Understanding the idea of dosha and their types as per ayurveda
Have you ever felt jealous of a friend who eats all the things in the world but doesn’t gain weight? If YOU are that person yourself, then maybe you have wondered how some food suits you well even if you binge a bit on it, while some other food items mostly end up knocking your gut out? Have you ever wondered why some people are bubbling with energy even at the end of the day while others find themselves drained as the day progresses?
Ayurveda attributes your physical and mental tendencies to the three distinct life forces within you, referred to as ‘tridosha’(in Sanskrit, ‘tri’ = three). According to this theory, the three doshas, which are called – Pitta, Vata and Kapha – are present in every individual, in different relative proportions. These relative levels of doshas determine how you respond to a specific diet, routine and environment and vice versa. Each dosha manifests as specific physical, mental and metabolic characteristics within you. Dosha analysis is the first step to understand your body type according to ayurveda and protect your health. Based on your predominant doshas, there are different guidelines about diet, exercise and routine to keep your health intact. Read on to find out more.
What Is Tridosha According To Ayurveda?
According to ayurveda, the cosmos and everything in it, dead or alive, is made of five basic elements, called the Panchamahabhutas – Agni (fire), Jal (water), Akash (ether), Vayu (air) and Prithvi (earth).
These five elements combine to form the three distinct life forces or energies within your body – the three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha inherits the characteristics of all the five basic elements, but two elements are predominant in each dosha as shown below.
The three doshas are considered fundamental to human health and a natural balance in the level of doshas is essential according to ayurveda to maintain optimal health – at both physiological and psychological levels.
Dosha balance and Your Health
Each individual has all the three doshas within him/her, though in different relative proportions. This natural constitution/combination of dosha(s) within you is also referred to as your ‘prakriti’ in ayurveda. One or more doshas can be dominant within an individual. Therefore, there can be seven types of prakriti – Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, Vata-Kapha and Vata-Pitta-Kapha.
Usually, there are two predominant doshas in an individual. The equal dominance of all three doshas in an individual is very rare.
The natural balance of doshas in your body can be affected by internal factors such as stress, sleep, thoughts etc. as well as external factors such as climate, food, pathogens etc. When the present state of doshas is not in harmony with your prakriti, you can face health issues.
‘Charaka’ – the revered practitioner, who is considered to be the ‘father of ayurveda’ stated that each dosha has its unique attributes. These attributes or qualities are called ‘gunas’. By understanding the application of gunas, each dosha in your body can be balanced.
Let’s examine each of the three doshas and understand the basic characteristics and tendencies which each of them imparts to an individual.
Vata Dosha – Brief description
Vata dosha, also called the king of the doshas, controls the movements in your body – from the macroscopic to the cellular ones. It governs your muscle movements (moving your arms, swallowing food, blinking etc.), breathing, bowel movements, blood circulation, breathing & respiration and the nervous system. It also regulates the movements occurring at the cellular level. Associated with muscle movement, it also provides flexibility to your body. This dosha is responsible for the vitality in you.
The vata dosha has the following attributes – dry, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, light and clear.
Individuals with predominant vata dosha usually have a lean, light or flexible body. Their eyes are small and dry. They have variable appetite and poor digestion. They are always active and excited. Vata dosha also provides individuals with the quality of alertness. Individuals of vata type do not like to sit idle and are always in search of doing a particular task. Vata individuals have good imagination power. On the flip side, they may often experience fear of darkness and height. Eat a vata balancing diet.
Vata Imbalance And Correction
Vata is easy to throw out of balance. It is likely the first dosha to be affected by stress. What’s more, it also tends to block other doshas. Therefore, it should be the first one to correct for an imbalance as necessary. An imbalance in vata may lead to abnormal body movements and thoughts. Out of balance vata can cause fear and anxiety in you.
A vitiated vata is corrected through grounding and stabilizing interventions. Warm foods rich in proteins and fat, calming meditation, sticking to a friendly sleeping schedule, staying hydrated and minimizing the distractions in your day are the first-aid steps for soothing aggravated vata.
Pitta Dosha – Brief description
Pitta dosha mainly governs the metabolic activity in your body. It is responsible for digestion, assimilation and absorption of the food you eat. Think of it as the life force that receives what you take in – whether food or thoughts/emotions – and transforms it into physical energy and mental drive. Pitta properties are derived from fire and slight water. Consequently, the pitta dosha is also responsible for the fiery aspects of your nature – ambition, goals, competitive streak and your killer instinct. It also drives your comprehension and memory.
The pitta dosha possesses the following attributes – hot, sharp, light, liquid, mobile and oily. Physically, individuals with predominant pitta are of medium stature, and usually have bright eyes and a strong appetite. Mentally, pitta provides you with the quality of intelligence and the ability to focus. You tend to be discerning when pitta dosha is in balance. Pitta types are also highly disciplined individuals. Due to these characteristics, they can learn and understand things with ease. It also makes them suitable for becoming outstanding leaders. On the flip side, pitta individuals tend to get angry and judgemental easily.
When out of balance, pitta can lead to jealousy, hatred and anger in you. You may become egotistical, impatient and overly critical due to aggravated Pitta. Physically it might manifest as insomnia, excessive hunger, bad breath, heartburn/hyperacidity, metabolic disorders (like hyperthyroidism), hormonal imbalances or even autoimmune disorders.
Moderation is the key when it comes to pacifying the pitta dosha – in diet, routine as well as thought.
Bitter, astringent and sweet tasting foods tend to pacify pitta. Dairy is a pitta pacifier too. Go for sweet and mild spices such as mint, cinnamon. It is best to avoid pungent, sour, salty and citrus foods. Take your food warm, not overly cold or hot.
Balance your time across intense and relaxing activities. Make sure to get your quota of shut eye daily. Calming meditation and realizing that you can not control every little outcome is the key to relaxation.
Kapha Dosha – Brief description
Kapha has a variety of functions in your body. It maintains the structure of your body by holding your cells and tissues together. From providing moisture to your skin to lubricating your joints, Kapha is the dosha responsible for cohesion and stability. Kapha is the source of your strength. It is also responsible for your immunity.
Mentally, kapha promotes the feeling of love, forgiveness and courage in you. You are more forgiving and calm when kapha is in balance.
The kapha dosha has the following attributes – heavy, cold, slow, oily, liquid, dull, smooth, dense, static and sticky. Kapha people possess large body frames. They usually have large and beautiful eyes. Due to the attributes of kapha, the individuals have smooth and oily skin. The metabolism of kapha individuals is slow and they tend to gain weight quickly.
Mentally, kapha personality is usually characterized by a good memory and an emotionally stable, calm and compassionate demeanour.
When kapha is out of balance, you experience feelings of greed, possessiveness and attachment. Imbalanced kapha individuals are lazy and love to sleep. They can manage to sit idle and do nothing for long. They also tend to get attached to things easily and become possessive too!
How are the doshas determined?
Ayurvedic doctors are trained to understand your prakriti (predominant doshas) by observing and interrogating you based on your appearance, behaviours and physical as well as psychological patterns. Examination of your tongue and eyes is used to triangulate the diagnosis of your natural constitution.
Pulse examination (‘nadi pariksha’) is another way to understand your prakriti by a trained ayurvedic doctor. A detailed examination by a qualified ayurvedic practitioner is therefore often necessary for determining your doshas.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three doshas that determine and regulate your physical health and mental tendencies. Each dosha can adversely affect your body and mind when out of balance. Therefore, physical and mental health issues can be very well understood by dosha analysis in ayurveda.
Dosha imbalance affects the bodily functions governed by the respective dosha and disturbs the harmony of your body, mind and consciousness.
Therefore you should always try to balance the level of tridosha in your body. Following an ayurvedic dinacharya (daily routine) and ritucharya (seasonal routine) and a diet that is according to your dosha type, can help you maintain a tridosha equilibrium.
Tridosha means the three doshas or bodily energies. Your body runs on these energies namely Vata, the bodily air responsible for movement, Pitta, the bodily fire responsible for digestion and transformation ad Kapha, the bodily water responsible for structure and healing. When these doshas are out of balance the disease is formed in the body. They can be managed and kept in harmony with the right diet, the conduct of life, and exercise.
Yes, it means that there is not a single dominant dosha in your body, all three are in harmony. You have a balanced Prakriti if you have a vata-pitta-kapha constitution/personality. Most people fall into dual dosha prakriti and vata-pitta-kapha is rare.
Kapha aggravated people should avoid heavy foods like dairy, and fatty foods and eat dry and light foods. You should avoid food that causes weight gain like sugary foods and carb-rich foods.