What Are the Doshas, and Why Are They Important?

doshas

 

Originally written for Yogahub.ie 

What Are the Doshas??

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Some of us may have a vague inclination as to what the 3 doshas are, however it’s rare we get the opportunity to delve deeper into our individual constitution. In this series of blog posts we hope to help you understand further what it means to be a Vata, Pitta, or Kapha type, and also what this means in terms of your daily habits, tendencies, and unique composition.

The Doshas and Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine holds that each of the three doshas is a dominant force of energy which circulates the body and determines our physiological activity. Each Vata, Pitta, and Kapha manifest themselves differently in terms of our temperment, physical constitution, and general disposition, while also determining extremity of various physical and mental disorders.

Human Condition

In his book ‘Yoga and Ayurveda‘ David Frawley outlines how our entire life and perception of existence is based upon the interplay (or ‘dance’) of the three doshas. He explains that Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are in constant motion with our internal and external environment, ensuring our continued engagement with the world around us.
Our conditions of health, disease, growth and ageing all occur as a result of or in relation to certain movements or dominance of our doshas – elements of which are present in everyone. While one dosha is always dominant in each individual, we each contain elements of all three, and it is the relationship and dynamics of co-habitation of these doshas within us that keeps us moving, keeping awareness and change within constant reach.

doshas ayurveda


Once a Vata, Always a Vata??

Ayurveda defines people as either Vata, Pitta or Kapha according to the dominant traits of each which are present in the body, many of which occur as the result of prolonged habits, altering bodily constitution over time to mean the individual is inclined towards one dosha. It is with this understanding of the individual composition that we can understand how the dominant dosha of an individual can alter over time, and will not necessarily remain the same forever.

The Doshas and Yoga

In terms of yoga, the correct assessment of a persons’ dosha can help to ensure correct practice and outline the personalized type or style of yoga and movement which will ensure their practice provides optimal results. For instance a slow Yin or Hatha practice is often preferable for those of dominant Vata dosha, to balance their excitable, energetic and unpredictable nature. Whether mental, physical, or emotional, a yogi’s dosha relates directly back to their engagement with the elements of the world around them, and is also important in Ayurveda when determining which treatments will best suit a patient.

Balancing Our Doshas

Balancing our doshas is key to ensuring the avoidance of excesses which can result in unbalanced mental and physical constitution, and ayurvedic medicine is concerned with treatments to re-balance these upsets in stability within an individual. It’s fascinating to consider oneself in relation to the doshas and to research about what best suits our own particular type, learning how to improve elements of our physical and mental composition through ayurvedic principles, of which diet plays a large (but not solely responsible) role.

doshas ayurveda

Good and Bad

While all three doshas have strengths and positive attributes, they each also have their weaknesses, and it is through gaining a deeper understanding of these that we can enforce further measures within our own lives to achieve balance. Whether through diet, forms of physical exercise, mental stimulation or lifestyle factors, it is important to address our individual constitution according to our own needs and nobody else’s.
There are several online tests (linked below) which you can take to determine your current dominant dosha, (we’d recommend taking more than one to ensure consistent results), and over the next few weeks on the blog we’ll be outlining particular elements of each Vata, Pitta, and Kapha which will help you gain a more thorough understanding of them.

Links:

What’s My Dosha Quiz
Discover Your Dosha
Banyan Botanicals Prakriti Quiz
Yoga Journal’s What’s Your Dosha

 

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The 5 Pranas – Apana, Udana, and Prana

The 5 Pranas

-Apana, Udana, Prana

As discussed in the previous post on Samana and Vyana, the 5 Pranas or energies are an important aspect of both yogic science and ayurvedic medicine, which as a discipline also aims to achieve and maintain balance between said energies within the mind and body.
Having already come to understand Samana as an energetic movement stemming from the periphery of the body moving inwards and focused in the area of the naval, and Vyana as a circulatory movement to aid with the transportation of energy around the entire physical body, it follows that Apana, Udana, and Prana each travel along their own individual paths too.

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Elimination

Apana can be understood literally as ‘the air that moves away’, therefore signifying the downward and outward energetic pathway which it follows. Apana is associated with the elimination of toxins from the body, and is sometimes considered the definition of our pranic or energetic immune system. Again, this can be understood in terms of physical waste and stools, sweat, carbon dioxide and urine, but also in terms of negative sensory, emotional and mental experiences which prove unpleasant or unsuited to our composition. Centralised in the lower abdomen, Apana not only governs elimination, but also reproduction, providing an instinctual self-sufficiency and replenishing sense of continuity when functioning at the height of it’s potential.

Support

Udana on the other hand is an uplifting force of energy, literally translated as ‘upward moving air’, and is primarily associated with the progression, growth and transformation of the body and mind as they evolve continuously throughout our lives. Physically, Udana aids with balance, growth, and our ability to stand and carry out actions. It also governs speech and is said to stem from an area in the throat, supporting the head and organs associated with our mentality balanced upon the spine. This force of energy being continuously drawn upwards is easily blocked, resulting in stunted growth and stagnancy within our actions and thoughts. Yoga and Ayurveda are used as ways to reopen these pathways and aid the correct flow of Udana throughout the body, unblocking both mental and physical pathways and habits which have hindered our growth and expansion into the world.

Guidance

Prana in it’s own right serves as the energy of ‘forward moving air’, and although Samana constitutes inward moving energy from the external and its assimilation to the internal,  Prana as a whole deals with the reception of all sensory engagement and its propulsion around the body. Not only does it provide the energy which is necessary for all other pranas to function, but it guides them from its seat in the region of the third eye.

While all 5 Pranas on a physical level have many inherent effects on our body’s reactions and chemical processes, the “receptivity to mental sources of nourishment” (D. Frawley) that can be achieved by incorporating pranayama techniques successfully into one’s yoga practice is an invisible yet exceptional way to achieve and maintain a better mind/body balance and ensure the healthy functioning of the channels through which the pranas travel (nadis). These channels will be discussed  further in another post.