Understanding the Dosha

Understanding the Dosha

There are three bodily humors which have been explained in Ayurveda, which are termed as the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each of them embodies a specific combination of elements and qualities to make a functional entity—an energetic force of nature. In the context of our bodies, all three doshas are necessary to facilitate vital physiological functions. But if they go out of balance, the doshas can even create havoc to our health.

Vata –

Associated with the elements of air and space, vata means ‘’wind’’ or ‘’that which moves things’’ and represents the force that governs biological function. It is the prime impetus of the nervous system, controlling both sensory and mental balance, mental adaptability and understanding. It is the basic life force and is enhanced by the consumption of pure, whole foods, the breathing of clean air, and by the connection with the Divine within, the deepest energizing force for the entire body.

The Qualities of Vata include –
  1. Ruksha – Dryness
  2. Laghu – Lightness
  3. Sheetah – Cold
  4. Khara -- Rough
  5. Sukshma – Subtle
  6. Chala - Mobile
  7. Vishada – Clear

People who are of vata nature tend to move faster than others; they move in many different directions, and they feel most comfortable after they are on their feet and headed to the next activity.

The dosha represents itself through physical, mental and emotional tendencies, as well as common disease conditions or minor health challenges.

Physical aspects of vata dosha: people who have a predominance of vata dosha in their body tend to be long and lean. If you were going to draw an image of this person, you might want to draw a stick figure because of the body type they will have. They tend to be towards extremes, either very tall or very short, so they often have long narrow frames.

The mental and emotional status of a Vata dosha individual: They tend to be very anxious and worrisome, and they may have problems concentrating. They will be simply confused and distracted because their mind is moving so quickly that it’s difficult for them to be here in this moment without distraction.They even have a broad variety of interests. They don’t like to go necessarily deep with something; however’ they might like to have a taste of everything. They need to have new experiences; they want to see and feel everything they can in a very short amount of time, and as a result their lives will only be fully lived if they go out and experience as much as they can.

When they seek escape, they are overwhelmed in the moment, and they might want to get away and seek out new experiences - something else to invest their time in. There are several positive aspects of vata dosha. These people are fun, and they can look at any situation and see the positive side.. They are not caught up at looking things in just one way. They are flexible, adaptable, and creative. They can look at something and say how to use it in an innovative way.

When you explain your opinion to a vata dosha person, they are likely to agree fully with what you're saying, and then feel comfortable talking to someone who holds a completely opposite opinion. They do not feel the necessity to have very strong opinions, but this can be difficult when it comes to decision making. They can’t decide because they have no criteria for decision, and they will often wait and make a decision in the moment based on how they feel or use their intuition.

Vata dosha may also present some challenges. Physically these types often have poor digestion – gas, bloating, and pain when digesting food, and they may struggle with elimination and constipation. In their body they may experience dry skin, dry eyes, dry throat or cold where their bodies don’t produce enough heat. Often they feel very cold, and even on nice warm days will carry a sweater with them because they have a tough time retaining the heat that they generate. If vata dosha imbalance goes on for a long time, the body begins to lose body tissue, which can lead to a breakdown of body functioning.

An imbalance of vata dosha starts in the digestive system. It begins to create dryness within the fluids of the body, leading to destruction of the organs. Emotionally, they struggle with fear, worry, and anxiety, the more overwhelmed they become.

Pitta –

Pitta – the biological fire humor, or ‘’bile’’ means ‘’that which digests things‘’ or that which “heats, cooks, or transforms.’’ It is the fire that digests the food we eat and gives our bodies warmth. Our internal fires determine our capacity to perceive reality, and our power to digest life experiences.

The second bodily humors present in the body, the primary elements of Pitta are Fire and water.

The qualities of Pitta include –
  1. Ushna -- Hot
  2. Snigdha – Oily
  3. Tikshna – Sharp
  4. Laghu – Light
  5. Visram – Fleshy
  6. Saram – Spread
  7. Drava – Liquid

The person with predominant Pitta in their constitution is blessed with great willpower and initiative, the capacity to laugh at their troubles, great determination to reach to their goals, and a penetrating mind.

Pitta is our enthusiasm for life, our joy and laughter. It finds negative expression in burning sensations in the body and mind, in a drive toward unhealthy competition and anger, and in the need to control. Mentally and emotionally, pitta governs laughter, willpower, enthusiasm, mental perception, judgement etc. Pitta is our inner digestive fire, acids and bile, all of which help to combust food, providing energy and warmth.

The physical aspects of a Pitta dosha individual include a medium size and weight, thin hair, excellent digestion, and a warm body temperature throughout. Pitta nails are soft, strong, rubbery and well formed. The eyes look as though they are burning with an intense fire and radiate a high level of energy. Pitta skin may be pale, pink or copper in hue, and warm to touch. It tends to be delicate, irritable, and prone to rashes, pimples etc. Pitta individuals can endure vigorous exercise, as long as they do not grow overheated.
Pitta individuals are usually precise and direct in what they say. They have acute intelligence and tend to be impatient with anyone whose intelligence is not equal to theirs. They are methodical and love steering ideas into practical applications.

Kapha –

Kapha, the biological force of water / earth, means both ‘’phlegm’’ and ‘’that which holds things together.” It is the physical and emotional ‘’home’’ in which we reside, providing the substance and support for our body, giving bulk to our tissues.

Emotionally, kapha is the love and support we receive in life. It govens feelings of compassion, devotion, modesty, patience and forgiveness. Negatively expressed, kapha can show greed, attachment, and self-pity.

Kapha helps to ground and control the active and consuming natures of vata and pitta. It exerts a conserving, consolidating, stabilizing, and restraining force over the body and mind. Vata and pitta individuals would squander their energy without kapha to hold them down.
The subtle essence of all kapha, or water in the body, is called Ojas. Ojas is the prime energy reserve in the body and is the vitality of the immune system. If there is an excessive loss of kapha due to stress, improper eating, and illness, the kapha individual will suffer from a compromised immune system and will lack both physical and emotional support.

The qualities of Kapha include –
  1. Snigdha – Oily
  2. Guru – Heavy
  3. Manda – Slow
  4. Slakshna – Smooth
  5. Mrudu -- Soft
  6. Sheeta – Cool
  7. Sthira – Static

Kapha in the chest or lungs produces moisture, as it does in the throat, head, sinuses, and nasal passages. In the mouth and tongue, kapha produces saliva. Kapha creates fat tissue, which stores water. It is also held along the sides of the abdominal cavity in the form of peritoneal fluid. An excessive amount of kapha will produce an overabundance of mucus, and therefore, congestion.
Kapha people are the bulkiest of the three different constitutions, with medium to broad frames, heavy bone structure, and wide shoulders and / or hips. They store energy, which causes a sturdy and stout physical fram. Kapha individuals are well lubricated and normally experience none of the problems associated with dryness.

Kapha individuals can maintain moderate weight with regular exercise, but usually do not like to exert themselves. They gain weight easily, especially around the mid torso and the hips, and they lose weight slowly.
Kapha people do not have a propensity to skin disorders, but may experience stagnation of the lymphatic system due to blockages of energy. Kapha types sweat moderately at about the same intensity in all climates. Kaphas have a stable and moderate desire for food, although they may be prone to emotional eating. Fasting is relatively easy for them, due to their ability to store energy, but it rarely occurs to them to fast.

Due to their stability, Kaphas are generally not disturbed by extremes of climate. They may prefer warm weather, but not humid. Cold, damp climates may be aggravating to kaphas and their physical complaints.

Kaphas like to avoid confrontations due to their innate sweetness, which may lead to complacency. They do not like change and are stressed by unpredictable situations. They are predominantly calm, quiet, steady, and serious, and they enjoy home and family. Kapha in excess may be too passive, attached, possessive, and greedy. Once they get moving and are committed to a course of action, kaphas will generally see it through.

The sense of taste explained in Ayurveda --

There are 6 tastes explained in Ayurveda, and in order to understand why certain diets and herbs are recommended for each of the doshas, it is important to understand the six tastes (rasas) that pervades our lives.

Madhura (Sweet) is found in sugars and starches and is composed of the earth and water elements. The sweet taste builds and strengthens body tissue, soothes the mucous membranes, and relieves burning sensations. Sweet foods increase the quality of kapha in the body and promote calmness, contentment, and harmonization of the mind. The sweet taste helps the vata and pitta person because both these doshas lack the grounding, building, soothing qualities of Kapha. However, that If a person has a kapha condition of mucus or excess fat, the sweet taste will increase these qualities.

Lavana (Salty) is composed of the elements water and fire. The salty taste adds warmth and moisture to the body, thus increasing kapha dampness and pitta heat. In small amounts, the salty taste aids digestion, is sedating, and softens the body tissues – all useful therapies for the Vata person. Pittas and kaphas must stay away from excess salt, which will cause aggravation.

Katu (Pungent) taste contains abundant amounts of the elements of fire and air. The pungent taste is heating, drying and stimulating, increasing the rate of metabolism, counteracting cold sensations and aiding in digestion. Kaphas can use a generous amount of spices in their diets to counteract their general dampness, coolness and stagnancy. Vatas can use some spice to warm them up, but they must use it with caution because it is also drying; they should to use spices with foods that are liquid, warm, and oily. Pittas are usually warm enough and may have problems with burning sensations, so they do not need much spice.

Amla (Sour) taste contains the elements earth and fire, and is thirst relieving and nourishing. It dispels gas and stimulates growth of bodily tissues. Sour is good for vatas, as it will warm, moisten and ground them. Kaphas should not eat much that is sour, as it will make them damper, and pittas may become overheated or experience burning sensations in the stomach and intestines.

Tikta (Bitter) taste contains the elements air and space. The bitter taste is cooling, drying and detoxifying, reducing all bodily tissues and creating lightness in the body and mind. This taste will help kaphas, because it will lighten and dry up the bulk and the water in the system. It is also good for the pittas, as it cools off the heat in their liver and other good areas, as well as allay inflammation such as fever. A vata person or a person with a vata condition should not have many bitters in the diet, as it is too dehydrating.

Kashaya (Astringent) is composed of the elements air and earth. It stops excess discharges such as sweating and diarrhea, promotes the healing of tissues, and makes the cells of the body firmer. It is good for moist kapha types because it will squeeze them out like a sponge. It is also good for pittas because it will dry up excess acids and moisture.

Taste and the 3 doshas

  • Vata dosha gets aggravated by – Bitter; Astringent and Excess pungent
  • Vata dosha gets balanced by – Sweet; Sour; Salty
  • Pitta dosha gets aggravated by – Sour; pungent; Salty
  • Pitta dosha gets balanced by – Sweet; Bitter; Astringent
  • Kapha dosha gets aggravated by – Sweet; Salty; Sour
  • Kapha dosha gets balanced by – Pungent; bitter; Astringent.
  • The sweet, salty and sour tastes have water, building qualities which kapha does not need.

Dietary recommendations –

Predominantly Vata, Pitta or Kapha people – follow the dietary recommendations for your prominent dosha throughout the year, making appropriate seasonal adjustments when necessary.

For vata – pitta – Follow the vata pacifying diet from fall through winter and early spring, the pitta pacifying diet from late spring through summer

For Vata – Kapha – Follow the vata pacifying diet from summer through fall, the kapha pacifying diet from winter through spring.

For Vata – Kapha – Follow the vata pacifying diet from summer through fall, the kapha pacifying diet from winter through spring.

For tri doshic (Vata pitta kapha) – Change the diet according to the season: vata pacifying diet during the fall, kapha pacifying diet during winter to early spring, and pitta pacifying diet from late spring through the summer.

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