Three Doshas

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By Sangeetha Rajah

There are three doshas in our body, namely Vaata, Pitta and Kapha. Our overall health depends on the balance of these three entities in our body. Though present all over the body, each dosha occupies certain locations in the body. Based on the various functions they perform, each dosha is divided into five sub-doshas.

The nature and characteristics of the three doshas are described below:

Vaata

The word Vaata is derived from the Sanskrit root Va gatigandhanayoh. The word gati means movement. So Vaata is the initiator of all life processes that are dynamic in nature. It is similar to the air/wind and possesses the following six qualities.

  1. Rooksha – dry
  2. Laghu – light
  3. Seeta – cold
  4. Khara – rough
  5. Sukshma – subtle (capable of passing through even the subtlest pore)
  6. Chala – moving, unstable

It represents the impulse in the communication network of the body – from brain to periphery, from tissue to tissue and from cell to cell. Vaata is responsible for perception (pain), transmission and reaction. It brings a thought from the memory to consciousness, and transfers current experiences into memories. It inspires speech and is the base for laughter. In human physiology Vaata governs all such functions that involve somatic initiation and dynamism. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind.

Vaata governs breathing, blinking of the eyelids, movements in the muscles and tissues, pulsations in the heart, all expansions and contractions, the movements of cytoplasm and the cell membranes, and the movement of the single impulses in nerve cells. Vaata also governs feelings and emotions like freshness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, pain, tremors, and spasms.

Vaata is composed of Vaayu and Aakaasa. The proportion of these two elements determine how active Vaata is. The amount of ether (space) affects the ability of the air to gain momentum. If unrestricted, as in ocean, air can gain momentum and become forceful, like a hurricane.

Location of Vaata

Though all pervading by nature, Vaata has some specific locations in our body. They are the rectum and large intestine, urinary bladder, pelvic region, bones and bone marrow, ears and skin. Of these, the colon and large intestine are the main seats of Vaata. If vaata dosha increases in our body, it gets accumulated in these locations.

Vaata Kaala

Generally, Vaata dosha predominates at the end of digestion, at night and at old age.

Types of Vaata

The five types of Vaata based on location and functions are given in the following table.

VAATA LOCATION FUNCTIONS
Praana Vaata Head governs the mind, intelligence, inspiration, chest, throat, heart, sense organs, expectorating, sneezing, belching and swallowing of food.
Udaana Vaata Chest controls the nose, navel and throat, and is responsible for initiating speech, effort, enthusiasm, capacity to work, complexion, and memory.
Vyaana Vaata Heart regulates all body movements including walking, raising and lowering of the body parts, and opening and closing the eyes.
Samaana Vaata Navel It works in the alimentary tract and other abdominal organs, holds food in the alimentary tract (absorbing nutrients and excreting wastes), helps digest food, separate nutrients from waste, and eliminates the waste.
Apaana Vaata Colon controls the waist, bladder, genitals, and thighs. Its main function is downward movement of wastes (feces, urine), reproductive fluid, menstrual fluid, also controls the downward movement of the fetus.

Pitta

The word Pitta is derived from the Sanskrit words Tapah Santaape, which means burning or heat. Pitta dosha governs all transformations in the physiology, from the digestion of food to the metabolizing of feelings, emotions and sensory perceptions.

Pitta is similar to fire and comprises of the basic elements Agni and very less moisture (Jala). The seven qualities of Pitta are

  1. Sasneha – with moisture
  2. Teekshnam – penetrating
  3. Ushnam – hot
  4. Laghu - light
  5. Visram – possesses odour
  6. Saram – free flowing / viscous
  7. Dravam - liquid

Pitta is responsible for vision, maintenance of temperature, digestion, hunger, thirst, softness and suppleness, complexion, glow and metabolism at tissue levels. It increases heat and body temperature as well as appetite and thirst. It maintains the complexion, color and luster of skin.

It also controls psychological attributes like courage, fear, anger, ignorance or delusion or perplexity and composure of mind.

Location of Pitta

The main main sites of Pitta are the navel, body fluids, blood, sweat, skin, eyes and brain. Of these, the navel is considered important. Nabhi, or the navel, is the seat of Jatharaagni or the digestive fire.

Pitta Kaala

Pitta dosha is predominant during the day, in the middle of digestion and at middle age.

Types of Pitta

The following table explains the five types of Pitta, their locations and functions.

PITTA LOCATION FUNCTIONS
Paachaka Pitta Gastro-intestinal tract The fire digests and transforms food, emulsifying food fats and separating absorbable nutrients from wastes, nourishes the other four Pittas.
Ranjaka Pitta Liver, stomach, spleen small intestine synthesis of hemoglobin and imparting red color to the blood.
Saadhaka Pitta Head and brain mental function such as knowledge, intelligence and consciousness by maintaining rhythmic and cardiac contractions.
Aalochaka Pitta Eyes Its function is the perception of light.
Bhraajaka Pitta Skin keeps the skin warm and is responsible for its normal complexion and luster by keeping secretions from the sweat and sebaceous glands of the skin active.

Kapha

The word Kapha is derived from the Sanskrit root Slish which means to bind or hold together. Kapha dosha governs the structural integrity of the body, from giving it mass and stability to protecting it from the outside environment. It is the force which provides structure to everything, from an individual atom or cell to the sturdy musculoskeletal frame. It gives strength, stability, and endurance -- both physical and psychological -- and promotes human emotions and capacities such as love, compassion, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, loyalty and patience.

One very important function of Kapha dosha in the human body is that it governs immunity and resistance against disease. Its energy promotes self-healing and the ongoing processes of self-repairs of which we are largely unaware. The fluid component of Kapha is responsible for the maintenance and formation of body fluids. Because of its heavy and stable qualities, it is responsible for strength stability and firmness of body and mind. Because of its oily nature, it prevents friction between the two parts of the body.

In muscles, it gives strength to the body. In fact, it gives shape (form) to it. In the semen, it is responsible for fertility. The brain and nerve tissues predominantly contain Kapha molecules. Kapha of inferior quality in the brain produces a stab of ignorance, delusion, laziness and jealousy.

The seven qualities of kapha are

  1. Snigdha – unctuous
  2. Seeta – cool
  3. Guru – heavy
  4. Manda – lethargic / slow
  5. Slakshna – smooth
  6. Mrtsna – slimy
  7. Sthira - stable / solid

Location of Kapha

Kapha dosha is located in the chest, throat, head, stomach, fat, nose and tongue. Of these, the chest is considered important.

Kapha Kaala

Kapha is predominant at dawn, at the beginning of digestion and during childhood.

Types of Kapha

The five types of Kapha based on the locations and functions are as follows.

KAPHA LOCATION FUNCTIONS
Kledaka Kapha Stomach and intestines upto colon dilutes the food taken, and also helps the digestion and supports the Kapha elements to work properly throughout the body.
Avalambaka Kapha Chest supports and gives strength to the heart, lungs and bone cage of the body.
Bodhaka Kapha Oral cavity and throat helps to appreciate taste by the tongue, moisten the food for easy ingestion and digestion.
Tarpaka Kapha Cranial cavity supports the nutrition of the brain and nourishment of the sense organs.
Sleshaka Kapha All joints provides nutrition to the ends of the bones, prevents friction during joint movements, supports to constitute and strengthen the body.

References