Updated: Aug 30, 2022
According to Ayurveda, everything in nature is made up of different combinations of the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space (ether). The five elements in turn make up the three Doshas or bio-energies of Vata, Pitta and Kapha which are present in nature and in us. The Doshas make up the body on a subtle and gross level and are responsible for different physiological and psychological functions in the body and the mind. When out of balance, the doshas give rise to diseases and as such are the causative factors in the disease process. In fact, the term Dosha means that which darkens, spoils or causes things to decay (from the Sanskrit term "dush:" to spoil.)
It is important to understand that we all have all three Doshas in us, the difference is in the amounts that they are present in, in each individual. Each person has their own unique doshic blueprint which is determined at the time of conception called "Prakriti"
Here is a brief description of each Dosha, it's attributes and functions:
1) Vata Dosha:
Made up of the elements air and ether, Vata which means wind (from the Sanskrit term "Va:" to blow, flow, direct or command) is the bio-energy responsible for all movement in the body including nutrients, waste material, blood, etc.
It's qualities are dry, cold, rough, mobile, irregular and light - just like the wind. Being the subtlest of all three doshas, it is the easiest to go out of balance and gives rise to chronic deep-seated conditions like arthritis and nervous system disorders, When balanced we are creative, flexible and have an enthusiasm for life. When out of balance it causes constipation, bloating, fear, restlessness, anxiety and insomnia. Vata dosha is considered to be the most important as far as the disease process goes and in today's fast-paced world, almost every individual has some level of a Vata-imbalance. Keeping this light and erratic energy balanced is one of the cornerstones of health in Ayurveda.
2) Pitta Dosha:
Made up of the elements fire and water, Pitta which means bile (from the Sanskrit root "tap:" to heat, cook or transform) is the bio-energy responsible for all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body including that of food into nutrients.
It's qualities are hot, light, slightly oily, sharp, penetrating and unpleasant in odour. When balanced we are courageous, organised, driven, focused and have good leadership qualities. When out of balance it causes conditions of excess heat in the body like inflammation, heartburn, loose stools/diarrhoea, fevers, irritability and impatience.
Vata and Pitta have a special connection in that if one is out of balance, the other will soon follow. Just like too much air (Vata) causes the fire (Pitta) to spread/burn too strong and too much fire (Pitta) dries things out (aggravating Vata).
3) Kapha Dosha:
Made of the elements earth and water, Kapha which means Phlegm, is the bio-energy responsible for creating body tissues like muscle and bone and giving us structure and stability. It serves as a container or vehicle for the other two doshas.
It's qualities are cold, heavy, moist, static, sticky and soft. When balanced we are loving, nurturing, stable, grounded, strong and have good endurance. When out of balance it leads to lethargy, sluggish digestion, weight-gain, attachment, clinging, greed and inertia.
Kapha with it's heavy and stable attributes is the dosha which is least likely to go out of balance and when it does, it is most likely because the other two doshas are in excess which imbalance it.
It is important to remember or even memorise the qualities of the three doshas. This helps us to read and understand the qualities that show up in our life, bodies and digestion so that we may apply the opposite qualities to bring them back into balance.