Tridosha and You
Ayurveda's concept of Tridoshas is unique to medical science. Ayurveda says the body is made up of tissues (dhatus), waste products (malas), and doshas (loosely translated to Energetic Forces). It is the Tridoshas' job to assist with the creation of all of the various tissues of the body and to remove any unnecessary waste products from the body. It is also the Tridoshas that influence all movements, all transformations, all sensory functions, and many of the other activities in the human body and mind.
The Vata dosha is the most important of the three doshas. This is for two reasons. First, if Vata becomes imbalanced for long enough and sufficiently enough, it can also cause the other two doshas (Pitta or Kapha) to become imbalanced. It can even cause both Pitta and Kapha to become imbalanced; this is called a Tridoshic imbalance and is the most difficult to overcome. Secondly, Vata is the main driver or mover of the body, including the other two doshas, all the tissues (dhatus) and all of the waste products (malas).
Vata provides the following functions:
- All eliminations: fetus, semen, feces, urine, sweat, and a few others
- Assists with all the various metabolisms in the body (called Agni in Ayurveda as discussed in the previous article)
- Controls all of the various movement of body (both physical & mental),including such things as respiration, heart beat, motivation and contraction of muscles
- Relays all sensory input from the various sense organs to the brain
The Pitta dosha is associated with fire or heat. Wherever there is transformation, there is Pitta (doing its job). Whether it is in the GI tract, liver, skin, eyes or brain doesn't matter, for these are all locations where Pitta works.
Pitta provides the following functions:
- Metabolism - at all the various levels from digestion of food to transformation of all other material
- Thermogenesis - maintains the proper body temperature
- Vision - converts external images into optic nerve impulses
- Appetite - the feeling of hunger and thirst
- Comprehension - of information into knowledge, also reasoning and judgment
- Courage & Braveness - to face the situation
- Complexion - gives color and softness to skin
Kapha is the heaviest of the three doshas. It provides the structures and the lubrication that the body needs. These qualities help to counterbalance Vata's movement and Pitta's metabolism. A big, heavyset football play or wrestler is a person with a predominance of Kapha.
Kapha provides the following functions:
- Strength - to perform physical tasks
- Moistness & Lubrication - to prevent excessive friction from occurring between the various parts of the body
- Stability - to add the necessary grounding aspect to both mind and body
- Mass & Structure - to provide fullness to bodily tissues
- Fertility & Virility - to produce healthy offspring
Why should I care?
Because by learning how to balance the Tridoshas, the following goals can likely be achieved:
- Prevention of many diseases before they take hold
(In other words, keep healthy folks healthy)
- In many cases, slowing down or reversing the disease process
(particularly the case in many auto immune disorders)
- Assistance in becoming totally healthy: physically, mentally, and spiritually
(In other words, maximize your full potential)
What is really nice about Ayurveda is that learning to balance the Tridoshas is easy. Much of Ayurveda is common sense; it is based upon the laws of nature. The tools one uses to balance the Tridoshas are lifestyle management and the proper nutritional protocols.
Ayurveda goes into great detail explaining all of these different aspects of the body, how the functioning of the body can go wrong, and what to do in order to correct the problem. Likewise, it also explains how each individual can create a customized nutritional protocol and lifestyle plan that can prevent disorders from occurring in the first place.
What is the Normal State of the Tridoshas?
When the Tridoshas are balanced, the individual experiences health on all levels: mental, physical and spiritual. This is much more than the mere absence of disease.
The following areas help to define what Ayurveda considers as health.
- Happiness - sense of well being
- Emotions - evenly balanced emotional states
- Mental Functions - good memory, comprehension, intelligence, and reasoning ability
- Senses - proper functioning of eyes, ears, nose, taste, and touch
- Energy - abundant mental & physical energy to perform
- Digestion - easy digestion of food and drink
- Elimination - normal elimination of wastes: sweat, urine, feces and others
- Physical Body - healthy bodily tissues, organs, and systems
What causes the Tridoshas to become Imbalanced?
Each of the three doshas have certain quantity, qualities, and functions. When all of these are balanced, it is called normal or balanced (Dosha Saamya). This condition is conducive to well-being, health, and wellness. However, this balanced state is not stable; it is always changing. The Doshas will become either increased (vriddhi) or decreased (kasaya). Both of these states lead to ill-health or disease. However, increased Doshas have much more power to cause problems than do decreased Doshas. The important point here is to understand that each dosha has a set of qualities (gunas) associated with it which can increase or decrease in quantity.
Qualities of Vata Dosha
Cold, Light, Dry, Rough, Hard, Mobile and the Ability to penetrate fine particles
Qualities of Pitta Dosha
Hot, Sharp, Slightly Oily, Penetrating, Liquid, Light and can be sour and foul smelling when excessively increased
Qualities of Kapha Dosha
Cool, Heavy, Dense, Stable, Oily and slimy
Two kinds of Imbalances
Natural - imbalances
Natural imbalance is due to time and age, which are mild and normally do not cause any problems. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha increase and become predominant during one's life, during a season and during certain times of day. For example, Vata is predominant during the latter part of one's life, during the fall season and during late afternoon, as well as during the last part of night and the last part of digestion. Pitta is predominant during middle age, during the summer season, at midday, at midnight and during the middle part of digestion. Kapha is predominant during childhood, during the spring season, in late morning, at the first part of evening and during the early part of digestion.
Unnatural - imbalances
Unnatural imbalances of the Doshas can be caused by such things as: inappropriate diet, inappropriate lifestyle, trauma (like a car accident), viruses, parasites, etc. While some of these items are beyond our control, the type of lifestyle we live and the foods we eat are within our control.
Like increases Like
To learn how to reduce the Tridoshas, it is first necessary to understand what causes the Tridoshas to increase. The reason, according to a simple rule in Ayurvedic principles, is: "Like increases Like, while Dislike (opposite) decreases Like." For example, if you are cold and you eat ice cream, you will become colder; or if you are hot and you eat chilli, peppers, you will become hotter. These examples, which seem so obvious, are the basis for much of what is done in Ayurveda that allows its exceptional results. Herein lies one of the true beauties of Ayurveda: its principles are so simple, so basic, that it naturally appeals to common sense.
Example of Vata increasing Lifestyle and Foods
So if we engage in either lifestyles or consumes foods that have Vata qualities one will be increasing the Vata dosha in themselves. Some examples of Vata increasing activities are the following: running outside in the fall while dressed lightly when it is cold, dry with lots of winds blowing, going to rock concert after skipping a meal and not having slept all night, eating popcorn while driving in traffic with the music blasting, never taking time to rest, relax and take it easy. Basically any activity that is nerve racking and/or highly stimulating is going to increase (aggravate) Vata.
Example of Vata increasing foods would be things that have the above mentioned qualities and/or taste bitter, astringent or pungent like: popcorn, rice cakes, beans, pepper, coffee and sprouts.
Therefore, note that whatever one does that has the above mentioned qualities (food,lifestyle,relationship) in it will cause that dosha to increase(aggravate).
And the name of the game in preventing disease is not to aggravate any of the Tridoshas; to keep them calm and happy. So all you need is to understand what factors increase and decrease each of the three doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha and follow those recommendations when necessary to avoid disease and promote overall health. Most of us can follow those Lifestyle suggestions for reducing each of the three doshas, and simply follow a Tridoshic nutritional program.
Understand Tridosha, Balance them, Balance your life