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The three doshas, the vital energies of Ayurvedic medicine

Understanding the principle of the doshas is of great importance for those wishing to learn about Ayurveda. The following quotation may enlighten us: “Vata, Pitta and Kapha, this group of three doshas in their natural state or in their state of imbalance, give life to the body and also destroy it” Ashtanga Hridaya I.6 

The earliest known Vedic books date back some 5,000 years, with the latest dating from the 6th century BC. It's these texts, written in Sanskrit, that have brought Ayurveda to the attention of the modern world

The 3 doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha

Photo showing the 5 elements that constitute the doshas

In the Ayurvedic tradition, the doshas play a fundamental role. They help us to understand the nature of each individual, as they determine our natural constitution. Knowing the doshas in Ayurveda, their characteristics, their meanings and the way they act within us, is the starting point towards balance and wholeness in our body, mind and spirit.   

The word dosha comes from Sanskrit. The meaning of the doshas is translated as “moods” or energetic tendencies. 

Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three doshas that emanate from the vital force “Prana” and represent a combination of two of the five great elements: fire, earth, air, water and ether. Vata is dominated by air, Pitta by fire and Kapha by water. 

Each person's birth constitution (Prakriti) influences the way they live, perceive and interpret reality. However, with age, environment, life's trials and tribulations, diet... this constitution can evolve, leading to a state of imbalance, called Vikriti. A balanced doshic constitution manifests itself in a state of general good health. Imbalance, on the other hand, can be the source of various ailments. 

How to find your dominant dosha

Photo showing several women of different morphologies

A person's physical appearance and personality traits help determine which dosha predominates in them.

According to physical appearance :

  • Vata, Air: very tall or very short; slight, difficulty gaining weight; light, delicate bone structure, narrow hips and shoulders; prominent joints; light musculature; elongated or pointed face; thin, dry, dark, cold skin; dry, fine, often dark hair; dull, small eyes and nose; thin, dry lips; teeth sometimes misaligned.
  • Pitta, Fire: medium height and weight; freckled skin; moderate, fine, soft, red or blond hair; piercing, light-blue, green, gray or hazel eyes; medium lips; medium, yellowish teeth.
  • Kapha, Water: tall and sturdy or short and stocky, heavy; skin oily, thick and pale; hair wavy, abundant, thick, shiny and generally brown; large, attractive eyes; firm, thick lips; strong, white teeth.

Main personality traits :

  • Vata, Air: strength, flexibility, imagination, sensitivity, spontaneity, positivity, speed (to learn and forget), enthusiasm.
  • Pitta, Fire: acuity, security, clarity, cheerfulness, ambition, sociability, courage, independence, good memory.
  • Kapha, Water: tranquility, tolerance, serenity, wisdom, compassion, loyalty, patience, stability, slowness (to learn and forget).

Calculate the dosha

The physical and temperamental traits described above can give clues to a person's dominant dosha. To refine a little more, the following characteristics can help in the self-assessment of the main dosha:

Vata, Air:

  • Variable, erratic appetite.
  • Sensitivity to cold.
  • Light sleep, easy awakening.
  • Need for constant movement.
  • Tired quickly, but quickly regenerated.
  • Hobbies and interests: travel, games, artistic activities, speed, history.
  • Low vitality.

Pitta, Fire :

  • Strong, intense appetite.
  • Sensitivity to heat and humidity.
  • Moderate sleep (less than 8 hours).
  • Need for activities with a purpose, rather competitive.
  • Good stamina.
  • Hobbies and interests: competitive sports, debating, research, politics.
  • Average vitality.

Kapha, Water:

  • Constant appetite.
  • Sensitivity to cold and damp.
  • Deep and long sleep, difficult to wake up.
  • Needs a group to motivate itself.
  • Slow but enduring pace.
  • Hobbies and interests: water activities, gardening, cooking, wine, business.
  • Good vitality.

Vedic texts have left us a wealth of information on natural healing methods. Plants are of great importance, complementing other forms of natural care such as respect for life cycles and rhythms, diet, yoga, physical exercise, not forgetting meditation and mental hygiene. 

Photo showing stones in balance

Everything is a matter of balance and everyone must find their own, this is how we could summarize Ayurvedic medicine. We feel it deep within our being, our health, which is not simply an absence of illness, depends on the interpenetrations between our physical, psychological and emotional state. All the disciplines that come to us from this same school of thought such as yoga, meditation, mantras or jyotish (Vedic astro-psychology) seek to bring us, in addition to physiological care, calm and appeasement of the body. the mind, necessary for good health.

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