Dosha Types & Subtypes
The Ayurvedic system can be confusing or even intimidating to those unfamiliar with the basic concepts of the ancient medical system. As you may have realized, the doshas are one such fundamental concept in Ayurveda, if not the most important for you. So what exactly do we mean by the term dosha and what are these doshas?
What Are Doshas?
Dosha refers to the universal energy that permeates our very being and exists in all of nature. Every bodily function, from the motion of fluids within the body to the breakdown and absorption of nutrients is powered by energy. This internal energy that powers cellular processes, metabolism, and every thought is described as dosha.
Every bodily function is powered by energy and this internal energy is described as dosha. There are 3 doshas and each dosha has a different influence on your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
This universal energy force or dosha can be categorized into three dosha types – vata, pitta, and kapha (We’ll get to what each dosha means in a bit). These three doshas are present in all of us with variations in each of the energy levels. This basically means that the balance of doshas is not fixed or universal. Some of us may have higher levels of vata, others could have higher levels or pitta or kapha, and so on. What’s important to keep in mind is that this delicate balance of doshas has a direct impact on your physical, physiological, and emotional wellbeing.
A better understanding of the doshas will therefore give you a good insight into Ayurveda and how to use Ayurvedic solutions to promote better health, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these doshas now.
The 3 Doshas
1. Vata Dosha
Vata is the dosha or energy force that influences movement and comprises of air and space. This dosha influences activities like respiration, muscle and tissue movement, your heartbeat, and cellular activity, among other things.
2. Pitta Dosha
Pitta is the dosha or energy force that influences digestion or metabolic processes and comprises of fire and water. Pitta levels have a direct impact on digestive and metabolic function, including the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, regulation of body temperature, and so on.
3. Kapha Dosha
Kapha is the dosha or energy force that influences lubrication and development of physical structures. Kapha dosha comprises of earth and water and it functions as the glue or binding force that holds cells together. Kapha levels have an impact on lubrication of the joints, skin moisture, and immune function.
The Balancing Act
As we have already established, the 3 doshas are present in all of us and throughout nature. This balance of doshas in the context of each individual is called prakriti. Your prakriti or dosha type determines various attributes of your physical being, personality, and health. They also determine vulnerabilities in your health and wellbeing.
If the balance is maintained and you follow a lifestyle that is harmonious with your dosha type, you have little to worry about. This is why understanding your dosha type is so important. When imbalances afflict your dosha levels that are contrary to your dosha type, it causes disturbances in the functioning of your body, resulting in physical and psychological disease.
Imbalances in your dosha levels can adveresely impact physical and mental health. This makes it important to identify your unique doshic makeup and follow practices to maintain that optimal dosha balance.
Keep in mind that although there are only 3 doshas, your dosha type or prakriti could fall into 7 different categories. This is because few of us actually have a predominance of just 1 dosha, but have combinations in which 2 doshas are higher than the third. In rare cases, an individual could also have the perfect equilibrium, with all 3 doshas being more or less equal and with none being dominant.
The 7 Dosha Types (Prakriti)
Individuals who have a predominance of vata in their constitution are categorized as vata types. Vata individuals generally have a light and creative disposition, with high levels of enthusiasm. Such individuals are also likely to be more active, but may be easily distracted or forgetful.
Vata individuals also tend to share certain physical traits, usually falling into ends of the spectrum, being either small statured or large. They are also likely to be of a more slender build, with small, but sharp eyes. Warmer and sunnier climates are more attractive to vata individuals as they are more prone to circulatory disorders.
Dosha imbalances in someone with a vata constitution will increase vulnerability to specific types of health conditions like anxiety, sleep disorders, arthritis, and joint disease.
Individuals with a predominance of pitta are categorized as pitta types. These individuals tend to have greater mental clarity, focus, and retention. Pitta type individuals are highly competitive and enjoy outdoor activities. Physically, pitta type individuals tend to be of average stature, but of a more stocky or muscular build. They are also likely to have medium sized eyes with a more penetrating gaze.
Balancing pitta levels is vital for their wellbeing as pitta individuals are vulnerable to intense bouts of anger, especially when hungry, and they are also more likely to feel stressed and suffer from sleep disorders. Imbalances in dosha levels will make pitta type people more susceptible to inflammatory conditions like gastritis, peptic or intestinal ulcers, as well as inflammatory skin conditions like eczema.
Individuals with a predominance of kapha in their constitution are categorized as kapha types. Kapha type individuals are usually calm and composed, with great potential for multi-tasking. They are usually more disciplined and often have higher levels of empathy and patience. They have a natural proclivity for routine and order.
Physically, individuals with a kapha constitution are more likely to be well built, with large attractive eyes. They are more likely to be endowed with smooth skin, a clear complexion, and beautiful lips. Unfortunately, kapha types are vulnerable to overeating and sedentary patterns, as well as oversleeping. This can make it quite a struggle to maintain healthy bodyweight and stay in shape.
Failing to balance kapha levels can exacerbate unhealthy behaviors, increasing the risk for depression and metabolic syndrome disorders like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
4. Vata – Pitta
Vata-pitta combination type individuals have both vata and pitta dosha in a closely matching strength. Individuals of this dosha type require a combination approach to managing their health. They are generally creative, but can also be impulsive and conflicted within. As a result they often put themselves under excessive pressure, which can lead to disappointment and burnout.
Physically, vata-pitta type individuals have a medium stature and are usually quite agile. Their dosha combination can create some specific health concerns as the quality of vata for movement can exacerbate or accentuate the qualities of pitta. This makes individuals more vulnerable to digestive disorders at varying ends of the spectrum, from constipation to diarrhea, indigestion and heartburn to inflammatory disorders and peptic ulcers. They are also more likely to be afflicted with aches and pains, sleep disorders, emotional outbursts, skin irritation, and so on. A vata-pitta balancing routine is therefore vital to maintaining good health and wellbeing.
5. Pitta – Kapha
Pitta-kapha type individuals have both pitta and kapha doshas in close to equal strength. These individuals have strong willpower and are more focused, with a clear goal-oriented nature. At the same time they tend to be balanced with a somewhat relaxed nature.
Physically, pitta-kapha type individuals have a rather stocky or robust frame and they also enjoy relatively good health if keep their doshas in balance. In balanced individuals, the fiery energy of pitta is kept grounded and balanced by kapha. This means that individuals in this dosha type are less likely to experience digestive health problems early in life, as they have the perfect strength of agni or digestive fire. Unfortunately, many tend to take this for granted and abuse their good fortune, leaning towards unhealthy lifestyles, overeating and under-exercising. As a result, problems with obesity and associated health risks may surface.
Pitta-kapha types although generally healthy, may also be vulnerable to skin diseases and body odor problems that result from heavy perspiration.
6. Kapha – Vata
The kapha-vata combination type is perhaps the most interesting because of the opposing nature of the 2 doshas that are in predominance – kapha and vata. While kapha dosha gives rise to a desire for stability, order, and routine, vata triggers more creative pursuits and a more enthusiastic and chaotic approach to life. This strange combination can give rise to serious internal conflicts, leading to plenty of frustration at times.
Physically, individuals in the kapha-vata category can show significant variation being either small or delicately built, tall and slender, or more athletic and with a bigger frame. Kapha-vata individuals also have greater vulnerability to a number of health conditions, including poor digestion with problems like bloating and constipation. Kapha-vata individuals also have conflicting emotions, alternating between being laidback and anxious, as well as sleeping excessively or poorly. They also have a higher risk of stone formation, loss of focus, depression, and other disorders. This makes balancing dosha levels critical, as this is essential to mitigate the risk of poor health.
7. Vata – Pitta – Kapha (Tridoshic)
Although quite rare, some individuals have all 3 doshas in more or less equal strengths. They are categorized as tridoshic or vata-pitta-kapha type individuals. With this naturally balanced prakriti or dosha type, they are more likely to find a harmonious balance in life and can be meditative, fit, healthy, and emotionally stable.
This balance characterizes almost every aspect of life. Tridoshic individuals tend to be of a medium build and frame, with a pleasant disposition and sharp minds that can still find mental peace. The only scenario in which problems arise is when such individuals go against their basic nature throwing their doshas out of balance. Disorders that are associated with the aggravated dosha then begin to surface. For example, aggravation of vata can give rise to problems like digestive and sleep disorders, while aggravation of kapha could cause problems with excess body weight and depression.
Every dosha type has its unique advantages and risks, making it important to identify and understand the dosha type that you fit into. Allayurveda has worked closely with leading Ayurvedic specialists and researchers to create a tool that measures your dosha balance. Visit our Know Your Dosha page to identify your prakriti so that you can take steps to balance your dosha levels with a combination of diet, exercise, herbal, and lifestyle solutions.
- Cavanagh, Danny, and Carol Willis. Essential Ayurveda: A Practical Guide to Healthy Living. Ayurveda UK, 2004.
- Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine the Principles of Traditional Practice. 1st ed., Churchill Livingstone, 2006.
- Tiwari, Maya. Love Your Body Type The Ayurveda Way. 1st ed., Mother Om Media, 2012.
The information on this page has been contributed by Dr. Pratik Bhoite, M.D. (Ayu), M.S. (Couns.&Psy.) and is intended for the sole use of Allayurveda. Information contained within this article may not be reproduced without the explicit permission of Allayurveda.