In Ayurveda, everything in the universe is said to manifest from the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Ether. These elements combine to create three doshas, which are the intelligences of the Universe. Each person is born with a unique mixture of doshas, which can determine your physical and emotional characteristics. Doshas thrive under certain conditions and are aggravated by other factors but lifestyle changes can even out imbalances. So, let’s take a look at the three doshas.
Vata Dosha is represented by air and ether.
It is light, dry, rough and changeable. Vata dosha rules movement, transportation and communication in the body and in the world. Vata types tend to be flexible and creative. If this is your dominant dosha, you’ll likely be quick on the uptake but your busy mind can forget things just as quickly. Lack of confidence can be an issue and Vata can feel easily unsettled.
In terms of physical characteristics, Vata types are often slender and appetite and digestion can both fluctuate. Vata is linked to the large intestine, pelvis, bones, ears, and skin. Rough and dry skin can often affect Vata types. Emotionally, Vata can be linked to mood swings and impulsiveness.
Vata can be balanced through warm, cooked foods and sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Warm, moist and heavy foods can be good choices. Warming spices can also help, especially in herbal teas. Cold foods and drinks can disrupt Vata, along with cooler temperatures. An imbalance of Vata can lead to anxiety, constipation, sleep problems, restlessness, fatigue, memory problems, and a feeling of being unsettled.
Pitta Dosha is represented by fire and a little water.
Pitta Dosha is responsible for metabolism, digestion and transformation. Physically, Pitta types are often of medium build and their weight is usually stable. An athletic body type is super common but weight gain tends to be on the bottom half of the body. Thin hair can be a characteristic of this dosha. Emotionally, Pitta types are likely to have a fiery, energetic, determined, and competitive nature. A strong focus and a sharp mind are also super common. It’s also not uncommon for Pitta types to enjoy being center stage.
Pitta is linked to the small intestine, stomach, liver, sweat glands, eyes, skin, and hair. Pitta can affect digestion, metabolism, and immunity. Stress can be an aggravating factor for Pitta. Pitta types prefer sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and don’t do so well with spicy, salty, and sour foods. Cooling foods, drinks, herbs, and spices can be a much better choice. Pitta types can often handle raw foods well, more so than other dosha types. This is less true if raw and cooked foods are included in the same meal though.
An imbalance of Pitta can sometimes be indicated by reddish eyes and skin, and nails that are mid-pink in color. Excess Pitta can also be linked to diarrhea, acne, skin rashes, heartburn, indigestion, arthritis, and anxiety. Irritability and a tendency to get into verbal arguments are also very common.
Kapha Dosha is represented by earth and water.
Kapha Dosha is responsible for strength, immunity and stability. Physically, Kapha types tend to have a stocky body type and are more likely to be overweight than Vata or Pitta types, especially when out of balance. They are often broad-shouldered and have a well-developed body. Emotionally, Kapha types are super likely to have a stable temperament and a lot of compassion and loyalty. They have tons of stamina and are also good sleepers.
Sweet, sour, and salty tastes can disrupt Kapha. Foods that are heavy and oily can also have the same effect. This is one of the big reasons why Kapha does better without a ton of cooking oil. Cold or carbonated foods and drinks can also have a disruptive influence on Kapha. Kapha types don’t favor cold or damp conditions and staying warm is crucial. Because Kapha enjoys warmth, cooked vegetables can balance Kapha, along with pungent tastes and spices. Warm teas and room temperature drinks are also a good bet.
Kapha types can retain water easily, especially if they’re too hydrated. This is why Ayurveda practitioners often recommend not to go overboard with hydration and limit the amount of water-rich foods that are eaten. Kapha types tend to do better with lighter foods. Heavy, fried and oily foods can be too rich. Processed foods can also aggravate Kapha. Cooked foods are also easier to digest than raw foods, especially when the weather is cooler. Lighter meals can work well as eating too much in one go can disrupt Kapha. Movement can also be super important for balancing out Kapha.
When Kapha is out of balance, it can result in congestion, poor digestion, and wanting to sleep a lot. It can also result in a stubborn nature. A white coating on the tongue can sometimes indicate an imbalance of Kapha. Excess Kapha can also present itself through poor circulation, congestion, digestive problems, and weight gain.
Understanding Ayurveda & the doshas is key to creating and maintaining health, balance and well-being throughout life. Through simple methods of self-assessment and analysis we can determine what sort of health imbalances we might be experiencing even before they manifest in the body or mind.
To learn more about Ayurveda and Ayurvedic Self-Care practices, join Justin Lemos, PhD, in her upcoming course on Sattva Connect. Stay tuned! Sattva Connect members may also listen to the various talks on Ayurveda through the platform + receive tips that are beneficial to leading a yogic lifestyle.