Ayurveda: vata, pitta and kapha

The concepts of vata, pitta and kapha are the three doshas in Ayurveda. They are physiological forces that operate in the body and mind of man. Dosha means: that which is subject to decay or that which can cause decay. Vata, pitta and kapha are also called the tri-dhatus. This means: that which sustains. Ayurveda is based on the principle that all kinds of diseases and ailments have their origins in disorders of one or more doshas. If the three doshas are in balance and functioning normally, we will be in good mental and physical condition. If this is in harmony with dharma, artha and kama, we will have a long, healthy and happy life.
The three doshas are responsible for the development of natural desires and individual food preferences. They also regulate the growth, maintenance and destruction of body tissues and waste products from the body.

Psychological phenomena

Psychological phenomena such as ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ emotions arise under the influence of the tri-dosha:

  • higher emotions include understanding, compassion and love
  • lower emotions include fear, anger and greed

The three doshas together form the basis or foundation for the psycho-somatic existence of man. From this you can conclude that the tri-doshas are the basis of the body, but also of diseases.


The three doshas are actually just energy. Mind and body are one; the three basic energies in the body are the three doshas, the three energies in the mind are:

  • sattva
  • rajas
  • tamas

The physiological forces that are the tri-dosha are also found in Western medicine in older times. They are then described as wind (vata), bile (pitta) and phlegm (kapha).
The three doshas never operate separately, but always work together. Usually there is a dosha that predominates. So they are three energies that are always moving and interacting with each other.
You can therefore say that:

  • Vata corresponds to Rajas
  • Pitta corresponds to Sattva
  • Kapha corresponds to Tamas

The tri-doshas together form: movement, dynamics and balance. This not only in the human body, but also in plants, the weather, the earth and the universe.


It is true that the characteristics of the three gunas are more universal than those of the three doshas.


A sattva person has a pleasant, harmonious appearance, he is focused on spiritual growth and care for fellow human beings. His hallmark is ‘universal love’. Sattva then is harmony, purity and spiritual growth. It wants to evolve further and brings intelligence through knowledge of universal truths, positivity and love for the higher.
A rajas person is very dynamic, but also restless. He works more impulsively. Prestige and power are important to him. Rajas is the principle of movement. It is not positive or negative, but neutral. A rajas type is active and combative. He experiences love emotionally and outgoingly.
A tamas person is slow and unclear. He usually has a negative attitude and is introverted. He is not evolutionary. Tamas is depression, inertia, not creativity.
Because sattva, rajas and tamas have universal characteristics, they are also found in vata, pitta and kapha.
This article is part of the Ayurveda final paper of the yoga teacher training at the Training Institute for Yoga Teachers in Zolder in Belgium.