Physio, Psycho, and Patho Nature of the Doshas
Five Airs of Vata
The five sites or centres of operation and systemic outreach through which Vata casts its influence on the entire organism are called the five airs of Vata, namely: prana, udana, samana, apana and vyana
Air of Respiration: Prana
Prana means ‘life’ is the first air of the universe and of the body. Although located in the body between the diaphragm and throat, it not only pervades the region of the heart and chest, but also up into the face and brain. Prana aids in the chewing and swallowing of food and provides immediate nourishment to all vital tissues of the body. The system is constantly being rejuvenated through the natural rhythm of the breath’s inhalation, exhalation, and timely retention. The activity of the colon is attuned to the respiration’s rhythm; the main function of prana is extracting ‘prana’ i.e life from the digested food and diffusing it into all of the tissues in the body. When the colon is disturbed and unable to fulfil its natural ability to extract and diffuse prana, this unused prana becomes waste.
Prana facilitates all movement in and out of the body. It moves in the region of the heart, causing it to beat. It carries food through the oesophagus into the stomach. Prana sustains the heart, arteries, veins, senses, and our wisdom faculty, (buddhi). When prana cannot function properly our very life force is threatened. Respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and asthma result. Heart ailments and the impulse to vomit are also related to prana’s imbalance.
Air of the Throat: Udana
Udana, the second air of Vata, which means “rising air,” flows upward from the umbilicus through the lung and into the throat and nose. Known as the air of ejection, it provides us with our vocal powers and clarity of sense perceptions. It also preserves our body’s natural forces, such as its strength of will and capacity for effort. Udana has the supreme task of keeping track of the number of breaths we expend. An equally supreme task is udana’s capacity to preserve memory, both experiential (memories gathered within a present lifetime) and cognitive (cumulative memories carried into all lives from the beginning of creation through all time). Impairment of udana can result in loss of memory, impaired speech, giddiness or heaviness in the head, deep-seated fears, and a shortened life span).
Air of the Stomach: Samana
Samana, the third air of Vata, is located between the diaphragm and navel. It aids the movement of food through the stomach and small intestines, fans the fires of digestion by stimulating the production of gastric juices and digestive enzymes and helps in the assimilation of nutrients extracted from our food. Samana is the moving force that transports these nutrients to the various tissue elements and discharges wastes into the colon. When the samana air is disturbed, it can cause mucus accumulation in the stomach called ‘ama’, indigestion, poor assimilation, and diarrhoea.
Air of the Colon: Apana
The fourth air of Vata, apana, is located in the colon and the organs of the pelvic region. Also known as the air of elimination, apana’s primary function is to relieve the body of feces, urine, flatus, semen, and menstrual waste. Its down ward pressure maintains position of the foetus and the flow of its eventual birth. Apana is the most dominant of the five airs, situated as it is in Vata’s primary location. Apana maintains the delayed nutrition of prana in the organism.
When apana is impaired, diseases of the bladder, anus, testicles, uterus, menstrual problems and obstinate urinary diseases, including diabetes, prevail.
Air of Circulation: Vyana
Vyana is the fifth and final air of the Vata and is located in the heart. It diffuses the energy derived from food and breath throughout the entire organism including the skin. Circulatory in nature, Vyana functions in the body’s circulation channels, such as the blood vessels, to transport nutritive juices and blood throughout the body. Vyana also carries sweat from the glands to the skin and is the force behind bodily expressions such as yawning and blinking.
When vyana malfunctions, there is dryness of the skin and other body extremities, poor circulation, and diseases such as fever.
Doshas Site Normal function
Prana Heart & Head, between diaphragm and throat
Breathing and swallowing of food, life & thinking, heart rhythm
Udana From umbilicus to lung, throat and nose
Speech, voice, colour, strength, immunity,energy, memory,capacity for effort
Samana Between diaphragm and navel (stomach and intestines)
Helps action of digestive enzymes, assimilation of end products of food and separation into their various tissue elements &
Apana Colon & organs of pelvis Elimination of stool, urine, flatus, semen, fetus and menstrual blood.
Vyana Heart Diffusion of energy from food and breath in the whole body, helps in the functioning of
circulating channels as blood vessels.
Five Fires of Pitta
Pitta, formed from the elements of fire and water, also is said to reside in five sites. These sites are the centers of operation and systemic outreach through which the Pitta dosha influences the entire organism; they are: pachaka, ranjaka, sadhaka, alochaka and bhrajaka.
Fire of the Stomach: Pachaka
Pachaka is referred to in Ayurveda as the first fire of the body. It exists in the small intestine, duodenum, gall bladder, liver, and pancreas, and supports the remaining four fires, to be discussed below. Pachaka’s main action is to dissolve and digest the food we eat. It also regulates body temperature. Once digestion has taken place, pachaka separates the food’s nutritive elements from its waste elements. An imbalance in this first fire, pachaka, causes indigestion as well as a revulsion for food.
Fire of the Blood : Ranjaka
True to its name, ranjaka, the second fire of Pitta, controls the formation and preservation of blood. Located in the liver, spleen, and stomach, ranjaka provides the blood with its color and oxygen. When ranjaka is impaired, bile compounds may appear in the blood and diseases such as anaemia and jaundice may follow.
Fire of the Heart: Sadhaka The finest of the fires, sadhaka, the third fire, is central to the activity of Pitta. It reigns, along with prana, in the heart. With udana, it governs memory and the retention and wellness of all mental functioning. When sadhaka is impaired, there may be psychic disturbances, mental disorientation, extreme emotional states, and craving for extreme foods, drugs, and so on.
Fire of the Eyes: Alochaka
Alochaka, the fourth fire of Pitta, exists in the pupils of the eyes. It gives the eyes their lustre and diffuses light and its spectrum of colours throughout the body, When the fourth fire is vitiated, there is impairment of vision and yellowness may appear in the eyes.
Fire of the Skin : Bhrajaka
The fifth fire, bhrajaka, is located in the skin, given the skin its lustre and gleam. Bhrajaka protects the body from extreme atmospheric conditions and facilitates the assimilation of light, wind, water, and oil through the skin. When this fire is disturbed, skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and leukoderma may result.
Doshas Site Normal function Ailments caused by its vitiation:
Pachaka Stomach & small intestines, gall bladder, liver, pancreas, Digesting and dissolving of food, regulating body temperature, separation of nutritive elements from wastes Indigestion, Anorexia
Ranjaka Liver, spleen and stomach Blood formation and preservation Anemia, Jaundice Hepatitis
Sadhaka Heart Memory and other mental functions. Psychic disturbances, Cardiac diseases, mental disorientation and extreme emotional states
Alochaka Eyes Vision, lusture of eyes Impairment of vision, yellowness of eyes
Bhrajaka Skin Colour and glaze of the skin Leucoderma, Other skin diseases eg psoriasis,eczema
Five Waters of Kapha
Kapha, formed from the elements water and earth, also manifests in five doshic sites, through these centres of operation and systemic outreach it influences the entire organism. The five waters of Kapha are: kledaka, avalambaka, bodhaka, tarpaka and slesaka.
Water of the Stomach: Kledaka
The first water of Kapha, kledaka, originates in the stomach. It is the cause of mucus formation in the body. Most important of the waters, kledaka’s moist foamy liquid aids digestion, liquefies foods, and nourishes the remaining waters of Kapha. When the first water is aggravated, the digestion process becomes impaired, heaviness of the abdomen prevails, and nausea may also occur.
Water of the Heart : Avalambaka
The second water of Kapha, avalambaka, resides in the chest and heart. It provides a plasmic ( fluid ) tissue covering to the heart, thus insulating it from heart & acting as a shock absorber. Avalambaka also provides the limbs with their energy. When this water is disturbed, laziness and lethargy ensure. Heart originating diseases such as rheumatic fever and pains in the pericardium(tissue around the heart) may also occur.
Water of the Tongue: Bodhaka
Bhodhaka, the third water of Kapha, is the one which joins the five waters of body’s river. It sends water to the tongue and palate and gives the perception of taste. It registers each of the six tastes in nature and sends the appropriate impulses to the receiving tissue long before the food is ingested. Bodhaka water also liquefies the food. When this water is disturbed, crimes against the body’s natural instincts are committed, due to the impairment of taste. This creates Ama, the foul undigested remnants of food which stick in the tissues and promote diseases such as obesity, bulimia, and anorexia. Generally, a thick white coating on the tongue indicates the presence of ama in the body.
Water of Head: Tarpaka
Tarpaka, Kapha’s fourth water, flows in the brain and spinal cord. It soothes the sense organs and, as a result lubricates and protects the nervous system. When this water is out of balance, the sense organs become impaired. Loss of memory and dullness of sensory perceptions are the natural result.
Water of the Joints: Shlessaka
The fifth water of Kapha, slesaka, is located in the joints. It lubricates the joints and gives them their solidity. Slesaka’s unctuous gel protects the joints from heat, and gives ease and flexibility of movement. When this water is impaired, the joints may become swollen, painful, and dysfunctional.
Doshas Site Normal function Ailments caused by its vitiation:
Kledaka Stomach Moistens food, which helps in digestion, formation of mucus in body. Impairment of digestion, heaviness in abdomen , nausea
Avalambaka Chest & Heart Energy in limbs , controls temperature of the heart Laziness, Rheumatic heart disease
Bodhaka Tongue, palate Perception of taste. Impairment of digestion,bulimia,anorexia, obesity
Tarpaka Brain, spinal cord Nourishment of the sense organs, lubrication and protection of nervous system. Loss of memory, Impairment of function of sense organs
Shlesshaka Joints Lubrication of joints,protection of joints from heat Pain in joints, Impairment of function of joints.