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

In Ayurveda, a dosha (Sanskrit: दोषः, IAST: doṣa) is one of three substances that are believed to be present in a person's body. Beginning with twentieth-century literature, there was an idea called "The Three-Dosha Theory" (Sanskrit: त्रिदोषोपदेशः, tridoṣa-upadeśaḥ). 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. While Ayurvedic doshas are a similar concept to Latin Humorism, it is a distinct system.[1]

One important concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the belief that health exists when there is an equal amount of the three fundamental bodily bio-elements or doshas called wind, bile and phlegm (Sanskrit वात, पित्त, कफ; IAST: vāta, pitta, kapha).[2]

Doshas have been compared to astrology as similarly deriving its tenets from ancient philosophy and superstitions. Using them to diagnose or treat disease is considered pseudoscientific.[3][4][5]


The symbols are associated to the five elements of classical Indian philosophy.

  • Vāta or Vata is characterized 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.[6][7] Vāta is the normal Sanskrit word meaning "air, wind," and was so understood in pre-modern Sanskrit treatises on Ayurveda.[8] Some modern interpreters prefer not to translate Vata as air, but rather to equated it with a modern metabolic process or substance.[1]
  • Pitta represents metabolism;[1] It is characterized by heat, moistness, liquidity, and sharpness and sourness. Its chief quality is heat.[6] It is the energy principle which uses bile to direct digestion and enhance metabolism. Unbalanced pitta is primarily characterized by body heat or a burning sensation and redness. Pitta is the normal Sanskrit lexeme meaning "bile." [9] It is etymologically related to the Sanskrit word pīta "yellow."
  • Kapha is the watery element. It is a combination of earth and water. It is characterized by heaviness, coldness, 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. Kapha (synonym: śleṣman) is the normal Sanskrit lexeme meaning "phlegm."[10]

So at last there are three primary doshit states: 1-Balanced - In this state all the three doshas are in equal proportion or are balanced. 2-Increased - In this state one particular dosha is in excess. 3-Decreased - It is also called deflected state as in this state one of the three following dosha is in very less or no presence.

5 types of vata dosha[11] 5 types of pitta dosha[11] 5 types of kapha dosha[11]
  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 considered to be forces that create the physical body. They would determine conditions of growth, aging, health and disease. Typically, one of the three doshas predominates and is associated with a constitution or mind-body type. By evaluating individual habits, emotional responses, and body type, practitioners adapt their yoga practice accordingly. These are also used to diagnose Ayurvedic treatments focused on alleviating any doshic excesses (illness) using herbs, lifestyle changes and practices such as pranayama, meditation and yoga postures.

Symptoms are commonly associated with disorders in dosha, considered to throw the system off balance. For example, it is believed that with excess vata, there can be mental, nervous and digestive disorders, including low energy and weakening of all body tissues. Similarly, excess pitta is considered to mean that toxic blood gives rise to inflammation and infection. Excess of kapha is associated with an increase in mucus, weight, edema, and lung disease, etc. The key to managing all doshas is taking care of vata, that is taught to be the origin of the other two.[12]

Prana, Tejas and Ojas[edit]

Yoga is a set of disciplines, some that aim to balance and transform energies of the psyche. At the roots of vata, pitta and kapha are believed to consist of its subtle counterparts called prana, tejas and ojas. Unlike the doshas, which in excess create diseases, this is believed to promote health, creativity and well-being.

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

Tejas–inner radiance and healing energy of pitta (fire)

Ojas–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 is associated with enthusiasm, adaptability and creativity, all of which are considered necessary when pursuing a spiritual path in yoga and to enable one to perform. Tejas is claimed to provide courage, fearlessness and insight and to be important when making decisions. Lastly, ojas is considered to create peace, confidence and patience to maintain consistent development and sustain continued effort. Eventually, the most important element to develop is ojas, believed to engender physical and psychological endurance. Aims to achieve this include Ayurvedic diet, tonic herbs, control of the senses, a devotion and most importantly celibacy.[12]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ 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 introduction, translation of different readings, notes, comparative views, an index, glossary and plates. Gerstein - University of Toronto. Calcutta.
  2. ^ Wujastyk, Dominik (1998). The Roots of Ayurveda : selections from Sankskrit medical writings. New Delhi: Penguin Books. pp. 4, et passim. ISBN 0-14-043680-4. OCLC 38980695.
  3. ^ Hall, Harriet (21 November 2019). "Ayurveda: Ancient Superstition, Not Ancient Wisdom". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  4. ^ Raghavan, Shravan (21 November 2019). "What Are The Dangers Of Legitimizing Ayurveda?". StateCraft. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  5. ^ Kavoussi, Ben (10 September 2009). "The Golden State of Pseudo-Science". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Oxford, 1899
  7. ^ Vata Dosha
  8. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary". Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  9. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary". Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  10. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary". Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  11. ^ 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: 15786. doi:10.1038/srep15786. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 4625161. PMID 26511157.[unreliable source?]
  12. ^ a b David Frawley, Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization, 1999[unreliable source?]