Dosha

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The three doshas and the five great elements they are composed from

A dosha (Sanskrit दोषः, doṣa), according to Ayurveda, is one of three substances that are present in a person's body. Beginning with twentieth century literature, this idea is called "the three-dosha theory" (Sanskrit त्रिदोषोपदेशः, tridoṣa-upadeśaḥ).[1] Authoritative Ayurvedic treatises describe how the quantity and quality of these three substances fluctuate in the body according to the seasons, time of day, diet, and several other factors. Ayurvedic doshas are markedly different from Greek Humors.[2]

The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily bio-elements or doshas called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.[3]

  • Vāta or Vata is characterised by the properties of dry, cold, light, minute, and movement. All movement in the body is due to properties of vata. Pain is the characteristic feature of deranged vata. Some of the diseases connected to unbalanced vata are flatulence, gout, rheumatism, etc. [4][5] Vata is not to be interpreted as air.[2]
  • Pitta represents metabolism;[2] It is characterised by hotness, moist, liquid, sharp and sour, its chief quality is heat.[4] It is the energy principle which uses bile to direct digestion and enhance metabolism. It is primarily characterised by body heat or burning sensation and redness.
  • Kapha is the watery element it is character by heaviness, cold, tenderness, softness, slowness, lubrication and the carrier of nutrients. It is the nourishing element of the body. All soft organs are made by Kapha and it plays an important role in the perception of taste together with nourishment and lubrication.
5 types of vata dosha[6] 5 types of pitta dosha[6] 5 types of kapha dosha[6]
  1. Prana Vata - Governs inhalation, perception through the senses and governs the mind. Located in the brain, head, throat, heart and respiratory organs.
  2. Udana Vata - Governs speech, self-expression, effort, enthusiasm, strength and vitality. Located in the navel, lungs and throat.
  3. Samana Vata - Governs peristaltic movement of the digestive system. Located in the stomach and small intestines.
  4. Apana Vata - Governs all downward impulses (urination, elimination, menstruation, sexual discharges etc.) Located between the navel and the anus.
  5. Vyana Vata - Governs circulation, heart rhythm, locomotion. Centred in the heart and permeates through the whole body.
  1. Pachaka Pitta - Governs digestion of food which is broken down into nutrients and waste. Located in the lower stomach and small intestine.
  2. Ranjaka Pitta - Governs formation of red blood cells. Gives colour to blood and stools. Located in the liver, gallbladder and spleen.
  3. Alochaka Pitta - Governs visual perception. Located in the eyes.
  4. Sadhaka Pitta - Governs emotions such as contentment, memory, intelligence and digestion of thoughts. Located in the heart.
  5. Bharajaka Pitta - Governs lustre and complexion, temperature and pigmentation of the skin. Located in the skin.
  1. Kledaka Kapha - Governs moistening and liquefying of the food in the initial stages of digestion. Located in the upper part of the stomach.
  2. Avalambhaka Kapha - Governs lubrication of the heart and lungs. Provides strength to the back, chest and heart. Located in the chest, heart and lungs.
  3. Tarpaka Kapha - Governs calmness, happiness and stability. Nourishment of sense and motor organs. Located in the head, sinuses and cerebra-spinal fluid.
  4. Bodhaka Kapha - Governs perception of taste, lubricating and moistening of food. Located in the tongue, mouth and throat.
  5. Shleshaka Kapha - Governs lubrication of all joints. Located in the joints.

Doshas are the forces that create the physical body, they determine conditions of growth and ageing, health and disease. Typically, one of the three doshas predominates and determines one's constitution or mind-body type. By understanding individual habits, emotional responses, and body type, practitioners can adapt their yoga practice accordingly. The same applies for Ayurveda treatments focused on alleviating any doshic excesses (illness) via powerful herbs and/or through the improvement of general lifestyle practices such as pranayama, meditation and yoga postures.

There are clear indications when there exists an excess of a dosha, throwing the system off balance. For example, with excess vata, there can be mental, nervous and digestive disorders, including low energy and weakening of all body tissues. With excess pitta, there is toxic blood that gives rise to inflammation and infection. With excess kapha, there is an increase in mucus, weight, edema, and lung disease, to name a few. The key to managing all doshas is taking care of vata, as it is the origin of the other two.[7]

Prana, Tejas and Ojas

Yoga is an alchemical process of balancing and transforming energies of the psyche. At the root of vata, pitta and kapha are its subtle counterparts called prana, tejas and ojas. Unlike the doshas, which in excess create diseases, these promote health, creativity and well-being.

Prana is our life force and is the healing energy of vata (air)

Tejas is our inner radiance and is the healing energy of pitta (fire)

Ojas is the ultimate energy reserve of the body derived from kapha (water)

Ultimately, Ayurveda seeks to reduce disease, particularly those that are chronic, and increase positive health in the body and mind via these three vital essences that aid in renewal and transformation. Increased prana cultivates enthusiasm, adaptability and creativity, all of which are necessary when pursuing a spiritual path in yoga and to enable one to perform. Tejas provides courage, fearlessness and insight, which are important when making decisions. Lastly, ojas creates peace, confidence and patience to maintain consistent development and sustain continued effort. Eventually, the most important element to develop is ojas, as it engenders physical and psychological endurance. This can be achieved via Ayurvedic diet, tonic herbs, control of the senses, and devotion.[7]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ This expression does not occur in the classical literature of Ayurveda.[citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c Susruta; Bhishagratna, Kunja Lal (1907–1916). An English translation of the Sushruta samhita, based on original Sanskrit text. Edited and published by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna. With a full and comprehensive intro., translation of different readings, notes, comparative views, index, glossary and plates. Gerstein - University of Toronto. Calcutta. 
  3. ^ Hari Ghotra, Ayurveda - The Three Doshas [1]
  4. ^ a b Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Oxford, 1899
  5. ^ http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/drhalpern/Vata_Doshas Vata Dosha
  6. ^ a b c Govindaraj, Periyasamy; Nizamuddin, Sheikh; Sharath, Anugula; Jyothi, Vuskamalla; Rotti, Harish; Raval, Ritu; Nayak, Jayakrishna; Bhat, Balakrishna K.; Prasanna, B. V. (2015-10-29). "Genome-wide analysis correlates Ayurveda Prakriti". Scientific Reports. 5. doi:10.1038/srep15786. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 4625161Freely accessible. PMID 26511157. [unreliable source?]
  7. ^ a b David Frawley, Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization, 1999[unreliable source?]