Humours (Ayurveda)

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Dosha in Ayurveda

Ayurveda (An Indigenous Indian medicine) uses a different concept of Doshas than the traditional Greco-Roman and European medieval medicine. Dosha (or, sometimes, Dosa)is often translated as the Sanskrit term for fault/ errors. Ayurvedic doshas are the manifestations of elemental forces in the physical body, and are not physical substances in themselves.

Together all Doshas form the Tridosha, which means the 'three doshas'. Dosha is a Sanskrit word which literally means "deviation". It is one of the Maulik Siddhant, or Basic Principles, of Ayurveda. There are three primary Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Their existence in the human body is considered individually, however two doshas can combine, (a condition known as dwidoshaj) as can all three doshas (this situation is known as Tridoshaj or Sannipataj).

The 3 main doshas are: Vata (combination of the space and air elements), Pitta (analogous to the fire element), and Kapha (combination of water and earth elements).

In Ayurveda, all bodily processes are believed to be governed by a balance of the 3 doshas. If all doshas are in balance the person is normal and in good health. Whichever dosha appears to dominate a person's behavior and physique is called his constitution type (theprimary/ dominant dosha). Each constitution type has particular strengths and susceptibilities. ''Tridoshas' [archive]' are considered similar to aetiological factors, which are responsible for one's normal health condition. There is an interesting parallel with the Western concept of athletic (pitta), leptosomic (vata) and pycnic (kapha) constitutional types. In order to identify a person's primary Dosha, one has to undergo a test [archive] that includes a series of questions based upon Physical and Mental characteristics. Upon answering the questions, an analysis of the answers is made, based on which the Primary, and Secondary doshas are determined [archive].


Vata, composed of space and air, governs all movement in the mind and body and must be kept in good balance. Too much vata leads to "worries, insomnia, cramps and constipation. Vata controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind." Vata activates the nervous system, hearing and speech; and expresses as enthusiasm and creativity. Vata also controls the other two principles (Pitta and Kapha) and is usually the first cause of disease. Another word for Vata is Vayu - it is the more traditional Sanskrit word for air.

Those who are classified as Vata tend to have lighter frames, and are either short or tall and thin. Their skin tends to be dry and cold, light to dark brown. Hair is dark, thin, sparse and curly. Nose, hands and feet are often cold to the touch because of the poor circulation characterizing the Vata constitution. They have active, dark brown or dark gray eyes. Movements and speech are quick and sleep is light, interrupted, and fitful. Mentally, they are restless and have lots of ideas. They are creative and imaginative, but are fearful, anxious, and insecure. They are also shy, less bold and with less will-power, that is to say more stimulus is needed to make them more practical.

Vata doshas' corresponding colors are warm and gentle, such as yellow, ochre, or brown. Vata doshas' predominant senses are hearing and touch.


Pitta is said to be composed of fire; it governs, "all heat, metabolism and transformation in the mind and body. It controls how we digest food, how we metabolize our sensory perceptions, and how we discriminate between right and wrong." Pitta must be kept in balance, too. Too much Pitta can lead to anger, criticism, acidity, ulcers, rashes and thinning hair. A balanced Pitta mind makes one a good leader with a warm personality.

Pitta types are generally average physically. Their skin inclines towards redness and sensitivity, sunburns easily. They tend to have fine, soft, red or fair hair (though Pittas have been known to have darker hair, like golden brown.) Eyes tend to be blue, gray, hazel or amber. Their moods change slowly and they are busy people, usually achieving much in their lives. They are more intellectual and speech is clear, sharp, and precise. They are fiery, angry, judgmental, ambitious and chivalrous.

The Pitta doshas' corresponding color are cool, calming colors such as blue, green, or purple. Pitta doshas' predominant sense is sight.


Kapha is the watery humour, consisting of the water and earth elements. "Kapha cements the elements in the body, providing the material for physical structure. This dosha maintains body resistance....Kapha lubricates the joints; provides moisture to the skin; helps to heal wounds; fills the spaces in the body; gives biological strength, vigor and stability; supports memory retention; gives energy to the heart and lungs and maintains immunity...Kapha is responsible for emotions of attachment, greed and long-standing envy; it is also expressed in tendencies toward calmness, forgiveness and love." Too much Kapha leads to lethargy and weight gain, as well as congestion and allergies.

Kaphas' body types are sturdier and thicker than the other body types. Skin is thick, lustrous, clear, usually pale or beige, and cool (but not cold) to the touch. Hair is thick and lustrous, usually wavy. Eyes are blue or brown and prominent. They have the best strength and endurance and have a slow, steady pace. Mentally they are calm, steady, and stable. They can be greedy and possessive but are caring and not easily irritated. Kapha-dominant people are supposed to be more self-sufficient than the rest of the constitutions, but at the same time looking a bit more impassionate due to their incline towards introversion or withdrawal.

Kapha governs bright, vibrant colors such as red, pink, and orange. Kapha doshas' predominant senses are smell and taste.