What is a Dosha?

different doshas
In ayurveda, a person usually has one or two dominant doshas. SolStock/E+/Getty Images

According to ayurveda (a form of alternative medicine that originated in India), things are composed of five basic elements: space/ether, fire, water, air, and earth. These elements combine to form three metabolic types, which are also called doshas. The vata dosha is a combination of air and space, the pitta dosha is comprised of fire and water, and the kapha dosha is a combination of water and earth.

People are thought to be born with a combination of the doshas. There are usually one or two dominant doshas which determine our physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. The dominant dosha is the reason why, for example, one person may not be able to tolerate humidity or oily foods while another person may have no reaction to them.

In ayurveda, each of the doshas thrives under a specific diet, lifestyle, and exercise regimen. An imbalance among the doshas can be corrected by changing diet and lifestyle factors. If left unchecked, an imbalance can lead to illness. 

An ayurvedic practitioner may assess a person by taking a personal and family history and performing a physical examination.

A person's tongue color may suggest that he or she has a dosha imbalance. For example, a whitish tongue coating may indicate an accumulation of mucus and imbalance in the kapha dosha.

Each dosha is also associated with a different type of pulse.

An Ayurvedic practitioner assesses six pulse points on each wrist (three superficial pulses and three deep pulses).

The eyes and fingernails are also observed during an ayurvedic assessment. If the whites of the eyes are reddish in color and the nails are medium pink, it may suggest a pitta dosha.

Here are some characteristics of the three doshas:

Vata Dosha: Slender with prominent features, moody, impulsive, enthusiastic. This dosha is associated with the large intestine, pelvis, bones, ears, thighs, and skin.

Pitta Dosha: Medium build, well-proportioned, stable weight. This dosha is associated with the small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, eyes, skin, and blood.

Kapha Dosha: Solid, heavy, strong, with a tendency to be overweight. This dosha is associated with the lungs, chest, and spinal fluid.

Related:

Foods for Your Dosha Learn which foods and drinks are believed to balance each dosha.

Teas to Balance Each Dosha: Vata Tea, Pitta Tea, and Kapha Tea

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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