What Are Doshas, and why are they important to Ayurveda?
In the eastern healing tradition of Ayurveda, well-being is an extremely individualized affair. What works for one person may not always have the same desirable effect on the other person, even if they share the same physical traits. Some people show vulnerability towards particular food or weather, while others seem quite unaffected by it.If you have ever wondered why your friend can eat anything and everything she wants and never gain weight as much as you do, Ayurveda can explain this. The answer to the mystery of why the same thing works differently for two people may lie in their different constitutions (Prakriti). Every person has a different bio-genomic makeup, different behavioral traits, inclinations, and vulnerabilities because of her uniqueness that lies in her unique constitution of Doshas.
The Five Fundamental Elements
According to the ancient Ayurveda philosophy, every material existence in this universe is made up of five fundamental elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether (space). Every element has its unique characteristics; for example, the air is moving and light, while the earth element is stable, heavy, and grounded.
In nature, these elements combine in varying proportions to create distinct forms of matter. In living beings, these five elements combine to form three bodily energies (Doshas) that perform and regulate all the physiological functions essential for life. Every form of life – you, your pet, the bacteria living in your gut, bloodsuckers, insects, birds are all ruled by these three energies. Life cannot be sustained even if one of the Doshas is absent.
Dosha – Meaning ‘the faulty one’
Dosha literally means the one that is faulty or prone to corruption. In other words, doshas are the vital energies that often go corrupt. Doshas should not be understood as some static form of matter. Rather, these are dynamic energies affecting and being affected by the present conditions every moment. In normal times, these energies work in dynamic equilibrium to support a healthy and disease-free life. When this dynamic equilibrium is disturbed because of environmental conditions or carelessness, one or more of these doshas go out of balance. Vitiation of doshas is considered as the root cause of all diseases in Ayurveda. When one or more of these constructive forces accumulate too much in the body, they acquire a destructive nature and start affecting everything from body to mind and emotions.
All three doshas are intrinsically different energies responsible for governing distinct physiological functions and psychological responses of an individual. Each of these doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha has a distinct and recognizable group of qualities.