Qualities Of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha – Easy Explanation

One of the biggest task for any beginner in Ayurveda is to get a good understanding of Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. While it takes at least 3 months of Ayurveda learning to understand Tridosha very clearly, there are some shortcuts as well. Here is the easiest way to understand Doshas. 

Understanding Tridosha qualities

How To Understand Tridosha?
The best way to understand doshas is by its qualities. You can observe the qualities of Tridosha very easily in your own body. Here’s how.

Vata Dosha qualities

Qualities of Vata Dosha are – dryness, Laghu – Lightness, Sheeta – coldness, Khara – roughness, Sookshma – minuteness, Chala – movement

Dryness – Any symptom in the body, that is associated with dryness is influenced by Vata. For example – Dry skin. Dry and cracked foot, Dry eye syndrome, dry lips etc. All the skin diseases with dryness as a feature are due to Vata Dosha.

Lightness – Because Vata Dosha is composed of Vayu (air) and Akasha (ether), it is naturally very light. So, whenever you feel there is lightness in the body, you can blindly assume that Vata is influencing your body. For example, at the end of the digestion process, your stomach will be feeling light. That lightness is due to Vata. This is why, in the last article, while learning about Dosha dominance,  we learnt that the last part of digestion process is influenced by Vata. Makes sense?

Coldness – Coldness and dryness are inter-connected. Like, during winter, your skin tends to feel dry. Notice that both cold and dry are Vata qualities. Whenever your hands or legs are feeling cold, you can assume that there is Vata increase. During winter, the sensation of pain will be more. Pain is a symptom of Vata, and coldness is increasing the Vata symptom.

Roughness – dryness and roughness exist with each other. Like roughness in lips, rough cracked foot, etc are characteristic of Vata activity.

Minuteness – Vata, being made of ether and air, it can penetrate through all the body channels, into deepest tissues.

Chala – movement – increase in movement is due to Vata.

  • For example, in extreme cold, your hands start to shiver. Coldness causing increased movement of limbs.
  • The movement of fluids, food, nutrients etc inside body, the gastrointestinal tract is due to Vata.
  • Locomotion activities such as walking, limb movements are due to Vata.
  • Anything that is related to movement is due to Vata.
  • Excretion of feces, urine etc are due to Vata only.
  • Vata body type person usually cannot keep his legs still. He will be moving his legs continuously.

Pitta Dosha qualities

Qualities of Pitta Dosha – Sasneha – slightly oily, unctuous, Teekshna – piercing, entering into deep tissues, Ushna – hotness, Laghu – lightness, Visram – bad smell, sara – having fluidity, movement, drava – liquidity are the qualities of Pitta.

Pitta Dosha can be compared to fire.

Slightly oily, unctuous – For a fire to burn, you would require some oil or ghee as fuel. If you add oil to fire, the fire would increase.

Piercing, penetrating – Because Pitta is made up of fire and water, it has the capacity to enter into deep body tissues.

Ushna – hotness – All the warm factors in the body is influenced by Pitta Dosha.

  • For example, digestion, body temperature etc.
  • All the metabolic activities also generate some amount of energy and hence are influenced by Pitta Dosha.
  • Whenever there is an increase in temperature, as in fever, there is an increase of Pitta in the body.

Lightness – because Pitta is made of water and fire components, and fire part is higher than the water part, lightness is also a quality of Pittha.

Bad smell – The bad breath problem is usually influenced by Pitta Dosha. The bad smell in feces and urine are also influenced by Pitta.

Fluidity, liquidity – are also qualities of Pitta. Pitta can be conceptualised as a liquid fuel burning.

Kapha Dosha qualities

Qualities of Kapha Dosha – Snigdhna – oily, unctuous, Sheeta – cold, Guru – heavy, Manda – mild, viscous, shlakshna – smooth, clear, Mrutsna – slimy, jelly, sthira – stability, immobility are the qualities of Kapha.

Oiliness and unctuousness – the oily factor brings in lubrication.

  • Hence all the lubrication factors in joints (synovial fluid), vertebral discs, cerebro-spinal fluid around the brain, pleural fluid etc are Kapha factors.
  • Oily skin is due to Kapha
  • Generally, all the oils, oily food stuff, deep fried food tend to increase Kapha.

Cold – is due to both Kapha and Vata Doshas.

  • Kapha is formed by water and earth matters.
  • Cold is a nature of water, hence it is a quality of Kapha as well.
  • Winter brings in respiratory diseases. Winter means cold, respiratory diseases are more commonly due to Kapha Dosha.
  • Cold food stuff like ice cream, cucumber, frozen food stuff increase Kapha.

Heavy – Wherever you can observe heaviness, there is a definite influence of Kapha. Like heaviness in head. Heavy body, or being overweight has the influence of Kapha.

Mild and viscous – delay in expressing feelings, delay in understanding etc are features of Kapha body type. Person with such body types will take a long time to make decisions. He usually walks slowly.

Smoothness, jelly – are qualities of Kapha.

Clear – clarity – is a quality of Kapha Dosha. usually, a person with Kapha body type, though may take a long time to understand and decide, his belief system will be very clear. He usually has a clear white sclera (white part of eye), without prominent blood vessels.

Stability and immobility are due to Kapha Dosha. Wherever there is stiffness, there is a definite influence of Kapha. For example, in rheumatoid arthritis (Amavata), Kapha has influence.

In extreme cold, there will be body stiffness. Note here that both cold and stiffness are due to Kapha.

So, understanding the Tridosha theory becomes very easy, when you try to understand it by its qualities.

Relationship Between Qualities And Doshas

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Gunas means qualities. These qualities are embedded in dravyas.
Dravya means substance. Every substance in this world is made up of some qualities.

These qualities are samavayi i.e. concomitant with their substances and are bound in an inseparable relationship.

Qualities are nischeshta i.e. of non-functional in character. They are not responsible for actions of a substance because karma i.e. action of a substance too is present in the substance as a separate entity and is responsible for all actions of a substance.

Qualities are also karanas i.e. causal since they have capacity to give rise to other qualities similar to them. But qualities do not give shelter to any other qualities like substance.

Some authors opine that guna is akarana i.e. not causal, since it doesn’t cause actions like unification, separation etc.

Even doshas, which are main functional entities of our body, are also made up of qualities. Doshas are also described as dravyas i.e. substances and hence they have their own qualities.

Dosha relationship with gurvadi gunas

Qualities explained in texts are 41 in number.
Gurvadi gunas which are 20 in number. These 20 qualities can be seen to be located in the doshas.

Below mentioned are 20 types of qualities which are directly related to doshas. They are –

Sl No Name of quality Features Dosha relationship
1 Guru – heaviness Produces heaviness in body. Has natural gravity. Tends to move downwards. Heavy for digestion. Increases kapha. Decreases vata and pitta
2 Laghu – lightness Produces lightness in body. Light for digestion. Increases vata. Decreases kapha.
3 Sheeta – cold Produces coldness. Reduces heat and burning sensation. Increases vata and kapha. Decreases pitta.
4 Ushna – hot Produces heat. Reduces coldness. Increases burning sensation. Increases pitta. Decreases vata and kapha.
5 Snigdha – unctuousness Causes and increases unctuousness, smoothness and wetness in body. Increases kapha. Decreases vata.
6 Ruksha – non-unctuousness, dryness Produces dryness, hardness and roughness in body. Increases vata. Decreases kapha
7 Manda – dullness Works slowly and in lesser way. Pacifies doshas. Increases kapha. Decreases pitta.
8 Teekshna – sharpness Works intensively. Cleanses body. Increases pitta. Decreases kapha and vata.
9 Sthira – immobility It slows down movements, is stable, and produces stability in body tissues. Increases kapha.
10 Sara – mobility Instable. Causes flow and movements. Stimulates and mobilizes vata and excreta. Increases vata and pitta.
11 Mrdu – softness Soft to touch, lax and fragile. Produces same features in body tissues like muscles, fat, heart etc. Increases kapha. Decreases vata and pitta.
12 Kathina – hardness Hard to touch and firm. Produces toughness and firmness in body. Increases vata.
13 Vishadha – clearness Looks clear. Destroys stickiness. Increases vata.
14 Pichchila – sliminess Binds substances, is fibrous. Produces heaviness and stickiness in body. Increases kapha.
15 Shlakshna – smoothness Smooth to touch, healing in nature. Increases kapha.
16 Khara – roughness Rough on appearance and touch, scrapes tissues and wastes. Increases vata
17 Sukshma – fineness, minuteness Quickly spreads and mix up with other things, tends to enter all tissues and organs quickly, opens up channels. Increases vata.
18 Sthula – bulkiness, stoutness Appears huge, doesn’t dissolve or spread quickly, digested slowly, blocks channels. Increases kapha.
19 Sandra – solidity Stout and stable, soothing, calming and gratifying for tissues and organs. Increases kapha.
20 Drava – fluidity Minute and spreads, flows everywhere, causes flow, causes dampness in tissues. Increases kapha and pitta.

Among above mentioned qualities, each alternative quality is antagonistic to previous quality. They are also antagonistic in action, including their effect on doshas.

Quality Antagonist quality
Heaviness Lightness
Coldness Heat
Unctuousness Non-unctuousness, Dry
Dullness Sharpness
Immobility Mobility
Softness Hardness
Clearness Sliminess
Smoothness Roughness
Fineness, Minuteness Bulkiness, stoutness
Solidity Fluidity

Importance of knowledge of guna-dosha relationship

All medicines and foods work on basis of qualities they have. Seeing impact of each quality on doshas, it is clear that each quality either increases or decreases a given dosha.

Each dosha is made up of a set of qualities.

Vata is made up of dry, light, cold, rough, and minute, clearness and hardness qualities.

When any food, lifestyle activity or medicines having these qualities are taken in excess, they increase vata owing to property of similarity.

This increased vata produces symptoms and diseases of vata increase.

In this context, foods and medicines having opposite qualities can be administered as remedies.

It is not essential that all qualities of vata increase at a time. There may be increase of one, two or more gunas and that depends on qualities of foods and medicines we take.

Similarly dosha-quality relationship of pitta and kapha, their imbalances and methods of balancing them too should be understood.

Similar is impact of seasons and diurnal changes.
Cold season increases vata, therefore hot comforts shall be administered during cold weather.
During monsoon, vata aggravates due to coldness. Hot foods and hot comforts need to be given during this season. This knowledge can be got only through thorough understanding of dosha-quality relationship.

Knowledge of qualities also helps physician to make diagnosis of diseases. When qualities of pitta increase, there is increased heat, burning sensation etc symptoms pertaining to increased qualities. Here, physician can apply pitta balancing remedies so as to control vitiated pitta and also cure diseases caused by increased pitta.

It also helps physician to make right choice of foods and medicines to be administered when a dosha(s) go into a state of imbalance.
This knowledge helps in providing good dosha-specific and disease-specific treatments to patients.

Knowledge of antagonistic qualities is very important. With this, physician knows to administer oleation or internal consumption of medicated ghee or oil or include ghee and oil in diet when dryness of vata increases.

Similarly he will know to administer medicines having cold potency when heat quality of pitta increases. This knowledge can be extended to balance any qualities of any doshas which have gone out of balance and treat diseases by administering antagonistic qualities.

Using Guna (Qualities) for Treatment

How much weight is given for qualities while deciding treatment? 
Dr JV Hebbar 
An Ayurveda doctor weighs heavily on the qualities. She would observe the qualities in the patient to decide which dosha has aggravated. Based on which qualities are aggravated, she would apply therapies or medicines which are against those qualities. For example: 
There are many Vaidyas who diagnose and treat in terms of gunas only.  
Eg: Patients with dryness of skin and dry hair implies increased dryness. Dryness is a quality of Vata dosha. So, this is a case of increased Vata Dosha. Dryness is nullified by Vata dosha balancing remedy – Sesame oil. 
When there is a symptom of disease, just sesame oil might not be sufficient. It should be potentiated with herbs for better results. 
In this case, for example, to counter dry facial skin, Kumkumadi taila (prepared with sesame oil) and for dry hair, Neelibhringadi oil can be advised. 
for dry mouth, oil pulling with irimedadi taila is commonly advised. 
For dry skin -> eladi taila local massage is advised 
Dryness is combated with oiliness of sesame oil, infused with medicinal herbs. 
Read: Qualities Of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha – Easy Explanation

Another example: 
Cold palm, feet, low digestion strength and oily skin with history of excess fatty food intake. 
Here, cold quality has increased (Sheeta) 
unctuousness, oiliness has increased (Snigdha) 
Cold and unctuousness are qualities of Kapha dosha; here, Kapha has increased. To combat this, 
Trikatu churna – A combination of black pepper, long pepper and ginger if there are severe indigestion symptoms 

These are simplistic lines of treatment to simple problems. A disease is often a complex process with multiple factors like Dosha, tissues, body channels, internal organs, Prakriti, etc. getting involved in numerous complex ways. Treatment require
requiring multi pronged analysis and treatment planning. 

15 comments on “Qualities Of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha – Easy Explanation

  • Rohit

    20/09/2012 - 3:07 am

    Nice informative article, but what when we have contradictory symptoms like in my case I have dryness which says “Vata” dominance. but my body is very hot then others in any weather, specially my hand and foot palms !!

    Reply to comment
    • Dr JV Hebbar

      22/09/2012 - 10:23 am

      Two symptoms of two Doshas can manifest at same place. Like dryness and burning sensation can both be manifested in palms and feet. Hope the point is clear?

      Reply to comment
  • Suzanne Gano

    20/09/2012 - 5:12 am

    I am so grateful for all of your educational information. Would there be any chance that you may start some sort of certificate program for those of us who learn this information? Thank you

    Reply to comment
    • Dr JV Hebbar

      22/09/2012 - 10:19 am

      Many thanks for your kind appreciation. Let me assure you that this is only the beginning. And Ayurveda is an ocean. So a very long long way to go and lots and lots of things to learn.
      As of now, I do not have any such certification program. I do not have any offer from any Ayurveda institute regarding that. Starting an institute on my own is a herculean task for me. It will be very costly and I am a poor guy. I have learnt Ayurveda for 11 years, and have been teaching the same through my website for three years. I will continue to do that.
      What I suggest to you is, learn Ayurveda from here, and join any 1 year / 2 year certification program which may already be there in your country.

      Reply to comment
  • SK

    05/01/2015 - 12:09 pm

    Thanks a lot Dr. for the invaluable information you provide on your website. Much appreciated.

    Question for you – Does taking aswagandha Churna and licorice powder daily affect hypothyroid. I am a vata dosha.



    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      04/02/2015 - 10:59 pm

      Taking Ashwagndha with licorice improves thyroid function, hence good for hypothyroid condition.

      Reply to comment
      • Sheela

        04/02/2015 - 11:20 pm

        Thanks a lot Dr. for your response. Namaste.

        Reply to comment
  • arja P

    22/05/2016 - 3:47 pm

    my digestion is very weak due to atony of intestin .is this is due to pitta dosha or kapha dosha bcoz both results in indigestion?i m vata person sure.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      23/05/2016 - 12:09 pm

      Hi, Atony of intestines and weak digestion is usually due to Kapha Dosha aggravation.

      Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    25/10/2016 - 5:55 pm

    Hi, thanks. We will try to fix them.

    Reply to comment
  • Lokeshwari

    23/04/2018 - 9:40 pm

    Sir wt is prakrutha rasa of vatha,pitha,and kapha

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      14/05/2018 - 11:55 pm

      bitter, pungent and sweet, respectively. Correct me if I am wrong.

      Reply to comment
  • Charlotte

    11/10/2022 - 7:20 pm

    Your information is excellent. I have been struggling for a long time and found an article about doshas about a month ago. Immediately when I read the information, I knew I had to implement as many of the vata balancing recommendations as possible. Everything in my life is improving, day by day I can see the transformation. Your site is incredible and I appreciate everything I am learning. Thank you so much.

    Reply to comment

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