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Principles of Ayurveda

The Tridoshas

 
The Tridoshas (tri meaning three and doshas being the basic physical energies) are the primary and essential factors of the human body that govern our entire physical structure and function. Derived from the Panchmahabhutas, each dosha – which like the elements cannot be detected with our senses but their qualities can be – is a combination of any two of the five bhutas with the predominance of one. Called Vata, Pitta and Kapha in Sanskrit, these three are responsible for all the physiological and psychological processes within the body and mind – dynamic forces that determine growth and decay. Every physical characteristic, mental capacity and the emotional tendency of a human being can therefore be explained in terms of the tridoshas.
 
Most of the physical phenomena ascribed to the nervous system by modern physiology for example, can be identified with Vata. Just as the entire chemical process operating in the human body can be attributed to Pitta, including enzymes, hormones and the complete nutritional system. And the activities of the skeletal and the anabolic system, actually the entire physical volume of an organism, can be considered as Kapha.
 


Vata
(Air and Space)


Pitta
(Fire and Water)

Kapha
(Water and Earth)
Light Light Heavy
Cold Hot Cold
Dry Oily Oily
Rough Sharp Slow
Subtle Liquid Slimy
Mobile Sour Dense
Clear Pungent Soft
 
Each dosha thus shares a quality with another (although there remain slight differences in the nature of shared quality), the third having just the opposite quality. Also, each has an inherent ability to regulate and balance itself, coming from the antagonistic qualities that arise from the doshas constituent elements.
 
When the doshas are in balance i.e. in a state of equilibrium, we remain healthy. As Charaka, the great ayurvedic sage, explained: "Vata, pitta and kapha maintain the integrity of the living human organism in their normal state and combine so as to make the man a complete being with his indriyas (sense organs) possessed of strength, good complexion and assured of longevity." It is only when that there is imbalance within the three that disease is caused. And since it is the strongest dosha in the constitution that usually has the greatest tendency to increase, one is most susceptible to illnesses associated with an increase of the same.
 
It is important to realise that these three are forces and not substances. Kapha is not mucus; it is the force that causes mucus to arise. Similarly pitta is not bile; but that which causes bile to be produced. And they are called doshas – literally meaning `faults’ or `out of whack’- as they indicate the fault lines along which the system can become imbalanced.
 
It is equally important to understand that the three doshas within any person keep changing constantly, due to the doshic qualities of specific lifestyle and environment, such as time and season. And that these three are not separate energies but different aspects of the same energy, present together in an infinite variety of combinations, wherein their qualities overlap and interrelate.
 
Ayurveda however considers only three types of constitution – in monotypes just one dosha predominates, in duo types two have near similar strength, and in the very rarely found third type all three are equally powerful. Within this broad classification, there are in the first category various sub-types that are listed below for easier reference.