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Theory of vital energies in Ayurveda: the 3 doshas

The 3 doshas

The Rishis are the Elders who created Ayurveda as a system of healing nearly 5000 years ago. They were influenced by the Sankhya philosophy which theorizes the creation of energy and matter.

According to the principles of Ayurveda, everything is composed of five major elements. They represent five states or qualities of energy and matter that we experience daily in our physical, mental, and emotional lives. These five great elements are: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The Rishis combined these great elements to create a more simplified representation of three vital energies which they named the doshas and which are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha (VPK). Each is a combination of two of the five great elements, one of which is dominant.

We know the qualities of the great elements, Ayurveda organizes them in ten couples (hot-cold, solid-liquid, heavy-light...) so this system allows us to understand the energies as well as the great elements, even if it is not possible to see them.


The qualities of the doshas or vital energies

Each doshas has the qualities of its two constituent elements, both individually and in combination. All three have a specific role in our mind and body, but wellness and good health requires that all three doshas work harmoniously together.

scheme representing the 3 doshas and their link with the 5 elements

Vata, air and space (or ether):

light, cold, dry, rough, subtle, mobile, clear, dispersing, erratic, astringent.

For the individual, these tendencies give: creativity, enthusiasm, freedom, generosity, joy, vitality.

On the organic level, Vata is linked to the motor function, to the heartbeat, to inspiration and expiration, to the stimulation of digestive juices.

Pitta, fire and water:

light, hot, oily, sharp, liquid, sour and pungent.

For the individual, these tendencies give: ambition, concentration, confidence, courage, thirst for knowledge, happiness, intelligence.

On the organic level, Pitta is linked to digestion and assimilation of food, maintenance of body temperature, and the glow of the eyes and skin.

Kapha, water and earth: 

heavy, cold, oily, slow, viscous, dense, soft, static, sweet.

For the individual, these tendencies give: attention, concentration, compassion, faith, fulfillment, patience, stability, tenderness.

On the organic level, Kapha is related to the softness of the body, to the distribution of heat, to strength and endurance, to sleep and to longevity.

A dosha can have an identical quality to another doshas, however there is a difference in this quality. Example: Vata and Kapha are both cold, but Vata is a dry cold and Kapha is wet.

The 3 doshas are at the origin of all physiological and psychological processes of our body and mind. They are the dynamic forces that determine growth and decline. Each of your physical, mental, or emotional characteristics can be described in terms of the 3 doshas.

The doshas can change constantly and must be in balance with your original constitution (Prakriti). An imbalance of the doshas is the cause of physical and psychological disorders. The Ayurvedic therapist then seeks to rebalance the doshas. He talks about calming, rebalancing, increasing, or aggravating a particular doshas.

Your physiognomic particularities

SkinFine and dryClear, soft with freckles, molesThick, fat, and pale
HairThin, dark, frizzy, or curlyFine, soft, blond, or redAbundant, thick, shiny, and brown
FaceLong, angular with a marked chinOval with a pointed chinLarge and round
NeckFine, very long or very shortProportionateSolid
NoseSmall, narrow, aquilineStraight, pointed, medium sizeWide, rounded
Eyes (shape)Small, sunkenMeansLarge, outgoing
Eyes (color)Dark brownBlue or grey, hazelnutBlue or brown
TeethIrregularMedium size, yellowishWhite, strong gums
LipsThin, tightAveragesLarge, fleshy

Your physical appearance according to the Doshas

SizeVery small or very largeMediumLarge and robust or small and stocky
WeightLight with difficulty gaining weightAverage, easy to gain and lose weightHeavy, difficult to lose
FrameSlim, narrow shoulders and hipsAverageWide, large frame
JointsProminent, angularWell-proportionedLarge, wellfunctioning
BodybuildingThin and elongatedProportionate and firmImportant, solid

Your physiological characteristics

ThinkingLight, cluttered, without acting outPrecise, logical, follows through on projectsSlow, stable, even conservative
MemoryGood in the short termGood, fastGood in time, vast
BeliefsFluctuating according to the momentStrong that determine the actionsSolid, difficult to change
EmotionsAnxious, fearful, worriedEasy, presumptuous judgmentsGreedy, very possessive
WorkCreative, imaginativeIntellectualManual and altruistic
LifestyleUnstableBusy and ambitiousStable and regular
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