The Three Ayurvedic Doshas
Doshas are important in understanding Ayurveda and most importantly how to apply the knowledge to YOU. The doshas inform your unique mind-body type as well as other life energies such as times of day, times of life and inherent properties of foods.
Ayurveda is a holistic healing system. It is a 5000 year old medicine that was cognized through deep meditation and perceived by examining principles of nature. The natural world contains the five following elements: earth, water, fire, air and space (ether). Each element has inherent qualities. These qualities can be observed by examining and experiencing the elements in nature. For example, earth is dense and static. Water is liquid and dense. Fire is hot and mobile. Air is mobile and clear. Space is subtle and expansive.
These five elements combine to create doshas, unique mind-body types or constitutions. There are three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. The unique proportion in which the doshas appear in each individual inform physical characteristics, emotional and mental tendencies as well predispositions to specific imbalances. When doshas are out of balance it causes dis-ease or disease.
This deep understanding of doshas and nature's tendencies inform proper diet, lifestyle, and self-care techniques for individuals. For example, have you tried a diet that doesn't work for you for various reasons? You may not be eating according to your dosha! Knowing and understanding your dosha is key to good health and happiness.
Below is more information about each dosha and a few balancing recommendations for each:
Vata is air and space. These elements make vata light, dry, coarse, rough, dark, changeable, moveable, subtle, cold and clear. This manifests as a light, thin body frame. Vatas are enthusiastic, vivacious and talkative.
Vata predominant time of life is around age 50+, and it is prevalent during fall and early winter each year. Have you experienced a fall/winter season where you can't have enough cream/lotion/oil on your hands?! Hello vata!
Vata controls movement. Movement in the body happens through blood flow, waste elimination and breathing. An example of movement in the mind is quick movement of thoughts such as jumping from one thought to another and another. Emotional movement is excitement and quick movement from one emotion to the next.
When vata is high, imbalance can manifest as: anxiety, fear, excess air – gas/burps/bloating, constipation, general dryness, poor circulation and pain.
People who are predominately vata need routine. They thrive when they have set times for waking up, going to sleep and eating meals. Vata people also need nourishing and warm foods that are easy on digestion. They require plenty of rest, need extra self-care during the fall and winter, and benefit from calming walks, grounding exercise and focused meditation.
In my experience, many of us fall prey to some amount of vata imbalance in the West. It is the most subtle of the three doshas which means it is generally the first to go out of balance. Vata relates to movement, so continuous stimulation and movement in our culture creates imbalance.
Pitta is fire and some water. These elements make pitta hot, sharp, pungent, intense, flowing, sour and slightly oily. This manifests as a medium and muscular frame. Pittas are intense, analytical, focused, generous and goal-oriented.
Pitta predominant time of life is around age 20 - 50, and it is prevalent during the summer each year.
Pitta controls metabolism. Examples in the body include: digestion, transformation, and energy production.
When pitta is high, imbalance can manifest as: irritability, anger, impatience, criticism, jealousy, intense hunger, acne, and inflammation. Next time you eat something spicy, notice if you feel more irritable -- especially during the summer months!
Those who are predominant in pitta need everything in moderation and should focus on a cooling lifestyle, including eating cooling foods. They should also take extra care of themselves in summer, avoid spicy foods, and make sure to get outdoors at dawn, dusk or even at night for moon-bathing.
Kapha is earth and water. These elements make kapha unctuous (oily), slimy, cool, moist, sticky, heavy, stable, strong and soft. This manifests as a large frame. Kaphas are jovial, sweet, loving and easy-going.
Kapha predominant time of life is around birth - 20, and it is prevalent during the late winter and spring each year.
Kapha controls structure. Structure includes: muscle, fat, bones, and the cells that make form.
When kapha is high, imbalance can manifest as: obesity, congestion, lethargy, colds/coughs, lymphatic congestion, and poor appetite.
Kapha people thrive on an active lifestyle, often mixing up their routines and seeking out invigorating experiences. They should consume warm foods with lots of activating spices. Kapha types should take extra care of themselves during spring and should consider skipping meals if they are not hungry.
What is your dosha? If you aren't sure, I strongly encourage you to take the Shri Wellness Dosha Test by clicking the tab 'Free Test!' at the bottom right corner of the webpage. This informs the proper diet and lifestyle for YOU!
Ayurveda provides a wonderful framework on how to care for your unique self throughout the seasons of life. More importantly, Ayurvedic practices open your awareness to nature's principles so that you become the healer and manifest the physical, mental and spiritual health that you desire.
Ayurveda is as simple as tuning into your body's natural desires! In Ayurveda, it is said that pragya paradh or a crime against wisdom is what causes dis-ease or disease. Begin to inquire what food, drink and exercise you (the real you - beyond ego and society) actually desire. Start to notice how the time of day and season inform your hunger, thirst, energy and emotions. Listen to what your body truly wants, and give yourself the nourishment you need. This is Ayurveda.