VATA – PITTA – KAPHA are the key principles from the combination of which the formation of the universe and the constitution of each individual arise. Dosha comes from the root Dushanat, which literally means impurity; this term should not be understood in a negative sense, as the Doshas or metabolic principles, give rise to the psychosomatic structure of man. In the three Doshas, the five elements or MAHABUTA (space-air-fire-water-earth) are manifested. Balancing the Doshas produces harmony and good health, imbalance leads to disturbances to the point of disease and is the first sign of a lack of attunement between body and mind.
Everything in nature (substances, thoughts, actions) has qualities or attributes called Gunas.
These act according to the law of similarity or dissimilarity (whatever is akin to the like increases the like and whatever is dissimilar decreases it).
Each individual is born with his or her own constitution based on the different combination of Vata – Pitta – Kapha, and in physiology the proportion of the Doshas varies; there can be monodoshic constitutions where one Dosha prevails, bidoshic constitutions where two Doshas prevail, and tridoshic constitutions where all Doshas are represented. It is very important to know one’s constitution because each person according to it has a certain propensity toward certain diseases and consequently will benefit from specific treatments.
The main Gunas are 20:
ATTACKER / CLEAN
COLD / WARM
STABLE / MOBILE
SOFT / HARD
COARSE / THIN
SOLID / LIQUID
The constitution of the individual (Prakriti) is decided in the encounter between egg and sperm and is determined by 4 factors:
1. paternal factor
2. maternal factor
3. condition of the uterus and season
4. maternal nutrition
A person may be born with a certain condition but then mistakes in lifestyle, can aggravate his Dosha to the point where he takes on characteristics of another constitution, but with good lifestyle advice and Ayurvedic preparations he can reestablish and regain his basic constitution and therefore prevent disease.
Vata is formed from ariaspace; literally “That which moves.” The main seat of Vata in the body is the large intestine (colon) and generally the region of the body below the navel. It is cold dry, mobile, fast, thin, rough, light. It is responsible for all activity and what we feel because it controls impulses along nerves, breathing, bowel movements, circulation, walking and excretion.
Vata deals with the movement of the universe. When in balance it supports the whole body, gives joy and enthusiasm, stimulates the digestive fire, eliminates waste products, shapes the embryo and is responsible for the continuation of life. When out of balance it causes high tides and overflowing of lakes and rivers, earthquakes, thunder, confusion of seasons, irregularity of crops.
The Vata type has a thin and light physique, is thin with skin that tends to be dry, rough, thin and brittle hair, protruding veins and tendons, cold extremities, small brown or black eyes, quick to eat, work and walk, however, has poor resistance to fatigue, tends to constipation, is restless, indecisive in choices, anxious with a tendency to worry, spendthrift, with poor ability to concentrate, fickle with light sleep or sleeplessness.
He gets excited easily but changes his opinion frequently, intuitive, original, never stands still and talks a lot.
Vata individuals are advised to engage in creative activity that does not involve taking on major responsibilities because emotional and tense states can cause them poor digestion, irritability and fatigue. In fact, for Vata, fatigue plays a key role as he is a very fragile constitution with a tendency for easy imbalance even though he then recovers very quickly with good rest and a proper routine. Given the dryness of the skin, he finds benefit from massages with sesame oil, which have a relaxing effect, should take a diet containing the flavors sour, salty, sweet, eat meals in a quiet, serene environment at regular times, and go to bed early in the evening. He should listen to relaxing music, protect himself very well from low temperatures since cold is the real enemy of Vata who is fine in warm and temperate climates.
Pitta is formed from the elements water-fire; literally it means that which produces heat. The main site in the body is the stomach and duodenum and generally the middle part of the body between the chest and umbilicus. It is the principle of thermogenesis and metabolism, it is the cosmic energy that makes the sun and stars burn, the gastric fire that digests food. In the human body it presides over digestive and endocrine functions, metabolism and regulation of body temperature.
The Pitta type has a medium build with well-represented muscle tissue, yellowish-reddish complexion, bright green or coppery eyes, blond or auburn hair, early tendency to baldness and dogness, soft, delicate skin with moles and freckles. It governs all functions of digestion and assimilation.
It suffers from hot weather and sweats a lot since its body temperature is high. Good digestion and excellent appetite, prefers fresh or cold foods and drinks.
It pacifies with sweet, bitter, astringent flavors. Regular sleep, strong, assertive, self-centered character, easily irritated and choleric, brilliant and intuitive intellect. He has good intuition and can speak in public even though he is often prickly in his judgments; he is precise and fussy. He loves to surround himself with beautiful things because he has a great sense of aesthetics.
Balanced pitta gives confidence, resourcefulness, cheerfulness, sharp mind, good digestion, glowing complexion, friendliness.
Imbalanced pitta confers irritability, hostility, poor digestion, peptic ulcer, anger, skin rashes and inflammation, yellowish skin.
The pitta dosha must avoid stress accompanied by anger, rage, resentment, pressing problems, too hot and humid weather, and excessive exposure to the summer sun.
Therefore, Pitta individuals are advised not to expose themselves to excessive tension and to avoid confrontational situations.
Regularly consuming ghee has rebalancing power on Pitta. Avoid abuse of substances containing caffeine and alcohol, consume fruit juices and cool drinks that counterbalance the great heat produced inside the body, thus limiting exposure to the sun and overheated environments.
Practicing yoga or relaxing techniques that reduce the tendency toward irritability. Since the Pitta Dosha is connected to the organ of sight, it is recommended that one should not attend violent spectacles or situations characterized by aggression and anger.
Kapha is formed from the elements water – earth; literally it means that which unites. The main seat of Kapha in the body is the chest and generally the upper part of the body including the head. Kapha governs all cellular functions, solidity of the body, lubrication of ligaments and joints, maintenance of sexual vigor, immunity, cohesion, and external appearance or luster of the person. It represents cohesion, holds the planets and stars together, gives shape and compactness to the body as well as strength and stability, and controls the balance of tissue and cellular fluids.
It is the principle of cooling and conservation, promotes growth, gives energy, strength, constancy and consistency. It pacifies with bitter spicy astringent tastes.
People with Kapha characteristics have sturdy build, well-represented tissues, light milky-white complexion, soft and oily skin, strong and white teeth, bright smile, large and clear eyes, strong thick and black hair, moderate appetite, slow digestion, prefer hot and dry foods, have regular evacuation with soft stools, long and deep sleep, and are resistant to fatigue. They are slow to learn however have excellent memory, lazy, generous and prone to forgiveness, strong sexual drive and procreation, have a stable character and are unlikely to alter.
Imbalanced Kapha confers laziness, depression, drowsiness, mental inertia, heaviness, gluttony, possessiveness, obesity, indigestion, cold-wet aversion, fluid retention, diabetes.
Kapha is imbalanced by stress, its sense of insecurity, sense of being rejected, excessive dependence, excessive sleep, cold, wet and snowy weather, and an excess of heavy and fatty sweet foods.
It is recommended that Kapha individuals lead a dynamic life and engage in regular physical activity as sedentariness aggravates Kapha.