All living organisms have vata, pitta and kapha in their bodies. There is no life without these elements.
However, each of us possesses them in different proportions, which accounts for the difference in our appearances, behavioural patterns, emotional tendencies, likes/dislikes and other characteristics.
Based on the proportions, Ayurveda categorises humans into seven primary body types or physiological constitution: vata, pitta and kapha, vata-pitta, vata-kapha, pitta-kapha, vata-pitta-kapha.
The constitution of an individual is determined at the time of fertilisation. The activities of the mother during pregnancy too contribute to its formation. The constitution of a person doesn’t change in a life time—it’s his prakrithi.
Factors such as solar, lunar and seasonal cycles, and lifestyle cause imbalances in the doshas. Such imbalances are known as vikrithi or acquired imbalance and manifest as a disease.
The objective of a treatment in Ayurveda is to balance these imbalanced doshas—to bring them back to their natural equilibrium based on their prakrithi.
How time affects doshas
Imbalance of a dosha takes place several times in a day. For example:
- From 6am – 10am, kapha rises, which may manifest as itching/allergy.
- From 10am – 2pm, pitta rises, leading to increase in acidity.
- From 2pm – 6pm, vata rises, which is experienced as increase in aches and pains.
- From 6pm – 10pm, kapha rises again.
- From 10pm – 2 am, pitta rises again.
- From 2am – 6 am, kapha increases again.
How season affects doshas
Solstices and seasons too influence our doshas. For instance: when it is dewy and in spring, there is an imbalance of kapha; in summer, the kapha balances and vata rises; in the rainy season, there is an imbalance of both pitta and vata; in autumn, vata balances, and pitta imbalances; and in winter, pitta balances.
If you have a weak immune system, then the imbalance of a dosha may manifest as disease depending the season. For instance, if you have a weak system, and it is spring, the natural kapha imbalance may manifest as respiratory tract problems.
How taste affects doshas
Even foods/beverages of different tastes affect the doshas. The sweet taste leads to an increase in kapha, and balance in pitta and vata; the sour taste increases kapha and pitta and balances vata; the spicy taste increases vata and pitta and balances kapha; the bitter taste leads to increased vata and balanced pitta and kapha; the astringent taste causes vata to rise and pitta and kapha to balance.
The imbalanced doshas can be balanced using two approaches:
- Pacify the doshas within the body through medications/food/lifestyle changes.
- Purify the doshas from the body through panchakarma procedures.
Ayurveda balances the doshas with herbs and lifestyle modifications. It understands the qualities, tastes, or other causes of dosha imbalance and uses the opposite qualities, tastes, and potencies to balance them. Therefore, everything in the universe—a root or a fruit of a plant or even breeze flowing from a particular direction—can be used as a medicine.
Strive to balance your doshas. If your doshas are in equilibrium, you will be in your natural element.
This was first published in the May 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.