What are Ayurvedic Doshas

Vata, Pitta and Kapha—Understanding the three Doshas

Ayurveda is the ‘science of life’ built on the concepts of Pancha Mahabhutas and  Tridoshas—known as the three Doshas. Doshas are the fundamental bio-energies formed by the combination of Pancha Mahabhutas (the five great elements—earth, water, fire, air, and space). These elements exist in the universe and also in the human body. Each of them has a very specific set of roles to play in the body—when the Doshas are out of balance, they can cause disease and distress. Each Dosha spreads throughout the whole body and is evidenced in specific areas where the Dosha is most active.

The three Doshas are:

1. Vata
Vata is formed by the combination of air and space. The seat of Vata is below the umbilicus. Vata is the Dosha that controls our mind, creativity, and impulsive responses. It governs all movements, air flow, all muscle and bone functions, and communication throughout the mind and the nervous system. When Vata is out of balance we may feel the connection with our body and mind is lost, we may experience anxiety, insomnia, constipation, bloating, joint pain, dryness, and pain in the body. Generally, a Vata person will be very thin, more talkative, and restless. They typically have lower body weight, dry skin, brittle nails, thin hair, and small, slightly sunken eyes. While walking, their joints may make sounds. In terms of climate, they tend to prefer warm or hot weather and they may have trouble tolerating the cold.
2. Pitta
Pitta is formed by the combination of fire and water. Pitta plays a key role in digestion, metabolism, and nutritional absorption. According to Ayurvedic literature, Pitta is the seat of Agni (the digestive fire) and is located in the grahani or small intestine. Pitta controls hormonal secretions, enzymatic functions, metabolism, skin health, and liver health. Physiologically, Pitta represents intelligence, understanding, emotions, and experiences. It also balances the body temperature. When Pitta is out of balance, diseases of the skin like acne, pimples, and sensitivities may arise. Imbalances in Pitta create allergies, inflammation, and reduced immunity. In women, this imbalance may create various Gynecological issues like heavy menstrual flow, miscarriages, and hormonal upsets. A Pitta person is generally active, a perfectionist, dynamic, intelligent, and also short-tempered. They usually have good leadership qualities, a moderate build, and sensitive skin or eyes. They are generally warm to the touch.
3. Kapha
Kapha is formed by the combination of water and earth. Kapha controls water balance and fat metabolism. The seat of Kapha is the thoracic or chest area. Kapha hydrates all cells and systems, lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, maintains immunity, and protects the tissues. On the psychological level, Kapha balances love, compassion, and forgiveness. A Kapha person usually has thick, dark hair, big eyes, wide teeth, and healthy gums. The skin may also be thick, moist, and a little cool to the touch. When Kapha is out of balance it can lead to congestion, asthma, low lung capacity, coughing, obesity, diabetes, water retention, cysts, and growths in the body—especially in females this may manifest as ovarian cysts, fibroids, and adenomyosis.

How can Doshas transform your health?

Ayurveda explains that the equilibrium of Doshas brings health and that when they are out of balance it can lead to many kinds of diseases. Understanding Doshas and knowing your body type helps to identify disease before it takes hold. Ayurveda provides a roadmap for an individual to live a healthy, perfectly balanced life using specific herbs, holistic cleanses/detox treatments and a personalized diet that is aligned with one’s unique dosha constitution.

How do I know what my Dosha is?

Finding out your Dosha type is discovering your true self. You can find your Dosha type with the help of our complimentary Dosha quiz. Your physical appearance, functional aspects, and emotional well-being are counted to determine your body type or dominant Dosha. Our body type remains the same from birth till our last breath. If you are unsure when answering some of the questions in the Dosha Quiz consider your whole life, from childhood to now, not just your current age and health condition. Another way to find out about your Dosha type is to have a consultation with our Ayurvedic doctors. During the consultation, the doctors will identify your body type and discuss a lifestyle plan specific to your Dosha.

Does your Dosha change with age?

Body type or Prakriti doesn’t change with age. Dosha imbalance can happen as we age. During the childhood years, Kapha-related disorders are more evident such as:
  • fever
  • congestion
  • digestive upsets.
Pitta-related disorders are found in middle age, such as:
  • hormonal upsets
  • stress-related disorders such as anxiety
  • some skin reactions/ allergies
Vata-related disorders are common in ages 80 years and above, such as:
  • degenerative issues
  • spinal degenerations, herniation of disc
  • knee degeneration
  • anxiety, hearing, and visual disabilities
  • troubled sleep patterns
Because of the natural dominance of Doshas during these times, there is more chance of these Doshas being out of balance. To counteract this we have to follow Dosha-specific diet and lifestyle guidelines to reduce the onset and frequency of imbalances that can lead to disease. If a disease has already taken hold, it’s best to talk to your Ayurvedic doctor about how to treat your condition and work on a plan to prevent any reoccurrence.

Which Dosha is the best?

All three Doshas have equal importance. Once the dominant Dosha is identified, you can adjust your diet, lifestyle, and exercise plans to better support your health and live a more balanced life, both inside and out.

Dr. Resmi V. Rajagopal, BAMS, MS (Ayurveda Gynec), PGDYN

Dr. Resmi is a versatile Ayurvedic physician from Kerala, India, specializing in women’s health and pregnancy care, therapeutic yoga, and nutrition.

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