theory of tridosha

The study of modern medical science starts with the germ theory, cells, their functions etc. But the Ayurvedic healing system uses the tridosha concept as its foundation. Ayurveda believes that the state of health and illness revolves around Tridosha.

Tridosha is a unique concept of Ayurveda which defines the three fundamental principles namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These energies or principles is behind the functioning of every living being and its misbalance causes all the diseases.

Theory of tridosha is one of the main factors which makes Ayurveda prestigious and separates from the other medical sciences.

Tridosha theory as it allows for personalised treatment for each person.

The understanding of the doshas is the first and vital step to comprehend and apply the principles of Ayurveda in daily life.

What is Tridosha?

Tridosha is the basic structural and functional entities of the body. Ayurveda believes that every matter is made up of five basic elements (air, space, water, earth and fire). It is these five elements which transform into the form of energy in the body. Thus the bio-energies formed are known as doshas.

 Doshas are three in number called Tridoshas (tri = three). These three principles support life and are more than the material substances of our body.

The three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha, are made of five essential elements with the dominance of two. These three doshas are responsible for all the physiological and psychological processes within the body and mind.

These are the forces which determine the growth and decay of the body. Tridosha explains the human body in terms of physical, mental and emotional aspects.

Why should we know Doshas?

 Dosha in Sanskrit means ‘that which is quick to vitiate’. Doshas imply that it maintains a delicate balance between order & disorder. It implies that doshas are always on the verge of upheaval. Therefore, it is up to us to keep the doshas in the right order to maintain health.

In a balanced state, doshas are the force of energy which moves through the body and carries out all bodily functions. We cannot visibly detect this form of energy.

In a state of imbalance, doshas become visible as excessive mucus, bile, flatus and other body substances. If these early signs of disorders are ignored, imbalances can quickly become a full-blown disease.

Doshas are not physical substances but are forces. Neither Kapha is mucus nor Pitta is bile, but they are the forces which give rise to phlegm and bile.

It is essential to realise that doshas keep continually changing due to specific factors. Balanced doshas result in health while imbalanced doshas cause disease.

Qualities of Tridosha

Doshas like the five essential elements cannot be detected with our senses, but their qualities can be. The best way to understand dosha is by its features. We can observe the qualities of Tridosha very easily in our own body.

Qualities of Vata dosha

  • Lightness – Air & space elements dominate Vata, so it is light. In the body, lightness can be felt in the stomach when food digests completely.
  • Dryness – In the body, it can be seen as dry skin, dry and cracked foot, dry lips etc.
  • Coldness – Coldness leads to dryness. Therefore, during winter, the skin becomes dry.
  • Roughness – Dry quality of Vata causes roughness.
  • Minuteness – Due to the presence of space and air elements, Vata can enter through smallest and deepest of body channels.
  • Movement – Vata causes all subtle and gross body movements such as locomotion, excretion, circulation, shivering etc.

Qualities of Pitta dosha

  • Slightly oily- It helps to increase digestive fire and makes the food soft in the same way when we add oil to food while cooking.
  • Penetrating – Pitta reaches molecular levels of food and breaks it for digestion.
  • Hot – As Pitta is dominant in fire and water elements, hotness is the primary quality.
  • Lightness – This is due to the water part of Pitta
  • Unpleasant smell – By nature, Pitta has a specific odour which gives a different smell to every person.
  • Fluidity – This gives Pitta flowing character, which is useful to cover each molecule of food for digestion.

Qualities of Kapha dosha

  • Oiliness – This provides moisture and softness to the body. Hence, it keeps the union of molecules for long, e.g. lubricates joints, tissues, oily food increase kapha.
  • Cold – Due to coldness body elements are preserved for long, and degeneration slows down. That is why people of the cold region are of muscular built and have a longer life span.
  • Heavy – This leads to weight gain. Like during cold and flu head feels heavy due to increase in kapha.
  • Slow – Kapha has a leisurely activity and reduces exciting or irritated state, e.g. feeling lazy or working slow is the influence of kapha.
  • Slimy – To prevent wear and tear of tissues, it covers the outer covering of body walls. It gives protection and support.
  • Stable – This makes the body tissues stable and is opposite of mobile nature of Vata

               e.g., stiffness of the body during cold seasons.

All medicines and food items work based on their qualities. Any quality of dosha may increase or decrease in the imbalanced state. To balance doshas, diet and drugs having different attributes to that of dosha act as remedies.

Similarly, doshas get influenced by seasons and daily changes, e.g. cold season increases Vata while hot food and comfort decrease the cold quality of Vata Dosha.

How does Tridosha dominate body?

Doshas pervade the entire body, but the primary sites are in the lower, middle and upper parts of the body. Doshas dominate specific body parts as per their functions.

Kapha is mainly found in upper parts of the body like head, neck, thorax, chest, the upper part of the abdomen, fatty tissues and joints because kapha governs the body’s structure and stability.

Pitta mainly resides in the middle area of the body, i.e. chest, navel area, stomach, small intestine, sweat glands, eyes, skin.

Vata dominates the lower body parts such as pelvic region, urinary bladder and tract, legs, arms and bones.

Types & Function

Apart from the main sites of doshas, they work in the other areas of the body, based on which each dosha can be categorised into five types. Thus, each dosha has its main sites, which are its centre of operation and continues to interact with the other body systems for the maintenance of life.

Vata

Vata is the motivating force of life in the body. It

  • Controls all body movements
  • Controls activities of mind like thinking, analysing, decision-making etc.
  • Helps sense organs in the perception of senses
  • Regulates speech
  • Fans up the digestive fire
  • Expels waste out of body
  • Maintains body tissues

Vata is divided into five types, which influences the whole body. Their action and location can differentiate them.

Vata Location Action
Prana Head, throat1. Maintains intelligence, mind, sense organs
2. Aids in respiration, chewing, swallowing
Udana Throat, nose, navel area1. Provides vocal powers
2. Preserves memory, energy, strength, enthusiasm
Vyana Heart1. All movements like circulation, rapid eye movement
2. Yawning, blinking
3. Diffuses energy from food and breath to the whole body
Samana Stomach & Intestines  1. Receives food into the digestive tract,fans the digestive fire and digests food
2. Separates waste from nutrientsAssimilation of food
Apana Pelvis, bladder, external genitals, thighs1. Expels faeces, urine, flatus, semen, menstrual product

Pitta

Pitta normally is concerned with,

  • Digestion& metabolism
  • Generation of body heat
  • Vision, thirst, hunger, lustre
  • Retention of memory, intellect & strength
  • Softness of body

Pitta influences the entire body by its five faculties,

Pitta Location Action
Pachaka Stomach, intestines1. Dissolves & digests food
2. Regulates body temperatureSupports other four pitta
Ranjaka Liver, spleen1. Controls formation of bloodColours the blood red
Sadhaka Heart1. Retains memory
2. Controls emotions and other mental functions
Alochaka Eyes1. Provides of power of sight
2. Discriminates between the objects we see
Bhrajaka Skin1. Give natural lustre to the skin

Kapha

Actions of kapha are:

  • Body stability & strength
  • Stability of joints
  • Provides moisture
  • Qualities of forbearance, understanding, greedlessness

The five types of kapha in the body are,

Kapha Location Action
Avalambaka Chest, throat  1. Gives covering to heart & acts as a shock absorber
2. Supports limbsControls body fluids
Kledaka Stomach1. Forms mucus in body which mixes with food and softens it
Bodhaka Tongue1. Helps in the perception of taste
Tarpaka Head1. Nourishes sense organs & promotes proper functioning
Shleshaka Joints1. Protects and lubricates joints, makes them flexible

How do doshas decide your body type?

Since birth, every human has a varying degree of each dosha, as all three doshas function together and express the life of each person uniquely. An individual’s constitution from birth is known as Prakriti.

Prakriti is the arrangement of doshas in the body. It represents a combination of physical and physiological features of doshas.

This unique combination of doshas expresses the features of a person. Features include a general description of the physical body, behaviour, lifestyle preferences, memory, communication style etc.

When these doshas are in their original arrangement, i.e. in Prakriti person enjoys health wellness and happiness. Prakriti is specific for each person. It helps in detecting imbalances affecting the health.

Knowledge of Prakriti helps in identifying correct diet, lifestyle and medical therapies for each person.

How to know if your Tridoshas are imbalanced?

Ayurveda believes that doshas are indeed the sole cause of all diseases. Prakriti, i.e. the same state of doshas leads to health, whereas imbalance leads to disease.

Talking about imbalance, it means that one of the doshas suppresses the other doshas and dominates. This suppression can be due to one dosha or the combination of two doshas.

Doshas are always moving and get imbalanced regularly but within the limits of health. Doshas keep increasing and decreasing due to time, age, season, during food digestion at certain times a day. This imbalance does typically not cause any problems.

 Vata is dominant during old age, the season of fall, during the late afternoon, during the later part of digestion. Pitta is powerful during middle age, summer, midday, midnight, and middle of digestion. Kapha is more during childhood, spring, late morning, evening and start of digestion.

To recognise any imbalance, we must look at the changes in the qualities of each dosha. Over time, dosha imbalance can result from improper diet and lifestyle, poor digestion, stress, factors such as chemicals, pollution etc.

Imbalance of dosha occurs in two ways; either they increase or decrease highly. Here increase or decrease is not in their quantity but their quality functions. This imbalance gives rise to specific signs and symptoms in the body, which makes us alert towards any upcoming disease.

Vata Imbalance

Due to various factors, Vata gets imbalanced and causes the following results.

Increased Vata Decreased Vata
Lean body
Black discolouration of the skin
The desire for hot things
Tremors, the fullness of stomach,
constipation
Loss of sleep
Irrelevant talk
Giddiness, feeling intense unhappiness
Weakness
Feeble speech
Decreased body movements
Loss of consciousness

Pitta Imbalance

Following signs indicates an imbalance of Pitta dosha:

Increased Pitta Decreased Pitta
Excessively yellow faeces, urine, eyes, skin
Increased hunger, thirst, burning sensation
Craving for cold
Decrease in sleep
Expression of anger, hate, jealousy, envy, pride, frustration
Fear of failure
Sarcastic speech
Weak digestion
Feeling cold
Loss of lustre in the skin
Irregular bowels

Kapha Imbalance

Imbalance in kapha results in following signs& symptoms:

Increased Kapha Decreased Kapha
Upset Stomach
Increased salivation, pallor
Looseness & heaviness of the body
Lethargy, cold feeling
Excessive sleep
Obesity, nausea
Lack of compassion
Greedy & unkind behaviour
Giddiness
Body ache
Dry mouth
Cramps in joints

By the above signs & symptoms, we can know which of the doshas in our body have got imbalanced.

How to treat imbalanced doshas?

Once the doshas get imbalanced, to avoid illness, they should be brought back to normal. To get balanced doshas treatment procedures need to be applied.

As Ayurveda offers many remedies, it is again doshas which decides the line of treatment. The treatment is planned as per the changing qualities of the doshas involved in causing diseases.

By checking the signs & symptoms and change in qualities of body, the causative doshas could be determined. To counteract the increased or decreased doshas treatment of opposite qualities should be administered.

The treatment principle is very simple in Ayurveda and is based on the fact that like increases like whereas opposite decreases.

Treatment of Vata disorders

Vata plays an essential role in arthritis, osteoporosis, low blood pressure, chronic insomnia, depression etc. Imbalanced Vata should be treated by drugs having sweet, sour, saline tastes, unctuous & hot qualities.

Therapies like oleation, sweating treatment, decoction & oil enema, nasal drops, massage, a sprinkling of oil should be administered.

Treatment of Pitta disorders

Common conditions in which Pitta is involved include acne, skin disorders, inflammatory disease, ulcers, hyperacidity, hypertension etc.

Pitta is treated with drugs of sweet, bitter tastes & of cooling qualities. Purgation therapy, oleation, application of ointments should be done.

Treatment of Kapha disorders

Kapha is involved in obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, oedema, tumours, asthma, cold etc.

The disease should be treated with herbs having a bitter, pungent & astringent taste. Medicines & treatment having sharp, hot & dry qualities should be implemented.

Procedures like sweating therapy, emesis, exercise, nasal drops application should be followed.

For proper treatment and diagnosis, knowledge of doshas is vital. Without knowing doshas, there is no use of any medication in Ayurveda.

Doshas – Key to Health

Ayurveda has always emphasised on prevention. To prevent the disease and abnormalities in the body, we must keep doshas under control.

Knowledge of qualities & actions of balanced and imbalanced doshas will undoubtedly help know the state of our body’s dosha.

Knowledge of doshas also helps us in choosing correct medicine and food and helps in diagnosing disease. We must follow the rules of Ayurveda to keep doshas in control.

After all, doshas are the key to good health.