Ayurveda's Three Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha
Which Dosha Are You?
Ayurveda--A Sister Science to Yoga
Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga. Ayurveda dates back 5,000 years to the Vedas, ancient Sanskrit texts that explain how everything in the universe functions philosophically and empirically. Ayurveda developed alongside yoga, influencing yoga as well as being influenced by it throughout the millennia. Both yoga and Ayurveda resulted from the Vedas, which detail knowledge that comprehends the universe as Oneself.
When yoga first arrived to the United States in the mid 1900s Ayurveda was left behind. However, it has gained momentum and has begun to permeate our culture under the guise of alternative medicine.
Ayurveda--System of Healing the Self
Ayurveda understands the body as a system of healing that includes: 1) physical constitution; 2) emotional nature; 3) and spiritual outlook in the context of the universe. According to Ayurveda, there are three different energies, or doshas, known as VATA, PITTA, and KAPHA which combine in different ratios within a human being.
In other words, each one of us consists of a unique combination of these three energetic forces. Though everyone has some of each, most people tend to have an abundance of one or two doshas.
Understanding the Doshas
Understanding your individual dosha allows a person to fight disease, remain healthy and maintain equanimity as s/he moves through the various stages of life. The doshas fluctuate depending on the environment, one’s diet, the seasons, the climate, one’s age, as well as other factors. As these external factors change, our doshas can be knocked out of balance which in turn affects our health, energy levels, and general mood.
The key to maintaining one’s balance is to narrow in on potential imbalances that may arise from the environment or from dietary or emotional imbalances, and to adopt practices that will counteract these influences. These may include changes in one’s diet, type of exercise or kind of social or spiritual activities in which one chooses to participate.
Vata means wind, it exists as air that is held in the body such as in the joints, the hips and lower back. Vata folks are usually thin and tall, possibly even lanky. They are mentally and physically active. Vatas prefer creative activities, meeting new people, and traveling to exotic places. When they are balanced, vatas are flexible; they enjoy lively imaginations, and are original thinkers. When imbalanced they can get anxious. They tend to suffer from dry skin and prefer warm, humid weather. It is normal for vatas to suffer from cold extremities and cracking joints. The influence of the air element in their constitution allows for dramatic fluctuations in appetite, energy, mood. Consequently, vatas tend to forget to eat or sleep. As a result, they may range from eating heavy foods or ingesting stimulants like coffee to sustain intense physical or mental activity.
Pitta energy empowers us with intelligence, courage and vitality. Pitta gives us decisiveness and the motivation to move forward to accomplish our objectives. Pitta is located in the digestive tract, in particular, in the small intestine and the stomach. Pitta is the fire for digestion, hence many yogic traditions mention “stoking the agni” to improve digestion. Pittas are dominated by the fire element (agni) which endows them with natures that are aggressive, intense, and irritable. They usually are of medium build with developed muscles. It is common for pittas to sunburn easily, to freckle and become over-heated when exercising or outside on a hot day. Pittas are strong willed and tend to be stubborn. Pittas approach work and fun with the same level of intensity and competitiveness. They are prone to lead and learn quickly demonstrating an ability to easily comprehend and master new skills while simultaneously losing patience with those that cannot grasp new concepts as readily as they can. They tend to display intense appetites, both for food and challenges. It is typical for pittas to suffer from inflammation, rashes, acne, and loose stool. To stay in balance, pittas need to manage their aggressive tendencies, channeling their energy into productive opportunities and learning to recognize their destructive power, especially in relationships.
Kaphas are emotional, loving, caring, devoted people. Internally they are in harmony and are very social. Kaphas tend to be large and typically overweight. The physical site in the body where kapha is stored is the stomach, the lungs and the lymphatic system. Typically kaphas suffer from obesity, edema, lung diseases and swollen glands. Kaphas are naturally athletic and tend towards a large shape. Kaphas must exercise consistently to manage their weight. The influence of the earth and water elements contributes to their inherently stable, compassionate, and loyal nature. They tend to be methodical in their approach to their personal and professional lives. Kaphas are difficult to motivate, stubborn, and complacent even when they realize intellectually that they should change their behavior. Their metabolism tends to be very slow. Ironically, kaphas do not enjoy large appetites for either food or other stimulants. Kaphas will do well to fast occasionally.