Concept of Doshas
Updated: Nov 22, 2018
According to Ayurveda our bodies represent a ‘mini-universe’ in this greater universe that we live in. We are the microcosm in a macrocosm. Therefore, what goes on in Nature affects our bodies in the same way. Dry, hot days causes dryness within our body. On cold, rainy days some folks experience pain and stiffness in joints because similar energies rise in the body.
Our Universe comprises of Five Great Elements, or ‘Panchamahabhutas’ in Sanskrit: space, air, fire, water and earth. Everything is made from these great elements in varying degrees: plants, animals, food we eat, etc. They exist within us in their biological form. However, in our bodies these elements have specific compositions, which are referred to as ‘Doshas’ in Sanskrit. The way in which these unique compositions manifest in our body is determined at the time of our conception.
There are three Doshas:
Vata - composed of Air + Space elements
Piita - composed of Fire + little Water elements
Kapha - composed of Water + Earth elements.
Doshas maintain our balance or imbalance in the body and mind. They have specific functions in the body:
Vata is mainly concerned with the nervous system and all movements in the body, such as movement of food, thoughts, wastes. Vata is characterized by dryness, cold, lightness, roughness, mobility, just like its elements.
Pitta, which is mostly fire, is responsible for all digestion of food, water, thoughts, etc. Pitta is characterized by its heat, sharpness, clarity, mobility just like its elements.
Kapha does the function of lubrication and stability in body and mind. Kapha is characterized by Cold, heaviness, stability, stagnant nature just like its elements.
Even though all three doshas exist in us, each of us have a unique and specific composition of doshas. For example, some of us have more Vata than Pitta and Kapha, or more Kapha than Vata or Pitta, or we are very much Pitta and just a little Vata and Kapha. The degree of each dosha in us determines our personality and character.
Our basic doshic composition referred to as ‘Prakruti’ in Sanskrit comes together at time of conception. 'Prakruti' stays constant throughout our lives. Factors, such as the food we eat, our daily lifestyle habits, or our behavior tend to imbalance our dosha composition. When doshas go out of whack because of the aforementioned factors, we call that imbalance 'vikruti' of doshas. This 'vikruti' masks the basic 'Prakruti'. Many of us live with 'vikruti' for years, in fact, we consider it as a new normal 'prakruti'. When causative factors of vikruti continue either through greed or lack of self-awareness we are faced with illnesses. Intensity and longevity of causative factors decide the seriousness of illnesses. As the pathology of illnesses progress, tissues/organs get affected. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the early signs and symptoms of dosha imbalance. To break the pathology of illness one needs to make some changes in diet habits, lifestyle changes, and possibly behavior changes. If vikruti is deeper, a sound ayurvedic treatment is required. This treatment could be just to minimize and remove vikruti or it could be deeper treatment to address the tissues/organs affected as well. Either way, treatment is always to done to bring us into balance with ourselves and as close to one's 'Prakruti' as possible. Ayurvedic treatment involves all of the above.
Finally, for prevention of illness or imbalance, Ayurveda has daily lifestyle 'dinacharya' and seasonal lifestyle 'rhutucharya' guidance. Both are sets of rules one should follow to maintain a good, long healthy life.