The Three Doshas of Ayurveda

The ayurvedic qualities of Nature

The ancient ayurvedics observed Nature and agreed that there were some qualities – such as hot/cold, dry/moist, static/mobile, rough/smooth, dense/subtle – that were useful in medicine. These are the same qualities that are found in the body and mind, and in diseases. 

They realised that when some qualities in Nature increased, similar qualities in the body also increased. A naturally “warm” person, on a hot summer day, having a curry lunch, would start to feel uncomfortable and break out in sweat. And if repeated daily, that person might then break out in rashes or other inflammation. Then someone would prescribe “cooling” food and herbs, and the rashes would clear and the person felt better. 

Thus, the use of OPPOSITE qualities became the basic principle of therapy, or maintaining balance of health. 

The Three Body Types

The different qualities (gunas) were categorised into three practical principles of constitution (prakruti), called doshas. The three doshas are the principles by which ayurvedic medicine has been practised from ancient times until today. 

Everyone has the three doshas — But the ratios in each person are different from birth. 

Vata dosha

vata girl

Vata governs movement in the body, such as digestion, breath, nerves and muscles, elimination and childbirth. Vata’s qualities are cold, lightness, movement, dryness and roughness. A person with predominantly Vata prakruti is usually lightly built, physically and mentally active, creative and enthusiastic. 

Vata that is out of balance can cause anxiety, indecision, insomnia, bloating and wind, constipation, dry skin, cramps, and nervous and bone problems.

Vata is balanced by warm climate, taking warm nourishing foods, warm and sweet spices, using oils internally and externally to combat dryness, and having routine and stability in one’s lifestyle. 

Pitta dosha

pitta girl

Pitta governs digestion and metabolism in the digestive system and in every cell; its qualities are heat, sharpness, lightness, slight oilyness and flowing movement. A Pitta person often has a reddish or yellowish appearance, and tends to be cheerful, passionate, intelligent, and well-organised. 

Pitta that is out of balance can cause impatience, irritabilty and anger, inflammations, skin conditions, loose stools, eye problems and greying hair.

Balancing Pitta involves applying the qualities of “cooling.” Pitta people should eat cooling foods with fresh, bitter tastes, and do calming activities like yoga, meditation and walking in nature. 

Kapha dosha

kapha girl

Kapha gives strong structure, and governs growth and fluid metabolism in the body. Kapha has the qualities of coolness, heaviness, inertia and unwillingness to move, softness, denseness, stickiness. Kapha people tend to be of large build, with great strength, endurance and fertility. They are caring, loving, patient, and have a deep understanding of people. 

When out of balance, Kapha people can suffer from possessiveness, heavy depression, mucus and phlegm. Their combination of weak digestion, love of food, and tendency to inactivity often causes issues with excess weight.

To maintain healthy Kapha, they should prefer to eat warm, dry, light, spicy foods; and need regular, vigorous exercise.

Using the Concept of Doshas

Understanding the concept of doshas will help you understand yourself, and help you to choose diet and lifestyle that balances the doshas and maintains good health. This is a most powerful tool for staying healthy throughout your life.

If you need further help to understand your dosha constitution, and how to keep it in balance, have a consultation with Dr. Priya Punjabi, who has 30 years experience of Ayurveda. Call on (09) 829 2045 or email us.

Meet the Author

Dr Priya Punjabi

Dr. Priya Punjabi is a ranked Ayurvedic practitioner in New Zealand, having represented the nation on National TV and at the International Health Convention. Dr. Punjabi earned her Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) degree in 1989, at the prestigious University of Pune, under the Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya School.