Ayurveda Day 29: Understanding the Doshas 101

As those of you who have been regularly reading my blog already know, there are three main elemental categories, or doshas, that we can classify things into. For the purpose of our diseases or imbalances, we call these either kapha, pitta, or vata. There are certain physical ailments that will fall into one of these three categories, as well as mental and emotional patterns.

But I don’t think I’ve ever really explained what the doshas are, or how they work. The Doshas are a huge part of Ayurveda, and I can’t explain them completely in one or two or even ten blogs! But I can give us a general understanding. Within this understanding we can learn more about why we get sick in the first place, or for that matter, why anything in the universe ever deteriorates.

Let’s simplify what the three doshas are:

Kapha represents qualities of earth & water. It also represents solidity, as they are the most solid forms of matter.
Pitta represents qualities of fire. It also represents sharpness or focus, as a flame always follows the path of the fuel, like a burning wick of a candle.
Vata represents qualities of air and space (ether). It also represents movement, variability.

The ancient rishis divided all things into these categories because they observed nature, saw that there were five elements, and further more, saw that those elements tended to group in this way. For the sake of modern definitions, in the body we can look at Kapha as being anything solid (bones, muscles, etc.), Pitta as being anything that imparts heat or burns fuel (metabolism, digestive enzymes, etc.), and Vata as anything that moves (respiration, etc).

Additionally, there are certain key signs for which dosha is to blame for our illnesses. If there is (without external injury) swelling, inflammation, or pain, it is kapha, pitta, or vata respectively.

We can further assess what people’s tendencies are based on which doshas dominate specific bodily functions, and thought patterns.

Rather than just merely accepting that “I always get gas when I eat”, we can identify it as a Vata imbalance, and use opposite elemental qualities to satiate it. For example, eating less airy, light, or dry foods. The same is true for mental patterns, such as being sharp or critical. We can stop judging and merely say “This person has a lot of pitta tendencies and we need to bring that down”.

There are two sides to every one of the doshas. We usually will tend to exacerbate our negative habits or tendencies. But there is also behind every imbalance another side that is more conducive to our health.

For example, the same fire that gives a pitta type their critical and judgmental side also makes them amazing at solving problems and focusing on tasks.

The same lethargy that a kapha type can experience can also be channeled into creating solid, steady routines.

The same mindset that makes a vata type distracted can also enable them to have amazingly creative ideas.

We just need to look at ourselves and recognize which dosha is responsible for our imbalances. Then we can channel them properly into balance.

Doshas are complex. They are merely a way of categorizing nature. So just as humans all have doshic qualities throughout their bodies and minds, so does the world around us. We see doshic qualities when looking at the food we eat, or the actions we partake in, or the words we use, or the places we live, or the seasons of the year, or the passage of time…it is endless.

This is why living a balanced life can seem so complex at times. Like there is so much we have to do to stay healthy. But the beautiful thing is Ayurveda, like yoga is not so much about doing – it is about undoing. We must undo all the unhealthy habits we have. By removing them, we create space for new, better habits to occupy them. Recognizing the dosha responsible for these habits gives us the tools we need to both create and fill that space properly.

It is important to note than no one is just “one” dosha. We have certain tendencies throughout us. Maybe our thoughts tend to be more distracted – vata. Maybe our skin tends to be more oily – pitta. Maybe we gain weight easily – kapha. We are made up of all three doshas. It is unavoidable, and no human is only one of the three. That is why Ayurveda works so well, because it treats every person as a unique case and works to get them back into balance based on how they naturally are.

Until next time, as always, I wish you good health.

With gratitude,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s