August Newsletter: Energetic Intersections, Part IV: Kapha Dosha, the Heart & the Throat Chakras
Greeting & Namaste friends,
Can you believe we're already in the second half of summer? Here in Tennessee, the kids are already back in school--very different from when I was growing up in New York where summer break lasted from mid June to the beginning of September. Seasonal tides are already shifting, too, and all you gardeners, nature dwellers and early risers are probably noticing the subtle changes. I've noticed the sun has been rising later in the morning hours and setting earlier in the evening. I've also noticed the abundance of fruit ready for harvest from sweet fruits like apples, melons and paw-paws to savory fruits like legumes, tomatoes and other nightshades.
Personally, I enjoy this transition into the "dog days" of summer because it means my birthday is on the way--August 16th! While the Leo in me still enjoys a good time on my personal holiday, I also take this time for introspection and reflect on the last year of my personal growth: what has changed and what has remained the same? This is just one way that I practice svadhyaya, but we'll save that topic for a later newsletter!
This month we'll continue our exploration into the energetic intersections diving into the relationships of Kapha dosha, the heart chakra, the throat chakra, the thymus gland and the thyroid & parathyroid glands. By the way, for all us native English speakers, this Sanskrit word is actually pronounced "ku-Pa" not "KAf-fa." In Sanskrit, an /h/ proceeding another consonant means the consonant sound BEFORE the /h/ is aspirated--meaning you pronounce the consonant sound with a lightly forced puff of air. Click here for more information on Sanskrit pronunciation.
According to Dr. Vasant Lad, Kapha is "the energy of lubrication and structure." The elements of earth and water comprise Kapha dosha and also lend to its various physical, mental and energetic qualities. Earth element is heavy, dull, static, hard and dense; whereas water is soft, cool, liquid, slimy and oily. Kapha is "the energy that forms the body's structure, and provides the 'glue' or cohesion that holds the cells together," says Dr. Lad. "It lubricates joints, moisturizes skin and maintains immunity. In balance, kapha is expressed as love, calmness, and forgiveness. Out of balance, it leads to attachment, greed, possessiveness, and cognitive disorders."
So, kapha dosha is expressed as the essence of physical & mental cohesion; it's the strength & resilience of your immune system; it's the shape of your body & the protection of your bones from fat and muscle tissues; it's the saliva in your mouth; it's the synovial fluid between the joints, pleural & peritoneal fluids between the organs in the thoracic & abdominal cavities, and cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain & spinal cord; it's the plasma that delivers nutrients throughout all of your body; it's the ability for your mind to store long-term memories; it's the lubricating mucus secreted from the mucosa lining various passageways in your body.
The main physical location of kapha is the upper body: the thorax, upper back, shoulders, neck and head. The major organs associated with this dosha are the lungs, stomach and the pancreas. Congestion, edema, respiratory syndromes, cysts and tumors, weight gain and poor circulation are common disorders stemming from kapha aggravation.
Emotionally and mentally, when a kapha native is in a harmonious "sattvic" state, a person has a calm, peaceful and compassionate nature. Since kapha creates cohesion, a sattvic kapha personality is stable, consistent, loyal, patient, devoted, supportive, forgiving and nurturing. However, when kapha is in a disturbed "rajasic" or darkend "tamasic" state, this person moves from cohesion to controlling; from stability to stagnation; from compassion to apathy.
According to Dr. David Frawley, a kapha native has a tendency toward "watery emotions like love and desire, romance and sentimentality or, on the negative side, toward greed and lust," says Dr. David Frawely. "They are kind, considerate and loyal, but not always capable of change or adaptation. They can be slow to respond, conservative, shy and obedient. Or, they can be obstinate, fixed in their views and unwilling to make efforts."
In the upper body also lives the heart chakra, Anahata, and the throat chakra, Vishuddhi. Anahata chakra, meaning "Infinite sound," is the fourth chakra, and the inner expression of air element. Through the element of air, Anahata is connected to the hands and the sense of touch in the skin. In addition, Anahata is a rather special space in the energetic body as the center point between the higher three chakras and the lower three.
Called the "spiritual center," it is believed in Vedic philosophy that the individual soul--the Atman--lives in the heart. When a person experiences the state of Prajna--deep dreamless sleep or deep meditation--he or she "is one with the self, though knows it not. We say he sleeps, but he sleeps in the Self. (Chandogya Upanishad VI.viii.1)" Anahata chakra is the seat of joy, peace, love, harmony, bliss, clarity, purity, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, patience and kindness, which, according to Swami Maheshwaranada, is represented by a 12-petal lotus flower.
However, just as there are positive qualities, there are also negative qualities when the chakras are blocked. Resentment, desire, obsession, fanaticism and dependency are some negative expressions of Anahata chakra. "Only when we have conquered these qualities does the entrance to divine love open for us," says Swami Maheshwaranada.
Vishuddhi is the fifth chakra, and the first of the upper three spiritual chakras. An expression of the element of ether/ space, it's meaning is "very pure," which is fitting since this chakra's major qualities are purification and truth. Vishuddhi is linked to the ability of speech and the sense of hearing through its relationship to ether element. Located at the vocal chords, it's of no surprise that Vishuddhi chakra is the power of communication & self-expression; the refinement of all things speech like oration & singing, and the ability to purify thoughts & emotions into words. "When your consciousness is working at the throat chakra, whatever you speak is true," says Dr. Lad. "...your words will be filled with love and compassion."
These two chakras have their connections to the endocrine system through the thymus, thyroid and parathyroid glands; Anahata chakra is linked to the thymus, and Vishuddhi chakra is linked to both the thyroid & parathyroid glands.
The thymus gland is interesting because it's only active in our childhood--by the time we reach puberty it starts drying up and turning into fat. However, even though it's active for a short time, its function is very important: it aids the body in protecting itself against autoimmunity and is pivital in the development of T cells, a type of white blood cell that protects the body from diseases. Its located at the top of the chest right behind the sternum and between the lungs.
While the thyroid gland and parathyroid glands share similar names and physical location, their physiological functions are very different. The thyroid gland is a bow tie-shaped gland just below the Adam's apple and is responsible for regulating the rate of your metabolism. The parathyroid glands are 4 rice grain-sized glands just behind the thyroid gland and are responsible for regulating your blood calcium levels & calcium absorption. Read more about the thymus gland, thyroid gland and parathyroid gland.
By examining kapha dosha's qualities we can start linking it to Anahata and Vishuddhi. The obvious relationship is that of kapha and Anahata through qualities of compassion, loving-kindness and empathy. But less obvious might be the relationship of Vishuddhi and kapha. This might be in part because Vishuddhi's purifying quality is the balancing force that pacifies aggravated kapha. Since kapha is prone to stagnation or congestion; become dull or lazy; have a slower metabolism & accumulate excess weight; and start to cling to/ hoard things, people or ideas; this dosha benefits the most from regular purification and detoxification: in Ayurveda this called Shodhana.
A healthy relationship to your inner air and ether elements translates to a harmonious kapha dosha. The fine quality of kapha dosha is the essence of our good health; our vitality; our Ojas (read more about Ojas). This fine essence is expressed through a strong immune system, which brings the connection to the thymus gland. To dig a little deeper in order to further highlight this relationship let's recapitulate that the thymus--which creates the T cells that inhabit our immune system--is only active in childhood, and starts to shrink after puberty; kapha dosha--the domain of the immune system--is dominant during our childhood. In addition, kapha is the shape and density of our bodies, which the thyroid and parathyroid glands regulate that through our metabolism and the calcium-rich density of our bones.
Of course a healthy diet, consistent meditation, and regular yoga and/or exercise that's best for your unique constitution is a definite path to a harmonious life, you can start growing the positive qualities of Anahata, Vishuddi & Kapha dosha with some easy yet more specific practices. Start cultivating a loving attitude, let go of grudges & learn to offer forgiveness; practice compassion--self-compassion & empathy to others; lighten up your life with a yard sale or donate goods/ money to a charity & learn to let go of what's just weighing you down; practice living & speaking in an honest & pure manner, and notice how it affects your thoughts and emotions.
Next month is the final installment of this 5-part exploration! We'll explore the mind, Ajna and Sahasrara chakras, and the pituitary and pineal glands! In the meantime, if you have any questions about how to eat an Ayurvedic diet according to your unique doshic constitution, or curious what "sattvic" foods are, please email me. In addition, if you'd like to schedule a private yoga session or Ayurvedic wellness consultation please click here.
Ojas keeps all living beings nourished & refreshed. There can be no life without Ojas.
--Chraka Samhita sutra sthana, 1.41
I'm delighted to announce that I have a radically new schedule starting in SEPTEMBER that will include new yoga classes at Royal Massage & Yoga Lounge in Murfreesboro & Yogasoul in Nashville, and welcoming back yoga at the