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Subdoshas & the Earth Element


by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes


When we look at the three main doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha/VPK), they each have five subdoshas that hold the hand of an element. Each dosha has ether, air, fire, water and earth elements in their subdoshas and they all serve a specific function in the body. Apana vayu, Bhrājaka pitta and Shleshaka kapha are the subdoshas that are each represented by the earth element. There are signs that tell us that these subdoshas may be off-balanced that lead us to knowing which main dosha needs attention and pacification.


~Apāna vayu – Pelvic Cavity

All organs around the root chakra and reproductive organs. Down and out movement that is connected to elimination, conception and the delivery of a baby.


-Disorders: constipation, diarrhea, menstrual irregularities, pain in the root area, osteoporosis (colon membranes nourish bones through absorption of minerals).

-Treatment: yoga, squatting, stretching, pelvic floor exercises, proper nutrition, fiber, hydration, minerals.


~Bhrājaka pitta – The Skin

Complexion and luster. This subdosha processes everything we put on the skin. The skin is a gate to the internal body. It absorbs oil into the connective tissues and bones, strengthening all cellular spaces. Connective tissues hold all emotions, fear, stress, anger, etc. and this can show up on the skin.


-Disorders: eczema, dermatitis, acne, numbness, heat from unresolved anger, paleness from stress or anxiety and shallowness of breath.

-Treatment: be mindful about what goes on the skin, soak up some sunshine, do self-abhyanga with herbal oils, eat good essential fatty acids and oils, meditate/exercise/pranayama to resolve stuck emotions.


~Shleshaka kapha- Joints

Present in the joints and where two bones come together. Shleshaka lubricates the joints and cartilage and supports the skeletal system.


-Disorders: arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cracking joints

-Treatment: stretch and move in a healthy way to bring bloodflow to the joints without overexerting yourself. Rub oils into joints when doing self-abhyanga. Keep the body warm to avoid buildup of vata dosha in the joints where the body clenches and prevents flow.

*Exercise: excessive jogging and vigorous exercise can hurt the joints. The best kinds of exercise are yoga, walking, swimming and tai chi.


There are 12 more subdoshas across VPK that correlate to specific areas in the body such as vision, digestion, brain function, etc. We can use the subdoshas to notice things that are happening with our bodies and how we can address them. If we are having issues with healthy elimination, we can look to apana vayu and do things to help this downwards flow. If we notice excess heat in the skin, we can figure out if its dietary, emotional, or even a topical issue. We can then go on to treat it by looking at the symptoms of disorders within bhrājaka pitta. If we notice our knees cracking every time we squat down, this may be a sign that there is excess dryness or vata in shleshaka kapha. We can reassess the way we are exercising and make sure that the joints get healthy lubrication with our food choices, nourishment and topical moisturization. Like this, we can target areas in the body that need our awareness and attention to rebalance and nourish all parts of us.


May we all be balanced and nourished! :)


6/28/23

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