Doshas and the Mind

By Antonia Warren

The three maha gunas, vata, pitta, and kapha each have an important role to play in our overall health (provided they remain in balance), and when provoked, each of them tends to cause a specific range of imbalances that can manifest either in the physical body or in the more subtle realms. As a result, vata, pitta, and kapha each have a particular flavor of influence on the mind, emotions, and overall consciousness, and each of them can either support or undermine our overall health—it all depends on whether or not they are in balance.

Vata and the Mind

Vata dosha, which governs the nervous system and the mind, is primarily made up of the air and ether elements. Not coincidentally, the mind is also primarily composed of the air and ether elements, making it especially susceptible to vata imbalances. When in balance, vata is generally associated with creativity, intuition, clairvoyance, the capacity to connect with the subtle realms, profound spiritual understanding, and a natural sense of expansiveness. Vata imbalances, on the other hand, typically manifest as a certain instability, agitation, or hypersensiti

vity in the mind, and often involve excess rajas as well.
Aggravated vata can cause rapid changes in mood, fear, anxiety, contraction, a sense of being scattered, a lack of direction, spaciness, ungroundedness, excessive speed in the thoughts and words, over-activity in the sympathetic nervous system, and a sense of loneliness or isolation. Excess vata also tends to draw us out of our bodies and can leave us feeling somewhat disassociated or disembodied, disturbing our sense of security and belonging to the material world.

Aggravations of vata in mano vaha srotas are often the result of overexertion, overworking, stress, trying to attend to too many things all at once, times of travel or transition, overstimulation (e.g., lights, crowds, technology, etc.), loud noises (or loud music), stimulants such as nicotine, caffeine, and recreational drugs, and excessive exercise or sexual activity. Vata can also be elevated in the mind as a result of a vata-provoking diet, which may include too many dry, light, and rough foods like raw vegetables, crackers, dried fruits, and the like.

Pitta and the Mind

Pitta dosha, which governs insight and intellect, is primarily made up of the fire and water elements. Pitta is closely associated with the gray matter of the brain and has a very important connection with the mind as a whole. Pitta is also closely aligned with a number of Rasajic qualities, which can accumulate in the mind and cause very pitta-specific types of imbalances. Healthy pitta is generally associated with courage, confidence, will power, intelligence, leadership, a sense of vision, acceptance, contentment, satisfaction, enthusiasm, cooperation, and the capacity to surrender.
But when pitta accumulates in the mind, it tends to cause anger, hatred, irritability, frustration, impatience, resentment, envy, judgment, criticism, a rigid attachment to one’s personal beliefs and perspectives, excessive ambition, and a ruthless desire for power.

Aggravations of pitta and rajas in mano vaha srotas are often caused by excess heat and upward moving energy in the body, imbalances in the liver, periods of intense focus or ambition, as well as a tendency to disregard the needs of one’s body in favor of achieving one’s goals. Pitta can also be elevated in the mind as a result of a pitta-provoking diet, which may include too many hot, spicy, especially sour, oily, or fried foods.

Kapha and the Mind

Kapha dosha, which governs structure and lubrication in the body, is primarily made up of the water and earth elements. Kapha is closely associated with the white matter of the brain, the adipose tissue that comprises the brain and nervous tissue, and is also strongly connected to our capacity for memory. As the densest of the doshas, kapha is also aligned with tamas, which can accumulate in the mind and cause very kapha-specific types of imbalances. Healthy kapha is generally associated with love, compassion, patience, groundedness, loyalty, steadiness, endurance, and an overarching sense of ease in one’s life.

But when kapha accumulates in the mind, it tends to cause lethargy, complacency, laziness, depression, stubbornness, attachment, greed, emotional possessiveness, and a tendency to hoard material possessions.

Aggravations of kapha and tamas in mano vaha srotas are often caused by excess density and heaviness in the physical, mental, and emotional spheres, and can also involve an excess of downward moving energy in the body. Excess kapha in the mind is also triggered by an overly sedentary lifestyle, a lack of stimulation or interest in one’s life, inadequate exercise, a sluggish digestive fire, or a kapha-provoking diet—which might include too many especially heavy, dense, or cold foods (like cheese, ice cream, and fried foods).