Have you ever wondered what accounts for differences in people? Why are some people hyperactive and fast-moving, while others exude grace and stillness? Why can some people eat a five-course meal with ease, while others can barely finish a salad? Modern genetics offers some insight, but what about the characteristics and idiosyncrasies that make every person unique? The Three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in Ayurveda answer these questions! (If you miss out on our Introduction to Ayurveda, you can read it here!)
The Doshas are biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. They govern all physical and mental processes and giving us an individual blueprint for health and fulfilment.
While one Dosha predominates in most individuals, a second Dosha typically has a strong influence with the third being the least prominent. Thus, each person has a unique combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics that make up our constitution (prakruti). This means that each of us has a proportion of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha that is uniquely ours.
Let’s dive in and take a deeper look into the 3 basic energies of life.
Vata | The Three Doshas
Vata derives from the elements of Space and Air. It is the energy of movement and the force governing all biological activity. Vata is known as the “King of the Doshas,” as it governs the body’s greater life force and gives motion to 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 unbalanced, Vata type negative qualities quickly overshadow these positive attributes. Common signs of imbalance include anxiety and bodily disorders related to 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. Physiologically, 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 | The Three Doshas
Pitta derives from the elements of Fire and Water. 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.
When a person tends to “overheat,” excess Pitta is usually the culprit. 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 become unruly, 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.
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.
Kapha | The Three Doshas
Kapha derives from the elements of Earth and Water. It is the energy of building and lubrication that provides the body with physical form, structure, and smooth functioning. You can think of Kapha as cement, glue, and lubrication of the body in one.
Just as a nourishing rainstorm may turn into a rampant flood, the fluids of the body may flood the bodily tissues, contributing to heavy dampness that weighs down the body and clouds the mind. This dense, cold, and swampy environment becomes the breeding ground for several 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.
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.
Each person has their own dominant dosha or combination of two or three of these elemental forces. Knowing yours can help you maintain balance through seasonal changes for lasting health and peace of mind. Do keep in mind to speak to your doctor about complementary health practices such as herbal and natural remedies if you have a chronic ailment, as these are not meant to replace any current or required medical treatment. Also, seek professional advice if you are already suffering from any physiological, physical or psychological imbalances. Remember to get professional medical advice before experimenting with any alternative remedies.