According to Ayurveda, one’s body is closely associated with Nature. A small change that is, climate change, in nature may affect the body and trigger diseases. Renowned sage Charaka, has written in one of his works: "Each human existence is an unique expression of highest individual process tuned in to the cosmic spatiotemporal cognition."
The three essential constituents of the human body are the doshas, the dhatus and the malas. They are so important as they control our day to day activities from outer level to the cellular level.
Ayurveda considers three doshas or three humours – vata, pitha and kapha, as the most fundamental principle as they govern the physiological and chemical activities. These doshas are composed by the combination of the five elements or the ‘Panchmahabhutas’.
• Space or Akasha
• Air or Vayu
• Fire or Tejas
• Water or Apa
• Earth or Prithvi
Vata is composed of space and air, pitha is from fire and an aspect of water and kapha is from water and earth. Individual constitution is acquired at birth and remains constant through life.
A harmonious state of these three doshas creates balance and health, while an imbalance that is an excess (vriddhi) or deficiency (ksaya), manifests as disease.
A balance among the tridoshas is necessary for health. For example, the air principle stimulates the bodily fire, but water is necessary to control fire, otherwise the bodily fire would burn the tissues.
Vata moves pitha and kapha since pitha and kapha are motionless. So, tridosha governs all metabolic activities; anabolism (Kapha), catabolism (Vata), and metabolism (Pitha). 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 pitha disturbs metabolism, excess kapha increases the rate of anabolism and excess vata creates emaciation (catabolism).
In childhood, Kapha elements will be predominant, since it is the time of physical growth. While in adulthood, the elements of pitha will be most apparent, because at this stage the body is matured and stable. In old age, catabolism and vata are most evident, as the body begins to deteriorate.
The dhatus are the seven basic tissues of the body which tend to grow as the bosy grows. They are rasa plasma (dhatu), blood (rakta), muscle (mamsa), fat (medha), bone (asthi), nerve tissue and bone marrow (majja) and reproductive tissue (shukra dhatu). The dhatus build up and maintain the body structures.
Malas are those substance which form excretory waste products-faecal matter, urine and sweat. They are formed continuously as a result of the metabolic activity in the body. The imbalances and disturbances of these three give rise to diseases.
So, the prime aim of Ayurveda is to balance tridoshas to ensure a good health. By doing this, we can retain, maintain and preserve our body and live a quality and disease-free life.
The essence of Vata dosha
This dosha shows all the properties of air, such as force, vacuum, dryness, coldness, lightness, wind and dehydration. It is active in bodily movements: contraction and relaxation of muscles, breathing and the internal transportation and flow of substances such as blood, lymph, sweat, urine, nutrients and other fluids.
Vata is also considered to be a result of digestion. The quality and the quantity depend on the amount and type of food. The people who are malnourished or are fasting have less body activities as their Vata energy is lessened. But, the people who do more physical work or play sports require more food to increase Vata.
Located in the pelvis region and in the colon, the Vata dosha generates Vata energy for all other body parts.
Vata energy is divided into five types called vayus (air or wind). They are praana, apana, vyana, udaana and samaana. Praana vayu mainly functions in the head, neck and chest regions and it acts from the atmosphere to the inside of the body. It carries out functions of the sensory organs in the head and acts as a receptor of all external stimuli. Some of the functions of praana vayu are inspiration (inhaling which helps in purifying the blood), taking in of food and water, receiving impressions through the senses of smell, sound, taste and vision, interpreting these impressions and coordinating reactions to them and mental activities and grasping of knowledge. Praana vayu also keeps consciousness intact.
Udaana vayu, also located in the head, neck and chest, acts opposite of Praana vayu. Its direction is upward and outward, enabling the body to vomit, spit and throw off substances such as carbon dioxide and water during expiration. Its duty is to express ourselves through talking, singing and whistling. Vyana vayu functions at the chest and the heart region. It acts like a pacemaker, controlling the activity of the heart and initiates actions and movements everywhere in the body. It is responsible for circulation of substances in the body to activate muscular movements and mental activities.
Samaana vayu is present in the area of the abdomen. It ignites the digestive fire and activates the process of digestion by creating peristalsis in intestinal movements. It also helps the separation and absorption of digested food and carries excretory wastes to the large intestine. Apana vayu is located in the anal region. Its functions are seen in the excretory organs for defecation, in the kidneys and urinary systems and in the area of reproductive organs. It activates and mobilises sperm, enables performance of sexual activities, ovulation and menstruation.
The people who have a predominantly Vata constitution will have creativity, mental alertness and the ability to learn. Changing moods, irregular daily routine, tendency to forget things fast are also their characteristics.
Generally, the people of Vata constitution are physically underdeveloped. Their chests are flat and their veins and muscle tendons are visible. The complexion is brown, the skin is cold, rough, dry and cracked. Their appetite and digestion vary. They take sweet, sour and salty food and hot drinks. The production of urine is scanty and the faeces are dry, hard and small in quantity and hands and feet are often cold.
Effects of imbalance
The aggravation of Vata causes destructive and degenerative changes in the tissues. One of the symptoms of the unbalanced Vata is dry and rough skin with a dark or cracked appearance. The other signs include poor circulation of blood, constipation, difficulty in breathing (asthma), stiffness, restricted movement, swelling, burping, abdominal gassy distension, negative thoughts, loss of concentration or memory, disturbed sleep, desire for warm food, instability of mind and body, indecisive attitude, cracking of joints and underweight. If the diagnosis is not done timely, Vata imbalances can lead to chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma, indigestion, excessive gas, heart disorders, infertility, constipation, and nerve problems such as paralysis and Parkinson's disease. Food, lifestyle, climatic conditions and the state of the mind have an impact in the dosha.
Dry, dehydrated or gas-producing food items such as raw salads, potatoes, cauliflower, potato chips, biscuits, crackers, beans and aerated drinks can cause Vata imbalance. The lifestyle factors include living in a cold, rainy, windy climate and over-exertion from too much work or strenuous sports like weight-lifting, which can cause extensive wear and tear on the body tissues. The suppression of natural urges such as urination or coughing and mental factors such as suppressing or over-expressing emotions also lead to imbalance of Vata. Regular food habits, sufficient rest, regular exercise would also help can restore Vata balance.
Use of external and internal medicines are prescribed for Vata-related illnesses. As Vata is dry in nature, application of herbal juices and oils (Snehanam) are necessary in the first step. Later, Swedanam (steam bath) could be applied. By this, the obstructed passage of Vata is removed.
Pitha, a combination of fire and water is the basic energy-generating element for the metabolic operations of the body. These elements are transformative in nature. So, they continuously modulate and control each other.
The word Pitha originated from Thaap- Santhaapee (we have to put Sanskrit words here. I don’t have Sanskrit font..so that I couldn’t add some slokas..) meaning to burn or to warm up.
In the case of human body, Pitha represents the fire element; it includes gastric fire or digestive fire, action of enzymes and amino acids that play pivotal role in metabolism, and the neurotransmitters and neuropeptides which controls thinking.
Pitha is hot, sharp, light, oily, liquid, and spreading in nature. It is mainly located at small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes, and skin.
It controls digestion, nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the luster of the eyes, intelligence, understanding etc. In the period of digestion, Vata will be predominant in the last stage, Pitha in the middle and Kapha in its preliminary.
Five types of Pitha
They are Pachaka, Ranjaka, Sadhaka, Aalochaka and Bhrajaka.
Pachaka Pitha located in the stomach is concerned with splitting up of ingested food with in GI tract, absorbing the nutrient portion (sara) and eliminating the waste portion (kitta). Apart from this, this pitha controls digestion and protects the other four pithas.
Ranjaka situated in stomach and imparts red colour to rasa (plasma, serum, lymph). According to Susruta, Ranjaka pitha is located in yakrt (liver) and pliha (spleen).
Sadhaka located in heart controls the proficiencies of the mind such as intellect, genius etc. According to Carakapani, the author of Caraka Samhita are saurya(courage), bhaya(fear-complex), krodha (rage), harsa (exhilaration), moha (confusion) etc.
Aalochaka present in the eyes; provides vision. This Pitha is further divided into two- caksurvaisesika and buddhivaisesika.
Caksurvaisesika pitha is associated with retinal pigments which are concerned with absorption of light falling on retina and the transmission of impulses via optic tract. While Buddhivaisesika deals with its interpretation in the cerebral cortex.
Bhrajaka pitha located in the skin imparts colour complexion to skin. Arunadatta, the commentator of Ashataga Hridaya says that Bhrajaka pitha is named as it performs dipana and pacana of medicines applied in the forms of abhyanga, lepa, pariseka etc. In brief, Bharajaka means that which makes shining.
These people will have medium physique, sharp mind, good concentration power, good management skills and leadership ability. He or she will be competitive, passionate and romantic; sexually have more vigor and endurance than Vata people.
However, they will be irritated, angry, self-confident, aggressive, and assertive when Pitha imbalance occurs.
These people are of medium height and body may be slim. Their chests are not very flat and show a medium prominence of veins and muscle tendons.
They may have coppery, yellowish, reddish or fair complexion with fair or reddish, soft, shiny and warm skin. Their hair may be fine red, fair or dark brown in color and straight or thinning, shiny and silky in nature. Their eyes may be gray, green or cooper-brown.
These people have a strong metabolism, good digestion and resulting strong appetites. Pitha constitution people will have an inclination for sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and enjoy cold drinks.
Their body temperature may run a little high and hands and feet will tend to be warm. Pitha people do not tolerate sunlight, heat or hard work well.
Their sleep is of medium duration but uninterrupted. These people produce a large volume of urine and the feces may be yellowish, liquid and soft. Often, they are stubborn, prejudiced and authoritarian.
Effects of Pitha imbalance
When pitha is out of balance the body shows distinctive signs or symptoms of both physical and behavioral.
Generally, physical symptoms include: Acidity, diarrhea, food allergies, bad breath, seeing disturbing dreams, weakness due to low blood sugar, ulcers, hot sensations in the stomach or intestines, fever, anemia Jaundice etc.
On behavioral manner, these people are angry, critical to self and others, frustrated, aggressive etc.
As a result of imbalance, predominant Pitha body type causes fevers, inflammatory diseases, acidity, ulcers, rashes, digestive problem etc. Besides, it can also cause loss of strength, heart problems, skin and hair problems, and jaundice.
Factors that increase Pitha
Exposure to heat, eating too much red meat, salt, spicy or sour foods, indigestion, overwork, exercising at midday, taking antibiotics, consuming alcohol in excess and using dried vegetables are the factors that aggravate Pitha dosha.
As these people have good digestion, a strict food regime is the ideal solution to maintain good health. To restore the Pitha balance and to avoid imbalance following guidelines can be followed.
1. One should avoid excessive heat, oily, steamy and salty food, rigorous exercises that increase body heat, etc.
2. These people should only take sweet, bitter, and astringent food.
3. Take cool, refreshing food in summer. Reduce the consumption of salt, oil, and spices. Take Salads, milk and ice cream.
4. Avoid coffee, orange juice and doughnuts.
5. Avoid oily, hot, salty, and heavy foods such as fried food. Instead consume starchy foods such as vegetables, grains and beans. Avoid the tendency to overeat under stress.
6. Avoid pickles, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese.
7. Avoid processed and fast foods as they tend to be heavy on salt and sour tastes.
8. Consume abundant amounts of milk, grains and vegetables.
3. The Kapha
Kapha, a combination of water (jala) and earth (prithvi) elements, provides stability, strength and resistance to diseases. Snigdhata or unctuousness is its main function as it lubricates the body and there by preserves it. Ayurveda considers Kapha people as the most fortunate ones as they enjoy good health normally.
Kapha lubricates the joints, provides moisture to the skin, helps to heal wounds, fills the spaces in the body, gives vigor and stability and gives energy to the heart and lungs. And it is white, transparent, sweet, saline, dense, slimy, heavy and slow in movement.
It is present in chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, stomach, joints, cytoplasm, plasma and in the liquid secretions of the body such as mucus.
Different types of Kapha
“Slesma tu panchadhoorasatha……
(Ashtangahridaya, chapter 12, sloka 15-17)
There are five types of kapha. They are - avalambaka kapha, kledaka kapha, , bodhaka kapha, tarpaka kapha and sleshaka kapha.
Located in the area of chest, Avalambaka kapha protects and strengthens heart with its nutrient elements.
The function of Kledaka kapha is to moisten the food in stomach to break it.
The bodhaka kapha moistens substances that come in contact with the tongue with the help of saliva.
Tarpaka kapha, situated at the head nourishes and smoothens the sense organs situated in brain.
5. Sleshaka Kapha
Sleshaka situated in joints and keep them firm and lubricated.
Kapha predominated people are calm and steady, but once they get angry it will be difficult to calm them down. These people are considered as relaxed, slow-paced, affectionate and loving, forgiving, compassionate, reliable and faithful and strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings. He or she may soft hair and skin and their voice may be low and soft. The cold quality of kapha results in poor appetite as their agni or digestion is poor.
Though these people learn things slowly, they never forget and will have outstanding long-term memory. If kapha is in balance, these people will be strong and clam, otherwise they may be dull and lethargic.
People of Kapha constitution will have well-developed bodies and these individuals would have a tendency to carry excess weight. Normally, their chests are expanded and broad. The veins and tendons of these people are not obvious because of their thick skin.
They may have fair and bright complexions with soft, lustrous and oily skin. Their hair may be thick, dark, soft and wavy and the eyes are dense, black or blue in colour. The neck is solid, with a near tree-trunk quality. A large, rounded nose and large, attractive, blue or light brown in color eyes are found in a mouth that is large with big, full lips. Teeth too are big and white and set in strong gums.
These people will have regular appetites. But due to slow digestion, they tend to consume less food. They crave pungent, bitter and astringent foods. Their stools may be soft and pale in color and evacuation is slow. Their perspiration is moderate.
And these people will get sound and prolonged sleep. Generally, these people will have strong vital capacity evidenced by good stamina. And Kapha people tend to be wealthy.
Effects of Kapha imbalance
The main symptoms of kapha imbalance are diabetes mucus and congestion in the chest or throat and nose or sinuses, high cholesterol, obesity etc.
On the behavioural front, these people are slow to comprehend, slow to react, will be very tired in the morning, depressed and dull thinking.
Factors that increase kapha
Exposure to cold, excessive use of salt, sleeping in daytime, consuming sweets, taking chilled food in excess, consuming fish, sesame, sugarcane, milk and milk products etc can aggravate Kapha dosha.
•Eat lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables.
•Avoid sweet and juicy vegetables like cucumber, sweet potato, tomato
•Eat spicy,bitter and astringent foods.
•Take ginger tea or a pinch of ginger to stimulate appetite.
•Don't overindulge on dairy foods.
•Do not take too much wheat or rice, as they increase Kapha.
The concept of digestive power described in Ayurveda is an essential important contributory factor in the pathogenesis of all the diseases. The food is digested by this digestive power and the three basic vital farces – vata, pitta, kapha are produced and nourished. Therefore, this power is necessary to maintain the power of the human body. The digestive power is responsible for the maintenance of life, colour and luster of the body, energy, health, enthusiasm, and vital essence.
The provocation and pacification of vata, pitta, kapha depend on the digestive power. Therefore this power must be protected and maintained normal. When the digestive power is completely cooled down, an individual dies. When it is normal an individual lives a longer life without any disease. When it becomes abnormal an individual becomes diseased one. Hence, one must maintain his basic digestive power in normal state. In all the diseases the digestive power is reduced ( in ascites it is reduced maximally). The reduced digestive power gives rise to undigested harmful toxic waste product which is one of the basic contributory factors of a disease.
As the digestive power is essential and useful to the human body, it is also harmful if not maintained properly. The digestive power should receive food material for digestion, proportionately. This food material acts like a fuel for it. If the food material is supplied in excess of capacity of the digestive power then this power will get extinguished. The food material must be supplied proportionately and at a proper interval of time, to maintain this power. On the contrary, if no food material is supplied as it happens in starvation or fasting then the digestive power starts absorbing body elements. And if this is continued further it can lead to death.
The knowledge of digestive power is essential in giving treatment for a disease. When vata, pitta, kapha are associated with the undigested waste products the treatment given is fasting (langhan). If there is no food available for digestion then the digestive power digests the undigested waste product. And vata, pitta, kapha are freed form it. This fasting should be continued only till the undigested waste product is digested. If continued further it will start digesting body elements, which is harmful.
The Types of Digestive Power
(1) Balanced, (2) Imbalanced, (3) Acute, (4 Mild
(1) Balanced digestive power (Sama-agni): This is the normal digestive power. The appetite is normal and regular. The food is digested properly.
(2) Imbalanced digestive power (Vishama-agni): This is an abnormal type. Sometimes the digestive power is increased or sometime it is decreased. Therefore the appetite also becomes irregular. This results in improper digestion. This type is seen in individuals with Vata-predominant body constitution.
(3) Acute digestive power (Teekshna-agni): This is also an abnormal type. The digestive power is so acutely raised that any amount of food taken is insufficient. The appetite becomes horacious. This type is seen in individuals with Pitta-predominant body constitution.
(4) Mild digestive power (Manda-Agni): This is also an abnormal type. The digestive power is very much reduced. This cause severe anorexia. This is see in individuals with Kapha-predominant body constitution.