What you need to know about Ayurveda doshas
Brief History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda – Ayur (life), and Veda (knowledge) – and its practice of the connection of mind and body have been around for over 5,000 years. The Vedas – spiritual scriptures of ancient Indian culture – teach a positive and life-affirming spirituality celebrating the master elements of the planet: space, water, wind, earth, and fire as well as life on earth as a whole. During 3300-1300 BC, many of the foods and spices associated with Ayurveda were already being cultivated, and herbs used for Ayurvedic medicine today originated from the Vedas.
Ayurveda became well known and was implemented in western culture after the book “Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide” written by Deepak Chopra became popular.
Vata, Pitta, Kapha – The Three Energies
Those who practice Ayurveda believe that every person is made up of the five master elements. These elements are believed to combine in the human body to form three energies: vata, pitta, and kapha. These three energies are referred to as doshas. Upon conception, each person develops their own individual and unique makeup of energy that stays with them for their entire life, this is called your birth constitution and your most balanced state. As we all know, the human body supplies us with energy, this energy is derived from food and fluids that keep our body functioning like a well-oiled machine. In Ayurveda, each dosha monopolizes the biological energy of the human body.
Vata is associated with movement, pitta controls the body’s metabolic system, and kapha commands the body’s structure. Each dosha is governed by two of the master elements. Vata is controlled by space and air, pitta by fire and water, and kapha is ruled by water and earth.
All three doshas exist in each of us, although one is always more predominant. An individual will possess the physical and mental qualities of the elements governed by their dosha. Each dosha also has a common Ayurvedic body type associated with it.
All of this may seem confusing, so let’s break it down by each dosha.
Vata Dosha – The Energy of Movement
Vata is the force that oversees all biological activity, it is considered extremely vital for health and provides the necessary motion for all bodily processes. Also known as “The King of Doshas”, this energy is vital to pitta and kapha because of its control over the body’s greater life force. Vata levels tend to increase with age, resulting in wrinkles and drier skin. Vata governs the colon, ears, bones, skin, nerve tissues and the brain.
- Qualities: Cold, rough, dry, light, mobile, clear
- Governing elements: Space and air/wind
If you are vata dominant:
You are creative, flexible, and quick-witted. You have the ability to grasp concepts easily, but that is also accompanied by the propensity to forget those concepts just as quickly. New experiences excite you, you’re always on the move. You’re most likely the friend that walks and talks too fast. Because you are constantly alert, restless, and active, you also burn-out easily. You demonstrate leadership by showing initiative, you have great conversational skills, and you’re full of ideas. If you’re vata dominant then you may also have a hard time managing your finances – you’re great at making money but you’re also great at spending it.
You are most likely an athlete or enjoy frequent exercise. Your body type is likely to be narrow, thin, lean, and tall. You may find it difficult to gain weight or muscle mass because you have a very fast metabolism. Alike to your body type, your face is thin and of an oblong shape. Your eyes, lips, and mouth tend to be small; these features reflect the subtle and quiet nature of vata. Vatas typically suffer from dehydrated skin and hair caused by its dry nature. Cold hands and feet are also common.
Pitta Dosha – The Energy of Digestion and Metabolism
Pitta is the dosha that manages digestion, and metabolism in the body.
It controls body temperature, nutrition, and energy production.
The locations of pitta in the body are the stomach, liver, pancreas, eyes, blood, and small intestine.
- Qualities: Hot, intense, sharp, acidic, moving, and oily.
- Governing elements: Fire and water
If you are pitta dominant:
If you are pitta dominant you embody the element of fire both emotionally and physically. Fire is more dominant in pitta than water so most pitta characteristics are based around the fiery, intense, and hot nature of the element. You are likely to be loud, bold, extroverted, and outspoken. When it comes to projects or collaborations you typically end up in a leadership position or take on a role that requires a great deal of responsibility. You have very strong attention to detail which influences how precise, organized, and concentrated you are. You are a fast learner.
Your physique as a pitta dominant individual is likely to be of a medium build and weight. Your body temperature runs warmer, relating back to the element of fire. You may be considered a ‘human space heater’ and you’re probably the person that people place their cold hands and feet on in order to warm themselves up. Your skin type is normal to oily and may be prone to blemishes, and rashes. Pittas commonly have freckles and/or moles and a rosy complexion. The shape of your face is angular, or square. You have strong cheekbones and a prominent jawline. Your lips, nose, and eyes are all medium shaped and proportionate to your face. Your hair may have a tendency to become oily but is otherwise silky. Pitta dominant individuals are known to develop gray hairs or experience hair loss prematurely.
Kapha Dosha – The Energy of Building and Lubrication
Kapha forms the body’s structure – muscles, tendons, and bones – and provides the adhesive that holds everything together on a cellular level. It also provides the lubrication for joints, hydration for the skin, and supplies water for all bodily systems. Kapha is located in the chest, throat, lymph, tissue, ligaments, lungs, and head.
- Qualities: Slow, lethargic, oily, cold, steady, large, soft, and dull
- Governing elements: Water and earth
If you are kapha dominant:
As someone who is kapha dominant, you are sweet, nice, comforting, loving, and grounded. You have the ability to remain calm and patient in stressful situations. You’re understanding and empathetic towards others and display a kind and loving disposition. You aren’t likely to hold on to grudges, and you are very tolerant, understanding, and forgiving. Your long-term memory is impressive, but you may be slower to understand certain concepts first-hand. You are inclined to enjoy routine, consistency, and stability. You value loyalty and transparency in your relationships with others. You are slow speaking and slow-moving.
You may find it difficult to lose weight as a kapha dominant individual as the physical characteristics of this dosha is typically heavy set, this is because of the dense qualities of the earth element. Although you may be slow to lose fat, you are quick to gain muscle. You have great strength, stamina, and endurance but you typically tend to avoid exercise or may not enjoy it as much as others. You love to sleep; you’re known as a deep sleeper and can sleep for long durations of time. Your facial features are round, soft, and gentle, and your eyes, lips, and nose tend to be large relative to the size of your face. Your skin type is oily to combination but smooth and radiant.
So, what is a dosha imbalance?
Now that we’ve gone over each dosha in detail, let’s talk about what happens when each dominant dosha becomes imbalanced. In Ayurveda, an imbalance is said to be caused by an excess or lack of a certain dosha in your constitution. It’s different for each individual and the symptoms are dependant on what your most dominant dosha is. An imbalance is considered to be synonymous with disease, and disorder. Once diagnosed by an Ayurvedic practitioner, imbalances can be treated by implementing new habits, changing your diet, and adjusting your lifestyle in conjunction with using certain traditional Ayurvedic herbs and spices
When predominant vata doshas are imbalanced…
When vata is the most primary dosha, imbalance may look like; weight loss, cracked or brittle nails, bloating, hypertension, restlessness, increased anxiety, poor circulation, or fearfulness. Individuals are more prone to develop anxiety disorders, paranoia, or attention deficiencies. Feelings of unstableness or loss of confidence and willpower can also be symptoms. Diseases related to an irregularity of this dosha are typically arthritis, pneumonia, emphysema, tics, nerve disorders, and mental fogginess or confusion.
Tips/advice to help balance vata according to Ayurveda:
- Spend time in nature
- Go to bed early
- Stay warm
- Develop a steady/regular routine
- Avoid cold climates and foods
- Include warm and spicy foods in your diet
When predominant pitta doshas are imbalanced…
Several characteristics that are caused by an imbalance in pitta include; hate, anger, jealousy, and bitterness. Because of pitta’s fire element, the imbalance has a tendency to be the out-of-control fire type qualities of anger, rage, and ego. Anger-issues and short tempers are likely. Imbalance of pitta looks like resentment, and hatred towards life or a tendency to blame misfortune on others, this could also be a failure to admit responsibility. Healthwise, imbalanced pitta energy can cause skin rashes, fevers, inflammation or swelling, heartburn, and burning sensations. Pitta individuals are more prone to develop inflammatory diseases and jaundice.
Tips/advice to help balance pitta according to Ayurveda
- Spend time in nature or other calm environments
- Avoid using stimulants like coffee or tea
- Partake in calming exercises like yoga and swimming
- Limit foods with high sodium content
- Avoid excessive heat, oil, and steam
- Limit consumption of spicy foods
- Exercise during the mornings or evenings when it tends to be cooler
When predominant kapha Doshas are imbalanced…
When an imbalance occurs in kapha predominant individuals, they become greedy, lazy, possessive, insecure, and envious. Excess or lack of kapha can also result in stubbornness, resistance to change, and tendencies to hold on to toxic or otherwise unhealthy relationships and jobs. These individuals have a habit of not dealing with problems head-on and pretending as if they don’t exist. This predominant dosha is more prone to become depressed, overweight, and diabetic. They are more likely to develop diseases related to the water element such as; the flu, congestion, mucus build-up, and allergies.
Tips/advice to help balance kapha according to Ayurveda:
- Avoid dairy
- Prioritize physical exercise
- Practice self-care often
- Write or draw
- Practice self-awareness
- Avoid taking naps
- Limit fatty and oily foods in your diet
Ayurveda is an ancient practice that focuses on how the mind, body, and spirit all work together to create balance in our lives. The understanding and knowledge of how our diets, lifestyles, and emotions can all manifest in our wellbeing is considered to be the most valuable information one can possess.
It’s important to emphasize that Ayurvedic medicine and practices are not meant to replace traditional western medicine. It can be used to supplement it and can also be used as a method of prevention or rehabilitation.