Understanding Your Āyurvedic Doshas


Traditional Āyurvedic Medicine (TAM) utilizes a unique framework for understanding and quantifying health and disease. Doshas are Āyurvedic medical concepts but you can learn about them. Understanding doshas can help you engage more fully in your Āyurvedic journey to health. You may also learn to better manage your own health at every stage of your life.

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What Does Dosha Mean?

Dosha is a Sanskrit word that means ‘that which goes bad’. Doshas are the key components of your body and perform all of its functions from breathing and moving to seeing and digesting.

Doshas perform their various functions properly when they are at their optimal levels. They have a tendency to become sick or malfunction when they deviate from their optimal levels. This is when you experience symptoms of discomfort or disease.

Doshas are primary factors of Āyurveda for diagnosing and treating disease. There are three classes of doshas and they are divided according to their qualities.

The Three Doshas: Vāta, Pitta And Kapha Dosha

The three doshas (Vāta, Pitta, and Kapha) operate in the scope of the human body and represent the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space.

Vāta dosha has qualities similar to the air or wind. It governs all forms of movement in the body, enthusiasm and eagerness, inhalation and exhalation, the initiation and expulsion of all substances that need to exit the body, proper transportation within the digestive system, sharpness of the sense organs, conscious decision making and the normal downward functions of peristalsis.

Insomnia, anxiety, emaciation and constipation are conditions related to vāta dosha.

Pitta dosha is likened to the sun and has qualities similar to fire or heat. It governs the body’s temperature, desire for food, digestion, vision, hunger, thirst, complexion, intelligence, discrimination, bravery, happiness and softness or delicateness of the body.

Rashes, fever and mood disorders are conditions related to pitta dosha.

Kapha dosha is likened to the moon and has qualities similar to water and earth. It is responsible for the body’s stability, unctuousness and lubrication, well-bound joints, tolerance and patience, heaviness, virility, strength, patience and the absence of greed.

Obesity, depression and edema are conditions related to kapha dosha.

Complex health conditions like Diabetes, skin diseases and digestive problems may involve more than one dosha.

What Doshas Do

Each of the three doshas is divided into five subtypes that perform separate functions within the body.

Vāta dosha, like air and space, performs the following functions.

  • Upward and outward movement of air
  • Circulation within the body
  • Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
  • All forms of excretion and expulsion of waste from the body
  • Continuity of breathing

Pitta dosha, like fire, performs the following functions.

  • Digestion of food
  • Coloration in the blood
  • Intelligence and consciousness
  • Vision
  • Complexion

Kapha dosha, like water and earth, performs the following functions.

  • Supports the upper body
  • Moistens food in the mouth
  • Perceives taste
  • Nourishes the sense organs
  • Lubricates the joints

The three doshas are composed of all five elements – earth, fire, water, air and space – in varying proportions. Each dosha has certain unique qualities or characteristics that aid in detection. They perform their functions in specific locations of the body when healthy and they correspond to certain time periods of the day, year and a lifetime.

Healthy & Unhealthy Doshas

Doshas may be in one of two states – normal and abnormal. In their normal state, they support the proper, healthy functioning of the body. In their abnormal state, they may either fall below their natural level or over-produce into a state of excess. Both situations give rise to certain symptoms that can be detected and managed by a qualified professional.

View this Vāta, Pitta, Kapha chart:

When abnormal levels of doshas are present, the introduction of palliative measures like specific changes or additions to the diet can help reduce the appearance of symptoms. This approach can be beneficial as a short-term solution and should only be taken under the guidance of a qualified professional.

For long-term relief of symptoms, a pañchakarma treatment is recommended to manage the doshas.

How Doshas Are Managed

The law of ‘like increases like, and opposites decrease’ is a guiding principle in management of the doshas. When you use substances and activities that are similar to the doshas their levels increase. When you use substances and activities that are opposite in nature to the doshas their levels decrease.

While it is highly beneficial to manage the doshas by making such adjustments to bring about homeostasis, there is another more effective method to relieve the body of discomfort and symptoms of disease.

Cleansing doshas from the body through the process of pañchakarma provides a more complete, long-term resolution to health problems with a far greater impact on reestablishing health and building resilience to disease.

The medically-supervised pañchakarma that we offer at MD Ayurveda gives you the opportunity to engage in western medicine and make use of western diagnostic methods while also receiving the holistic therapies of pañchakarma.

Ready to get started? Need more information? Call to speak with us today or if you’d rather, fill out the contact form below. Together, let’s improve the quality of your life!


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