In Ayurvedic philosophy, the five elements combine in pairs to form three dynamic forces or interactions called doshas. Dosha means "that which changes."
It is a word derived from the root dus, which is equivalent to the English prefix 'dys', such as in dysfunction, dystrophy, etc. In this sense, dosha can be regarded as a fault, mistake, error, or a transgression against the cosmic rhythm. The doshas are constantly moving in dynamic balance, one with the others. Doshas are required for life to exist. In Ayurveda, doshas are also known as the governing principles as every living thing in nature is characterized by the dosha. The three active doshas are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata is a force conceptually made up of elements ether and air.
The proportions of ether and air determine how active Vata is. The amount of ether (space) affects the ability of the air to gain momentum. If unrestricted, as in ocean, air can gain momentum and become forceful such as a hurricane.
Vata means "wind, to move, flow, direct the processes of, or command." Vata enables the other two doshas to be expressive. The actions of Vata are drying, cooling, light, agitating, and moving. 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 primary seat or location of the Vata in the body is the colon. It also resides in the hips, thighs, ears, bones, large intestine, pelvic cavity, and skin. It is related to the touch sensation. If the body develops an excess of vata, it will accumulate in these areas.
Vata-type people are generally thin and find it hard to gain weight. Because of this, Vatas have very little energy reserve and can tire easily and get themselves out of balance. Vatas need to get sufficient rest and not overdo things, stay warm, and keep a regular lifestyle routine.
The Vata dosha controls all movement in the body, including breathing, digestion, and nerve impulses from the brain. When Vata is out of balance, anxiety and other nervous disorders may be present. Digestive problems, constipation, cramps, and even premenstrual pain usually are attributed to a Vata imbalance.
The most important thing to know about Vata is that it leads the other doshas. Vata usually goes out of balance first, which causes the early stages of disease. More than half of all illnesses are Vata disorders. Balancing Vata is important for everyone, because when Vata is in balance, Pitta and Kapha are generally in balance as well.
Pitta is a force created by the dynamic interplay of water and fire. These forces represent transformation.
They cannot change into each other, but they modulate or control each other and are vitally required for the life processes to occur. (For example, too much fire and too little water will result in the boiling away of the water. Too much water will result in the fire being put out.) Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the luster of the eyes, 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-type people are generally of medium size and well proportioned. They have a medium amount of physical energy and stamina. They also tend to be intelligent and have a sharp wit and a good ability to concentrate. Fire is a characteristic of Pitta, whether it shows up as fiery red hair or a short temper. Since Pittas' body temperature is generally warm, Pitta types can go out of balance with overexposure to the sun. Their eyes are sensitive to light. They are ambitious by nature but also can be demanding and abrasive.
Pitta types are known for their strong digestion but should be careful not to abuse it. Their heat makes them particularly thirsty, and they should take caution not to douse their agni, or digestive fire, with too much liquid during meals. Pitta dosha leads us to crave moderation and purity. We rely on Pitta to regulate our intake of food, water, and air. Any toxins, such as alcohol or tobacco, show up as a Pitta imbalance. Toxic emotions such as jealousy, intolerance, and hatred also should be avoided to keep Pitta in balance for optimum health.
Kapha is the conceptual equilibrium of water and earth. Kapha is structure and lubrication.
One can visualize the Kapha force as the stirring force to keep the water and earth from separating. For example, if we take a pot, fill it to the half with water and then add sand to it, the sand will gradually sink to the bottom of the pot. (It separates from the water). The only way to keep the sand in equilibrium with the water is by stirring the mixture continuously. The Kapha force can be visualized as this stirring force in our body. Kapha cements the elements in the body, providing the material for physical structure.
Kapha-type people tend to have sturdy, heavy frames, providing a good reserve of physical strength and stamina. This strength gives Kaphas a natural resistance to disease and a generally positive outlook about life. The Kapha dosha is slow, and Kapha types tend to be slow eaters with slow digestion. They also speak slowly. They are calm and affectionate but, when out of balance, can become stubborn and lazy. They learn slowly, with a methodical approach, but also retain information well with a good understanding of it.
Kapha dosha controls the moist tissues of the body, so a Kapha imbalance may show up as a cold, allergies, or asthma. This is worse in Kapha season, March through June. Cold and wet weather aggravates Kapha. They should not dwell in the past or resist change. They need lots of exercise and need to be careful not to overeat. Kaphas need stimulation to bring out their vitality. Kapha dosha teaches us steadiness and a sense of well-being.