Dosha Balance


Ayurveda provides us a complete system for comprehending the relationship between the physical and metaphysical parts of our existence. It posits that each one of us is born with a particular constitutional type, called prakriti, and that this is affected by food and herbs, climate, activities, feelings, thoughts, and even the planets. In short, all of our physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual actions affect and modify our fundamental existence.

At the heart of the system is a concept of imbalances or disturbances that give rise to symptoms. These "faults" are called doshas. They will be discussed in immense detail on this site. In the meantime, suffice it to say that what distinguishes the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine from contemporary medicine is its coherence. Since it is rooted in profound wisdom, it has no need to change much less to modernize. Moreover, the architecture of system is so thorough and coherent that if something "new" were to be discovered, it could easily be integrated within the existing structure of Ayurveda.


In the beginning . . .

In Ayurveda, everything begins in the Mind of God. We can try to understand this in whatever context we wish, but Creation emerges because the Creator wills Creation to come into existence. What we perceive with our senses is thus the precipitation of Divine Idea, and what we perceive is an infinitesimally small part of the Idea, limited by the awareness of the perceiver. As the Divine Idea becomes dense, it materializes and displays attributes that are defined as elements.

The matrix for the physical world exists in the ether. Here, the "scaffolding" for visible matter determines the world of appearances. If the etheric "substance" changes, the appearance will also change, quickly or slowly depending on the density of the matter that is changed.

The Elements
In the Beginning Was the Word

According to the Vedas, Brahma "imagines" the world into existence but the manifestation itself is caused by sound. Sound shapes the etheric body and the etheric element rules the sense of sound. Since it is the least dense of the five elements used in Ayurveda, it is also the most subtle and quickest to respond. In terms of constitutional balance, what is most volatile and changeable can be assumed to contain a higher "mix" of the etheric element.

The next element is air. It is considered to be part of the manifest world because even though we do not exactly see it, we perceive it and feel it. It rules the sense of touch. Without air, all would be stagnant because it takes wind to produce movement. The hollow parts of our bodies are filled with air: the lungs, arteries and veins, heart chamber, and oral cavity. When we have shortness of breath, we immediately feel a sense of panic and this anxious feeling does not go away until we can breathe normally again. Thus, the emotion associated with air is anxiety and problems we experience in the physical body tend to be erratic, inconsistent, painful, and difficult to manage.

When ether and air are combined in a manner that produces symptoms, we have "vata" or vata derangement. The word "dosha" means fault. Loosely translated, this means that it is normal to have an abundant and sufficient supply of both ether and air, but if these elements are not functioning properly, they produce symptoms. These are described on the page devoted to the vata dosha. When perusing this site and/or searching for products associated with vata conditions, look for the icon you see above.

Pitta and Kapha

Fire is the only element that is hot. It is associated with the solar plexus and is found in the the chemicals of the gastrointestinal system, such as the caustic acids that are necessary for the transformation of food into nutrients the body can use. Fire is necessary for deep transformation and separation of what is useful from what should be eliminated.

Fire also rules light and therefore the sense of sight and is typically found in its desirable form in people with good digestion and vision as well as keen insight. When fire is deranged, it forms the pitta dosha. This dosha is characterized by heat and dryness, but it is not typically as dry as vata.

Water balances fire. It is the only element that is wet. It nourishes life and promotes growth and repair of tissues. It predominates in the second chakra and is responsible for life, elasticity, viscosity, and buffering of tissues from wear and tear.

Water is the opposite of fire. Water is wet, fire is dry; water is cold, fire is hot; water is heavy and descends, fire is light as ascends. Water will run downwards and fill lakes and oceans. Water is anabolic, fire is catabolic. Water is interested in the past and preservation; fire is inclined towards the future and innovation. To avoid symptoms of incorrect physiological and psychological functioning, these two elements should be in balance.

Earth rules the densest parts of our material world: the skeletal system and teeth. It is the heaviest of the elements and is cold and dry. However, the elements are not found in isolation one from another. The difference between them is not a single line but rather a continuum in which there are varying degrees of mud before the substance is vibrating fast enough to be called water. Moreover, even if there is a relatively complete separation of dirt from water, both dirt and water would have a temperature that reflects the amount of fire present. There would also be space, lots and lots of space within each atom and between them as well.

When earth and water combine in a way that produces excess heaviness, sluggishness, lethargy, and congestion, we find the kapha dosha. Food, herbs, and life style changes can mitigate the derangement.


Vibratory Rate

To round up this introduction, let me summarize by saying that each element is differentiated by its vibratory rate. You might try to think about this in musical terms. We have an octave with divisions that differ according to culture and scales. Even if you take a piano as an example, there are seven white keys and five black ones that are between in frequency. On a piano, Eb and D# are the same. On a harp, this is not exactly true because the sharp is made by tightening the D string whereas the flat is made by loosening the E string and though they are very similar, they might be slightly different.

However, we give those black keys names even if they are not precisely one note or the other. Likewise, we can say that just as water occurs in a solid form as ice, a liquid form as water, and vaporous form as steam, this is only due to the presence or absence of fire, yet we still call the ice a form of very cold water even though it will not reach its familiar liquid state without the benefit of fire.

Once these principles are understood, it will be easy to see how to apply them to yourself and family and friends in a way that gives you much more control over your comfort and health.

Everything in the visible world is a combination of elements whose proportions one to another are always changing. For instance, if the amount of water increases, there will be swelling, weight gain, and an increase in not just clamminess but also coldness, because the ratio of water to fire is increasing. If, on the other hand, fire were to become more active, the temperature would rise and the water would evaporate. The system is so inherently logical that it is easily learned by anyone who cares to take the time to understand its simplicity and profundity.


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2004. Revised 2012




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Suquamish, Washington

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