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the three doshas

Vata, Pitta, and Kapha govern movement, transformation, and stability respectively. Each dosha produces physical representations of itself in the body like mucus, bile etc. Health is governed by the adequate creation of these representations. Any imbalance in their creation results in illness. Ayurveda is based on the theory that like increases like, e.g. substances composed of earth and water, which are heavy, sticky, wet, and dense, like ice cream, increase Kapha. The opposite also works to reduce Doshas e.g. substances, which are hot and light, like black pepper, reduce Kapha, the mucus supplier of the body. What food you need depends on your body’s requirements. Any one substance can nourish, heal, or poison, depending on the individual consuming it.

Each dosha has its own set of attributes. Vata is dry, cold, light, unstable, clear, rough, and subtle. Pitta is slightly oily, hot, intense, light, fluid, scented, and mobile; and Kapha is oily, cold, heavy, stable, smooth, and soft. Food, which concerns human being the most in this day and age, influences the body thrice – Taste, digestive quality, and post digestive effect.

Six tastes exist in Ayurveda: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Sweet, sour, and salty tastes increase Kapha and decrease Vata; while pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes decrease Kapha and increase Vata. Sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes relieve Pitta, while sour, salty, and pungent tastes increase it. Each taste is composed of two elements e.g. salt = fire and water, pungent (chili/ cloves) = fire and air. Sour, salty, and pungent tastes increase heat in the body, while sweet, bitter, and astringent substances are cooling. Post digestively, sweet increases tissues (Kapha), sour may burn away the tissues (Pitta), and pungent dries out the tissues (Vata).

The three doshas inhabit the body in the areas they are required. Vata is required below the navel to pump blood, lymph, and gases around the body, whilst Kapha resides above the diaphragm to stop Vata from pushing up too strongly. It also provides lubrication for the lungs, heart etc. Pitta resides between navel and chest and mediates between the two other doshas. Certain organs accumulate more of one dosha. Vata is in the brain, nervous system, heart, large intestine, bones, lungs, bladder, pelvis, thighs, ears, and skin. Pitta is in the brain, liver, spleen, gallbladder, small intestine, endocrine glands, skin, eyes, blood, and sweat. Kapha resides in the brain, joints, mouth, head, neck, stomach, lymph, chest, kidneys, and fat.


The three doshas each have five aspects, of which Vata has the most significant actions. Vata firstly manifest as Prana extending from the diaphragm to the throat. It is concerned with the intake of external nourishment. As Udana, Vata extends from the throat to the top of the head, and control expression, enthusiasm, memory, vitality, complexion etc. Apana extends from the naval to the anus controlling the expulsion of urine, faeces, gas, semen, menstrual blood, and babies. Vyana is centered in the heart and circulates nourishment, blood, lymph etc. Samana is situated in-between the navel and the diaphragm governing digestion and elimination. 


The doshas utilize the body’s ingredients to produce seven Dhatus, or tissues. The first of these is sap (Rasa), which is the foundation, the first juice absorbed from food. Then it is blood (Rakta), flesh (Mamsa), fat (Medas), bone (Asthi), marrow (Majja), and reproductive tissue (Shukra). Each tissue is formed from the previous.

The body has fourteen main channels (Srotamsis) through which nutrients, waste products etc pass. Three are nutrition channels, the Prana channel – dealing with respiration and circulation, the water channel – extending from the palate to the pancreas, and the food channel – extending from the esophagus to the large intestine. Seven of these channels deal with tissue nutrition. Sap through the heart, blood through the liver, flesh through the skin and muscle, fat through the kidneys, bones through the fat, marrow through the bone, the joints etc, and reproductive tissue through genitalia. Three more channels deal with elimination, urine through bladder and kidneys, faecal matter through the colon and rectum, and sweat through fat and hair follicles. The fourteenth channel is the all-pervading mind channel. Females have two extra channels for milk and menstruation. Four things can disturb these channels causing illness: in/decrease in flow, obstruction, and deviation into abnormal places. Any disturbance in flow will affect Vata.
Disturbances arise through restraining of thirteen recognized urges these are the desire to urinate, pass flatulence or faecal matter, to vomit, sneeze, belch, yawn, eat (when hungry), drink (when thirsty), cry (when sad), sleep (when tired), pant (when exhausted), and ejaculate (when over aroused). Other non-physical urges also disturb Vata including the indulgence in greed, sorrow, fear, anger, envy, pride, shame, disgust, jealousy etc. 

Each person is born with a natural bias towards the doshas. Parental genes determine this, as well as parental mental and emotional states experienced by the fetus from conception through to birth. A person’s inherent natural bias is their Prakriti, and their current doshic state is their Vikriti. Of these, there are seven types: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, V-K, V-P, P-K, and V-P-K. Mental, emotional, and physical characteristics exist within the doshas. Vatas are narrow, light, cold, dry, of variable appetite, often constipated, requiring of warmth, poor sleepers, talkative, fearful, artistic, spiritual, quick, nervous, and unsettled. Pittas are of medium frame and build, warm skinned, sweaty, oily haired or balding, intensely hungry, regular or loose bowel, competitive, early risers, angry, visual, brave, passionate, and active. Kaphas are broad or large built, heavy, cool skinned, thick haired, regular bowel movements, lazy, sleepy, cautious, peaceful, forgiving, steady, calm, emotional, and greedy.

Disease is caused by internal breakdown, external attack, or the mind. The Doshas predominate at certain periods, like the seasons, and their interchanging is said to cause disease e.g. from winter to spring – Kapha aggravation; spring to summer – Pitta inflammation; and summer to autumn – Vata disturbances. After eating Kapha dominates, during digestion Pitta, and during assimilation Vata dominates. During youth, adulthood, and old age, Kapha, Pitta, and Vata dominate again in the same order. During the morning and evening Kapha dominates, during the afternoon and Pitta dominates, and during late afternoon and early morning Vata dominates. Transgressions against the mind or doshas cause disease. Diseases are either wet or dry. Over-nourishment causes dampness of the digestive fire, and under-nourishment dries the body out. Both weaken the digestive fire leading to Ama, the accumulation in the body of partially digested foods, which clogs up the systems channels.