Vata, Pitta and Kapha are combinations and permutations of the five elements - Earth (Prithvi), Water (jala), Fire (agni), Air (vayu) and Space (Akash) - that manifest as patterns present in all creation. In the physical body, Vata is the subtle energy of movement concerned with nervous system, Pitta the energy of digestion and metabolism, and Kapha the energy that forms the body’s structure.
Energy is required to create movement so that fluids and nutrients get to the cells, enabling the body to function. Energy is also required to metabolize the nutrients in the cells, and is called for to lubricate and maintain the structure of the cell.
All people have the qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, but one is usually primary, one secondary and the third is usually least prominent. The cause of disease in Ayurveda is viewed as a lack of proper cellular function due to an excess or deficiency of Vata, Pitta or Kapha. Disease can also be caused by the presence of toxins.
In Ayurveda, body, mind and consciousness work together in maintaining balance. They are simply viewed as different facets of one’s being. To learn how to balance the body, mind and consciousness requires an understanding of how Vata,Pitta and Kapha work together.
VATA is the fine energy associated with movement, composed of Air and Space. Space is inert and Air is mobile. Air always attempts to expand itself free from limitations. If this expansive tendency becomes too pronounced it will destroy any structure that limits it. Excessive empty space and insufficient power of movement can result in stasis, or inactivity. A healthy Vata keeps Space and Air in balance by ensuring that there is just enough Space for Air to move in, and just enough Air to move in Space.
PITTA is composed of Fire and Water. All “fires” in the body are contained in water. Stomach acid, for instance, is an extremely powerful acid (pH 2-3). It burns anything it touches as surely as an open flame or a bolt of lightning. Acid is Fire contained in Water. When Fire predominates in this mixture the acid can burn through the natural containment facilities that Water provides. If this happens in the stomach, gastric ulcer will result. Should Water predominate, it will douse the Fire and create indigestion.
A healthy Pitta can keep this uneasy alliance of Fire and Water intact.
KAPHA is the energy that forms the body’s structure. It is composed of Water and Earth. Nature has provided us with Kapha to keep the body’s Earth – its solids – suspended in its Water – its liquids – in the proper proportion. Wherever the body becomes too solid, a problem always develops (like the formation of gall stones). Likewise, too much Water and not enough Earth in a system promotes disturbances (like oedema). Only when Kapha is balanced do Water and Earth remain in balance.