Ayurveda believes that each person has a distinct body constitution. Different body constitution is the reason why two people may have different responses towards the same food and lifestyle.
According to Ayurveda, body constitution depends on the metabolic pattern of an individual. This metabolic pattern depends on the Ayurvedic concept of dosha.
What is the meaning of dosha?
The Sanskrit word dosha emerges from the root “dush” (to malign or soil something). So, the word dosha means – a defect or corruption. So, dosha is something that soils the body! Strange, isn't it? Something that soils the body is the pillar for metabolism!
Let's take the example of a motorbike to understand this discrepancy. Let us assume that the motorbike is our body. Here is how different dosha help to run this motorbike -
The movement of the bike that changes its state of kinetic energy is the vata dosha (space and air)
The chemical reactions that produce heat and thermal push for the bike is pitta dosha.
The solid structure that forms the bike frame is the Kapha dosha. It is the basis for the interaction between the kinetic and thermal energies. We can compare kapha to latent energy. Kapha dosha (earth and water elements) represents the physical existence, mass, density, etc. of the bike.
Now, let us see how the doshas that are supposed to run our metabolism, can corrupt it. A motorbike cannot run on its own. It needs a driver to balance it.
If there is no external force balancing and driving the bike, it will go astray and fall. Similarly, these bio-physical energies or dosha can go astray and disrupt normal metabolism.
For example –
If the motorbike runs for a very long distance, there is certain unavoidable wear and tear that happens as an incidental effect of the running activity. This wear and tear is the corrupting effect of vata dosha.
If the bike runs for a very long time without stopping, it may get overheated. This excess heat can destroy delicate parts of the bike. Over-heating is another incidental corrupting impact, caused by excess pitta.
If the bike is kept standing for a very long time, its parts may get stuck or rust away. This is an incidental effect of excess stability, a corrupting effect of kapha dosha.
Doshas are naturally characterized by causing imbalances or corruptions in the metabolism. Thus the name - dosha!
What makes the three dosha?
Vedic philosophy believes in five basic elements.
- Akash - Space
- Vayu - Kinetic energy
- Agni - Heat
- Jal - Inter-particle forces
- Prithvi - Matter
These essentials elements come together to form the dosha. Each dosha contains all five elements. However, the dominance of elements in the dosha defines their character and functions.
For example -
Space and air elements dominate Vata dosha
The energy of fire dominates Pitta dosha
Water and earth dominate the Kapha dosha
Where do dosha exist?
Vedic philosophy believes that a particle represents all the qualities of the universe. Each particle is a mini-universe. Charak Samhita says that as the sun, moon, and air maintain the environmental balance; similarly pitta, kapha and vata balance the body metabolism.The essence of this statement is that vata, pitta, and kapha are not something exclusive to the human body or bodies of living beings. Every particle contains the three bio-physical energies – vata, pitta, and kapha.
Why can't we see dosha?
Charak Samhita asserts that dosha is not visible, but its effect is. The same is true for electricity. While no one has seen electricity or electrons, we believe they exist because they produce results.Similarly, dosha is not a physical entity. We might not be able to see vata, pitta, or kapha dosha in a dissected cadaver. But doshas are systems or patterns that help the body to function.
Why are we different?
Let us try to understand this difference in physiology with the help of cars. Cars have essentially the same mechanism, but each car is different, or rather special. For example, a sports car is different than a sedan.
In the same way, all human bodies have essentially the same systems and physiology. However, they may work differently, and produce different results.
All family members eat the same food. But body type is the reason why one person has a great digestive capacity, whereas other may frequently suffer from acidity, indigestion, etc.
This difference in physiology also defines the ideal food, lifestyle, and susceptibility to certain disorders.
What is the basis of body types in Ayurveda?
What is the basis for this metabolic difference? According to Ayurveda, each body has three primary metabolic patterns – vata, pitta and kapha. These three patterns are present in each body. They are like the three feet of a stool. They work in dynamic cooperation to bring a natural balance to our metabolism.
However, each body has a different metabolic hierarchy of dosha. This hierarchy defines the body constitution.
There are three primary body types - vata dominant, pitta dominant and kapha dominant. The dominant dosha is the leader of body metabolism. And as the leader changes, the metabolic policies change too!
How dosha form the constitution?
Let us compare dosha to business functions like marketing, operations etc. There are many organizations. All of them have the same basic structure. They all have a leader/CEO, few subordinates, and junior workers. All business organizations have a marketing department, finance, operations, and HR department. The basic structure is more or less the same.
However, a recruiter works differently than a marketing agency, a legal firm, or a financial institution. Human resource is the driving specialization for a recruitment firm. Whereas, a marketing firm focuses entirely on marketing. Therefore, their structure, functioning, and outcomes are different from each other.
Now let's get back to the dosha and body concept. These three patterns of metabolism work in a similar fashion to business functions.
Like the way all organizations have a combination of different business functions, our metabolism has the three dosha – vata, pitta, and kapha. But, if vata may dominate the metabolism in one person, he will have a vata dominant constitution. Similarly, the pitta bio-physical energy dominates some other person to form pitta body type.
The concept of dosha is not exclusive to Ayurveda. Even ancient Greek and Roman medicine, traditional Chinese and Iranian medicine, homeopathy, and many other ancient medicinal systems shared this concept.
This blog is a sketchy attempt to explain the concept of dosha. I hope that it helps you to understand the basics of dosha.
The three dosha – vata, pitta and kapha have distinct properties, abodes, and metabolic functions inside the body. In the coming blogs, let us explore details about each dosha and its effects on the body.