The panchamahabutas (5 great elements) of earth, water, fire, air and ether further manifest themselves in the body as three humors or bio-energies called Doshas. From ether and air, comes the life force of Vata, from fire and water comes the metabolic energy of Pitta and from water and earth is the anabolic growth activity of Kapha. All three govern the physical and psychological nature of body, mind and spirit. The doshas function to keep our patho-physiological activities in check, but when out of balance, they directly contribute to disease.
An imbalanced dosha is thought to interrupt the natural flow of prana in the mind and body, much like the displacement of “chi” in traditional Chinese medicine theory. Since the source of prana comes from our diet and lifestyle (ahara), we must pay particular attention to digestion of these components. The dosas are primarily governed by the center of our metabolic activity or digestive fire called “Agni.” Agni is responsible for breaking down our food and thoughts, transforming it into energy and delivering nutrients to vital bodily tissues. When food remains undigested, toxins called ama build up and are transported by the doshas to create disease in our tissues (dhatus). Ama can also accumulate in our minds from stress and clog up our fluid thought processes and decision-making ability. We therefore rely heavily the Ayurvedic concept of Agni to properly nourish the dhatus and balance the doshas for overall well-being.