All that exists in this universe of ours can be described in terms of one or more attributes (guṇas). They are present in every element, dosha, thought, star, mountain, mood, food, and breath.
This speaks to the core of Āyurvedic treatment, since one of its foundations is to identify the attributes of an imbalance or disorder and then implement treatment using the opposite guṇas.
Āyurveda recognizes that each person is different and has a unique mind-body constitution. This is expressed through the doshas, Vāta, Pitta, and Kapha; governing principles that influence and determine biological and psychological characteristics.
The Elements and Their Attributes
Attributes of Ether
Guṇas (Qualities): Clear, light, subtle, soft, immeasurable
Karmas (Actions): Vibration, expansion, non-resistance, freedom, love.
Attributes of Air
Guṇas (Qualities): Mobile, dry, light, cold, rough, subtle
Karmas (Actions): Movement in a particular direction.
Tanmātrās: Sound and touch
Attributes of Fire
Guṇas (Qualities): Hot, sharp, light, dry, subtle
Karmas (Actions): Brilliance, luminosity, penetration, the flame of intelligence.
Tanmātrās: Sound, touch, form
Attributes of Water
Guṇas (Qualities): Cool, liquid, dull, soft, oily, slimy
Karmas (Actions): Downward movement, cleansing, cohesiveness, adhesiveness, percolation
Tanmātrās: Sound, touch, form, taste
Attributes of Earth
Guṇas (Qualities): Heavy, dull, static, dense, hard, gross
Karmas (Actions): Gravitation, downward attraction
Tanmātrās: Sound, touch, form, taste, odor
vāyuh pittam kaphaś ceti trayo doshāh samāsatah.
vlkrtāvlkrtā deham ghnanti te vartayanti ca
In brief, vāta, pitta, and kapha are the three doshas.
They support the body when normal and destroy the body when abnormal.
Ancient Āyurvedic sutra
Dry – dry skin, hair, nails, lips, loneliness, fear, hoarse voice
Light – low body weight, anxiety, small or frail body frame, sleep is light
Cold – cold hands and feet, poor circulation, stiff muscles, indifference
Rough – rough skin, cracking joints, cynical mood
Subtle – fear, anxiety, insecurity, emotions, tremors, addictions
Mobile – fast walking and talking, restlessness, insecurity
Clear – isolation, creative, understands but forgets information quickly
Vāta doṣa is associated with Air and Ether. In the body it promotes movement and lightness. Vāta people are generally thin and light physically, dry-skinned, very energetic, and creative. When vāta is out of balance, there are often nervous problems, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, lower back pain, and headache.
Hot – passion, anger, high body temperature, strong appetite
Sharp – sharp memory and intellect, irritability, improves concentration
Light – bright eyes, light body frame, alertness
Oily – oily skin, oily feces, vigor
Liquid – excess urine and sweat, liquid stools
Spreading (mobile) – rash, acne, leadership qualities, inflammation, seeks fame
Pitta doṣa is associated with Fire and Water. In the body, it is primarily responsible for metabolism and digestion. Some Pitta characteristics are medium-built bodies, fair skin, strong digestion, and good mental concentration. Pitta imbalances show up as anger and aggression and stress-related conditions such as gastritis, ulcers, liver problems, and hypertension.
Heavy – large body frame, lethargy, tendency to be overweight
Slow – slow walking and talking, slow digestion, patience
Cool – cold/clammy skin, colds, cough, congestion, stagnation
Oily – well-lubricated skin and joints, relaxation
Smooth – smooth skin, calm nature, flexibility
Dense – thick skin, nails and hair; thick subcutaneous fat, strength
Soft – compassion, tenderness
Static – attracted to a sedentary lifestyle, support, stability
Cloudy – often foggy-minded and slow in the morning, attachment
Kapha doṣa is associated with Water and Earth. Those people characterized as kapha are generally large framed or heavy with more oily complexions. They tend to be slow, calm, compassionate and peaceful. Kapha disorders can manifest emotionally as greed and possessiveness, and physically as obesity, fatigue, bronchitis, and sinus problems.
Use the chart below to get a general idea of your constitution (prakuti).
Remember, see a certified Ayurvedic practitioner to get more accurate information and guidance.