The doshas are biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. They govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and fulfillment. The doshas derive from the Five Elements and their related properties. Vata is composed of Space and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water, and Kapha of Earth and Water.
The doshas are dynamic energies that constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, emotions, the foods we eat, the seasons, and any other sensory inputs that feed our mind and body. When we live into the fulfilment of our individual natures, we naturally make lifestyle and dietary decisions that foster balance within our doshas. When we live against our intrinsic natures, we support unhealthy patterns that lead to physical and mental imbalances.
If the proportion of doshas in your current state is close to your birth constitution, then your health will be vibrant. A divergence between these states, however, indicates a state of imbalance. Vikruti is the term used to describe this imbalanced deviation away from prakruti.
Primarily, there exist doshic states— balanced, increased and decreased. Balanced— all three doshas are present in their natural proportions, also referred to as equilibrium; increased— a particular dosha is present in a greater-than-normal proportion i.e. aggravated or excess state; decreased— a particular dosha is present in a less-than-normal proportion; also referred to as a reduced or depleted state.
Of the three states, the increased or aggravated state leads to the greatest number of imbalances. Such imbalances can arise from any number of influences, including following a dosha-aggravating diet or, more generally, carrying too much stress in life. You can initiate a restoration of balance, however, when you begin to understand both your unique constitutional make-up and how to harmonize your internal environment and its needs with the external world.
Derived from the elements of Space and Air, Vata can be translated as ‘wind’ or ‘that which moves things. ’ It is the energy of movement and the force governing all biological activity. It is often called the King of the Doshas, since it governs the body’s greater life force and influences other doshas—Pitta and Kapha.
Just as the wind in balance provides movement and expression to the natural world, the balanced Vata individual is active, creative, and gifted with a natural ability to express and communicate. When the wind in a Vata type rages like a hurricane, negative qualities quickly overshadow these positive attributes. Common signs of Vata imbalance include anxiety and bodily disorders related to dryness, such as dry skin and constipation.
The qualities of Vata are dry, rough, light, cold, subtle, and mobile. A Vata individual will display physical and mental characteristics that reflect these qualities in both a balanced and an imbalanced state. The main locations of Vata in the body are the colon, thighs, bones, joints, ears, skin, brain, and nerve tissues. Physiologically, Vata governs anything related to movement, activities of nervous system and the elimination process— breathing, talking, nerve impulses, movements in the muscles and tissues, circulation, assimilation of food, elimination, urination, and menstruation. It as well governs communication, creativity, flexibility, and quickness of thought.
If Vata dosha predominates, movement and change are characteristic of your nature. You will tend to always be on the go, with an energetic and creative mind. As long as Vata is in balance, you will be lively and enthusiastic, with a lean body. You will be thin, have a light frame and will have excellent agility. You will love excitement and new experiences. As early as anger will engulf you, forgiveness will come as easily too. But if your Vatas are unbalanced, you will be prone to worry and anxiousness and might suffer insomnia.
Pitta derives from the elements of Fire and Water and translates as “that which cooks.” It is the energy of digestion and metabolism in the body that functions through carrier substances such as organic acids, hormones, enzymes, and bile. While Pitta is most closely related to the element of Fire, it is the liquid nature of these substances that accounts for the element of Water in Pitta’s make-up.
The qualities of Pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light, moving, liquid, and acidic. A Pitta individual will display physical and mental characteristics that reflect these qualities in both a balanced and imbalanced state.
The main locations of Pitta in the body are the small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, blood, eyes, and sweat. Physiologically, Pitta provides the body with heat and energy through the breakdown of complex food molecules. It governs all processes related to conversion and transformation throughout the mind and body. Psychologically, Pitta governs joy, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy, and mental perception. It also provides the radiant light of the intellect.
When a person has a tendency to “overheat,” excess Pitta is usually the culprit. Just as a campfire may turn into a forest fire without proper care, the internal fire of the mind and body must be kept in check. The balanced Pitta individual is blessed with a joyful disposition, a sharp intellect, and tremendous courage and drive. As the fire of the mind and body becomes unruly, however, the laughing Pitta quickly becomes the yelling Pitta. Anger, rage, and ego replace Pitta’s positive attributes, leaving an individual who is bitter with life and overbearing towards others. Pitta imbalances commonly manifest in the body as infection, inflammation, rashes, ulcers, heartburn, and fever.
Pitta governs all heat, metabolism and transformation in the mind and body. It controls how we digest foods, how we metabolize our sensory perceptions, and how we discriminate between right and wrong. It as well governs the important digestive Agnis or fires of the body.
Kapha derives from the elements of Earth and Water and translates as ‘that which sticks’. It is the energy of building and lubrication that provides the body with physical form, structure, and the smooth functioning of all its parts. Kapha can be thought of as the essential cement, glue, and lubrication of the body in one.
The qualities of Kapha are moist, cold, heavy, dull, soft, sticky, and static. A Kapha individual will display physical and mental characteristics that reflect these qualities in both a balanced and imbalanced state.
The main locations of Kapha in the body are the chest, throat, lungs, head, lymph, fatty tissue, connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons. Physiologically, Kapha moistens food, gives bulk to our tissues, lubricates joints, stores energy, and relates to cool bodily fluids such as water, mucous, and lymph. Psychologically, Kapha governs love, patience, forgiveness, greed, attachment, and mental inertia. With its earthly makeup, Kapha grounds Vata and Pitta and helps offset imbalances related to these doshas.
Just as a nourishing rainstorm may turn into a rampant flood, the fluids of the body may flood the bodily tissues, contributing to a heavy dampness that weighs down the body and clouds the mind. This dense, cold, and swampy environment becomes the breeding ground for a number of bodily disorders such as obesity, sinus congestion, and anything related to mucous. Mentally, the loving and calm disposition of the Kapha individual may transform into lethargy, attachment, and depression.
Kapha governs the structure of the body and lubrication in the mind and body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone, and sinew. The primary function of Kapha is protection. It controls weight, growth, lubrication for the joints and lungs, and formation of all the seven tissues — nutritive fluids, blood, fat, muscles, bones, marrow and reproductive tissues.
- Holistic Sutra Posted for Ayurved Sutra by Soulpark with Shruti M