In Ayurvedic medicine, doshas are innate, bodily humors of which every individual is formed.
The body constitution is based on three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These innate energies circulate in the body and are responsible for several physical, mental and emotional characteristics.
Every individual is unique and has a predominant dosha or combination of doshas in their body constitution. Health is achieved through establishing equilibrium of the three doshas.
The Doshas And The Five Elements
Like everything else in the universe, doshas are a permutation and combination of the five states of matter, the five basic elements. Ether (akash), air (vayu), water (jala), fire (agni), and earth (prithvi) are called the pancha-maha-bhutas or five great elements.
The manifestation of the five elements within the three doshas is as follows.
- Vata constitution is—Akash (ether or space) + Vayu (air)
- Pitta constitution is-–Agni (fire) + Jala (water)
- Kapha constitution is—Prithvi (earth) + Jala (water)
The most powerful of the doshas, Vata controls the basic bodily functions as well as the mind. Vata dosha influences all types of movements in the body, including prana, nerve impulses, thoughts and body fluids.
This dosha is responsible for metabolism, digestion and hormones linked to appetite.
Kapha dosha is responsible for strength and stability, muscle growth, weight and the immune system.
READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know
States Of The Doshas
When all three doshas are present in their natural proportions they are in their baseline state. It is a state of equilibrium and denotes good health.
When a particular dosha is present in a greater-than-normal proportion or in excess, it is an increased state or aggravated state.
When a particular dosha is present in a less-than-normal proportion, it is a depleted state of dosha.
Normalcy or equilibrium of the doshas is understood with respect to their quantity, quality and function. Both vriddhi (increase) and ksaya (decrease) in any of these aspects is an abnormality or vikriti.
Doshas keep the body healthy when they are normal but when they become abnormal they produce diseases.
Disease may be severe, moderate or mild depending upon the degree of abnormality of the doshas. Between the states of excess (vriddhi) and decrease (kshaya), it is excess which produces the majority of diseases.1
A person’s Ayurvedic constitution or body type can be Vataja, Pittaja or Kaphaja or sometimes a combination of two of these.
Over time, the dosha constitution of your body type may enter a state of disequilibrium. Climate, diet, lifestyle habits, environmental pollution, hormonal changes, thoughts and emotions may all mask the original constitution you had at birth.
If the proportion of doshas in your present body constitution is close to your birth constitution, then you will be in a balanced state of health.
The doshas are dynamic energies that constantly change. When you live in harmony with nature you experience health. When you follow an unhealthy diet and lifestyle it leads to physical and mental deviations from your normal baseline state.
Since doshas are a means to detect imbalances before the manifestation of disease, Ayurveda acts as a complete system of preventative medicine.
Now let’s have a look at the Ayurvedic dosha types.
Ayurveda considers Vata the most powerful of the three doshas.2 It governs the body’s life force and gives motion to the other two doshas.
Even Pitta and Kapha dosha cannot move without Vata dosha. Vata dosha is responsible for all the movements of the body.
Vata is avyakta or unmanifest. This means, it cannot be perceived by the eyes. It is known through its action and so it is called avyakt vyakta karma.
Vata has various properties. It is un-unctuous, cold, light, rough or coarse, quick in action, unimaginably powerful and moves in an oblique direction. It has sound and touch and is self originated. Vata dosha is full of raja guna, a mental faculty depicting activity or creativity.
Vata dosha is found in the pelvic and anal region. It is predominant in the lower part of the body specifically in the large intestine, waist, thighs, feet, bones, ears and the skin.3
The ancient Ayurvedic scholar Sushruta said that Vayu or Vata is a single entity but it can be categorized into five due to its different names and actions. All five types of Vata are Prana, Udana, Vyana, Samana and Apana. These five perform their specific actions at their normal place, naturally.
Vata dosha is divided into five divisions to support the body’s functions of movement (praspandana), perception (udvahana), filling (purana), separation (viveka) and retaining (dharana).4
READ MORE: Kapha Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Prana vayu is seated in the heart or chest and is the air element. Generally, prana means life force. As we inhale, prana vayu moves upward from the navel to the chest. The function of prana vayu is to fill the body. Pathological manifestations of vitiated prana vayu include hiccough, flatulence and breathing troubles.
Udana vayu is seated in the throat and head and is the ether element. Udana vayu governs speech, self-expression, effort, enthusiasm, strength and vitality. The pathological manifestations of vitiated udana vayu are disconnected speech, cannot speak, cannot properly articulate ideas, shortness of breath, lack of self-expression, emotional repression, uncoordinated limb movements or loss of balance. Sensory perception is the function of udana vayu.
Vyana vayu is located in the heart and permeates through the whole body. It is the water element and associated with the swadhisthana chakra, the sex chakra.
Vyana vata governs blood circulation, heart rhythm, ejaculation of sperm, development of all tissues and locomotion. All kinds of movement in the body are the function of vyana vata.
Samana vayu is located in the solar plexus and navel chakra. It is the fire element and governs peristaltic movement of the digestive system. Digestion of food and the separating of its essence and waste is the function of vyana vayu. The pathological manifestations of vitiated samana vayu are delusion or unsound mind, shortness of breath, anorexia, bloating, malabsorption, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal tumor.
Apana vayu is seated in the Pelvis region and the basic chakra. it is earth element. Apana vayu governs the elimination of waste in general and expulsion of urine, stool, sperm and menstruation. Its location is in between the navel and the anus. Retaining the waste for some time and eliminating these later is the function of apana vayu.
Vata is predominant during old age, towards the end of day between 2pm – 6pm, towards the last part of the night (2am-6am) and near the end of digestion of food.5
READ MORE: Pitta Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Pitta is composed of the fire and water element. Pitta energy is responsible for transformation. It governs intestinal secretions, digestion and metabolism of the body tissues.
Pitta maintains body temperature and hormonal levels, triggers hunger and thirst and provides complexion to the skin. It sharpens the intellect and memory and enhances courage and will power.
Pitta energy in the mind is considered the mental energy necessary for will power, decision-making, courage, ambition, optimism, intelligence and creativity.
Pitta dosha is located in the abdominal region, below the diaphragm and above the pelvic region. It also resides in the umbilicus, the stomach, the small intestine, sweat, lymph, blood, skin and eyes.3
Pitta dosha is divided into five sub-types. They support the body’s functions of imparting color to the body, digesting food, producing ojas (essence of food), vision, intelligence and body heat.9
READ MORE: Pitta Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Pachaka Pitta is located in the gastrointestinal region. It governs digestion, stimulates digestive enzymes and separates nutrients from waste products.
Its pathological manifestations are loss of taste, rise in body temperature, burning sensation, indigestion, hyperacidity, ulcers, nausea, vomiting, low appetite, poor digestion, bloating and constipation.
Ranjaka Pitta is located in the liver and spleen. It means ‘imparts color’. It governs the production and maintenance of the blood through the process of erythrogenesis.
The spleen acts as a filter and blood reservoir. Its pathological manifestations include anemia, jaundice, hepatitis and abnormal skin pigmentation.
Sadhaka Pitta is located in the heart and the brain. It governs intelligence and memory.
Pathological manifestations of Sadhaka Pitta include lack of concentration, dullness of mind and sleep deprivation. According to the Ayurvedic sage Sushruta, production of ojas and retaining its essence is the function of Sadhaka Pitta.
Alochaka Pitta resides in the eyes. It gives luster to the eyes and governs vision.
Pathological manifestations pertain to the eyes and vision and include conjunctivitis, blepharitis and styes.
This Pitta resides on the skin. It governs the skin’s luster and the body’s complexion, heat and skin pigmentation. Pathological manifestations include skin discolorations, eczema, psoriasis, acne, skin cancer and other skin diseases.
Pitta dosha is predominant in middle age, during digestion and the middle of the day (10am-2pm). It’s at its peak at 12 noon, and from 10pm-2am at night.5
Kapha is the combination of the water and earth elements. It is a principle of stabilization and governs growth of the body and mind. Kapha dosha is responsible for the structure of the body, stability, lubrication and fluid balance in the body.
Kapha dosha resides predominantly in the upper body, primarily the chest region. Kapha dosha is found in the chest, throat, head, kloma (pancreas), joints, stomach, rasa dhatu (plasma), fat, nose and tongue.3
Kapha dosha is divided into five sub-types that support the body’s functions of binding the joints, lubrication, filling the body spaces, giving strength and stability.7
Moistening the food is the function of Kledaka Kapha. It is located in the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, especially in the stomach.
Avalambhaka Kapha is located within the chest cavity. It nourishes the pleural cavity of the lungs and the pericardium of the heart. Avalambaka Kapha maintains stability and strength of the body. Abnormality of this Kapha sub-type leads to wheezing, asthma, COPD, cough and pericardial effusion.
Tarpaka Kapha is located in the central nervous system and provides nourishment and protection to the brain and the sense organs.
Bodhaka Kapha is located in the mouth. It keeps the oral cavity moist and well lubricated, and helps in the initial stages of digestion. Perception of taste and healing are functions of Bodhaka Kapha.
Abnormalities of this Kapha sub-type include gum infection and tastelessness.
Shleshaka Kapha is predominantly present within the synovial fluid of the joints, nourishing the articular surface. It ensures lubrication, stability and flexibility of the joints.
Abnormality of this Kapha sub-type leads to degenerative changes within the skeletal system. Osteoarthritis is one example.
Kapha predominates during the childhood years until full development, during the winter season, immediately after eating and during the morning from around 6am-10am and evening from 6pm-10pm.5
READ MORE: Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Deha Prakriti: Ayurvedic Body Types
In order to understand yourself from an Ayurvedic perspective and live in harmony with nature to maintain your health, it’s important to know your Ayurvedic body type.
Everyone of us has some combination of all three doshas but usually one or two doshas dominate. Various dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and psychological traits, as well as general likes and dislikes. Individuality is the foundation of diagnosis and treatment.
Dominance of any one, two or all three doshas at the time of conception determines the characteristic features of the future child. Possibilities include one dosha predominance, dual dosha dominance or three dosha equilibrium. The first and the last type are very rare.
Don’t know your Ayurvedic Body Type or Prakriti? Click HERE to take the FREE Quiz.
According to the Ayurvedic master Sushruta formation of prakriti takes place at the time of conception. The type of prakriti or body type depends on the amount of doshas at the time of conception. Doshas are responsible for formation of the individual’s constitution.8
According to the Ayurvedic master Charaka, the body constitution is called the deha prakriti. The doshas are present at the time of birth and are responsible for the individual body constitution.
In the Ayurvedic texts, different types of prakriti are described on the basis of sharira dosha (doshas of the body), manas dosha (doshas of the mind) and panchamahabhuta (the five great elements). The main types of prakriti are dosha prakriti and manas prakriti.
Dosha prakriti is also known as deha prakriti or sharirika prakriti. Charaka outlined seven types of prakriti.9
Sushruta and Vagbhata also described seven types of deha prakriti.
- Vatala prakriti
- Pittala prakriti
- Shleshma or Kapha prakriti
- Vata-Pitta prakriti
- Vata-Shleshmala prakriti
- Pitta-Shleshmala prakriti
According to Ayurveda, the three basic doshas may appear in various combinations resulting in seven composite body types. They are:
- Single Dosha Types: Only one dosha predominates in these individuals. They are Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. Only a few individuals fall into the single-dosha category.
- Dual Dosha Types: These are combinations of two doshas, where one dosha predominates with another strong, secondary dosha. They are Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, or Kapha-Vata. Most people are dual dosha types.
- Tri Dosha Type: This is a combination of all three doshas in equal proportions, Vata-Pitta-Kapha. Rarely, a very few individuals have the tri dosha type of constitution.
Most people will have a combination of two of the Ayurvedic body types. About 80% of us have a dual dosha (such as Vata Pitta, Vata Kapha, or Pitta Kapha). A few of us have single dosha body types like Pitta dosha. A very few percentage of us have all three dosha in about the same amount.
Don’t know your Ayurvedic Body Type or Prakriti? Click HERE to take the FREE Quiz.
1. K.R. Srikantha Murthy, Astanga Samgraha of Vagbhata, Sutra Sthana, Vol 1, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, chapter 1, verse 21-22, page-5.
2. Dr, Shashirekha H.K, Dr Bargale Sushant Sukumar, Charaka Samhita, Vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi, 2017, chapter 1, page 22.
3. K.R. Srikantha Murthy, Astanga Samgraha of Vagbhata, Sutra Sthana, Vol 1, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, Chapter 20, verse 1, page 367.
4. K.R Srikantha Murthy, Sushruta Samhita, with english translations, Sutra Sthana,Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, Chapter 15, verse 1, page 97, 98.
5. K.R. Srikantha Murthy, Astanga Samgraha of Vagbhata, Sutra sthana, vol 1, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, chapter 1, verse 23, page 6.
6. K.R Srikantha Murthy, Sushruta Samhita, with english translations, Sutra Sthana,Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, Chapter 15, verse 2, page 98.
7. K.R Srikantha Murthy, Sushruta Samhita, with english translations, Sutra Sthana,Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, Chapter 15, verse 4, page 98.
8. K.R Srikantha Murthy, Sushruta Samhita, with english translations, Sharira Sthana,Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, chapter 4, verse 63, page 70.
9. Pandit Kashinath Pandey, Dr. Gorakhnath Chaturvedi, Charaka Samhita, Volume I, Chaukhamba Bharti Academy, Varanasi, 2009; p772.