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.
|Fineness, Minuteness||Bulkiness, stoutness|
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.