Avasthāpāka: The Three Stages of Digestion
Avasthāpāka: The Three Stages of Digestion
The word avasthāpāka comes from two words, avasthā and pāka. Avasthā means “stage” and pāka means “digestion.” Thus, the term avasthāpāka means “the stage of digestion.”
There are three stages of digestion as food moves through the digestive tract. These stages are described by the location of the dominant doṣha acting on the food and its influence on the digestive process.
- The first stage of digestion is the kapha or sweet stage. This stage dominates in the mouth and the upper half of the stomach.Here the watery components of saliva and the alkaline secretions of the stomach mix with the food.
- The second stage of digestion is the pitta or sour stage. This stage dominates in the lower half of the stomach and the small intestine. Here the fiery components of the acid secretions of the stomach and the enzymes and bile within the small intestine mix with the food and further transform the food into āhāra rasa (nutrient substance used to build tissue )
- The third stage of digestion is the vāta or pungent stage. This stage dominates the activity within the large intestine. In this phase of digestion, the food remains (annakiṭṭa) undergo a drying process. Water is absorbed and the remaining indigestible earth element is discarded.
Digestion and Weight, Paschimottanasana
Elimination & The Three Doshas
Imbalances often first appear in the digestive / elimination system of the body before overflowing and entering into other tissues. Awareness of digestion and elimination can lead to treatment of the vitiated dosha before it causes even more problems in the body. Think of the digestive system as containing the root of a weed. The dosha is the weed. Pull the weed at the root and the rest of the weed soon dies. This is the case with many diseases. Heal digestion /elimination and many diseases slowly fade away.
The stools of a person with a vata imbalance tend to be hard and difficult to eliminate without straining. One presentation is of hard little balls often called “rabbit turd” stools. The frequency of elimination is often variable with a tendency toward constipation. Elimination that occurs once every two or more days is almost certain to indicate a vata imbalance. Even with daily stools, if they are hard and dry, vata is out of balance. Constipation is often but not always accompanied by gas and bloating.
The bowel movements of a person with a pitta imbalance tend to be soft or loose and quite frequent. It is unusual for people with a pitta nature to miss having a bowel movement and if they do, a vata imbalance should be suspected. Sometimes a pitta imbalance will also produce stools that are greenish or yellowish, reflecting liver and gallbladder imbalances. People with a pitta imbalance often have 2-3 bowel movements each day and the stools may burn the rectum when eliminated. The sharp nature of pitta is also evident in the bowel movements in the form of a strong, putrid odor. Pitta elimination is often but not always accompanied by burning indigestion.
Kapha-type imbalances in the elimination system lead to large and bulky stools, reflecting the heavy, solid nature of kapha. Elimination is mostly regular but the stools may appear pale or contain mucus that can be seen as stringy, strands in the toilet. Kapha-type elimination is often but not always accompanied by heavy, sluggish digestion where it feels like food just sits in the stomach. Appetite is low as a result.
Watch your elimination carefully. This is a good self-awareness tool for you to use to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle before more serious issues occur.
Be well, Be kind, Be love.
Agni & the Importance of Healthy Digestion
The Three Doshas
Your constitution or Prakruti is the fundamental and unique balance of three basic energies called doshas. These are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The balance in each individual is different; hence, each individual has his or her own special set of challenges and gifts. For this reason no two healthcare programs are identical, and each person’s path toward optimal health is unique.
The Vata dosha is said to be made up of the air and ether elements. This means that it has qualities that are similar to these elements. Vata is very much like the wind – it is light, cool, dry and mobile. In the body those people with a Vata nature experience more of these qualities. Their bodies tend to be light, their bones thin, and their skin and hair dry. They often move and speak quickly. When out of balance, they may lose weight, become constipated, and have weakness in their immune and nervous systems.
These qualities are also reflected in the personality. Those with a Vata nature tend to be talkative, enthusiastic, creative, flexible, and energetic. Yet when out of balance, they may also become easily confused and overwhelmed, have difficulty focusing or making decisions, and have trouble sleeping. This becomes more apparent when they are under stress. They are challenged by cool emotions like worry, fear and anxiety.
In order to bring balance to Vata, programs are designed that emphasize the opposing qualities of warmth, heaviness (nourishment), moistness and stability. In the diet this is reflected in the consumption of cooked grains such as rice and cooked vegetables as well as the intake of warm milk with spices. Pungent herbs like ginger that increase internal heat and nourishing herbs like ashwagandha bring balance to Vata.
The Pitta dosha is said to be made up of the fire and water elements. Fire is more predominant, and those people with a predominant Pitta nature have many of the qualities of fire within them. Pitta tends to be hot, sharp and penetrating. It is also somewhat volatile and oily. The oily nature of Pitta is related to the secondary component of water. People with a Pitta nature reflect these qualities. They tend to feel warm, have somewhat oily skin, penetrating eyes, and sharp features. They tend to have moderate weight and good musculature. When out of balance, they tend toward diarrhea, infections, skin rashes, and weakness in the liver, spleen, and blood.
These qualities are also reflected in their personalities. Pitta people tend to be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic, and clear communicators, who get right to the point. They like to solve problems, and, when under stress, they dig in their heels. However, they can also become overly intense and speak with a sharp tongue. They make great friends but feared enemies. Emotionally, they are challenged by the heated emotions of anger, resentment, and jealousy.
In order to bring balance to Pitta, programs are designed to emphasize the opposing qualities of coolness, heaviness (nourishing) and dryness. Cool spices like fennel are recommended in the diet along with foods such as raw vegetables, cooked rice, and wheat as well as most beans. Sweet herbs like shatavari are used to nourish the body, while bitters like dandelion root temper the fire.
Within the Kapha dosha there is a predominance of the water and earth elements. Like these elements Kapha tends to be cool, moist, stable, and heavy. In the body these qualities manifest as dense, heavy bones; lustrous, supple skin; low metabolism; and large, stocky frames. In addition, those with a Kapha nature tend to feel cool. When out of balance, Kapha individuals are prone to gaining weight and tend to have weaknesses in their lungs and sinuses, where there is an accumulation of mucous. Those of Kapha nature are also most prone to non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
The elements of water and earth are also manifested in the personality. The heavy, stable nature of Kapha is reflected in a steady personality that is not prone to quick fluctuations. Those with a Kapha nature handle stress very well, often not even noticing that it exists. They don’t like change, are generally conservative, and would prefer to keep things just the way they are. Those with a Kapha nature are also comfort seekers. This relates to the soft, watery nature of Kapha. Too much comfort, however, can lead to a lack of motivation and a feeling of becoming stuck. When Kapha is out of balance, the heavy emotions of depression and lethargy result.
In order to bring balance to a Kapha nature, the opposing qualities of lightness, dryness, and warmth are recommended. Grains such as quinoa and amaranth are recommended as well as hot spices like cayenne pepper. Lots of vegetables and very little nuts or dairy are prescribed. Cleansing herbs like guggul and pungents like clove bring balance to Kapha.