CHAPTER 3: THE 3 DOSHAS & 20 TATTVAS
3.1 Tridosha Siddhanta
Your dosha is essential to your bodily composition. Twentieth century literature suggests the “Three-Dosha Theory“, which talks about how different times of the day, dietary habits, and seasons can influence these doshas.
According to Ayurveda, health exists when there is a balance between the three fundamental elements or doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Doshas are what ultimately create your physical body. They are responsible for your growth, health, and well being. One of the three doshas (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) tends to be more dominant than others, and determines the mind body type. Your daily practice can be tweaked as per your habits, emotional fluctuation, and body type. Many Ayurvedic treatments target the excess of any one dosha through powerful herbs or general lifestyle improvements, such as pranayama, meditation and yoga.
There’s a simple way to understand the differences in these Dosha types. Take the scenario of passengers waiting for a delayed train. Those who are of a dominant Vata dosha may panic, and repeatedly check train timings. The Pitta group, on the other hand, will use their time to advantage by making an important phone call or reading a book. Finally, the Kapha group are more inclined to relax while waiting. These are baseline characteristics of those of different doshas.
The doshas are derived from the five states of matter: ether, earth, water, air and fire. Each of these have differentiating features (physical and abstract) that characterise people of the said dosha type.
3.2 The Vata Dosha
Vata can be translated as “something that moves things.” Vata is generally referred to as vayu (wind) in the body.
The first dosha or Vata is made up of Air and Ether as its base elements. It is the motivating force behind the doshas to move and function.
According to Ayurveda, vata is responsible for our mental and physical well-being. It is the energizing force of your body, soul and mind. It is also responsible for governing our nervous system, bones, and other senses like touch and hearing.
When vata is in perfect balance with your prakruti (your natural metabolic constitution), your body and mind are coordinated and in balance. Vata allows you to easily contemplate hidden thoughts, feelings and actions. Your breath supports your nervous system, and there is a condition of homeostasis between tissues and organs. Every movement of your life force (prana) is regulated by vata, and this function allows you to easily inhale and exhale.
Qualities: dry, rough, cold, light, subtle, mobile, clear
Physical characteristics of those Vata dosha include:
- Light-colored eyes and small shape
- Light frame; either very tall or very short
- Hypermobile joints
- Veins can be easily seen beneath the skin
- Fine and smooth hair
- May have large upper body and small lower body or vice versa
- Skin is often dry
- Nose may appear too big or too small in relation to other facial features
- Lips are generally irregular or thin
3.3 The Pitta Dosha
Pitta in Sanskrit translates to warmth or transformation.
Secondly, the Pitta is made of fire and water as base elements. Also called the ‘fiery dosha’, it controls the digestion, metabolism, and external sensations which the body reacts to, through biochemical processes. It enables proper assimilation of consumed food, flushes out unnecessary toxins, and controls hunger, thirst, vision and hearing.
Qualities: oily, sharp, hot, light, moving, liquid, and acidic
The Pitta effect on the Mind and Body: People with Pitta dosha are energetic, ambitious, but also prone to aggression. They are well-focussed and have leadership qualities.
The physical characteristics of Pitta Dosha include:
- Medium height; well developed
- Highly developed muscular system
- Skin is reddish to yellow, soft, greasy, warm; with a tendency to develop freckles in summer and get blemishes easily
- Soft, greasy, blond hair; with premature greying
- Nails are healthy and pink
- Weight gain and loss are easy and quick
- Deep voice
3.4 The Kapha Dosha
The primary function of Kapha is protection and coverage.
The third dosha, or Kapha, is made of Water and Earth as base elements. Kapha is responsible for the body structure. It holds cells together, forming muscles, fat and bones. Kapha’s bio-energy acts as the structure-forming principle for an organism and is mainly associated with cohesion and stability. It gives great strength and endurance to the body. Kapha is involved in the development of various sorts of tissues. In the body, Kapha is responsible for solidness of the body structure along with maintaining the right amount of body fluids. It is made of water and earth as base elements.
Qualities: heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily
Physical characteristics of Kapha Dosha:
- Heavy, Robust Physical Build, Well-proportioned
- Puts On Weight Quickly; Often Overweight
- Smooth Skin, might have few Wrinkles
- Strong and dense hair
- Deep Pleasant Voice
- Supple joints
3.5 Coexistence of Tridosha in your body
YOUR BODY IS A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF THE THREE DOSHIC ENERGIES. FUNDAMENTALLY – PITTA IS OUR METABOLISM, KAPHA IS OUR STRUCTURE, AND VATA IS THE MOBILITY THAT BRINGS ACTION AND LIFE INTO CREATION. WITHOUT ALL THREE ENERGIES, OUR EXISTENCE IS IMPOSSIBLE.
Tridoshic balance is crucial to living a healthy and balanced life. The three doshas work as a team, together in governing all metabolic activities, namely: anabolism (Kapha), catabolism (Vata) and metabolism (Pitta). The permutations and combinations between these three doshas can form up to ten different constitutions in humans. However, this combination remains unchanged throughout an individual’s lifetime and indicates a person’s inherent qualities. It also responds to environmental changes such as diet and lifestyle.
The physical, emotional, and spiritual evaluation identifies the imbalance of energies in a person’s body as well as helps in recognizing the areas of imbalance. Once the nature of the person and the imbalances are identified, it can be easily corrected through different combinations of appropriate diet, herbs, aromas, colors, yoga and meditation aimed at restoring balance and health.
3.6 Signs of Dosha Aggravation
3.6.1 Vata Dosha Imbalance
The symptoms of Vata imbalance include:
- Constipation and gas formation
- Dry and rough skin
- General body pains and lethargy
- Astringent taste in the mouth
- Feeling of fatigue
- Disturbed or lack of sleep
- Anxiousness, nervousness, agitation, impatience
- Feeling confused and ungrounded
- Excessive movement like talking, incessant eating
The effects of Vata imbalance comprise of:
- Joint pains and stiffness
- Frequent Headaches
- Food and water Retention
- Excessive Weight loss
- Dryness in skin
3.6.2 Pitta dosha Imbalance
Symptoms of pitta dosha imbalance include:
- Excessive and frequent thirst or hunger
- Heartburn and acidity
- Burning sensation in eyes, hands and sole
- Hot flushes in body
- Skin rashes and acne
- Nausea and loose motions
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Sensitivity to heat and desire for a cool environment
- Judgmental or criticizing tendencies
- Anger, irritability and aggressive behaviour
- Impatience, restlessness and frustration
Effects of pitta dosha imbalance include:
- Hyperacidity and hypertension
- Frequent burning sensation
- Skin rashes, acne, and boils
3.6.3 Kapha dosha Imbalance
Symptoms of Kapha imbalance:
- Lethargy and excessive sleep
- Reduced appetite, nausea
- Water retention
- Congestion, excess mucus formation
- Difficulty in breathing
- Sweetness in mouth
- Feeling lack of support or love, possessiveness
Effects of Kapha imbalance include:
- Obesity and Swellings
- Water retention and bloating
- Excess mucus production
3.7 Balancing your Doshas
Having understood the adverse effects of Dosha imbalance, it is essential to balance these out in the right proportions to lead a healthy and optimal life.
3.7.1 Balancing your Vata Dosha:
- Follow a healthy and well maintained routine
- Eat seasonal foods
- Inclusion of fat in your meals
- Managing stress efficiently
- Slow down your workout
- Spending time in the Sun
- Walking barefoot on grass
3.7.2 Balancing Your Pitta Dosha
- Eat cooling and refreshing foods
- Avoid skipping meals
- Reduce your coffee and alcohol intake
- Limit heat-generating activities
- Focus on self-care
- Be near water and drink enough water
- Stay close to nature – plants, sky and earth
3.7.3 Balancing Your Kapha Dosha
- Exercise daily
- Reduce dairy and wheat consumption
- Concentrate on your breathing and meditation
- Inhale sufficient fresh air
- Limit your sugar intake
- Avoid food which have extreme tastes
The word Tattva is a sanskrit one meaning ‘reality’, or ‘truth’. According to Shaivite philosophy, there are 25 tattvas that explain the reality and nature of the universe. These consist of 24 elements of the soul and universe, in addition to the atom, or soul itself, which forms the 25th.
Antahkarana (or consciousness) is the first tattva. This is comprised of the intellect, ego, and mind, and literally translates to the ‘inner organ’. This is initially formed when the buddhi or mind develops an external sense of self. This is experienced through the manas (sensory mind). The indriyas (sense organs and active organs, tanmatras (subtle elements) and mahabhutas (gross elements) evolve from individual consciousness.
Secondly, you have the the five sense organs, or jnanendriya. These include the nose, tongue, eyes, skin and ears. They form a sattvik or sensory purpose.
Following the jnanendriya are the karmendriya, or five motor organs. They are action-oriented or rajasic in nature, and include the anus, leg, hand, mouth, and sexual organs.
Next is the tanmatra, or the five subtle elements. These comprise of smell, taste, form, touch and sound, and perform a tamasic (material) purpose.
Finally in the list of tattvas are the five gross elements, also known as the Mahabhuta. These form the material basis of our immediate world. They work in coordination with the tanmatra to create an entire experience of the individual. Earth, water, fire, air and ether make up this category.
After going through Doshas and Tattvas the next chapter takes a more large-scale approach into the universe. Take a look at Chapter 4 here.
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