Tridosha Theory in Ayurveda

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

Among many concepts which form the base and foundation of Ayurveda, tridosha theory is the most important one.


Why has tridosha theory become core and soul of Ayurveda and its understanding?

Doshas form our body constitution three doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha get associated with us right from point of our conception in mother’s womb. Embryo gets its share of these doshas from sperm of father and ovum of mother. These doshas form constitution of an individual which will be a part of him or her till last breathe. This is called dosha prakriti. On other hand, satva, raja and tama form mental constitution.
Read – Functions Of Doshas In Balance In The Body – Prakrita Dosha Karma

In a given individual any one of vata, pitta or kapha will be predominant and that will determine body type. All doshas are present in everyone but one will be dominant according to ‘law of dominance’. Other two doshas will be subordinate doshas. Example, a person may be made up of predominant pitta at birth, say 50% of him is pitta. same person may have vata at 30% and kapha at 20%. Here, pitta is predominant dosha and vata is immediate subordinate dosha in constitution. This person will have pitta-vata body type. Kapha will be at bottom of scale and is recessive. But each dosha, immaterial of being dominant or recessive, will have their functions to render in body.
Read – Prakriti – Ayurveda Body Types, Importance In Treatment And Remedies

Tridosha and their distribution:

As per Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 1st chapter,

वायुः पित्तं कफश्चेति त्रयो दोषाः समासतः॥६॥
विकृताविकृता देहं घ्नन्ति ते वर्तयन्ति च ।
ते व्यापिनोऽपि हृन्नाभ्योरधोमध्योर्ध्वसंश्रयाः॥७॥
vāyuḥ pittaṃ kaphaśceti trayo doṣāḥ samāsataḥ||6||
vikṛtāvikṛtā dehaṃ ghnanti te vartayanti ca |
te vyāpino’pi hṛnnābhyoradhomadhyordhvasaṃśrayāḥ||7||

Vayu (Vata), Pitta and Kapha are the three Doshas of the body. 
A perfect balance of three Doshas leads to health and their imbalance leads to diseases.
The Tridosha are present all over the body, but their presence is especially seen in particular parts.

If you divide the body into three parts,
The upper part up to the chest is dominated by Kapha Dosha,
The part between the chest and umbilicus is dominated by Pitta,
The part below the umbilicus is dominated by Vata.

Doshas – elements

Doshas are made up of same elements which form our body – human body is made up of five elements of nature i.e. earth, wind, water, fire and space / ether. Same elements form doshas.
Vata is made up of air and space,
pitta by fire and water and
kapha by earth and water elements.

Integrity and endurance of body depends on integrity of three doshas. Therefore tridoshas are considered as three pillars of body. Their balance is key for body to be healthy.

Nature representation

Kapha, Pitta and Vata represent water, fire and air forces in body Vata represents air in outside world. Pitta represents fire. Kapha represents water in outside world. It acts like coolant and buffers system. It counteracts and antagonizes excessive heat and excessive dryness caused by pitta and vata respectively. It helps in nurturing and nourishing tissues of body and is cause of immunity of an individual.

Pitta represents fire force. All metabolic activities are under control of pitta. Digestion of food, formation of nutritive juices, segregation of nutrients and wastes, absorption and distribution of nutrients is caused by pitta. Pitta is responsible for heat of body and maintenance of heat is a sign of life.
Read – Nourishing, Depleting and Distributing Functions Of Tridosha (Visarga, Adana And Vikshepa)

Vata represents balancing element of body. Vata uniformly distributes heat and coldness all through body and balances all physiological activities. Vata controls all functions, it is remote control of every activity of body, and it also controls pitta and kapha, tissues of body and also excretion of wastes. Vata also supervises functions of mind and perception through senses.

Functional components

Doshas are key functional components of body – In their state of balance, doshas are responsible for all functions of body. Therefore, doshas form functional components of body. All functions of tissues and organs, mentioned in modern texts of physiology fall under functional territory of doshas.

Functions of doshas include –
circulation, respiration, digestion,
urination, defecation,
thought process, memory,
endocrine functions, nerve conduction,
reproduction, menstruation, delivery of fetus and ejaculation.
Movements of joints, flexibility of muscles,
formation of tissues,
perception of sense organs,
motor functions, excretion of wastes,
courage, decision making are also controlled by three doshas when they are in a state of balance.
Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Systemic ailment causes

Doshas are responsible for all systemic ailments Balance of doshas constitute healthy status. Imbalance of doshas cause many systemic diseases. Imbalance may be in form of decrease or increase. All functions of doshas mentioned above will be disturbed and whole body put into disarray when doshas go out of proportions.

Imbalance may be pertaining to individual doshas or a relative imbalance when one dosha is disturbed in relation to other. Vitiation of doshas and trespassing of one dosha into territory of other dosha causes damage of tissues and organs in those regions and cause diseases. Example, when pitta enters vata zone, apana vata zone located below navel to be precise, it causes inflammation and burnouts in organs of lower abdomen and pelvis. It may cause diseases like ulcerative colitis, piles, cystitis, urethritis, inflammation of testes and ovaries, burning urination and defecation, dysmenorrhea in women and many more diseases caused due to inflammation. Doshas are inevitable internal etiological factors of diseases when they are vitiated.
Read – Relationship Of Doshas With Seasons

No disease pathology takes place without involvement of vitiated doshas
All diseases are caused due to amalgamation of vitiated doshas and weak and susceptible tissues. When doshas undergo vitiation and pass through six stages of pathogenesis, they invade weak and susceptible tissues in fourth stage of pathogenesis and get lodged therein. This is beginning of disease process. Here, premonitory symptoms of disease would be seen. If disease is not treated even in this condition, doshas further damage tissues and cause disease with its signs and symptoms in fifth stage of pathogenesis. Disease may progress to sixth stage of pathogenesis and cause serious and life threatening complications.

In first three stages, doshas undergo accumulation, vitiation and spread to various parts of body. These stages cause dosha disturbances without causing actual disease.
Read – Balanced Doshas And Their Contribution To Comprehensive Health

Vitiation of doshas by etiological factors and invasion of tissues by vitiated doshas is mandatory for manifestation of any disease of systemic origin, especially in physical ailments. In mental disorders, raja and tama doshas will be vitiated initially and later vata, pitta and kapha get involved in pathogenesis. Satva quality of mind is not considered as a dosha. Similarly, in diseases of traumatic origin or any disease caused due to external factors, doshas get involved in later stages and essentially follows an injury.

Disease diagnosis, classification

Diseases are diagnosed and classified, their symptoms identified on basis of dosha(s) involved – diseases are not only caused by vitiated doshas but are also diagnosed on basis of damage these doshas have caused in body, i.e. pathogenesis. Classification and sub-classification of diseases is also based on doshas involved in causation of diseases.

Example, a fever caused by vata, diarrhea caused by vitiated pitta or urinary disorder caused by kapha are identified on basis of dosha symptoms seen in these diseases. Symptoms and signs of a disease are produced by disturbances caused by doshas in body.
Read – Are Doshas Substances Or Energies?

Handling doshas effectively forms crux and secret of comprehensive treatment Comprehensive treatment is all about –

  • Breaking bonds which are formed between vitiated doshas and weak tissues
  • Administering treatments to expel and mobilize doshas from tissues towards stomach, like administration of ama digesting medicines, oleation and sudation
  • Expelling doshas which have been flushed into gut by administering treatments like therapeutic emesis or purgation
  • Taking control over other elements of body, balancing functions of other doshas (pitta and kapha), strengthening body and fortifying it with good endurance and immunity by administering therapeutic enemas
  • Properly following daily and seasonal regimens to have doshas under control
  • Advice intake of immune-modulators and tissue strengthening medicines so as to protect them from vitiated and damage-causing doshas in circulation

At all stages, handling doshas becomes key for proper and total treatment.
Read – Role Of Doshas As Tissues and Waste Products (Dhatu And Malaroopa Of Doshas)

Contribution Of Tridoshas Towards Comprehensive Health

Balance of three doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha is very important for comprehensive well-being and health of an individual.

It is quite natural that whatever changes happen in nature, good or bad, also happens in miniature representative of nature called the body. Just like nature beholds all life and protects them when in its serene form, doshas too support body and contribute towards good health when they are balanced. When we take care of our nature, it reciprocates in same way. Similarly, doshas taken care of would definitely take care of welfare and well being of one’s body.

Doshas are three main pillars of human body – Doshas are considered as three main pillars on support of which construction of human body has been sustained and held upon. Importance of each pillar in the construction can be thought of while we consider doshas. All activities are under control of these three doshas. Imbalance of these doshas will lead to collapse of body and its destruction just like pillars bring down house which stands on them to dust when they are damaged.

Dosha balance constitutes health and dosha imbalance indicates diseaseAs three doshas are in individual and relative balance, body is healthy. But when there is qualitative or quantitative imbalance of doshas they result in diseases.

Dosha balance is considered as one of chief parameters to declare a person healthy. Dosha imbalance takes place in form of increase or decrease. While decreased doshas do not cause diseases, they may cause symptoms of decrease. On other hand they can cause imbalance of other dosha.
Read – Dosha And Vikriti, The Pathology Of Diseases

Example, while vata decrease cause symptoms of vata decrease like weakness of body, speaking less, loss of consciousness etc, it also causes increase of kapha symptoms like loss of appetite, indigestion, and excessive salivation, and laziness, heaviness of body, excessive coldness, breathlessness, cough and excessive sleep. This is an example of relative imbalance of doshas.
Read – Decrease, Balance And Increase Of Doshas – Kshaya, Sthana, Vruddhi

Health is restored only when vitiated doshas are expelled out In case of a person suffering from a disease which is obviously caused by vitiated doshas, disease will not be cured in totality unless entire morbid doshas are expelled from body by administration of panchakarma i.e. body purifying treatments. If even small quantities of morbid doshas are left out in body, they will once again become strong on availability of etiological factors, get vitiated, damage tissues and cause disease once again.

There are other contributory factors of disease like weakness of tissues, imbalance of digestive fire, formation of pathological toxin ama which is a byproduct of weak digestion of food in stomach and blockage of channels of body. But among all these factors, doshas are main culprits since they initiate disease process in body. Neither tissue damage would stop, nor channels would be cleansed nor health restored in presence of vitiated doshas in body.
Read – Pathological Movement Of Doshas From Koshta To Shakha


All above mentioned points suggest that dosha balance is key factor for maintenance of health in body. Thus, in a state of balance, doshas contribute towards body keeping up its health and fitness. Immunity of a person also is dependent on balance of doshas.

Similarly, manasika doshas i.e. contaminants of mind i.e. raja and tama qualities are needed to strike a balance of mind health. We know that body and mind are two sides of the same coin. Physical disorders can cause mental disturbances and mental disorders can cause physical ailments on long run.
Read – 16 Factors To Watch For A Healthy Mind And Body

Therefore it is equally important to keep mind healthy and make it more sattvik.
This can be achieved by –
positive thinking,
noble thoughts and deeds,
disciplined behavior,
following right conduct and righteousness in achieving everything in life, having a goal to achieve objectives of life,
focus on getting liberated i.e. moksha,
keeping away from extremes of emotions and material attraction,
spending simple way of life and consuming sattvik foods,
getting indulged in charity and meditation and
leading a stress free life.
Good and balanced mind will take care of body and body too will be healthy.

Modern comparison

Some authors compare
Dopamine to Vata Dosha
Serotonin to Pitta Dosha and
Histamine and GABA to Kapha Dosha.

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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