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Ayurveda & the Three Doshas

19 March 2013

Ayurveda is a holistic science of health, focusing on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began about 5,000 to 6,000 years ago when Indian sages were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the sages believed that preserving an optimal state of health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. Since the term itself, Ayurveda, is a combination of the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (knowledge or science), which means “the science or knowledge of life,” this collection of knowledge came to be known as “the science or knowledge of life” – Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three Doshas. It is difficult to translate the precise meaning of Dosha and it is commonly translated as “biological type”, “humor” or physical constitution. This definition presents a simplistic understanding of the concept. However, the original Sanskrit definition of Dosha is more complex, being defined as “doosyati iti doshah.” The literal translation of this is “that which contaminates is called Dosha.” So in this sense, Doshas may be considered pathogenic factors, or disease causing agents in the body. Imbalance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Doshas cause diseases in the body.

So Doshas are the energies (or types of energy) that make up every individual and each Dosha performs different physiological functions in the body:

The 3 Dosha types:

1.    Vata Dosha: The energy that controls all the bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing and your heartbeat, even blinking your eyes…

  • –      In balance: Results in creativity and vitality.
  • –      Out of balance: May produce fear and anxiety.
  • –      A dominant Vata is thought to make you susceptible to certain conditions, heart disease, insomnia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

2.    Pitta Dosha: The energy that controls all the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and bodily temperature…

  • –      In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
  • –      Out of balance: May cause anger resulting in ulcers.
  • –      A dominant, Pitta can lead to rashes, heartburn, excessive body heat and indigestion

3.    Kapha Dosha: The energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

  • –      In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
  • –      Out of balance: May lead to insecurity and envy.
  • –      A dominant Kapha may predispose you to diabetes, cancer, obesity and asthma.

Because one or two of these Doshas usually dominate in each person, the various Dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits, as well as their general likes and dislikes.

The ancient seers also declared each Dosha represented different elements and attributes…

Elements of the Three Doshas

Vata

Pitta

Kapha

Air + Ether

Fire + Water

Earth + Water

Attributes of the Three Doshas

Vata

Pitta

Kapha

Dry
Light
Cold
Rough
Subtle
Mobile
Clear

Oily
Sharp (penetrating)
Hot
Light
Mobile
Liquid

Heavy
Slow
Cold
Oily
Slimy (smooth)
Dense
Soft
Static (stable)
Cloudy (sticky)

Dispersing
(attribute, not a guna)

Fleshy
(attribute, not a guna)

Hard, Gross
(guna but not a classical attribute)

Astringent, Bitter
(taste)

Sour, Pungent
(tastes)

Sweet, Salty
(tastes)

We are most susceptible to imbalances related to our predominant Dosha, and you are probably wondering which Dosha (or Doshas) dominate you. There are many books and websites online that will offer questionnaires that can be used to determine predominate Dosha. A comprehensive one can be found by clicking on: Dosha Diagnostic Test

Summary: Ayurveda offers specifically personalized recommendations for every individual which range from general lifestyle changes to the treatment of disease. For this reason, Ayurveda can truly be called a system of individualized health care, something remarkably different from the Western approach of “one-pill for all.” Since the Doshas are used to detect imbalances before the manifestation of disease, Ayurveda is also considered a complete system of preventative medicine.

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