THE THREE DOSHAS
16 Oct 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
Ayurveda recognizes three primary life-forces in the body, or three biological humors called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which correspond to the elements of air, fire and water. As the active or mobile elements, they determine the life processes of growth and decay. The Ayurvedic term for humor is dosha, meaning that which darkens, spoils or causes things to decay. When out of balance, the doshas are the causative forces behind the disease process.
Vata is the biological air humor, also translated as wind. It means ‘that which moves things’. Vata dosha it. It governs sensory and mental balance and orientation, and promotes mental adaptability and comprehension.
PITTA is the biological fire humor, also translated as bile. Its meaning is ‘that which digests things’. Pitta dosha is responsible for all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body. It also governs our mental digestion , our capacity to perceive reality and understand things as they are.
KAPHA is the biological water humor, also translated as phlegm. It means ‘that which holds things together’. Kapha dosha provides substance and gives support, and makes up the bulk of our bodily tissues. It also provides our emotional support in life, and relates to positive emotional traits like love, compassion, modesty, patience and forgiveness.
Each dosha exites in a second element that serves as the medium for its manifestation, acting as its container.
VATA, air, is contained in ether. It resides in the empty spaces in the body and fills up the subtle channels.
PITTA, fire, exists in the body as water or oil. It exists mainly in an acid form, as fire cannot exist directly in the body without destroying it.
KAPHA, water, exists in the medium of earth, whuch contains it. Our physical composition is mainly water contained within the boundaries of our skin and mucus menbranes(earth).
Qualities of the Three Doshas
Each dosha has its primary qualities according to which we recognize them. An excess or deficiency of these qualities indicates an excess or deficiency of the particular dosha. This, in turn, brings about various pathological changes. According to Vagbhatta, one of the great Ayurvedic commentators:
Vata is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle and agitated in qualities, Pittan is a little oily, is sharp, hot, light, unpleasant in odor, mobile and liquid.
Kapha is wet, cold, heavy, dull, sticky, soft, and firm.
Each dosha has one major quality of its own and shares another quality with one of the other two doshas. However, in terms of shared qualituies there is a difference. Vata as air is lighter than Pitta as fire. Vata as air is colder than Kapha as water. Kapha as water is moister than Pitta, which has an oily quality (blood and acids).
Actions of the Three Doshas
Their actions, on both the body and the mind, are described as follows;
The root of the doshas, tissues and waste materials of the body is Vata. In its natural state it sustains effort, exhalation, inhalation, movement and the discharge of impulses, the equilibrium of the tissues, and the coordination of the senses.
Pitta governs digestion, heat, visual perception, hunger, thirst, luster, complexion, understandings, intelligence, courage and softness of the body.
Kapha gives stability, lubrication, holding together of the joints and such qualities as patience.
Vata is the most important or primary of the three biological humors. It governs the other two and is responsible for all physical processes in general. For this reason, disturbances in Vata have more severe implications than the other two doshas, affecting the mind as well as the entire physical body. The quality of our life, through our care of the life-force, is the primary factor in both health and disease.
PITTA governs all aspects and levels of light and warmth in the body and mind. KAPHA is the material substratum and support of the other two doshas and also gives stability to our emotional nature.
Aggravated States of the Doshas
When aggravated, the doshas give rise to various symptoms and various diseases.
Vata in excess causes emaciation, debility, liking of warmth, tremors, distention and constipation as well as insomnia, sensory disorientation, incoherent speech, dizziness, confusion and depression.
Pitta in excess causes yellow color of stool, urine, eyes and skin, as well as hunger, thirst, burning sensation and difficulty sleeping.
Kapha causes depression of the digestive fire, nausea, lethargy, heaviness, white color, chills, looseness of the limbs, cough, difficult breathing and excessive sleeping.
HIGH VATA (high air) results in the prana and the mind losing their connection with the body, causing decay and loss of coordination. There is hyperactivity at the expense of the vital fluids and the physical body begins to waste away.
HIGH PITTA (high fire) results in the accumulation of weight and gravity in the body, which inhibits normal function and causes hypoactivity through excess tissue accumulation.
HIGH KAPHA (high water) results in the accumulation of weight and gravity in the body, whuch inhibits normal function and causes hypoactivity through excess tissue accumulation.
Sites of the doshas
Each dosha has its respective site in the body.
Vata (air) is located in the colon, thighs, hips, ears, bones, and organ of touch. Its primary site is the colon.
Pitta (fire) is located in the small intestine, stomach, sweat, sebaceous glands, blood, lymph and the organ of vision. Its primary site is the small intestine.
Kapha (water) is located in the chest, throat, head, pancreas, sides, stomach, lymph, fat, nose and tounge. Its primary site is the stomach.
The doshas accumulate at these primary sites in the digestive system, giving rise to the disease process. Treating them at these locations by their respective methods, we can cut the disease process off at the root.
Vata (air) is produced from below, as gas from the colon.
Pitta (fire) is produced in the middle as bile and acids from the liver and small intestine.
Kapha (water) is produced above as phlegm in the lungs and stomach.
The Five Forms of Vata
The five forms of Vata are 1.Prana, 2.Udana, 3.Vyana,4.Samana, and 5. Apana. These words are formed by adding various suffixes to the root ‘an’, which means to breathe or to energize. They are also called Vayus or airs.
- PRANA (pra-ana) means the forward or primary air or nervous force. Prevading the head and centered in the brain, it moves downward to the chest and throat, governing inhalation and swallowing as well as sneezing, spitting, and belching. It governs the senses, mind, heart and consciousness. It is our portion of the cosmic life energy and directs all the other Vatas in the body. It determines our inspiration or positive spirit in lie and connects us with our inner-self. The term ‘Prana’ is also used in a broader sense to indicate Vata in general, as all vatas derive from it.
- UDANA (ud-ana) means the upward moving air or nervous force. Located in the chest and centered in the throat, it governs exhalation and speech. It is also responsible for memory, strength, will and effort. Udana determines our aspiration in life. At death it rises up from the body and directs us towards various subtle worlds according to the power of will and the karma that move through it. When fully developed it gives us the power to transcend the outer world, as well as various psychic powers. The practice of Yoga is involved primarily with developing Udana.
- VYANA (vi-ana) means the diffusive or pervasive air.It is centered in the heart and distributed throughout the entire body. It governs the circulatory system and ,through it, the movement of the joints and muscles and the discharge of impulses and secretions.
- SAMANA(sama-ana) means the equalizing air. It is centered in the small intestine and is the nervous force behind the digestive system. Samana not only digests our food but also maintains balance and equilibrium in all bodily systems.
- APANA(apa-ana) means the downward moving air or the air that moves away. It is centered in the colon and governs all downward moving impulses of elimination, urination, menstruation, parturition and sexual activity.
As Udana, the ascending air, carries our life-force upwards and brings about the evolution or liberation of consciousness. Apana supports and controls all the other forms of Vata, and derangements of it are the basis of most Vata disorders. As a downward moving force, when aggravated it causes decay and disintegration. Therefore, the treatment of Apana is the first consideration in the treatment of Vata.
The Five Forms of Pitta
The five forms of Pitta are 1. Sadhaka ,2.Alochaka ,3.Bhrajaka, 4.Pachaka and 5. Ranjaka
- Sadhaka Pitta is the fire that determines what is truth or reality.It is located in the brain and the heart and allows us to accomplish the goals of the intellect, intelligence,or ego. These include wordly goals of pleasure, wealth, and prestige and the spiritual goal of liberation. It governs our mental energy, mental digestion (the digestion of ideas or beliefs) and our power of discrimination. Its development is emphasized in Yoga, particularly the Yoga of knowledge.
- Alochaka Pitta is the fire that governs visual perception. It is located in the eyes and is responsible for the reception and digestion of light from the external world. It aids in the aculity of the other senses as well.
- Bhrakaka Pitta is the fire that governs luster or complextion. It is located in the skin and maintains the complextion and color of skin. When aggravated, for example,it causes skin rashes or discolorations. It governs the digestion of warmth or heat,which we experience through the skin.
- Pachaka Pitta is the fire that digests things. It is located in the small intestine and governs the power of digestion. It is the basis and support of the other forms of Pitta, and is the first consideration in the treatment of Pitta, as our primary source of heat is the digestive fire.
- Ranjaka Pitta is the fire that impacts color. It is located in the liver, spleen ,stomach, and small intestine, and gives color to the blood, bile and stool. It primarily resides in the blood and is involved in most liver disorders.
The five forms of Kapha
The five forms of Kapha are :
- Tarpaka Kapha is the form of water that gives contentment. It is located in the brain, as the cerebro-spinal fluid, and in the heart. It governs emotional calm, stability and happiness, as well as memory. The practice of Yoga also increases the mental form of Kapha as contentment and bliss ( ananda).
- Bodhaka Kapha is the form of water that gives perception. It is located in the mouth and tongue as the saliva that allows us to taste our food. Like kledaka, it is also part of the first stage of digestion. It also helps lubricate the other sensory openings in the head.
- Avalambaka Kapha is the form of water that gives support. It is located in the heart and lungs. It is the storehouse of kapha and uponit depend the actions of the other kaphas in the body. It is not simply the phlegm produced by the lungs, as that is an excess of kapha generally. It corresponds to the basic plasma of the body, its primary watery constituent, which is distributed by lung and heart action.
- Sleshaka Kapha is the form of water that gives lubrication. It is holding in the joints as the synovial fluid and is responsible for holding them together