Your Guide to the Ayurvedic Doshas

You may have heard of the three 'Doshas' before in Ayurveda, or in other words the three main body types or constitutions. You may even have done a Dosha Quiz before. It's important that we understand the Doshas correctly however so we can apply their principles correctly. The three doshas in Ayurveda, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha, are essentially a summary of the five elements.

Every plant, every human, every object - every single thing in the universe is composed of and influenced by the 5 elements.

Only Five Elements as the basis of the Science of Life. Ayurveda is pretty simple. But Ayurveda made it even more simple, it took five elements and made it into three doshas:

  1. Vata - air and space
  2. Pitta - fire and water
  3. Kapha - earth and water

These doshas are different energies, intelligences and sometimes vitiating imbalances in the biology.

A great way to practically understand the doshas so that you can apply them in your life and the lives of others is to know the qualities and characteristics of each dosha.

It is here you can bring balance to the doshas in yourself, in another person, in your client, in your family member, your child, in your food, in your environment even in an anctivity or action.

When you learn more about the doshas and about Ayurveda, you will be able to come across any dosha comprised in any form, phenomena or circumstance, and be able to therapeutically apply the principles of Ayurveda to achieve balance and healing in that area.

*Note that the dosha(s) dominant in your physiology are always changing. They change according to where you live in the world, what season you are in, where you are in your hormonal cycle, what event has happened recently in your life, your doshas even shift at various times of the day. 

So please don’t be fixed to one or two doshas and only eat foods or perform activities to balance those doshas. You need to be adaptable to your current doshic state. That is why learning all the doshas and how to recognise them in all aspects of your life are important. 

Vata Dosha
Elements – Air and Space
General Functions:
  • Movement - moves prana (lifeforce), oxygen, nutrients to feed your body, moves waste products and menstrual blood out the, ushers a foetus out the birth canal while giving birth, moves your neurons so you can think and move your limbs.
  • Vata segregates what is beneficial and nourishing for the body and that which is toxic and moves substances to their appropriate locations to be dealt with in the most evolutionary way.
  • Vata upholds and maintains the body through its responsibility of nourishing the body tissues to prevent them from degenerating.

Qualities of Vata:

  1. Dry – skin, stool, bowels, hair, brain (manifesting as neuro-degeneration),
  2. Light – light weight frame, feeling light and energetic.
  3. Cold – cold hands, feet and body tissues, dislikes the cold, easy to get cold.
  4. Rough – rough body tissues, can be rough to pass bowel motion.
  5. Subtle – connected to the subtle aspects of creation and expressions of the divine, interacts in a subtle and creative way.
  6. Movement – their body or mind is constantly moving.

Characteristics of Healthy Vata:

  1. Enthusiasm.
  2. Inhalation (movement, Prana).
  3. Exhalation (movement, Prana).
  4. Healthy digestion, peristalsis (moving contents in the gut), blood circulation.
  5. Proper development of body tissues and growth.
  6. Proper elimination of waste products (sweat, urine, faeces).
  7. Satisfying natural urges.

Characteristics of Increased/Imbalanced Vata:

  1. Emaciation (underweight, wasted).
  2. Darkness – dark coloured stools, dark bags under eyes.
  3. Wants to be in the heat all the time.
  4. Tremors.
  5. Gets gas and bloating in the gut.
  6. Tends towards constipation.
  7. Irregular sustenance of energy levels.
  8. Irregular sleep – wakes up throughout the night.
  9. Irregular sensory experiences – “up with the fairies, ungrounded, anxious, nervous.
  10. Excessive talking. Whatever comes you will say. Unnecessary talking.
  11. Delusions/illusions.
Pitta Dosha
Elements – Fire (predominately) and Water.
General Functions:
  1. Digestion, transformation and metabolism.
  2. Visual perception.
  3. Build Vitality (Ojas).
  4. Intellect and acquisition of knowledge.
  5. Regulating body heat.
  6. Colouring – lustre and colour of the skin, blood and body.

Qualities of Pitta:

  1. Slightly unctuous body.
  2. Sharp – sharp mind, intellect, facial features, digestion, vision, way of relating.
  3. Hot – when excess manifests as hot skin, hot-headed, aggressive, anger, lust, hot blood, inflamed gut or skin.
  4. Light – the fire creates a light body.
  5. Foul fermented – ferments contents in the gut, foul body odour.
  6. Slippery internal tissues.
  7. Liquid – more liquid stools, sweat, internal tissues.

Characteristics of Healthy Pitta:

  1. Healthy and accurate vision.
  2. Strong digestion.
  3. Maintains body warmth.
  4. Regular thirst and hunger.
  5. Soft body.
  6. Glows and radiates.
  7. Pleasant to be around.
  8. Intellectual.

Characteristics of Increased/Imbalanced Pitta:

  1. Yellow colour – yellow stool, urine, eyes and skin.
  2. Excess hunger and gets “hangry”.
  3. Excess thirst.
  4. Feels burning sensation in various parts of the body.
  5. Excess heat or inflammation – eczema, acne, hyperacidity, runny stools.
  6. Can wake up to early with disturbed emotions.
  7. “Hot emotions” – anger, lust, aggression, irritable, frustrated.
Kapha Dosha
Elements – Earth and Water
General Functions:
  1. Unification and coherence of joints.
  2. Lubrication of the body.
  3. Heals wounds.
  4. Supports fat – that which protects and insulated the body.
  5. Strength.
  6. Provides structure to support the body

Qualities of Kapha:

  1. Unctuous (like oily).
  2. Cold
  3. Heavy - stable movement, solid.
  4. Dull, slow.
  5. Smooth (like ice-cream) – smooth skin, internal tissues and demeanour.
  6. Greasy – body. Has a magnetic attraction
  7. Stable
  8. Cold – colder than vata. Icy cold. Cold with water element.

Characteristics of Healthy Kapha:

  1. Friendly – attracts hugs.
  2. Binding – structurally holds onto that which is relevant. Impressive memory.
  3. Stability – stable mind, emotions, sex-drive, body, Musculo-skeletal structure.
  4. Heavy – Strong and stable body tissues.
  5. Virility and endurance.
  6. Power – physical and mental.
  7. Tolerance – tolerates stressors well. Very good at being “the stable rock” amongst chaotic interactions. Crazy people can release their stress on a kapha person and they don’t get effected.
  8. Patience.
  9. Not greedy.

Characteristics of Increased/Imbalanced Kapha:

  1. Low digestive strength or the digestive fire is not in it’s right place.
  2. Excess saliva.
  3. Lazy, depressed, lack of zest for life.
  4. Feeling heavy – heavy mind, overweight.
  5. Pale skin, white skin, stool, coating on tongue in the morning.
  6. Feeling to cold.
  7. Unstable like jelly. Like a baby walking.
  8. Weak respiratory tract and has trouble breathing.
  9. Prone to cough.
  10. Excess sleeping.

I hope this gives you a greater understanding of the three doshas so that you can begin to recognise them in various expressions of life. Take a moment to reflect on which areas of life you can recognise the doshas within.


  1. Qualities of each dosha - Astangha Hrdayam of Vaghbata, CH 1, 11
  2. Vaghbata, Sutrastana. Ch. 11 (1)
  3. Caraka Samhita, Ch. 18,(49-51).