Many years back Doordarshan was the most common source of entertainment, as it had everything in store for everyone. Family shows like Buniyaad, Hum log etc for families, news for elders, music shows like Chitrahaar, and for kids – Shaktimaan. Till date I haven’t been able to find a kids show that keeps the kids hooked while giving information about the world around us. It was this show that first introduced the concept of panchmahabhuta to me. The combination of the panchmahabhut, is what constitutes the vata dosha, pitta dosha and the kapha dosha, or the three ayurveda body types.
Panchmahabhuta – in simpler terms the five great elements, comprise Akash (space), Vayu (air), Jal (water), Agni (fire), and Prithvi(earth). It is said that all of us and all other elements existing in this universe are composed of these five elements. They govern various parts and organs of our bodies.
- The Akash or the space is related to the sound, which governs the ears.
- The Vayu or the air governs the sense of touch, which is the skin.
- The Agni, or the fire is the ultimate form of energy giving element which governs the sight, or the eyes.
- The Jala, or the water governs the sense of taste or the tongue
- The Prithvi , or the earth governs the sense of smell or the nose.
In this way it is evident how these Panchmahabhuta control our sense organs, and hence our minds and bodies. On that note, we come to the question, how is this connected to Ayurveda.
In Ayurveda, the bodies have been classified into three types:
- Vata: or the force managing the vayu and the akash mahabhut
- Pitta: or the force managing the agni and the jal mahabhut
- Kapha: or the force managing prithvi and the jal mahabhut
In other words, Vata makes sure that all our body movements and actions take place without any hindrance. It is the energy of movement.
These movements include all kinds of absorptions, cell management, helping the nervous system function properly, body waste management and excretions of the waste from the body, breathing mechanism and the functions involving bones and the muscles.
Pitta, as we see, consists of two opposite elements, fire and the water. Managing them together is a tedious task. When fire and water are combined, they resemble a burning liquid, something like an acid. The digestive liquids in the stomach are the perfect example of the Pitta, the acids that burn and carry out the function of digestion. Pitta, hence is the energy of digestion and metabolism. It governs the body to aid digestion and improve metabolism.
Kapha, again, comprises two opposite forces, the earth and the water. It is the energy of the body structure – a force that holds together all the organs and elements of the body. It acts as a joining force of the muscles, ligaments and joints. Since its primary work is to hold together the body, it also forms the protective layer around the sensitive areas of the body, namely the brain, joints and the spinal cord. It is a fluid like substance that provides strength and nourishment. ‘Kapha’ in Sanskrit .
There are three states of the body with respect to dosha:
- Balanced: as the name suggests, all the three doshas are well balanced.
- Increased: in this case, a particular dosha is in excess in the body.
- Decreased: in this case, a particular dosha is less in the body.
However, a person is governed by the dosha they have on the basis of the balance, growth and reduction of the dosha elements. A person might have a dosha prominent in his/her body, which makes them a person with that particular dosha.
A person with Vata prominence will have a body and mind bursting with energy. This energy helps them have a quick and sharp mind that grasps things easily, they have flexibility in their approach and have a very creative aspect towards life. However, this energy may be short lived if the other energies are weak. A Vata predominant person may get tired very easily, not just by body but by mind as well. In case the Vata is imbalanced, the person will have nervousness, fear and anxiety. They might lack confidence and willpower although they have the brains to achieve great heights in life. They might feel the absence of being grounded or a stability in life.
There are five subcategories on which Vata doshas are classified. These include:
- Prana Vata: deals with the functioning of the brain, the lungs and the heart.
- Udana Vata: deals with the respiratory system and controls breathing. It is also related to the organ of speech.
- Vyana Vata: deals with involuntary actions inside the body. It transfers from the heart to various parts of the body and then back.
- Samana Vata: this deals with the absorption and the excretion function of the body. In simple words, gaining the authority to control what will stay or will leave the body. Excretion of bodily fluids such as urine, sweat etc. it controls the intestines, the liver and the stomach.
- Apana Vata: this too, deals with the excretion part of the body and controls the excretion of faecal matter from the body.
A person with predominant Pitta will usually have a hot temper. These people have agitation; have some of the best ideas and a sharp intelligence. However, since they have sharp agitation, they might get short tempered really quick. They have strong metabolism and a good appetite. They are alert and intelligent but might have anger issues, jealousy and hatred in case the Pitta is imbalanced.
Pitta too can be classified into five subcategories, namely:
- Pachaka Pitta: as the name suggests, it aids and controls the process of digestion in the body. It controls the stomach.
- Ranjaka Pitta: it controls the liver and the spleen, and is related to the production of blood in the body.
- Sadhaka Pitta: this Pitta is said to reside in the heart, providing and helping with maintenance of emotional balance and stability in stressful conditions.
- Alochaka Pitta: this Pitta controls the vision and the perception of color and is said to reside in the retina.
- Bhrajaka Pitta: this Pitta resides in the skin of an individual and is concerned with the skin tone and the complexion.
A person with Kapha prominent in the body has both strength and stamina to perform heavy tasks and can endure stress easily. They are more inclined towards stability and are mostly grounded individuals. They are usually calmer and more composed in comparison to other body types. If the Kapha is imbalanced in a person, he/she may experience greed, envy, and possessiveness.
It can be classified into five subcategories namely:
- Avalambaka Kapha: located around the chest area this acts as a cushion to the heart and respiratory system
- Kledaka Kapha: it breaks down the consumed food into portions to digest, and protects the inner lining of the stomach.
- Tarpaka Kapha: is located in the head, and provides nourishment and protection to sensory organs against damage along with lubrication to the nerves.
- Bodhaka Kapha: is found in the mouth and the tongue, which moistens the consumed food and makes it ready for digestion.
- Sleshaka Kapha: it resides in joints, provides lubrication and protection against jerks and gives stability.
Prana, Tejas and Ojas
There also exist subtle counterparts to these doshas, which are named as Prana, Tejas and Ojas which are responsible for promotion of health, well being and creativity.
- Prana is the ultimate life force and the healing energy of the Vata
- Tejas is the meaning of the inner radiance and the healing energy of the Pitta
- Ojas is the ultimate reserve energy of the body in the form of water, derived from Kapha.
All these energies are interlinked, with Prana and Tejas being derived from Ojas.
Ojas is the ultimate reserve that provides immunity and strength to the body, Tejas is the lighting and guiding force of Ojas, and Prana is what we derive from Ojas. Together, they are responsible for a smooth functioning of our entire body from head to toe, each nerve and each muscle.
Ayurveda is a vast topic in itself, there is so much to know and learn. But we can for sure make an attempt to know more about ourselves by understanding our body types and working towards what helps us balance the doshas, to make informed choices for long term wellness and health.