Ayurvedic Doṣa teaching
Vata, Pitta, Kapha
The human body is made up of the five elements (Pañca-Mahābhūtas): earth (Pṛthivi), water (Āpas / Jala), fire (Agni), air (Vāyu) and ether (Ākāśa). Each element is characterized by certain properties (Guṇa) and forces. The earth is heavy, the air is light and agile, and the fire is hot. According to Ayurveda, the entire cosmos and thus also the human being is an interplay of energies and properties from these five elements. From them arise the three Doṣas – Vāta, Pitta and Kapha. Each Doṣa consists of certain qualities (Guṇas). There are 20 qualities (Gurvādi Gunas) that express themselves through Vāta, Pitta and Kapha, activating and influencing them.
In Ayurveda, the system of the Three-Dosha-Doctrine is of fundamental importance. Determination of the constitution, physiology, pathogenesis and symptomatology, as well as the Ayurveda therapy refer to these three Doṣas.
Each Doṣa consists of all five elements, but two elements predominate in each.
Vata —– air and ether
Pitta —— fire and little water
Kapha —– water, earth
(Classical Tibetan Medicine)
These three Doṣas form a bridge between the subtle mind and the gross body. One side of the three Doṣas is very subtle, spiritual (Vāta-ether) and the other side is very gross, physical (Kapha-earth). The Doṣas thus form a kind of communication between mind and body, between inside and outside, and establish a connection between anatomy, physiology and psychology.
All external influences can influence the Doṣa conditions in the body. The times of the day and the seasons, the climate, the weather, the landscapes, the diet, but also behavior have an impact on the Doṣas and thus on people. Ayurveda pays special attention to these Doṣa influences. The Doṣas are constantly in motion, multiply and adapt again. In order to rebalance the Doṣa balance in all time phases, Ayurveda gives very specific nutritional and behavioral measures to maintain health.
The following Doṣa properties are particularly active during the day:
Times of day
2:00. a.m. – 6:00. a.m. Vata
6:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Kapha
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Pitta
2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Vata
6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Kapha
10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. Pitta
During the year the following doshas are elevated:
Kapha in spring (March – June)
Pitta in summer (July – October)
Vata in late autumn and winter (November – February)
The word Doṣa means “lack”, “defect” or “impurity”. If the Doṣas in a person are in balance, the person is healthy. If the Doṣas get out of balance, they multiply or accumulate in a certain place in the body. In Ayurveda one speaks of aggravated or increased Doṣa. When this happens, the various properties (guṇa) of the corresponding Doṣa in the body or mind are strengthened. If a Doṣa is overactive, then the characteristics in the body increase, such as dryness or coldness with Vāta, heat or sharpness with Pitta and mucus or heaviness with Kapha. Over time, the increased Doṣas damage or contaminate the body tissues (Dhātus), causing disturbances on a physical and psychological level, up to and including chronic and ultimately incurable diseases.
The Doṣas are therefore responsible for all positive and negative changes in the body. In Ayurveda, the three Doṣas are the supporting foundations. For this reason, in Ayurveda, the Doṣa dominance or constitution of a person is always determined during an initial consultation. This forms the basis of every Ayurvedic medicine therapy.
Vāta comes from “vā”, which means movement. It mainly consists of the elements air and ether. These subtle energies set in motion. Vāta is responsible for all movements in the body. It controls breathing, sets activities in motion, is responsible for digestion (agni), excretion, the heartbeat, blood circulation, substance transport in the cells, the development of the embryo, speech and all sensory organs, for the transfer of information in the central and peripheral areas nervous system and for thinking. Vāta ensures communication and exchange on all levels. Information is received from the environment, forwarded and exchanged. If Vāta is in equilibrium, it generates creativity, mental agility, alertness, flexibility and serenity. If Vāta is out of balance it creates fear, anxiety but also disturbances in the movements and transport channels (Srotas).
The properties (Guṇa) of Vāta are:
Not slimy, clear (viśada)
Vāta is soothed by substances opposite to these. (Approx. Su. I, 59)
Seat of Vāta
The main seat of Vāta is the large intestine. Other Vāta seats are: lumbar area, sacrum area, thighs, sense organs and bones.
Pitta is derived from the Sanskrit word “tapa”, which means heat. This Doṣa consists mainly of fire and a small amount of water. Pitta is responsible for splitting and releasing energy, for catabolism (breakdown metabolism), digestion, all conversion processes, for body temperature and eyesight. Pitta creates hunger and thirst. If Pitta is in equilibrium, it promotes understanding, intelligence, determination, bravery and shine. If Pitta is out of balance, anger, jealousy, hatred and inflammatory diseases develop.
The properties (Guṇa) of Pitta are:
A little oily (sasneha)
Movable like a liquid (sara)
Seat of Pitta
The main seat of Pitta is the small intestine and lower stomach.
Other Pitta seats are: eyesight, sweat (Sveda), red part of the blood (Rakta Dhātu).
Kapha is derived from “ka”, which means water and from “pha”, which means to germinate. This means anything that thrives on water. Kapha is mainly dominated by the elements water and earth. Kapha is responsible for the body’s strength and defenses (bala). It regulates the building metabolism (anabolism), is responsible for stability, lubricates and oils the joints and organs, regulates the fluid balance and is responsible for potency.
When Kapha is in balance, tolerance, contentment, and patience are shown. If Kapha is not in balance, people suffer from attachment, possessiveness, laziness and obesity.
The properties (Guṇa) of Kapha are:
Oily, greasy (snigdha)
Stable, sluggish (sthira)
Seat of Kapha
The main seat of Kapha is the rib cage.
Other Kapha seats are: throat, throat, head, joints, upper stomach, rasa dhātu (plasma) and tongue.
Caraka Samhitā, (CS). (2018 reprint). Sūtrasthāna (Sū.), Vol. I, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, India
Lad, Vasant. (2012). Ayurveda textbook, Vol. 1, Narayana Pub.House
Image: Classical Tibetan Medicine, color plates: Illustrations of the treatise Blue Beryl by Sangye Gyamtso (1653 – 1705). Two linen volumes in a slipcase