When Vata is Disguised as Kapha
When we think of a kapha imbalance, we must always think of what it looks like when excess earth and water energy expresses through the system.
On the physical level, this can look like weight gain, oily skin and hair, excess mucus, water retention, a dull appetite, sluggish digestion and elimination, slow movement and speech, laziness and more. In extreme cases, obesity and/or diabetes can develop, as well as money other pathologies. On the mental plane, there can be dullness and lack of inspiration in the mind, brain fog, jealousy, possessiveness, stubbornness, resistance to change, boredom, a manipulative tendency of mind, melancholy, depression, and in extreme cases, it can express as full-on hoarding.
We have had many clients come to us complaining of symptom such as these, of stubborn weight that just won’t let go, no matter how hard the client exercises, or of a child whose depression is concerning to them. Sometimes these clients have some basic knowledge of Ayurveda, and ask what they can do to help bring this ‘kapha-imbalance’ back into harmony. And while sometimes, their own self-diagnosis is correctly intuited, there is a subtle confusion that can occur when it comes to symptoms that look like Kapha Dosha, while the culprit is actually, in fact, Vata Dosha.
Vata is composed of air and ether energies. Vata governs mobility, and when appearing excessively, it causes anxiety, fear, flightiness, and a pervasive sense of not being safe in the world. If this degree of Vata imbalance goes on untreated for too long, it can push on Kapha Dosha, bringing in the opposite Mahabhutas (great elements) of earth and water, with opposing Gunas (qualities) such as heaviness, density, oiliness, slowness, etc in order to counter-balance the effects of the Vata imbalance.
Picture someone who is excessively thin, who has been starving their body with unpredictable and under-nourishing nutritional habits as well as high-intensity workouts, whose daily schedule is scattered and unpredictable, while also going through an extremely stressful year at work or in school, who then experiences a breakup or another kind of shattering emotional trauma that goes unresolved. This person may suddenly put on a significant amount of weight, as Kapha Dosha begins to accumulate in the adipose tissue in order to create a literal barrier of safety and protection around this person. They may also find themselves falling into a sense of numbness, depression, loneliness, lack of energy and a state of apathy, another expression of increased Kapha, as well as a marker that the nervous system is stuck in the ‘freeze’ response.
While these are, certainly, expressions of Kapha Dosha, the true source of these issues is in fact Vata Dosha, and therefore a Vata-pacifying regimen of diet, lifestyle and herbal protocols is required to reinstate balance. This is why someone experiencing Vata masquerading as Kapha can go to the gym 5 days/week, yet see no weight-loss results and therefore, fall even deeper into exhaustion, depletion and depression. They can follow a Kapha-balancing diet of foods that are uplifting, stimulating, light, dry, hot and yet find that their symptoms actually worsen over time. They can be dry-brushing in the mornings and going to hot vinyasa yoga classes, where they finish with strong Pranayama (breath work) techniques that send their energy in an upward-moving direction (Udana Vayu), yet still feel heavy and lethargic every morning when they wake up.
And after an entire year of global upheaval, lockdowns, elevated levels of restrictions and stress, Vata imbalances that look like Kapha are most certainly on the rise.
The medicine that is needed in cases like these, is actually inviting in the energy of a metaphorical safety blanket into all aspects of life. Bringing grounding, warmth, heaviness, and soothing lubrication–while seemingly counter-intuitive–will actually address the underlying Vata imbalance over-time, and therefore provide enough stability that the body will naturally be able to release the accumulated Kapha, allowing for effortless weight-loss, growing inspiration, creativity and joy, and abundant levels of energy.
This is why we so often discourage self-diagnosis and self-treatment, and try to guide our clients towards a one-on-one Ayurvedic consultation. These are available from Tiffany, our intuitive and highly experienced Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of RASA Ayurveda, and these sessions allow each client to be seen in the entirety of their unique individual expression, offering protocols that serve their particular needs.