Introduction to Ayurveda, the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha)
Basic principles of Ayurveda, the Tridoshas
Ayurveda is an intricate system of healing that originated in India thousands of years ago. It is a holistic system of medicine that uses a constitutional model. Ayurveda is not only a system of medicine but also a way of healthy living, aiming to provide guidance regarding food and lifestyle so that healthy people can stay healthy and folks with health challenges can improve their health.
Ayurveda understands that there are energetic forces that influence nature and human beings. These forces are called the Tridoshas. In Ayurveda every person is considered a unique individual made up of five primary elements. The elements are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. Just as in nature, we too have these five elements in us. When any of these elements are present in the environment, they will in turn have an influence on us. The foods we eat and the weather are just two examples of the presence of these elements. While we are a composite of these five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have an ability to combine to create various physiological functions.
Ether and air combine to form what is known in Ayurveda as the Vata dosha.
Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination. Vata is dry, cold and light and correspond to the element air.
Fire and water are the elements that combine to form the Pitta dosha.
The Pitta dosha is the process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a pitta function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism. Pitta is oily, hot and light and correspond to the element fire.
Finally, it is predominantly the water and earth elements which combine to form the Kapha dosha. Kapha is what is responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit. Another function of the Kapha dosha is to offer protection. Cerebro-spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal column and is a type of Kapha found in the body. Also, the mucousal lining of the stomach is another example of the Kapha dosha protecting the tissues. Kapha is wet, cold and heavy and corresponds to the element water.
We are all made up of unique proportions of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These ratios of the doshas vary in each individual. The constitution of the individual is decided by the predominant dosha. For example a person who has vata as the predominant dosha is generally tall and thin, has poor memory, is fearful ,anxious, nervous, has dry skin and low weak voice, has variable appetite and likes travelling. A person who has pitta predominnet will have strong willed and courageous and will tend towards fiery emotions, such as irritability or anger. A person with Kapha predominent will generally be heavily built, and will be kind, considerate and loyal, but will dislike changes of any kind.
Knowledge of personal Ayurvedic constitution is very important in both prevention as well as treatment of a disease. When any of the doshas become predominant, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the dosha that has become excessive.
With kind permission from the Baga Natural Health Centre
For more information about Ayurveda see:
The site of the Baga Natural Health Centre, an Ayurvedic centre in North Goa
Saffran Soul (Indian site on Yoga and Ayurveda)