The Doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha
Knowledge of the doshas will help us understand our life’s events and the nature of illnesses and disturbances.
In Ayurveda, the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether – are said to be found in all living and non-living things. It is said the entire universe and all of creation is composed of these five elements.
In the human body, the elements exist through the three doshas: Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water). The doshas are responsible for all bodily functions, and the proportion of the doshas within us, is what makes us all different. When Vata, Pitta and Kapha are in balance, the body and mind are said to be in good health with heightened immunity, not just in the physical body but also within the mind.
When the doshas go out of balance and there is an excess or a deficiency in any dosha, our physical and mental health is threatened. In certain cases, disease can take rise. To help keep the doshas in balance, it is important to understand each dosha and determine our own prakriti (ayurvedic constitution) and vikruti (nature of the imbalance).
Vata is composed by the elements of air and ether. It is mainly concerned with the nervous system and controls all bodily movement. Vata is also responsible for blood circulation, sensations, and feelings such as excitement, enthusiasm, fear and anxiety. The Vata energy within the body is found in organs such as the heart, colon, brain, blood, bone marrow, bladder and lungs. It is also found in each cell within the entire body. Vata is the dosha which causes all stored energy to be released within the body.
Just like air and ether, vata attempts to expand and run freely throughout the body. If it overexpands, it can destroy or deplete anything in its way. An excessive vata can create illnesses and debilitations such as emphysema, spontaneous hip or bone fractures and mental ailments such as anxiety, nervousness and insomnia.
Vata shares the qualities of air and has the important duty of controlling the unpredictable air within the body. These qualities include lightness, dryness, mobility, coldness, irregularity, and roughness. Vata promotes change through motion, but too much change or motion can lead to overstimulation or dryness of the body or mind. People with a strong ratio of Vata are energetic, lively, flexible and creative. They are quick to anger but are also quick to forgiveness.
Pitta is the fire element within the body. The element is also associated with water and it has the complicated job of making the fire and water of the body cooperate. Pitta is in control of the body’s kinetic and potential forces and has its main focus within the enzymatic and endocrine systems. While we know that Pitta is responsible for the cooperation of fire and water within the body, it is interesting to see just how important this balance is and the implications that can arise when this delicate equilibrium is thrown off.
When there is an excess of fire in the body, it can cause gastric ulcers, heartburn, inflammation of the joints, etc. If the water element is in excess, then indigestion will occur. Healthy Pitta will keep this uneasy and difficult balance in order.
Pitta has the characteristics of oil – it is hot, light, liquid-like, fluid and malodorous. Pitta tends to gravitate towards the spleen, blood, brain, small intestine, eyes, skin and liver. When disproportionate heat is experienced in the body, it is a strong indication that Pitta is out of balance. People with a high ratio of Pitta are said to be intelligent and are able to concentrate well. They are generally sharp, direct and outspoken.
Kapha is the water sign of the three Doshas and has the role of controlling stability and bodily lubrication. It has great effects on the tissues and wastes of the body. While being the water sign, Kapha is also associated with earth and has the responsibility within the physical and mental body of trying to balance two elements that do not naturally combine. Kapha works to get two contrasting elements in equilibrium and keep the body’s solids suspended appropriately within its liquids.
Too much Earth and not enough water in the body can create many problems inclusive of gallstones and kidney stones; whereas too much water and not enough Earth can create illness’ such as edema.
Kapha has the characteristics of mucus. It is slow moving, heavy, and its qualities are cold, stable, smooth and dense. Kapha tends to circulate in the stomach, brain, mouth and joints, as well as the pleural and pericardial cavities. When heaviness appears within the body or mind it is due to a disturbance in Kapha, which in turn is due to too much rigidity. People that have a higher ratio of Kapha Dosha are said to be loving and thoughtful and naturally kind and strong. When out of balance, people with excess levels of Kapha can be stubborn and very resistant to change.
The Doshas are present in both the physical and mental body and can be affected greatly by the surrounding environment. Knowledge of the doshas will help us understand our life’s events and the nature of illnesses and disturbances. If we are able to determine our ayurvedic constitution, we can work to return to our basic constitution, helping us to live a better and more fulfilled life.