What are doshas in Ayurveda?

What are doshas? People drinking tea.

If you’ve read a bit about Ayurveda, you know it provides us with our own one-of-a-kind blueprint for health. One thing probably continues coming up for you: what is a dosha, really?

What is a dosha?

Each individual is comprised of the five fundamental elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These elements form within each of us, creating a unique combination known as our dosha.

The doshas are biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. The doshas govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and fulfillment. Due to their subtle, energetic quality, the doshas cannot be perceived directly in the body. Their presence, however, is visible through distinct qualities and actions, ranging from complex biological functions to personality traits.

Three primary doshas

Every cell of the body contains Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It is the varying proportion of these doshas that contributes to an individual’s mind-body composition. While one dosha tends to dominate in most individuals, a second dosha typically has a strong influence. Just as you are born with a unique genetic makeup, you are also born with a unique doshic composition.

The doshas are dynamic energies that constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, the foods that we eat, the seasons, our environment, etc.

There are 3 main doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Vata

Qualities reflecting SPACE / AIR – FORCE OF MOBILITY

Controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat.

Vata characteristics include:

  • Creative, excitable, lively, fun, and dreamy
  • Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget
  • Slender and tall, with a tendency toward cold hands and feet
  • Changeable moods
  • Irregular daily routine
  • Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance
  • Tendency to act on impulse
  • Often have racing, disjointed thoughts
  • Generally have thin, dry skin and dry hair

Pitta

Qualities reflecting – FIRE / WATER – FORCE OF TRANSFORMATION

Controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and body temperature.

Pitta characteristics include:

  • Fiery, passionate, and determined
  • Sharp, orderly, and focused
  • Medium physique, strong, well-built
  • Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial
  • Aggressive, irritated and angry when out of balance
  • Strong digestion and strong appetite
  • Fair or reddish-skinned, often with freckles
  • Uncomfortable in hot weather
  • Physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, heartburn, insomnia, and/or burning eyes

Kapha

Qualities reflecting – WATER / EARTH – FORCE OF COHESION

Controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

Kapha characteristics include:

  • Easygoing, calm, relaxed, affectionate and loving
  • Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature
  • Stable, reliable, faithful and loyal
  • Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build
  • Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory
  • Smooth hair and skin
  • Prone to depression
  • Excellent health, good immune system
  • Strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings
  • Tend to be possessive and hold on to things
  • Don’t like cold, damp weather
  • Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, and respiratory problems

The three doshic states

  • Balanced: All three doshas are present in their natural proportions
  • Aggravated: A particular dosha is present in a greater-than-normal proportion; also referred to as an “excess” state.
  • Depleted: A particular dosha is present in a less-than-normal proportion; also referred to as a “reduced” state.

Doshic imbalances can arise from any number of influences, including following an aggravating diet, exercising incorrectly, not managing stress properly, etc. We want to remain as balanced as possible for optimal health.

When we examine the three doshas, it’s always important to remember that an individual will never match up exactly with the characteristics of one particular dosha. We are all unique mixtures of these energies and qualities. This is why Ayurveda, unlike traditional Western medicine, can be called a system of individualized health care.

Read more about this personalized system of care in Dr Alejandro Junger’s new book Clean 7

Written by Hannah Aylward

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