The Three Humors of the Body

Doshas—The Basic Energies in the Body

The doshas are the biological humors or psychophysiological energies described in Ayurveda. There are three doshas and together, they orchestrate all the activities that occur within us. The doshas are called vata, pitta, and kapha, and each is further divided into five sub-doshas. Each dosha is mainly a combination of two of the five bhutas (elements).

Vata Dosha

Vata dosha is made up of the elements akasha (Ether) and vayu (Air). The Charaka Samhita (the most revered Ayurvedic text) defines vata dosha as: dry, rough, cool, lacking weight, very tiny, always moving, and unbounded.

People with more vata in their constitutions tend to be thin and have slender frames, prominent joints, delicate skin that is naturally dry, and dry, voluminous hair. “Quick” and “lively” are words that characterize their thoughts, speech, and actions. They are very friendly, have an airy way of walking, and light laughter. Vata people are light sleepers and gravitate towards warm environments. They like change and are very mobile. Creativity and enthusiasm are hallmarks of balanced vata. Change and mobility are keywords for vata people.

Pitta Dosha

Pitta dosha is made up of the elements agni (Fire) and apas (Water). The Charaka Samhita defines pitta dosha as: hot, a little greasy, sharp, burning, liquid, acidic, always flowing in an unbounded manner, pungent, and sharp. Pitta contains fire, but it also contains water. It is the source of the flame, but not the flame itself.

People with more pitta in their constitutions tend to be of medium proportions with frames that are neither petite nor heavy, warm skin that is very fair or ruddy and may be sensitive, and fine hair that tends towards premature graying or thinning. “Sharp” and “determined” are words that define their thoughts, speech, and actions. They have a determined way of walking and an intensity in their voices. They are moderate sleepers and gravitate towards cooler environments. Self-confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit are hallmarks of balanced pitta. Ambition is a keyword for pitta dosha people.

Kapha Dosha

Kapha dosha is made up of the elements apas (Water) and prithivi (Earth). People with more kapha in their constitutions tend to be of larger proportions, with robust frames, padded joints, thick, smooth skin that may tend towards oiliness, and thick, wavy hair. “Stable” and “calm” are words that define their minds, speech, and actions. They are easy-going and supportive in relationships,  have a steady way of walking, and there is a quality of serenity in their smiles. They are long, heavy sleepers and uncomfortable in damp, clammy environments. Calm and sweetness of disposition are hallmarks of balanced kapha. Loyalty is the keyword for kapha people.

Learn more about the doshas in Hridaya Yoga Retreat: Module 2.