya (depletion, lessening) of kledaka or avalambaka kapha either quantitatively or qualitatively or functionally, the other subtypes of Kapha are also affected. This leads to deficit functions of the kapha subtypes. This leads to lack of support and integrity and related disorders in the sites of kapha subtypes. This will also lead to Vata vitiation and degeneration.

The kapha subtypes work in synchronization with subtypes of vata and kapha – Example – Kledaka Kapha located in the stomach helps in moistening the food and forming its bolus, prepares it for further digestion by Pachaka Pitta associated with Samana Vayu. Thus Kledaka Kapha works in integration and synchronization with Pachaka Pitta and Samana Vayu located in the stomach. Similarly if Kledaka Kapha becomes excessive (pathological increase, vriddhi, prakopa), it will put down the gut fire i.e. will deteriorate the pitta and agni leading to sluggish digestion, metabolic errors caused due to weak digestion and consequential disorders.

In the head, Tarpaka Kapha works in sync with Prana Vayu and Sadhaka Pitta and enables proper thought process, higher skills, promotion of intelligence and memory process.


Why should we have knowledge of Subtypes of Kapha?
One should have a thorough knowledge of Kapha Subtypes, especially the Ayurvedic physicians. This knowledge will help in addressing the kapha or kapha subtypes specifically and provide a comprehensive treatment.

Generalized treatment of kapha will help in addressing the vitiation of subtypes of kapha also, but the knowledge of subtypes will help in precise treatment of pathological conditions of kapha subtypes. This is important from a physician’s point of view in terms of treatment approach.

Knowing the subtypes of kapha will enable a physician to understand their relation with subtypes of vata and kapha, their relation with the organs and tissues wherein they are located, the balance and imbalances they carry in terms of their relation with the controlling force i.e. Avalambaka Kapha or Kledaka Kapha and helps in addressing the pathologies caused by the imbalances of the kapha subtypes in a comprehensive way.

Types of Kapha –  Kapha also is of five types;

Avalambaka Kapha

It is located in the chest. By its innate strength and by the power of essence of food, it does lubrication, nourishing etc functions that are attributed to water element. It also influences the functioning of other types of Kapha.

Kledaka Kapha

Located in the  stomach. It moistens the hard food mass and helps in digestion.

Bodhaka Kapha

It is located in the tongue. It helps in taste perception.

Tarpaka Kapha

It is located in the head. It nourishes sense organs.

Shleshaka Kapha

It is located in the bone joints. It lubricates and strengthens the joint.
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