Understanding Doshas

In Ayurveda there are 3 Doshas. Dosha is a Sanskrit term often translated as energy or humor; thus the doshas are 3 different types of energy. Each of the 3 doshas are defined by certain properties and characteristics. Because each dosha is just a different type of energy, foods, medicines, diseases, processes, and even people can also be categorized under one of the 3 doshas.

The three doshas are Vata, Pitta, Kapha.

Most people understand dosha to be their Ayurvedic constitution. However, physical (bodily) constitution in Sanskrit is pakruti. Manasika prakruti is mental constitution. Each person’s pakruti is composed of all three doshas, but typically only 1-2 doshas dominate. Those dominant characteristics are reflective of the inherent properties of the doshas. Thus people often simply say ‘which dosha are you?‘ when they’re really asking, which doshas dominate your pakruti?

Understanding Vata

Vata is composed of 2 elements: space and air/wind (air predominates)

Properties of Vata: Dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, moving, penetrating, non-slimy, dispersing, hard, fast

Vata-type people

Characteristics of a Vata-dominant prakruti: unsteady mind, dishonest, jealous, ungrateful, inconsistent, short-tempered, unsteady friendship. Interested in music, humor. Easily afflicted with fear or shock. Fearful, anxious. Immediately likes or dislikes something. Cold, shivering, stiffness. Grinds teeth during sleep.

  • Tight torso but long limbs, sometimes tall.
  • May suffer constipation and irregular appetite.
  • 76% correlation to Blood-Type A.
  • Pulse rate: 80-95bpm.
  • Hoarse, cracked, unlcear voice.

Signs a Vata predominant person has an accumulation of toxins: brown to blackish coating on tongue, lack of digestive fire (characterized by little to no appetite, poor digestion, and constipation), dry skin, body ache, flatulence, abdominal distention.

Vata in the body

Vata’s location within the body: Urinary bladder, lumbar and sacral region, thighs, ear, bones, feet, small intestine, skin.

Functions of Vata: inhalation and exhalation; body movements and body language; natural urges including excretory, sneezing, hunger, sleep, cough, fatigue; proper perception of sense organs and motor function; secretions and excretions. Emotions: cheerfulness; ungroundedness; fear and anxiety.

5 Forms of Vata: Prana (oxygen) is master of life through breath. Udana, located in lungs and throat, is responsible for exhalation, speech, and intellect. Samana moves food into the stomach and intestines and is responsbile for mind and emotions. Vyana controls the nervous and circulatory systems from the heart. Apana is responsible for excretion, mensturation, and reproduction.

Vata and its wider influences

Other Vata associations: lower third of the body (below navel), old age, evening, last third of digestive process–drying up (due to the characteristic of wind).

Vata categorized tastes: pungent, bitter, and astrigent. Conversely, sweet, sour, and salty tastes decrease Vata.


So what does all this mean? For me, I just find it fascinating, especially the connection to Blood Type. Whether Ayurvedic doshas and prakruti is relevant and applicable in modern Westerners, I can’t say for sure. But in Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) doshas and pakruti are used for diagnosis, prevention, and setting treatment plans.

For you, on a personal level, you can look at the descriptions and say, ‘do these hold true for me? What can I learn about myself, my body, my tendencies and predispositions? Is there something I wasn’t aware of before that I can be more in tuned to now knowing these are common characteristics or health risks of my constitution?’ Then you might take that a step further and decide to meet an Ayurveda practicioner or lifestyle consultant to better understand and balance your doshas.  (In the Pitta post, I will explain what I learned about myself upon discovering I have a Pitta-dominant pakruti.)