Vata, pitta and Kapha are known as doshas in Ayurveda; they are the underlying principles that govern the nature, transformation and structure of the physical universe. Each dosha is composed of two of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth) and it is the specific combination of these elements that determines each doshas characteristic qualities and ultimately their overall effect in nature. Every object in the natural world is composed of the elements of vata, pitta and kapha and it is the relative proportion of each dosha or element that determines its uniqueness and differentiates it from another objects.
Vata is composed of the elements of air and space and its qualities are light, subtle, moving, cold, dry, hard and rough. Vata governs movement in the mind and body. Pitta is composed of the elements of fire and water and its qualities are hot, acidic, sour and sharp. Pitta governs transformation in the mind and body, whether it’s the digestion, assimilation and metabolism of food and water into energy or the digestion and assimilation of thoughts and ideas into actions. Kapha is composed of the elements of earth and water and its qualities are heavy, cold, slow, binding, sticky and smooth. Kapha is responsible for the density and structure of our body.
A person with a predominance of Vata dosha walks more quickly, has a lighter build and has colder and dryer skin than someone with a predominance of Pitta or Kapha dosha in their constitution. Vata-type people also tend to have very quick, agile minds and can be very creative. However, if their constitution goes out of balance through excessive movement or irregularity they can suffer from feelings of restlessness, boredom, fear, stress and anxiety. This may manifest in the body as poor circulation, cold hands and feet, constipation and dry skin.
A person with more Pitta in their constitution has a hotter, fierier, more dynamic personality. They have lots of energy, high ambitions, sharp intellects and good leadership qualities. However, if they go out of balance and their innate ‘fire’ becomes too high they can quickly become angry, stressed and frustrated. They generally have a strong digestive fire and immune system but when they slip out of balance they can develop rashes, ulcers, acid stomachs and heart problems.
A person with a predominance of Kapha dosha in their constitution is generally slower, heavier, calmer and more grounded than either Pitta or Vata. They are caring, loving, forgiving individuals with a placid, easy-going nature. They have strong, solid bodies but can suffer from weight gain, lethargy and heaviness when they are out of balance.
With an understanding of the qualities inherent in the elements that combine to make up the three doshas we are able to keep the doshas in balance in our own bodies and thereby remain healthy, happy and free from dis-ease. Any excessive increase in any of the qualities present in our doshic make-up will tend to aggravate that dosha and will lead to imbalance. To decrease a quality we need to increase its opposite quality. Thus, is we are a predominantly Vata body-type and we become excessively cold or are exposed to noisy, busy environments with excess movement we will soon become imbalanced and un-grounded. If we immediately introduce the opposite qualities of warmth or calmness and quietness we will soon bring ourselves back into a grounded, more balanced state. Similarly, for a Pitta person, who has a predominance of heat, the opposing quality of coldness will bring them back into balance. A Kapha person, who has a predominance of heaviness, will be balanced by the opposing quality of lightness.