THE THREE DOSHAS OF AYURVEDA
Updated: Jan 9
The following information will give you an overview of the three bodily humors, or central energies known as Doshas used in Ayurvedic medicine and philosophy. The dosha energies circulate in the body (to include the subtle bodies) and govern the physical, mental and emotional characteristics of each person. Every individual has a dominant dosha or combination of doshas. There are a number of online quizzes that you can take which will help you determine your unique constitution. However, it is best advised you seek the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner or Doctor to gain accurate knowledge and education in healing your symptoms or maintaining optimum health and well-being.
The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These doshas are a combined energy of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. Vata is constructed from ether and air, Pitta from fire and water and Kapha, is a combination of both water and earth. From the moment of conception, from multiple factors (i.e. genetics, health of our parents, environment etc) each of us develop our individual Prakriti which is the unique coding system or blueprint for how we experience our physical and mental body. Remember, we have all three doshas within us, but just in varying ratios. This can be seen in all areas of our make-up, from how we digest food, to the colour of our eyes and even the traits in our personality. Some of us can be Vata/Pitta, or Pitta/Kapha or even Vata/Pitta/Kapha in equal measure! When our natural constitution is out of balance (which can occur for many reasons), it is called Vikriti. From a state of Vikriti, disease begins to develop, highlighting dosha imbalance.. The key to optimum health and well-being is to understand your Prakriti (natural constitution) , review your state of Vikriti (state of developed imbalance) and then introduce well-informed, holistic strategies to restore dosha harmony. Thereby eliminating symptoms long term and effectively, which brings back into spotlight the key Ayurvedic philosophy to healing: you must understand the root cause to treat any state of dis-ease. Re-balance the doshas, eliminate the illness.
A quick overview
Vata is constructed of the air and ether elements, which within our mind and body is responsible for movement and propulsion. As Vata comes from the lightest two elements, it can become aggravated with speed and force, thus it is important to pacify Vata quickly and efficiently.
Some typical Vata characteristics:
Movement and change are the predominant characteristics of Vata, and by nature, a Vata dominant individual is always on the go, energetic and creative (Chopra, n.d.). When a Vata is in balance, the individual has a lean body and can be lively and enthusiastic.
Possible causes of aggravated Vata:
Vata can be vitiated through exposure to cold, windy and dry environments, dietary factors such as consuming cold, raw and dry foods, excessive exercise, a lack of proper rest/sleep and routine, trauma and stress, injury, virus and degenerative conditions.
Some of the potential complications you may experience when there is a Vata imbalance:
Throughout the body, you may have bloating, constipation, burping/flatulence, hiccups, dry skin, hypertension and high cholesterol. Conditions such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, spondylosis, a slipped disk, pinched nerves, sciatica, weak bones and painful joints, tendons and ligaments are connected to an unbalanced Vata dosha. Any manifestation of pain, clicking, cracking, breaks and break injury is Vata connected. Due to high levels of activity in the body that Vata generates, it is also common to feel fatigued, experience malabsorption or deficiencies and suffer from interrupted, erratic and sporadic daily functions such as sleep, and elimination processes. An aggravated Vata dosha also reduces reproductive strength, libido and overall immune health.
In the mind, you may feel excessive levels of tension, constant and racing thoughts, anxiety, fear, stress, worry, catastrophizing, and mood swings. You may also experience loss of concentration, clarity of mind or memory.
A quick overview
Pitta is constructed of the fire and water elements and is responsible for transformation and conversion in the body. Pitta drives the formation of tissues, waste products and energy from the food, water and air we consume. Pitta regulates body temperature, hunger, thirst and emotions. Your digestive fire, bile, digestive enzymes and the metabolism are controlled by Pitta. In addition, the endocrine, eye and skin system.
Some typical Pitta characteristics:
Pitta body types are usually of a medium size and weight. When in balance, Pittas have a lustrous complexion, perfect digestion, abundant energy, are muscular and lean, have a quick wit, intelligence, have an excellent work ethic, strong sexual drive, good sleep habits and a strong appetite.
Possible causes of aggravated Pitta:
The Pitta dosha is aggravated through excessive amounts of the pungent/chilli, sour and salty tastes. Excessive alcohol and caffeine significantly increases and aggravates Pitta. Irregular daily routine i.e. shift work, and excess exposure to hot environments (including the sun) will disturb Pitta. Any inflammatory, bacterial, toxin/poison or acidic condition is due to a vitiation in Pitta.
.Some of the potential complications you may experience when there is a Pitta imbalance:
When experiencing a Pitta imbalance, you may have a desire for cooling foods, cool environment and cool clothing. You might experience excess salivation, excess thirst and hunger, burning sensations in the body, and general excessive body heat and/or sweat. With excess Pitta, you may experience skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, cellulitis, fungal or bacterial infections. You may suffer from hyper acidity, heartburn, ulcers, IBS, bleeding conditions, menstrual or hormonal imbalances, or eye conditions such as conjunctivitis. In addition, Pitta is connected to any form of inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis or an acute injury like a sprain. Psychological effects include anger, perfectionism, being judgemental/critical of yourself and others, irritability, having short temper, feeling jealous, and being argumentative. An aggravated Pitta individual may be domineering and like to control things.
A quick overview
Kapha is constructed of the water and earth elements and is responsible for function of preservation and strength. Kapha is the driving force behind growth, immunity, flexibility, sustenance and lubrication of the body. It fills the intercellular spaces of the body, protecting and minimising destruction and wear and tear of tissues due to friction created by the movement of Vata. In short, Kapha is the opposite dosha to Vata.
Some typical Kapha characteristics:
The primary function of Kapha is protection, growth, strength and renewal. Kapha body types are usually of a strong build and have excellent stamina. When in balance, Kapha individuals have large, soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin; thick hair, strong sleeping patterns, a regular appetite and are calm, loyal, thoughtful and loving by nature.
Possible causes of aggravated Kapha:
Kapha can become aggravated with a diet too heavy in sweet, sour and salty tastes. Foods that are overly sweet, processed and heavy will vitiate Kapha. Over eating, excess sleep, daytime napping, cold, damp environments and a sedentary lifestyle all increase Kapha. A disruption to the immune system, a increase to the fat tissue and excess fluid in the body will affect the Kapha dosha.
.Some of the potential complications you may experience when there is a Kapha imbalance:
Excess Kapha may cause digestive disorders such as loss of appetite, nausea, heaviness in the stomach, a sluggish digestive system, and excess weight. Swollen joints, oedema, feeling cold and any condition effecting the lymph system is linked to the Kapha dosha. Excess mucous, congestion, swollen glands, hay fever, allergies and any itching conditions are Kapha dominated. Any immune disorders, conditions of the mouth and reproductive conditions such as PCOS stem from Kapha vitiation. In the mind, you may feel a need for excessive sleep, feel lethargic and have a lack of concentration and motivation. You may feel emotionally heavy and at times depressed.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the science of Ayurveda. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult your chosen trained health care professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner, contact The Sattva Centre directly - firstname.lastname@example.org