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Your Nature: Vata, Pitta, Kapha explained in detail


According to Ayurveda, everything that exists forms one part of a vast and universal interplay of cosmic energy; nothing exists independently and every single thing can be linked to other things (Johari,1998). According to the Samkhya philosophy, which is one of the oldest philosophical systems and the philosophy behind Ayurveda, the cosmic energy, which holds everything together, enables the creation of the universe into three states of energy, or pure consciousness. These three states are known as gunas, which literally means ‘ropes that bind us to the physical world’ (Murray, 2013). A person’s mind is predominated by one of these three states and it determines a person’s psychological constitution. The three gunas are as follows:


1. Sattva guna is a state of purity, balance and equilibrium. It portrays a person that maintains a feeling of contentment regardless of the circumstances in life. A sattvic person is calm, quiet, intelligent, creative, truthful, happy, spiritually minded and health conscious.

2. Rajas guna is a state of mind where the qualities of ambition, drive and perfectionism dominate. It is the energy that moves everything into action. A rajasic person is restless, always setting goals to be achieved with considerable effort, and can become aggressive in reaching those goals.

3. Tamas guna represents inertia and a state of rest. This energy is dull, heavy and depressed. A tamasic person is mostly materialistic, selfish, lazy, attached, possessive and bad humoured.

The three gunas interact with each other constantly as energies that continuously influence one another harmoniously as forces of creation, maintenance and destruction. The three gunas make up the five elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), which are the building blocks for everything with which the material world is constructed (Murray, 2013). Each of the five elements represents; solid (earth), liquid (water), radiance (fire), gas (air) and etheric (ether) forms of matter which make up the outer world of experience, including the physical body (Frawley,1999).


The qualities of the gunas first transform into matter as the finest substance, the ether element. The gunas become more and more dense until they form the earth element (Murray, 2013). Every element includes the one that manifested before it. Air contains ether; fire contains ether and air; water contains ether, air and fire; and earth contains ether, air, fire and water (Murray, 2013). The five elements form what is known as the three Dosha’s (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) or three humours. Every individual is made up of a unique proportion of all the three dosha’s i.e. the five elements which are the building blocks of each individual are present in each one of us with in a unique ratio. A person’s dosha can be described as the person’s natural tendency to exhibit certain qualities that correspond to the properties of the five elements. It is also commonly referred to as a person’s unique constitution or Prakriti.


Vata dosha is a predominance of ether and air elements; Pitta dosha is primarily fire and a little water; Kapha dosha represents the earth and water elements. Therefore a person with a Vata dominant constitution will exhibit mostly the qualities of air and ether and so on. Recent scientific research has shown a direct correlation between a person’s unique constitution (Prakriti) and modern scientific biochemical and genetic markers i.e. a person’s Prakriti is a distinct phenotype representing a certain genotype (Dey & Pahwa, 2014). This means that each person’s dosha type can be traced back to certain genes.

One of the factors that determine health in Ayurveda is balance in the function of all three dosha’s. Vata maintains the nervous system and is responsible for cell growth, differentiation, cell death, and the movement of cells, molecules, nutrients and waste; Pitta maintains the venous system of chemical reactions in the body including digestion, metabolic process, immunity and temperature control; and Kapha maintains the stream of nutrition to the arterial system and is responsible for structure, growth, and protection (Bhandaria, Ravipatib, Reddy & Koyyalamudic, 2015).


SUBDOSHAS OR SUBTYPES

The subdoshas define the different locations, specialisations and disorders of each Dosha. It helps us understand the more specific functional relationships between the Dosha’s and the five elements.

VATA

The main function of the Vata dosha is movement and catabolic changes. Symptoms such as weight loss and extreme fatigue are attributed to an imbalance in the Vata Dosha. The Vata (also known as Vayu) dosha is classified into five sub-types: Prana, Udana, Samana, Apana, and Uyana.

Prana Vayu moves downward and inward and is present in the head. It is connected with higher brain function. Imbalance in Prana vayu manifests as heart palpitations, dyspnoea, breathlessness, grand mal epilepsy, sleep apnoea, petit mal epilepsy, the tremors of Parkinson's, bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia, as well as hiccoughs and persistent burping.

Udana vayu is located in the diaphragm and moves upward through the lungs, bronchi, trachea, and throat. Udana also goes up into the brain and fuels memory. It controls the movement of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, and aids the process of exhalation. Since exhalation is essential to speaking, any difficulty of speech, such as stuttering or muttering is a sign that Udana Vayu is out of balance. Other disorders of Udana Vayu include: poor memory, lack of creativity, no sense of goal or direction in life, depression, discoloration of the skin (as well as blushing and flushing), bronchial conditions, hoarseness of voice, asthma, pneumonia, emphysema.

Samana vayu governs the small intestine and navel. It moves the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. Therefore, it is closely linked with digestion. Any imbalance in Samana Vayu causes a loss of appetite, indigestion, increased or decreased peristalsis, bloating, lack of absorption and assimilation, and bad digestion.

Apana vayu is present in the pelvic cavity, in the cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectum, and urinary tract. Apana vayu is also present in the vagina and cervix of a woman and testicles, prostate, and urethra of a man. It moves downward and outward. It controls the function of the kidneys and stimulates menstruation, defecation, and flatulence. Conditions associated with Apana vayu include constipation, diarrhoea, anuria, polyuria, amenorrhea, menorrhagia, painful menstruation, pain during sex, lower backache, and pain during ovulation. It is also is responsible for sexual impairment, premature ejaculation or premature orgasm.

The main role of Vyana vayu is maintenance of cardiac activity, circulation, nutrition and oxygenation of cell tissues and organ systems. The location of Vyana Vayu is the heart and it governs the circulation of arterial blood, venous blood, and lymphatic circulation. Vyana is a strong vayu and all reflex actions, including the corneal reflex, are controlled by its energy. Disorders of Vyana Vayu include poor circulation, ischemia, oedema, or stagnation of blood in the lower extremities.

PITTA

The pitta dosha is responsible for transformation, metabolism and creating heat in the body. Any form of inflammation, fevers or blood disorders is related to the Pitta Dosha. There are 5 subtypes of Pitta: Pachaka, Ranjaka, Sadhaka, Alochaka, Bhradjaka.

Present in the stomach and small intestine is Pachaka pitta. This constitutes the hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and pepsin, as well as the intestinal digestive juices that are secreted from the villi of the small intestine. Imbalance in Pachaka pitta usually results in hyperacidity, hypoglycaemia, craving for sugar, gastritis, peptic ulcer, indigestion, anorexia, and dyspepsia.

Ranjaka Pitta is s mainly present in the liver and spleen. Ranjaka pitta in the liver gives colour to all tissues; it determines the colour of blood, skin, hair, eyes, urine, faeces, sweat. It is responsible for erythrogenesis, i.e. the creation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. In the liver Ranjaka pitta disintegrates haemoglobin to produce heme and globin. In the spleen it is kills bacteria and parasites and produces some white blood cells.

According to Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Vasant Lad, “there is a functional integrity between the liver, stomach, spleen, and bone marrow”. The function of any of these organs has an effect on the other. The spleen is responsible for filtering blood and sending any unwanted old red blood cells to the liver. The liver destroys the old red blood cells and uses them to produce bile, pigments and enzymes. Therefore, when the spleen is enlarged the liver may also be enlarged, and vice versa.

In Ayurveda there is a link between certain emotions and the organs. For example the liver is connected to anger, fear, anxiety, envy, hate, and jealousy. When these emotions are not acknowledge and not released, they remain undigested or repressed and can cause stress in the liver leading to accumulation in the tissues and eventually disease. Ailments of Ranjaka pitta include hepatitis, anaemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and mononucleosis.

Sadhaka pitta can be found in the grey matter of the brain as certain neurotransmitters, and in the heart as the cardiac plexus or heart chakra. It is responsible for knowledge, understanding, comprehension, compassion and appreciation; It is the seat of the ego, the “I am” and converts sensations into feelings and emotions.

The main site of Alochaka pitta is in the eye and it governs the lustre, colour, and translucence of the eye. It maintains the temperature of the eyeball, the colour of the iris, vision of light, visual perception and three-dimensional vision. Imbalance in Alochaka pitta results in short sightedness, farsightedness, conjunctivitis, styes, iritis, burning sensation in the eye, and light sensitivity.

Bhradjaka pitta is present in the skin and it helps to maintain warmth and normal complexion. Abnormalities in Bhradjaka pitta may result in skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, acne, and anaesthesia, tingling, and numbness. The skin is also linked to the liver and all the internal organs. Within the connective tissue that is beneath the skin, we accumulate unresolved anger, fear, and stress.

KAPHA

Kapha dosha is responsible for structure, growth, and protection, and controls all anabolic changes. Kapha is white in colour. The lymph, semen, plasma, certain muscles, and the myelin sheath are white, including white blood cells, as well as the white matter of the brain. The five subdoshas are Kledaka, Avalambaka, Bodhaka, Tarpaka, and Shleshaka.

Kledaka Kapha is present in the gastrointestinal tract and creates a protective lining for the gastric mucous membrane. It is liquid, soft, slightly oily, and slimy. Deficiency of Kledaka Kapha and excess of Pachaka pitta in the stomach creates gastric irritation leading to inflammation of the stomach lining i.e. gastritis. Disorders of Kledaka Kapha include obesity, obsessive eating habits, hyperglycaemia, diabetes, high cholesterol and peptic ulcer.

Avalambaka Kapha is considered the most important of the Kapha subdoshas. It maintains all Kapha systems in the body, functionally as well as structurally. It includes the spine as well as the lungs and heart and is present in the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, in the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles. It manifests in the pleural space as pleural fluid, in the pericardial space as pericardial fluid, and in the bronchi and bronchioles as bronchial secretions. Bronchitis, asthma, bronchiectasis, pneumonia, and emphysema are caused by a dysfunction of Avalambaka Kapha.

Bodhaka Kapha is present in the mouth and is represented by saliva, which is liquid, sticky, sweet, and slightly unctuous. The liquid quality of Bodhaka Kapha keeps the mouth wet and soft. Bodhaka Kapha also lubricates the tonsils, pharynx, vocal cords, and epiglottis. Infections of the tonsils indicate an imbalance in Bodhaka Kapha and this may create myocarditis or arthritis. Because of its sweet property, bacteria can easily grow in the mouth if the teeth are not brushed at night leading to infection deep in the pockets of the gums.

Tarpaka Kapha is predominantly present in the white matter of the brain and it nourishes the brain cells. It is thick, sticky, slimy, and soft. Tarpaka Kapha governs the creation of the tissues for myelin sheet that transmits impulses from one neuron to another. Disorders of Tarpaka Kapha include stroke paralysis, Parkinson's disease, or brain tumours. They are closely related to Prana vayu, which is responsible for the movement of Tarpaka. Concussion, compression, or contusion of the brain may affect Tarpaka Kapha and change a person’s entire personality.

Shleshaka Kapha can be found all over the body, and especially in the spaces where the joints where two bones connect. It lubricates the joints and nourishes the surfaces of the joints and cartilages to allow easy movement. Shleshaka Kapha supports the skeletal system and strengthens the ligaments. Disorders of Shleshaka Kapha include degenerative arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Understanding the role of each subdosha gives us a better understanding of which parts of the body have been affected or are out of balance when certain symptoms or diseases manifest. It also helps us to understand the areas of the body where the function of the dosha (or qualities of each element) has become vitiated or impaired due to an excess or deficiency.

One of the aspects of optimal health is Ayurveda is balanced tridosha. In treating any imbalance or disease, Ayurveda seeks to remove and avoid the cause instead of treat the symptoms.

Sources:

Dey, S., & Pahwa, P. (2014). Prakriti and its associations with metabolism, chronic diseases, and genotypes: Possibilities of newborn screening and a lifetime of personalized prevention. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 5(1), 15–24. http://doi.org/10.4103/0975-9476.128848

Govindarajan, R., Vijayakumar, M. and Pushpangadan, P. (2005). Antioxidant approach to disease management and the role of ‘Rasayana’ herbs of Ayurveda. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 99(2), pp.165-178.

Johari, H., (1998) A complete guide to the Ayurvedic Life,

Lad, V., (2002). Textbook of Ayurveda. Albuquerque, N.M.: Ayurvedic Press.

Tiwari, M. (1998). Ayurveda secrets of healing. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Press.

Tiwari, M., (1995) Ayurveda: A life of balance. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Press.


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