TRIDOSHA THEORY IN AYURVEDIC MEDICINE
Ayurveda is an ancient medicinal philosophy originating from India around 6,000 BCE where it began as an oral traditional wisdom. One of the few surviving ancient forms of medicine, Ayurveda focuses on food, exercise, yoga and meditation as a path to health and healing. It prescribes a way of life in tune with nature. Ayurveda came about as a true holistic medicine. All of life is regarded as a remedy balancing of elemental forces within and without oneself. Ayurveda is defined by the Sanskrit “åyus” meaning life and “veda” meaning science. In the truest sense, it is considered to be the intelligence of the human form and experience.
The most fundamental idea to Ayurveda is that of the dosha. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Doshas are biological energies present throughout the body and mind. They pervade all things and activities in life, but is addressed in the microcosm for each individual. They consist of the five elements of Ether (space), Air, Fire, Water and Earth in varied levels. While they contain all five elements, each dosha is dominated by two primary elements. Each has its own unique characteristics, benefits and disadvantages. Doshas are present in every person in varied concentrations and expressions – each person is typically more dominant in one or two of the doshas and expresses the majority of those dominant traits.
All foods, activities, emotions, thoughts and socializing have their own dominant doshas. This is the holistic basis of Ayurveda. As doshas are brought into balance, foods, thoughts, emotions, people and activities can provide the counterbalance to an imbalanced inner state.
Vata – Space and Air
Qualities of Vata are dry, rough, light, cold, subtle and mobile. Physically, Vata governs movement: breathing, talking, nerves, muscular and tissue motion, circulation, food assimilation, elimination and menstruation. Psychologically, Vata governs communication, creativity, flexibility and quick thinking.
The driving forces of Vata are space and air. This is the energy of movement. Wind gives motion and interaction between things in the physical world. Balanced within oneself, this expresses itself in the individual as being active, creative, communicative and expressing one’s natural gifts. But just like a gale or storm, wind and air can cause untold damage when out of control.
The unbalanced state of Vata, psychologically, can express itself as anxiety, intolerant of loud noises and disturbed sleep. P hysically, imbalance manifests as “dry” ailments such as constipation, dry skin, bloating, dehydration, weight loss and craving warmth.
Pitta – Fire and Water
Qualities of Pitta are hot, sharp, light, liquid, spreading, oily and acidic. Physically, Pitta is the energy of digestion and metabolism in the body which functions through substances such as organic acids, hormones, enzymes and bile. Pitta governs all processes related to conversion and transformation throughout the mind and body. Psychologically, Pitta governs happiness, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy, mental acuity and intellect.
A balanced Pitta is happy, insightful, brave and motivated.
Unbalanced, psychologically, rage, anger and ego take over. Pitta loses all their equanimity and become a loathsome nightmare. Physically, the imbalances can manifest as nausea, diarrhea, inflammation, rashes, acne, ulcers and heartburn.
Kapha – Water and Earth
Qualities of Kapha are heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable, gross, cloudy and sticky. Kapha is the building and cohesive energy of the body, hence its association with earth and water elements.
Kapha hydrates the cells and systems, maintains immunity and protects tissues. Psychologically, Kapha governs love, patience, forgiveness, greed and attachment. Kapha is the grounding dosha of Vata and Pitta, helping offset imbalances of the other two.
Unbalanced, psychologically, Kapha can become lethargic and depressed. Physically, imbalance shows up as obesity, sinus and mucous issues. The fluids of the body become heavy and stagnant.
To understand imbalances, we need to understand what the concept of an ideal encompasses. This can be defined by opposition and their extremes. Ayurveda has ten sets of opposites from which can be understood all body processes and conditions – indeed, all of life itself. These extremes include:
Heavy – Light
Dull – Sharp
Cold – Hot
Oily – Dry
Smooth – Rough
Dense – Porous
Soft – Hard
Static – Mobile
Cloudy – Clear
Solid – Liquid
Each dosha has foods and actions which either benefit or aggravate its balance:
What aggravates Vata:
Bitter, astringent and pungent foods
Alcohol, coffee or black tea
Not eating enough
Eating too fast
Irregular sleeping and eating schedule
Excessive worry, fear or loneliness
What balances Vata:
Sweet, salty and sour foods
Warm, oily or heavy foods
Almond, ghee and sesame oils
Boiled and Steamed vegetables
Raw honey, maple syrup, molasses
What aggravates Pitta:
Eating while angry
Alcohol, coffee and black tea
Being overly aggressive
Sour cream and yogurt
Hot and spicy foods
What balances Pitta:
Sweet, bitter and astringent foods
Boiled, steamed and raw vegetables
Ghee and olive oil
What aggravates Kapha:
Sweet, salty, oily or fatty foods
Sleeping too much
Sweet, sour and salty foods
What balances Kapha:
Pungent, bitter and astringent foods
Boiled, steamed and raw vegetables
Raw honey instead of other sweeteners
Only use oil in very small amounts
The keyword is “balance”. When your doshas are aggravated, the negative aspects of your doshas can be magnified and wreak havoc. Remember, Ayurveda operates on the dictum that ‘like creates like’ and it's opposite lessens it.
Once you know your dominant dosha and can see where you have imbalances, you can begin to self-treat with diet and activities to benefit your health. You may be surprised by what had previously been obscured. Use the above principles to inform your health journey and strive for wholeness.