A metaphor that has helped me understand and relate to Doshas is that of an engine. In an engine a mixture of fuel and air is ignited to create controlled explosions of energy. The fire inside the body is a similar mechanism – driven by three qualities called Doshas:
- Vatta describes a quality of air.
- Kapha describes a quality of water (fuel).
- Pitta describes a quality of fire.
These qualities come together to feed a fire that constantly burns – in varying qualities. A fire can be anywhere between intense and blazing hot, it can be steady and warm and it can burn very low – almost extinguished.
Pitta represents a core fire. To keep it burning, a fire needs to be maintained and fed by a mixture of fuel (Kapha) & air (Vata).
Kapha is the fuel that keeps the fire burning. Different kinds of wood burn differently in a fire place – some wood catches on easily and burns fast, some wood is dense and burns very slowly (lasting for a longer period of time). If you place a lot of fast-burning wood into a hearth it quickly creates a lot of flames and heat, then you can put in some dense, slow-burning wood which will sustain the warmth for a longer period of time. It’s very difficult to start a fire with slow-burning wood, the fire doesn’t catch on (and adding more wood doesn’t help). Similar patterns work inside the body in response to different foods. We feed our fire by eating. When the fire is just right we experience good appetite, digestion and elimination. When the fire is too strong we can experience heartburn(!).
Vatta is the complementary element to fuel. Without air a fire cannot burn. Once a fire is burning it is controlled by the air supplied to it. In a fireplace, an open air intake will keep the fire burning high (like a blacksmith uses a bellows to blow air into a fire to increase the heat), a closed air intake will keep a fire burning low or even put it out. Breath is the means by which we bring air to the fire inside.