The Ayurvedic concept of physical health revolves round the theory of Five elements (Air, Space, Fire, Water & Earth) & 3 Dosha concepts. These 3 doshas are the physiological or physico-chemical vital forces in the body.
- Vata (Air & space dominated): Governs the principle of movement and therefore can be considered as the force, which directs the movements of nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination etc.,
- Pitta (Fire dominated): Responsible for the process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a Pitta function.
- Kapha (Water & Earth dominated): Responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit.
These energy factors are responsible for the whole physiology of the body. Vata, Pitta and Kapha, are essential for life, working together to create health or produce disease. When the three factors are well harmonized and function in a balanced manner, it results in good nourishment and well being of the individual. But when there is imbalance or disharmony within or between them, it will result in various kinds of ailments.
Vikrithi or acquired imbalance after birth due to solar, lunar, seasonal, cycles, lifestyle factors cause imbalance to Vata, Pitta & Kapha. These imbalances manifest in weaker structural components manifests into a disease process. Treatment objective in Ayurveda is to balance these imbalanced doshas. Changes of dosha state takes place several times on a solar cycle. Example:
- 6AM to 10 AM - Increase of Kapha – Eg: Itching/allergy increases during Kapha
- 10 AM to 2PM – Increase of Pitta – Eg: Acidity increases during Pitta hours
- 2PM to 6PM – Increase of Vata – Eg: Pains & aches increases during Vata hours
- 6PM to 10PM - Increase of Kapha
- 10 PM to 2AM – Increase of Pitta
- 2AM to 6AM – Increase of Kapha
Solstices & seasons also influence our doshas: Example
- Dewy - Increase of Kapha
- Spring - Imbalance of Kapha
- Summer - Balance of Kapha, Increase of Vata
- Rainy - Increase of Pitta, Imbalance of Vata
- Autumn - Balance of Vata, Imbalance of Pitta
- Winter - Balance of Pitta
If the imbalanced doshas in a particular season get manifested in a weak structure can produce disease. Example: imbalanced Kapha in Spring season, manifested in respiratory system produce Hey Fever.
Few qualities of each dosha are as below:
- Vata: Dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, moving
- Pitta: Unctuous, sharp, hot, free flowing, light
- Kapha: Oily, cold, heavy, stable, smooth
Ayurveda works on a universal principle that “similarity increases and dissimilarity decreases” Similar qualities or properties of a dosha increase and imbalance the same; and dissimilar qualities and properties balance a dosha. Eg: sharp, hot qualities of a summer increase pitta; cold & heavy qualities of a winter balance pitta. Other examples of influence of Qualities (of food, seasons, herbs) on doshas as below:
- Heavy - Increase Kapha, Balance Vata & Pitha
- Light - Increase Vata & Pitta, Balance Kapha
- Slow - Increase Kapha, Balance Vata & Pitta
- Sharp - Increase Pitta & Vata, Balance Kapha
- Cold - Increase Vata & Kapha, Balance Pitta
- Hot - Increase Pitta, Balance Vata & Kapha
- Oily - Increase Pitta & Kapha, Balance Vata
- Dry - Increase Vata, Balance Kapha & Pitta
- Smooth - Increase Pitta & Kapha, Balance Vata
- Rough - Increase Vata, Balance Pitta & Kapha
Effect of Tastes on Doshas
- Sweet - Increase Kapha, Balance Pitta, Balance Vata
- Sour - Increase Kapha, Increase Pitta, Balance Vata
- Salty - Increase Kapha, Increase Pitta, Balance Vata
- Spicy - Increase Vata, Increase Pitta, Balance Kapha
- Bitter - Increase Vata, Balance Pitta, Balance Kapha
- Astringent - Increase Vata, Balance Pitta, Balance Kapha
Ayurveda works around balancing the doshas with herbs & lifestyle modifications understanding the qualities, tastes, or other causes of dosha imbalance and use the opposite qualities, tastes, potencies to balance them. Therefore, everything in the universe can be used as a medicine if we know the qualities. Breeze from east & north has different qualities; the root & fruit of a plant has different qualities which can be used for balancing different doshas.