Understanding the Three Doshas
One of the fundamental elements of Ayurvedic medicine is the idea of doshic balance. This refers to the unique combination (or constitution) of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
The doshas are biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. They govern all physical and mental processes and provide every being with a unique blueprint for health and fulfillment. They're derived from the five elements: Vata is composed of space and air, Pitta of fire and water and Kapha of earth and water.
A person with a predominantly Vata constitution will have physical and mental qualities that reflect the elemental qualities of space and air. Vata types are usually quick thinking, thin and fast moving. A Pitta type on the other hand, will have qualities reflective of fire and water, such as a fiery personality and oily skin. Kapha types will often have a solid body frame and calm temperament, reflecting the underlying elements of Earth and Water.
The doshas are dynamic energies, and as a result they constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, emotions, the foods we eat, the seasons and any other sensory inputs. When we live in alignment with our individual natures, we naturally make lifestyle and dietary decisions that create and maintain doshic balance. However, when we're out of alignment with our intrinsic natures, we support unhealthy patterns that lead to imbalances.
Vata is the energy of movement and the force governing all biological activity. Vata is often called the “King of the Doshas” since it governs the body’s greater life force and gives motion to Pitta and Kapha.
When in balance, a Vata type is active, creative and gifted with a natural ability to express and communicate. Common signs of Vata imbalance include anxiety and bodily disorders related to dryness, such as dry skin and constipation.
The main locations of Vata in the body are the colon, thighs, bones, joints, ears, skin, brain and nerve tissues. Vata governs anything related to movement, such as breathing, talking, nerve impulses, movements in the muscles and tissues, circulation, assimilation of food, elimination, urination and menstruation. Psychologically, Vata governs communication, creativity, flexibility and quickness of thought.
Pitta is the energy of digestion and metabolism in the body that functions through substances such as organic acids, hormones, enzymes and bile.
The balanced Pitta individual has a joyful disposition, a sharp intellect and tremendous courage and drive. Pitta imbalances commonly manifest in the body as infection, inflammation, rashes, ulcers, heartburn and fever.
The main locations of Pitta in the body are the small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, blood, eyes and sweat. Pitta provides the body with heat and energy through the breakdown of food. Psychologically, Pitta governs joy, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy and mental perception.
Kapha 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.
A person with balanced Kapha has a loving and calm disposition, while an unbalanced Kapha person's temperament may shift into lethargy, attachment and depression.
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. Kapha moistens food, gives bulk to our tissues, lubricates joints, stores energy and relates to bodily fluids. On the psychological side of things, Kapha governs love, patience, forgiveness, greed and attachment. Kapha also grounds Vata and Pitta and helps offset imbalances related to those doshas.
There is so much more that can be said of doshas, particularly in the seemingly endless ways they interrelate and interact with one another. It's the unique balance of these three elements that make you who you are, govern the way you behave and even control how your body functions. Learning how to keep your doshas in balance can promote a long, healthy and fulfilling life.