The Three Ayurvedic Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha
Understanding Your Ayurvedic Constitution
According to Ayurveda, your basic constitution is called your prakriti. It is the sum total of all your physical and emotional qualities. Your prakriti patterns remain stable for most of your life. You may experience temporary changes like gaining or losing weight, developing an infection, etc., but most certainly you will never increase or decrease in height or undergo a change in hair color.
Your Individual Nature
Prakriti is characterized by three life forces or doshas: Kapha, Pitta and Vata. All of us have these three doshas in us in unique proportions. One or two doshas will be dominant in your constitution. You can determine your dosha with this simple quiz. It is important to understand our constitution and live in harmony with our intrinsic nature.
Ideally, you must strive to maintain the proportion of the doshas in your body closest to your birth constitution. If there is a divergence from this, it could result in your health going into imbalance. This state of imbalanced deviation from your ideal doshic state is called vikriti – the antonym of prakriti.
In all, there are three basic doshic states:
Balanced: This is the perfect state of balance or equilibrium where all the three doshas reside in their natural proportions.
Aggravated: This occurs when a particular dosha goes beyond its normal proportions; also called as being “increased” or “excess” state.
Depleted: This occurs when a particular dosha becomes less than its normal proportions; also referred to as a “decreased” or “reduced” state.
How Disease Happens
When we live against our inherent constitution, we invite illnesses. Also, we are most vulnerable to imbalances related to our predominant dosha. Therefore, Ayurvedic philosophy is not a one-size-fits-all solution to illness.
Of the three doshic states we saw above, illnesses are usually caused by the aggravated or increased state. This can happen due to reasons like a dosha-aggravating diet or lifestyle. This is why you need to understand your unique constitution and complement your internal makeup with the external environment.
The Three Doshas
Have you ever wondered why your friend can devour a four-course meal easily, while you can only just finish a salad? Why do some people are happy-go-lucky while others are burdened with the weight of the world? Ayurveda defines three principle biological energies or body-mind types which define one’s characteristics and habits. These three energies are the tridoshas.
Qualities: Light, dry, airy, quick, and cold
Physical characteristics: Vata is composed of the Space and Air elements. It is considered as the “leader” among the doshas as it is the most challenging to bring under control. People of Vata constitution are extreme — either very tall or very short. It is quite likely that you are thin, with a slender frame and protruding joints. This doshic type typically has dry skin and hair and cold hands and feet.
Vata controls all movement in the body, from transporting substances across cellular membranes to gross physical movements. The main area of this dosha is the nervous system. Your movements are quick as is your speech. You tend to learn quickly and also forget equally quickly.
Emotional characteristics: A Vata-dominant person is characterized by movement and change. You are likely to always be on the go, with a mind that’s creative, flexible and energetic. Artistic Vatas may find themselves pursuing luxuries. As a Vata, you are usually bubbling with a sense of enthusiasm, but you tend to run out of steam and wear down easily. When out of balance, you are prone to anxiety and fear, which in turn may lead to sleeplessness, hypertension and digestive challenges.
Keep in balance: To keep your constitution in balance, choose a lifestyle and diet that is stable and grounding. Follow a routine as far as possible. Eat foods that are warm and keep warm. Stay nourished and fulfilled physically, mentally and emotionally.
Keywords: Creativity ~ Enthusiasm ~ Freedom ~ Generosity ~ Joy ~ Vitality
Qualities: Hot, sour, pungent, sharp and acidic
Physical characteristics: Fiery best defines Pitta which is made up of the elements of Fire and Water. Pittas are usually of medium height and weight. You will most likely have an athletic build. You know you are a Pitta if you have light hair with tones of red, but your hair is showing signs of early graying, baldness or thinning. This doshic constitution has a lustrous complexion, with moles and freckles, and it gets sunburnt easily. Your body temperature is usually warm.
As Pitta brings together Fire and Water, they are manifest in the liquid medium as acids, enzymes, and hormones. Pitta governs digestion, assimilation and metabolism. This is why your excellent digestion may make you feel like you can eat anything. When in balance, you are intelligent, ambitious and understanding. Out of balance, your dosha is expressed as anger, frustration, aggressiveness and tends to cause hyperacidity, liver disorders and rashes.
Emotional characteristics: If you are born with a Pitta-dominant constitution, your chosen professions are business owners, teachers, managers and speakers. Your disciplined nature and intense personality makes you a natural leader. However, your perfectionist nature can also make you judgmental and overly critical.
Keep in balance: Literally and figuratively, Pittas need to keep their cool. Seek foods and activities that are cooling and pleasant. Learn to be more accepting, instead of trying to dominate every situation. Look for healthy outlets to diffuse some of your intensity on a regular basis.
Keywords: Ambition ~ Concentration ~ Confidence ~ Courage ~ Passion for knowledge ~ Happiness ~ Intelligence
Qualities: Slow, steady, heavy, oily, and cold
Physical characteristics: Kapha is an amalgamation of the stable energies of Water and Earth. If you are a Kapha type, you are likely to have a broad build and excellent stamina. Thick hair, “soft” eyes and radiant skin are common Kapha characteristics.
This doshic type when aggravated can cause you to become overweight, sleep excessively, suffer from asthma, diabetes and depression. Kapha makes up the dense structural components of the body such as the bones, muscles, and adipose tissue. It is also part of the mucous membranes and bone marrow.
It keeps the system hydrated and nourished, and maintains immunity. In balance, the stability of Kapha promotes even temper, compassion, calmness and forgiveness. Kapha people are blessed with great stamina, but they need motivation to get moving. Out of balance, it can cause slow digestion and metabolism, leading to weight gain and congestive disorders. The mental/emotional symptoms of Kapha include excessive attachment to people or things, greed, possessiveness and a sense of being stuck in life
Emotional characteristics: People with Kapha predominant are calm, thoughtful, caring and loving. You love to live life to the fullest and like to settle into a routine. When in balance, you are patient, steady and supportive. When out of balance, you tend to hang on to events, things and people much after they have stopped being necessary or nurturing. Excessive Kapha can manifest as inability to accept change and stubborn behavior. You give up too easily and will typically not want to deal with unpleasant things.
Keep in balance: Kapha should never be still and needs to be moving all the time. Include regular exercise into your day. Seek activities, dietary patterns and environment that is warming and energizing. Try to learn new things every day and keep yourself open to new experiences.
Keywords: Caring ~ Centeredness ~ Compassion ~ Contentment ~ Faith ~ Fulfillment ~ Groundedness ~ Patience ~ Sense of being nourished ~ Stability ~ Support ~ Tenderness