The Three Doshas

The Ayurvedic system is based on the concept of the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Every human being is born with a unique combination of these three doshas.

(Ether + Air)
Pitta (Fire + Water)
Kapha (Water + Earth)

Each dosha is a combination of the five elements. All three doshas (Vata, pitta, and kapha) contain all the five elements but only the two primary elements are denoted as they have the most influence on the dosha. Some people may be born with kapha dosha, some with vata or others may even have a dual dosha (combination of two) like Pitta-Vata constitution. This ‘constitution by birth’ is called your Prakriti (natural or inherent constitution).

However, as we progress through life, our Prakriti is influenced by our choices, diet, lifestyle, and environment. Things like stress, poor eating habits, insufficient sleep, and extreme weather can alter the balance of doshas that will manifest in some mental or physical form. This ‘altered constitution’ is called Vikriti. Vikriti is the current state of your constitution that has been imbalanced due to the dietary, environmental, or lifestyle factors. So, to summarize, we’ve understood what the two states of dosha are:

  • Prakriti (the constitution you are born with)
  • Vikriti (the current state of your constitution)

Vata dosha (Ether + Air)

Vata represents the following qualities: light, rough, dry, subtle, movement, slippery.

Vata governs breathing, pulsation of your heart, the movement of your vocal cords when you speak, the flow of blood, the motion of your arms and legs, and the movement of thoughts. When Vata is balanced it promotes creativity and flexibility. When it is imbalanced, it produces fear and anxiety.

Vata body types have a lithe, slender, and lanky physique with prominent bones and/or protruding joints. They tend to have an oblong or oval face with small eyes, rough hair, and understated features. They are witty, open-minded, enthusiastic, and creative. They have an inherent affinity for philosophy, spirituality, and movement-oriented art like dance, theatre, and music. Their intellect and intuition are sharp but they also tend to forget things easily. Due to the dominance of air, they often tend to be dreamy, aloof, or ‘spacey’.

Vata represents air and movement – this can be experienced as dryness, whirling thoughts, and restlessness (constantly twitching hands or shaking feet). Vata types are generally underweight with an irregular appetite and breakable sleep. They get tired easily and feel uncomfortable in windy and cold weather. The qualities of ether make them highly creative individuals with an extraordinary ability to grasp things quickly.

Vata dosha tends to go out of balance in fall and winter (the vata seasons) but it may also be imbalanced due to poor dietary habits and lifestyle choices. The physical indications of excess vata include dry/rough skin and scalp, premature aging, irregular menstruation, joint/muscle inflammation, and digestive problems like bloating, constipation, or flatulence. Psychologically, vata imbalance can manifest as anxiety, restlessness, fear, and overthinking.

Pitta dosha (Fire + Water)

Pitta represents the following qualities: light, oily, fluid, hot, sharp, strong (intense).

Pitta expresses itself as the body’s metabolic system and power of transformation. It governs all functions related to digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, and energy production. When pitta is balanced, it promotes understanding and intelligence. They also have a lustrous complexion, perfect digestion, abundant energy, and a strong appetite.

Pitta types have a well-proportioned, medium-to-athletic physique with a steady weight and thin, and mostly straight hair. They tend to have sharp facial features with heart-shaped faces, light eyes, and tapered chins. Pitta types are born leaders who are dependable, discerning, highly intelligent, and articulate. Their fiery intensity often makes them workaholics who can be highly competitive, ambitious, impatient, and insatiable. In psychology, this is called a Type A personality.

Since agni (fire) plays a big role in digestion, they have inherently strong digestion and a large appetite. Regardless of any overindulgence in food, they may lose nor gain weight too easily. But their tendency to not be mindful or multi-task while eating results in imbalances that lead to indigestion . Pitta types are sharp and intelligent people with good memory and grasping power. They love challenging tasks but are prone to overestimating their abilities.

Pitta dosha tends to go out of balance in summer (the pitta season) but it may also be imbalanced due to poor sleeping habits, stress, a bad diet, and pitta aggravating lifestyle choices. At a physical level, this imbalance may lead to skin irritations, inflammation, sharp headaches, bad/loose digestion. Psychologically, pitta imbalance can make a person judgmental, impatient, hypercritical, and short-tempered.

Kapha dosha (Earth + Water)

Kapha represents the following qualities: oily, heavy, slow, tender, smooth, stable, cold.

Kapha controls the structure, cohesiveness, grounding, and the fluidity in the body. It governs the structure of the body and maintains strength and the physical form in everything from the bones, muscles, and tendons, right down to the cellular level.

Kapha body types have a broad, and generally have an overweight physique with large eyes, soft features, and thick hair growth. Their hair and skin tend to be thick, smooth, shiny and oily. They are caring, kind, gentle and nurturing people who enjoy a slow and steady lifestyle. They are valued for their inclusiveness, easy-going nature, compassion and an open-hearted attitude.

Since kapha is heavy and stable, kapha types are psychologically strong and mentally resilient. They have an even temper and adverse situations do not fluster them easily. They love to eat and sleep and tend to overdo both. This makes them prone to gaining weight. They may also struggle with congestion during the early part of the day.

Kapha lubricates the mind and body and plays an important role in the regulation of various body functions. When out of balance, kapha dosha can manifest a stubborn attitude and lethargy of the mind and body.

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