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Understanding Tridosha, Vata-Pitta-Kapha, In Ayurveda

Unique to Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, the first requirement for healing oneself and others is a clear understanding of the three dosha. The concept of vata-pitta-kapha is unique to Ayurveda.

Vata is a principle of movement. That which moves is called vata. Therefore, vata may be translated as the bodily air principle. However, the element of Air in the external atmosphere is not the same as the air in the body. Bodily air, or vata, may be characterized by the subtle energy that governs biological movement. Vata governs breathing, blinking of the eyelids, movements in the muscles and tissues, pulsations in the heart; all expansion and contraction, the movements of cytoplasm and the cell membranes, and the movement of the single impulses in nerve cells. Vata also governs such feelings and emotions as freshness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, pain, tremors and spasms. The large intestine, pelvic cavity, bones, skin, ears and thighs are the seats of vata. If the body develops an excess of vata, it will accumulate in these areas.

Pitta is translated as fire, although the term does not literally mean fire. The fire of a candle or the fire in a fireplace may be seen; however, the bodily heat-energy, the pitta-dosha, which manifests as metabolism is not visible in this way. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the luster of the eyes; and also intelligence and understanding. Psychologically, pitta arouses anger, hate and jealousy. The small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes and skin are the seats of pitta. Pitta is formed from the two elements Fire and Water.

The translation of kapha is biological water, and this bodily principle is formed from the two elements, Earth and Water. Kapha cements the elements in the body, providing the material for physical structure. This dosha maintains body resistance. Water is the main constituent of kapha, and this bodily water is responsible physiologically for biological strength and natural tissue resistance in the body. Kapha lubricates the joints, provides moisture to the skin, helps to heal wounds, fills the spaces in the body, gives biological strength, vigor and stability, supports memory retention, gives energy to the heart and lungs and maintains immunity. Kapha is present in the chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, stomach, joints, cytoplasm, plasma and liquid secretions of the body such as mucus. Psychologically, kapha is responsible for emotions of attachment, greed and long-standing envy. It is also expressed in tendencies toward calmness, forgiveness and love. The chest is the seat of kapha.

A balance among the tridosha is necessary for health. For example, the air principle kindles the bodily fire, but water is necessary to control fire, otherwise the bodily fire would burn the tissues. Vata moves kapha and pitta, since kapha and pitta are immobile. Together, the tridosha governs all metabolic activities: anabolism {kapha), catabolism (vata), and metabolism (pitta). When vata is out of balance, the metabolism will be disturbed, resulting in excess catabolism, which is the breakdown or deterioration process in the body. When anabolism is greater than catabolism, there is an increased rate of growth and repair of the organs and tissues. Excess pitta disturbs metabolism, excess kapha increases the rate of anabolism and excess vata creates emaciation (catabolism).

In childhood, anabolism and the kapha elements are predominant, since this is the time of greatest physical growth. In adulthood, metabolism and the element of pitta are most apparent, because at this stage the body is matured and stable. In old age, catabolism and vata are most in evidence, as the body begins to deteriorate.

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