Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for the elements and qualities, we will introduce the most well known lens that Ayurveda uses to understand the bodymind and how foods, exercise, and lifestyle practices influence us: the tridosha or three doshas.
According to Ayurveda, we each have a combination of the 5 elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth), which give rise to physical and mental traits that are formed at the moment of conception. This is known as your “prakruti” or personal base level constitution. In Ayurveda we use three functional principles, the doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha), to describe this personal constitution. Our current state of health at any given time, in relation to our prakruti, is known as vikruti and is also described by a ratio of the three doshas.
Doshas are simply a way to organize the elements and describe the way they’re bound to flesh and blood. They can increase or decrease if we are not eating foods or engaging in lifestyle practices that are right for us – this is the realm of vikruti. While understanding our prakruti or base constitution is important, we believe it’s even more important to identify our state of vikruti (the qualities, elements, and doshas) associated with the imbalances we are experiencing. When we understand, this we can re-align with our personal constitution, our prakruti, and become free of disease.
We have outlined the basic characteristics of vata, pitta, and kapha in a simplified one pager for your reference! If you want to go deeper there are many resources that exist already, including Dr. Lad’s free online intro guide found at: The Ayurvedic Institute online resource. He also has a great prakruti/vikruti quiz to get you started. Another good quiz can be found here: Banyan Constitution quiz.
“Ayurveda’s seers isolated three forces that are especially important to understand because they allow us to see how pathways and energies manifest in an organism. These forces are called the three doshas. The doshas as we know them are forces that preserve an organism’s balance when they are themselves balanced and disturb harmony when they are disturbed. These are forces that cannot be directly perceived. Only their actions can be seen and felt through our bodily substances which are their vehicles.” ~Dr. Robert Svoboda
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