The Tridosha System
Vayu (Vata), Pitta and Kapha together form the three Doshas. If they are in unbalance they will destruct the body; if in balance they sustain it.
–Astanga Hradayam, 1:6
Doshas (also called Tridosha) are the three vital energies in Ayurveda and simplify the rather complex system of the ﬁve elements (ﬁre, water, earth, ether and air, ) that the sages used to explain the ayurvedic principles. They are the basis of any system in nature. Every Dosha consists of two of those ﬁve elements with one dominating and one subordinate element. These Doshas can be seen as the dynamic forces responsible for all the processes within our body and mind. They describe physical characteristics as well as mental preferences and Ayurveda aims to keep the Doshas in balance as an overly strong inﬂuence of one Dosha can cause all kinds of undesirable conditions. Their names Vata, Pitta and Kapha are Sanskrit terms that are difﬁcult to translate to Western languages so they are best described by their features and effects on body and mind:
- Air, Ether—the movement principle. Light, cold, dry, mobile, subtle and rough.
- Fire, Water—the energy principle. Light, hot, greasy, sharp and ﬂuid.
- Water, Earth—the structure principle. Heavy, cold, greasy, stable and softening.
To easily understand the Doshas, think of a car: it wheels which give the car its mobility; this is “Vata”. It has an internal combustion engine which creates the energy to move the car; this is “Pitta”. And it has a chassis that provides the overall structure of the car; this is “Kapha”.
Trying to understand the Doshas you should try and feel the inﬂuences of them. For example, a windy day would add Vata energy to the overall balance, because it has a cooling and drying inﬂuence. There are two main inﬂuences that can imbalance one’s Doshas:
- the time of the day and the season (eg. noon promotes Pitta)
- the personal lifestyle (covering habits like eating or exercise and sensory experiences)
To keep your Doshas in balance you ﬁrst have to ﬁnd out which Dosha or combination of them is dominant in your body. Preferably this would be determined by an experienced practitioner of Ayurveda. However, in the Western World those specialists might be hard to ﬁnd at times, but you can determine your dominant Dosha through careful observation. Our Dosha Test should help you telling you a certain tendency, but no one knows you as good as you do. Once you start observing yourself it will get easier to see the inﬂuences that steer your actions, thoughts and feelings. Understanding them (and thus yourself) better helps immensely to stay in control and keep your life in balance.