the Ayurvedic doshas
Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, the five basic elements, manifest in the human body as three basic principles or humors, known as the tridosha. From the Ether and Air elements, the bodily air principal called vata is manifested. In Sanskrit terminology, this principle is called vata dosha. The Fire and Water elements manifest together in the body as the fire principle called pitta. The Earth and Water elements manifest as the bodily water humor known as kapha.
These three elements - vata - pitta - kapha - govern all the biological, psychological and physiopathological functions of the body, mind and consciousness. They act as basic constituents and protective barriers for the body in its normal physiological condition; when out of balance, they contribute to disease processes.
The Seats of Vata, Pitta, Kapha.
The tridosha are responsible for the arising of natural urges and for individual preferences in foods: their flavors, temperatures and so on. They govern the creation, maintenance and destruction of bodily tissue and the elimination of waste products from the body. They are also responsible for psychological phenomena, including such emotions as fear, anger and greed, and for the highest order of human emotions such as understanding. compassion and love. Thus, the tridosha are the foundation of the psychosomatic existence of man.
The basic constitution of each individual is determined at conception. At the time of fertilization, the single male unit the spermatozoon, unites with the single female element the ovum. At the moment of this union, the constitution of the individual is determined by the permutations and combinations of bodily air, fire and water that manifest in the parents bodies. In general, there are seven types of constitutions;
Among these seven general types, there are innumerable subtle variations that depend upon the percentage of vata-pitta-kapha elements in the constitution. The constitution is called prakruti in Sanskrit, a term meaning "nature", "creativity" or "the first creation." In the body. the first expression of the basic five elements is the constitution.
The basic constitution of the individual remains unaltered during the lifetime. as it is genetically determined. The combination of elements present at birth remains constant. However, the combination of elements that governs the continuous physiopathological changes in the body alters in response to changes in the environment.
Throughout life, there is a ceaseless interaction between the internal and external environment. The external environment comprises the cosmic forces (macrocosm) while the internal forces (microcosm) are governed by the principles of vata-pitta-kapha. A basic principle of healing in Ayurveda holds that one may create balance in the internal forces working in the individual by altering diet and habits of living to counteract changes in his external environment.
According to Ayurveda the first requirement for healing oneself and others is a clear understanding of the three dosha. The concept of vata-pitta-kapha is unique to Ayurveda and it holds the potential for revolutionizing the healing systems of the West. However, the concept of the three principles and the Sanskrit words, vata-pitta-kapha, are very difficult to translate into Western terms.
Common Elements of the Tridosha.
Vata is a principle of movement. That which moves is called vata. Therefore, vata may be translated as the bodily air principle. However, the element of Air in the external atmosphere is not the same as the air in the body. Bodily air, or vata, may be characterized as the subtle energy that governs biological movement. This biological principle of movement engenders all subtle changes in the metabolism. Vata is formed from the two elements Ether and Air.
Vata governs breathing, blinking of the eyelids, movements in the muscles and tissues, pulsations in the heart, all expansion and contraction, the movements of cytoplasm and the cell membranes, and the movement of the single impulses in nerve cells. Vata also governs such feelings and emotions as freshness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, pain, tremors and spasms. The large intestine, pelvic cavity, bones, skin, ears and thighs are the seats of vata. If the body develops an excess of vata, it will accumulate in these areas.
Pitta is translated as fire, although the term does not literally mean "fire." The fire of a candle or the fire in a fireplace may be seen; however, the bodily heat-energy, the pitta dosha, which manifests as metabolism is not visible in this way. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation. nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the luster of the eyes: and also intelligence and understanding. Psychologically, pitta arouses anger, hate and jealousy. The small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes and skin are the seats of pitta. Pitta is formed from the two elements Fire and Water.
The translation of kapha is biological water. and this bodily principle is formed from the two elements, Earth and Water. Kapha cements the elements in the body providing the material for physical structure. This dosha maintains body resistance. Water is the main constituent of kapha, and this bodily water is responsible physiologically for biological strength and natural tissue resistance in the body. Kapha lubricates the joints; provides moisture to the skin; helps to heal wounds, fills the spaces in the body: gives biological strength. vigor and stability; supports memory retention; gives energy to the heart and lungs and maintains immunity. Kapha is present in the chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, stomach. joints, cytoplasm, plasma and liquid secretions of the body such as mucus. Psychologically, kapha is responsible for emotions of attachment, greed and long-standing envy; it is also expressed in tendencies toward calmness, forgiveness and love. The chest is the seat of kapha.
A Table of The Functions of Tri-dosha.
(Air + Space)
(Fire + Water)
(Water + Earth)
|Transformation of Tissues||Perception||Unctuousness|
"A balance among the tridosha is necessary for health."
For example, the air principle kindles the bodily fire, but water is necessary to control fire, otherwise the bodily fire would burn the tissues. Vata moves kapha and pitta, since kapha and pitta are immobile. Together the tridosha governs all metabolic activities: anabolism (kapha), catabolism (vata), and metabolism (pitta). When vata is out of balance, the metabolism will be disturbed, resulting in excess catabolism which is the breakdown or deterioration process in the body. When anabolism is greater than catabolism, there is an increased rate of growth and repair of the organs and tissues. Excess pitta disturbs metabolism, excess kapha increases the rate of anabolism and excess vata creates emaciation (catabolism).
In childhood anabolism and the kapha elements are predominant, since this is the time of greatest physical growth. In adulthood metabolism and the element of pitta are most apparent because at this stage the body is matured and stable. In old age catabolism and vatta are most in evidence as the body begins to deteriorate.
DETERMINING THE INDIVIDUAL CONSTITUTION.
The reader is therefore cautioned not to draw strong or definite conclusions about himself or herself based on these fundamental descriptions. The determination of one's particular constitutional type should serve only to draw general awareness to various areas of life, such as diet, in order to encourage a regimen that will promote good health.
People of vata constitution are generally physically underdeveloped. Their chests are flat and their veins and muscle tendons are visible. The complexion is brown, the skin is cold, rough, dry and cracked. There usually are a few moles present, which tend to be dark.
Vata people generally are either too tall or too short, with thin frames which reveal prominent joints and bone-ends because of poor muscle development The hair is curly and scanty the eyelashes are thin and the eyes lusterless. The eyes may be sunken, small, dry, active and the conjunctiva is dry and muddy. The nails are rough and brittle. The shape of the nose is bent and turned up.
Physiologically, the appetite and digestion are variable. Vata people crave sweet, sour and salty tastes and like hot drinks. The production of urine is scanty and the feces are dry, hard and small in quantity. They have a tendency to perspire less than other constitutional types. Their sleep may be disturbed and they will sleep less than the other types. Their hands and feet are often cold.
These people are creative, active, alert and restless. They talk fast and walk fast but they are easily fatigued.
Psychologically, they are characterized by short memory but quick mental understanding. They will understand something immediately, but will soon forget it. They have little willpower, tend toward mental instability and possess little tolerance, confidence or boldness. Their reasoning power is weak and these people are nervous, fearful and afflicted by much anxiety.
Each constitutional type also exhibits certain patterns in interactions with the external environment. Vata people tend to earn money quickly and also to spend it quickly. Thus, they tend to remain poor.
These people are of medium height, are slender and body frame may be delicate. Their chests are not as flat as those of vata people and they show a medium prominence of veins and muscle tendons. They have many moles or freckles which are bluish or brownish-red. The bones are not as prominent as in the vata individual. Muscle development is moderate.
The pitta complexion may be coppery, yellowish, reddish or fair. The skin is soft, warm and less wrinkled than vata skin. The hair is thin, silky, red or brownish and there is a tendency toward premature graying of hair and hair loss. The eyes may be gray. green or copper-brown and sharp; the eyeballs will be of medium prominence. The conjunctiva is moist and copper-colored. The nails are soft. The shape of the nose is sharp and the tip tends to be reddish.
Physiologically, these people have a strong metabolism, good digestion and resulting strong appetites. The person of pitta constitution usually takes large quantities of food and liquid. Pitta types have a natural craving for sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and enjoy cold drinks. Their sleep is of medium duration but uninterrupted. They produce a large volume of urine and the feces are yellowish, liquid, soft and plentiful. There is a tendency toward excessive perspiring. The body temperature may run slightly high and hands and feet will tend to be warm. Pitta people do not tolerate sunlight, heat or hard work well.
Psychologically, pitta people have a good power of comprehension; they are very intelligent and sharp and tend to be good orators. They have emotional tendencies toward hate, anger and jealousy. They are ambitious people who generally like to be leaders. Pitta people appreciate material prosperity and they tend to be moderately well-off financially. They enjoy exhibiting their wealth and luxurious possessions.
People of kapha constitution have well developed bodies. There is, however, a strong tendency for these individuals to carry excess weight. Their chests are expanded and broad. The veins and tendons of kapha people are not obvious because of their thick skin and their muscle development is good. The bones are not prominent.
Their complexions are fair and bright. The skin is soft, lustrous and oily; it is also cold and pale. The hair is thick, dark, soft and wavy. The eyes are dense and black or blue; the white of the eye is generally very white, large and attractive. The conjunctiva does not tend to redness.
Physiologically, kapha people have regular appetites. the digestion functions relatively slowly and there is less intake of food. They tend to move slowly. They crave pungent, bitter and astringent foods. Stools are soft and may be pale in color; evacuation is slow. Their perspiration is moderate. Sleep is sound and prolonged. There is a strong vital capacity evidenced by good stamina and kapha people are generally healthy, happy and peaceful.
Psychologically, they tend to be tolerant, calm, forgiving and loving; however, they also exhibit traits of greed, attachment, envy and possessiveness. Their comprehension is slow but definite: once they understand something, that knowledge is retained. Kapha people tend to be wealthy. They earn money and are good at holding on to it.