The True Meaning of Dosha in Ayurveda

It is challenging to define Dosha with a one-word English term. In this blog post, we will uncover the true meaning of Dosha, the types of Dosha in Ayurveda, and what correlates with it. The terms and translations are from Mr. Vaidya P. Rammanohar in the video series Dosha ≠ Humour by Mr. Rajiv Malhotra. Read on!

Popular translations include humor, functional principles, three energies, and regulatory principles. But Dosha translates as Humor, and is one of the most commonly used. For starters, the word Dosha means fault, bad quality, and defect in Sanskrit, which is not relevant in this context. 

What is Dosha?

According to Ayurveda, the body is designed for self-destruction, so the very constituents that support it in the ultimate analysis are the fault. So the lifeline of the body is also its fault line. The term functional principle is very vague and does not fit with the meaning of the Dosha. 

Doshas are like the fault lines in the body. They are configurations of the gunas (physical properties) that are susceptible to derangement. Doshas create a matrix: the physicochemical conditions for expression of structural and functional manifestations of the body. The opposite of Dosha is Guna, according to the Mahabharata. 

The idea is that Ayurveda gives a very realistic view of your system. There is a lot of danger, so the word Dosha means you have to take care. Indeed, ff you don’t take care of your body, which is programmed for destruction without consideration, it will be even faster for destruction. To give that sense of attention that respect, the doshas need to be taken care of; otherwise, they can be destroyed.

What is Gunas?

A specific configuration of the Gurdavi Gunas (properties) is the opposites on a continuum- Usna Sita, Ruksa Snigdha, Guru Laghu, Manda Tiksna, etc., which serves as the matrix for the expression of the structure and function of the physical body.

Shifts in the Gurvadi Gunas, which define a nominal scale on the continuum of opposites, create the right physiological conditions for the dhatus to function in the body. Nonetheless, each Dosha is a pattern of Gunas that manifests as specific structural and functional expressions in the body. Thus, the doshas represent the conditions in the internal environment of the body.

If you look at the body’s physiology at one time, it is shifting to the cold side. Sometimes it becomes hot, and sometimes it’s in the catabolic state breaking down or building up. In either way, these shifts are represented by these 20 Gunas. It is like the matrix, similarly. 

The focus is on individual molecules in modern medicine, but Ayurveda is concerned about the matrix. When the matrix changes, molecular reactions will change, and doshas represent the patterns of these guns in the body. So when specific guna manifest, certain functions manifest when there is a shift again, it changes.

Dosha is not an Energy

Energy is not a good term for Dosha. The idea of energy is not conveyed by the word Dosha. There is no indication in the text referring to Doshas purely as energy or substance. Dosha is a pattern of Gunas. It represents the fluctuations in the internal environment of the body. 

The Vata, Pitta, Kapha is the constructive principle. When the body is in constructing itself, we would say Kapha is dominating, which means that there has been a shift of the gunas onto the particular gradient across that continuum. Once the construction is done, now is the time to release energy, and then there will be a shift now. As a result, Pitta has become active. As the transformation, energy gets release. It needs to be channelized, utilized, and expressed, resulting in Vata.

So it isn’t very reasonable to say that I am Vata. Everybody consists of Vata, Pitta, Kapha. These three functions don’t take place, but there is dominance. No Doshas are seen alone. They form one continuity, so usually, there are two doshas that are dominant in your body.

Additionally, some organs have their type of Dosha. For example, the head region is Kapha Dominant, and the liver is Pitta dominant for everybody. But the baseline may change. That’s why some people are more prone to have liver diseases.

In Ayurveda, our body is organize like a tree upside down: the head is the root, and the feet are the branches. This is evolution, so we started with plant life, fixing it to the ground with the branches spreading upward. While in animal life, we took a 90-degree turn and went parallel to the earth, and when we became humans, we just turned upside down. We say activity is essential for humans because we are design as plants. If the plant was design to be fix and stationary, just swaying. Humans need to be continuously moving. And these movements are what create Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Every organ has a different type of configuration, which is sort of in its innate nature to provide that function.

Dosha is not a Humor

Humor is a theory borrowed from a Greek medical system that considered the body a mixture of fluids. Hippocrates suggested that humor is the vital bodily fluids, such as blood, bile, and phlegm. This term is entirely inapplicable to Dosha, which means there is a tend to be derange.

Moreover, Vata is undoubtedly not fluid, and there is no corresponding idea in the Greek theory of four humors. Dosha represents the function and structure. The Kapha Gunas have accumulated excessively in your system when you’re throwing out phlegm. That’s why you’re physically releasing it. But that is not the functional Dosha, but the Guna inside. Guna is the one that drives the Dosha.

The Ama

Doshic imbalances weaken Agni and lead to the development of Ama. It takes a long time for Ama to develop and accumulate in the body. As the Ama develops, we can also see the signature of the doshic imbalance. Even if Ama is assess, we need to evaluate the doshic imbalances.

The Ama that reflects the signature of the Doshas localize in the Kostha, Sakha, or Marma to manifest different diseases. Thus, we have functional conditions with body elements imbalance and organ-based pathologies. 

In the tradition of Ayurveda, Ama has been define from three viewpoints. On a closer examination, you can understand that these three viewpoints represent Ama in its totality. These are the three positions of Ama:

  • Considered to be the byproduct of impaired digestion
  • Ama is the accumulation of unexpelled wastes in the body
  • First expression of aberrations in the physiological processes in the body

Outcomes of Ama:

  • Retention of an improperly transformed substance or group of importance in the body
  • It can remain in a latent form in the body
  • Can develop substances that cause blockages, functional and structural disturbances
  • Infections, growths, inflammation, structural disintegration are all outcomes of Ama
  • Ama can also lead to improper formation of physical structures of the body

Classifications of Ama:

Based on the following:

  • The quantity- Alpa, Madhya, Bahu
  • The quality- Lina, Linalina, Alinacala, Cala
  • The signature of Dosha- Ama, Vidagdha, Vistabdha
  • The location- Kostha, Sakha, Marma

The doshas’ role is dynamic, shifting in response to changes in weather, conditions, and stress. Your Dosha manifests itself in your proclivities, whether good or evil. You can be tempt to overeat ice cream, talk on the phone too late at night, or skip out on sleep when you need it. Your habits might have a beneficial or harmful impact on your make-up.

Knowing and appreciating your Dosha is essential to knowing yourself. It gives you hints about what you should eat and what you should do if your energy is out of whack. The more you understand what triggers specific behaviors or habits, the easier it will be to maintain a healthy balance.

Subscribe to Organic Ayurveda Life to find out what Dosha you are. Consult an Ayurvedic health practitioner or doctor for advice on making lifestyle changes based on your Dosha. Addressing your demands following your Dosha may help you avoid costly and painful conditions in the future and add years to your life of good living.


Dosha ≠ Humour | Rajiv Malhotra with Vaidya P. Rammanohar

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