Ayurveda 101: The Three Doshas

Ayurveda revolves around your “dosha“. Literally meaning “something that is out of whack,” your dosha is the unique constitutional body type that you were born with. Having said that, your dosha influences much more than just your outer appearance. It influences your physical, physiological, psycological and spiritual health.

To understand doshas, we must first understand the five elements. One of the basic tenets of Ayurveda is the belief that “everything which exists in the external universe has its counterpart in a living being’s own personal internal universe.” [1] Each action in our lives corresponds to an action within ourselves. A popular example is to compare the cooking of your food on the fire of the stovetop to the cooking of your food on your internal digestive “fire” in your stomach. This idea of interconnectedness can be explained by understanding the Five Great Elements. These elements are:

  • Earth: the solid state of matter
  • Water: the liquid state of matter
  • Fire: the power that can convert a solid state of matter to a liquid or a gas (or vice versa)
  • Air: the gaseous state of matter
  • Ether: the space in which everything is created and everything returns

These five elements combine to create the three doshas. It is important to understand that these doshas are forces in your being, not specific substances themselves. For example, Kapha is not mucus; it is the force that creates mucus. Each of these forces controls not only certain substances, but organs, body systems, seasons and life stages as well. No wonder doshas are so important!

In future posts we will get into the characteristics + qualities of the doshas in more detail but for now, let’s talk dosha basics:

VATA: Made from air + ether, vata is in charge of your kinetic energy, body movement and nervous system. Since vata is like the wind, the main quality of vata is dryness.

KAPHA: Composed of water + earth, kapha lubricates the body and is in charge of potential energy and body stability. Just like the solid soil we live on, the main quality of kapha is heaviness.

PITTA: Created from air + water, pitta balances the kinetic energy of vata with the potential energy of kapha. It controls digestion and both the enzymatic + endocrine systems. Akin to fire, the main quality of pitta is heat.

Your Ayurvedic constitution was determined at your conception, based on a variety of factors involving your parents and their physical, mental and emotional states. Your constitution at birth is called your prakriti. It is your true nature, what you have been (and always will be) and remains a vital part of who you are throughout your life. It is when we stray from our prakriti (through imbalances in our diet, health choices, etc.) that we become unwell. Therefore, the main objective of Ayurvedic medicine is to restore you to your true nature.

Pretty cool, huh?

Well, that’s all for this edition folks. Next time we will talk more in depth about the doshas and how they influence our health.


[1] Svoboda, Robert. Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution.

[image found here]

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