We all have different body types, disposition to illnesses, different lifestyle preferences, and different sets of personality traits. We have unique behavioral patterns and we respond to similar situations differently and uniquely. Some people love the hot weather and others prefer cooler climates and cold foods and beverages. Some have a sweet tooth, others cannot stand it. Some have amazing metabolism while others struggle to digest. What may be healthy for you may not be healthy for someone else. What explains some people’s disposition to anger, calmness or lethargy? And yet it is said that we are all part of the whole. How do we as humans relate to the cosmos that is?
The answer is hidden in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit in this gem of a sutra—Yat Pinde Tat Brahmande, which means, that which is within your body is also in the cosmos as that which is outside is within too and the microcosm is not separate from the macrocosm. This sutra is our best bet in understanding the subtle concept of Doshas and how formative it is to who we are. What are Doshas and how do they define us?
Matter consists of the five elements of nature-air, water, space, fire and earth and our bodies are made of nothing but matter. Doshas are three fundamental bio-energies that get their qualities from a combination of the five elements of nature. Still fuzzy about it? Let us explain.
Our body type, moods, personality traits, and disposition to illnesses are influenced by what is termed as Prakruti in the science of Ayurveda. Ancient deeply probed Ayurvedic texts state that this basic constitution of ours is more or less determined at the time we are conceived and remains so through our life and it is what gives us our individual physiological and psychological identities. Prakruti is governed by tridoshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—which control vital life processes in our body-mind complex. The pitta dosha, constituted by the fire and water element, governs digestion. The vata dosha is the air and space element and it governs all types of movements in the body. The kapha dosha is made up of earth and water elements, governs lubrication, moisturization and reinforcement in the body. It is the grounding dosha.
Commonly, in a person, two of three doshas dominate that form our prakruti. When you live a life in alignment with the tendencies and nature of the predominant doshas, then what you achieve is a life of total balance, one where your body, mind and spirit is in harmony with nature. But owing to various factors and influences like poor lifestyle choices, or choices that we unknowingly make that aggravate the doshas, stress, pollution or impurities in the environment and lifestyle practices that are not aligned to the laws of nature, doshas can get out of balance. When doshas stay imbalanced, toxins build up in the system and the dosha-related functions in the body are affected, leading to illnesses and disease. For example, people with predominance of kapha should have more warm foods, stay in warmer climates or atmosphere. But if they are continuously exposed to colder climates, consume food cold or heavy in nature, kapha dosha is bound to get out of balance, resulting in sluggishness, lethargy, and low energy.
Vata Dosha draws its qualities from space and ether and therefore is the force behind movement in the body. Usually a Vata person has a thin body, is talkative and hyperactive, extroverted, and has low body weight, dry skin, brittle nails and hair. They usually like warm weather and hot beverages. But their tolerance for cold is modest. Vata people are quite imaginative.
Seat of Vata is in the abdomen right near the naval and it includes the colon, pelvis, thighs, large intestine, rectum, bones, bone marrow, skin, the nervous system and respiratory organs. It regulates functions like sensory impulses, breath, elimination, blood circulation and pumping of blood. It is also the force that kindles digestive fire, since fire cannot exist without air.
Signs That Vata is Out of Balance
- Skin dryness
- Uncontrolled weight loss
- Irregular bowel movement
- Joint pain
- Problem of flatulence
- Irregular pulse rate
- Preference for hot environment and surroundings
Some illnesses and discomfort that can be caused by vata vitiation include
- Loose teeth
- Facial Paralysis
- Acute stress
- Tonic and clonic Seizures
- Earache and hearing disorders
- Stiff legs
- Cramps in calf muscles
- Stiffness in the neck
Tips for Vata
- It is important for people with vata predominance to maintain regularity in their daily routine, though their restless nature may make this a difficult task to accomplish. Vitiated vata can make them feel like this can’t be done but this discipline can alone help them bring vata back in balance.
- Vata people must get enough rest; lack of sleep can aggravate vata dosha.
- Any form of workout or yoga practiced by vata people should be moderate and relaxed. Hatha Yoga, walking, or swimming can be done.
- Meditating every day is a must for vata people since their minds are prone to get restless and fidgety.
- Sweet, sour and salty food pacifies vata. Anything which is dry or heavy to digest is not conducive for vata people. They can have all sweet fruits including dates, banana, almonds, mangoes, and raisins. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, figs, papaya, grapefruit are also some of the vata friendly food. Almonds, millets, walnuts, cashews can also reduce the effect of vata imbalance. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are recommended. Vata can also have lentils, moong beans, and soya. Healthy oils vata people can use are sesame, olive, and peanut oil. Dairy can also be consumed in moderation.
- Avoid having dry fruits, cold and refrigerated food, kidney beans, grams and peas.
- Oleation—application of vata pacifying oils—is the most powerful solution to cure vata disorders. Oils lubricate the tissues and remove dryness from the system.
- Hydrate. Keep the body hydrated by having warm liquids like milk, soup, water.
- Vata gets aggravated with cold food or surroundings.
Pitta combines fire and water elements (predominantly fire). Pitta is the dosha that governs the stability of our mind. Pitta people are usually very active, good looking with resplendent skin and hair. They are perfectionists, quick thinkers, and leaders who thrive in challenging situations. They may also be short tempered. They are moderately built, have sharp facial features, pinkish lips, and warm skin. They have good digestion and so they can eat a lot and still manage to remain fit and lean. They may have premature hair graying and hair loss problems.
Some of Pitta dosha’s main functions include
- Regulation of body heat
- Maintain appetite to fuel the whole process of nourishment from absorption, assimilation to elimination and transporting essential amino acids and enzymes needed for digestion
- Provide vitality
- Facilitates function of the brain and intellect since it is the regulating force behind the neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that affect various brain functions.
- The seat of pitta is in the abdominal region, in the navel (seat of digestive fire), small intestines, fat and sweat glands, liver, gallbladder, body fluids, skin, eyes, brain, and spleen.
Signs of Pitta Imbalance
- Excessive body heat
- Excessive craving for cold beverages, foods and environment
- Skin and nail discoloration (yellow pigmentation)
- Disturbed sleep
- Irrational anger and irritation
- Burning sensation
- Frequent thirst and hunger
- Perfectionism to the point of obsession
- Bitterness in the mouth
- Body odor and bad breath
- Hot flashes
- Negative emotions like hostility, hate, jealousy.
Pitta Related Disorders
When pitta is aggravated, it can lead to inflammations, skin problems, and muscle disorders, among others. Some diseases that can be caused when pitta imbalance is not corrected are skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis, fatigue, migraine pain, acid reflux, tendinitis, jaundice, pharyngitis, skin redness, and low glucose levels.
Tips for Pitta People
Pitta-dominant people predominance need to keep in mind the following:
- Avoid alcohol or smoking. These habits can quickly aggravate pitta in people with pitta dominance.
- Overexertion, stress, overworking can increase body heat and vitiate pitta dosha further. Make an effort to keep the balance between work and relaxation.
- Meditation is the key to a happy mind. It reduces anger, irritability and frustration—tell-tale signs of pitta imbalance.
- Yogasanas should be practiced in moderation without overexerting oneself, if they are of the pitta prakruti.
- Cooling breathing techniques like Sudarshan Kriya or pranayamas like Shitali, Agnisara, and Nadi Shodhana are an absolute must for to maintain cool and not act out of anger or irritation.
- Foods that are sweet, bitter or pungent are recommended. Sweet fruits like apple, figs, dates, pomegranates, or veggies like cabbage, carrot, leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or sprouts are also an option.
- Dairy like milk, buttermilk, yogurt, clarified butter, soaked nuts are also recommended.
- It is important for pitta people to eat at regular intervals to avoid pitta aggravation.
- It is better to avoid exposure to sun, very hot food or spicy, sour, or fermented food.
It is also important for pitta type to stay hydrated; drink at least 4–5 liters of water each day.
- The company you keep matters more for pitta people. Keep company of people who are calm, centered, and positive since pitta dominance makes people quick to react or get angry.
- Being in nature, walking on the grass or the beach mindfully, gazing at the sun or moon can do a world of good for pitta prakruti people. It can calm their minds, help them think clearly, and keep their minds and hearts free from negative emotions.
Kapha dosha draws from earth and water elements. People with a predominance of kapha are generally the happiest of the three doshas but also the slowest of the three doshas. It may be a task to get them to adhere to deadlines. Kapha people are usually calm, cool headed, sensitive, lazy, cheerful, affectionate, and love the status quo. They have bodies that are thickset, dark hair, white prominent teeth. Their skin is moist, thick, and cool to touch. They have a good memory and are creative. They are methodical in their approach and have good immunity. Injustice or misery around them can affect them significantly. Kapha dosha acts as the binding and lubricating agent in the joints and muscles. It maintains the moisture in the body and skin. They have relatively slow metabolism with a decent appetite. This can make kapha people prone to weight gain.
The kapha dosha is located most importantly in the chest and in the bones, muscles, throat, head, stomach, fat, nose, and tongue. Interestingly, it is an imbalance in kapha dosha that can lead you to have coughing problems.
Signs of Kapha Imbalance
Lethargy, lack of routine, overeating, and irregular sleeping habits can all easily lead to kapha imbalance in a person. Over accumulation of kapha leads not only to illnesses, but also interferes with our ability to complete daily tasks. When in balance, Kapha people experience positive emotions like affection, lovingness and centeredness but if Kapha dosha gets out of balance then it could become the source of negative emotions like greed or jealousy. Some other signs of kapha imbalance may include
- Greed, arrogance, and tendency to accumulate
- Lethargy and sluggishness
- Weight gain
- Too much sleep
- Excessive saliva secretion
- Low metabolism
- Joint paint
- Unwillingness to engage in self-care practices.
Kapha imbalance can trigger diseases like anorexia, respiratory diseases like bronchitis, cough and cold, obesity, sinus aggravation, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders, goiter and joint disorders.
Tips for Kapha
- Much as they are prone to, kapha people cannot afford to avoid practicing yoga or some other form of workout, re-energizing breathing practices, and things that keep them engaged in activity. They may also need to look at what and how much they eat.
- Kapha people should have foods with astringent, spicy or bitter tastes. They can also have little spicy, warm and drying foods to balance the excess moisturizing influence of kapha. They can have fruits in moderate amounts. Fruits that are very sweet and produce heaviness should be avoided. They can have green leafy vegetables, sprouts, carrot, barley, corn, and millets.
- Instead of hard-to-digest cow’s milk, they should go for soy or goat milk. Except for buttermilk and low fat easy to digest milk, other dairy products should be avoided for people with kapha dominance. They can have olive oil, nuts, and sunflower or flax seeds.
- They must avoid sweets including chocolates, fizzy drinks, refrigerated foods, milk products, and white sugar.
- Given their tendency to be lethargic and sluggish, they need to manage their energy or prana levels with regular practice of yoga and breathing exercises that pump more energy in the body and mind. They can practice a few quick rounds of sun salutations every day to get oxygen flowing into each cell of the body. They can also practice brisk walking.
- Since the respiratory system tends to be weak in kapha prakruti or in aggravated kapha conditions, practicing pranayama can help strengthen the lungs and improve their functionality.
- Once their energy level is managed, it is easier for Kapha people to have deep meditations since they are able to steady themselves easily.
- Kapha people should avoid sleeping during the day! That can lead to kapha accumulation and thwart one’s healthy sleep cycle.
Now that we have a brief overview of doshas, the next step is for you to know your dosha predominance in your prakruti or unique constitution. How can you do that? Consider an Ayurveda Lifestyle Consultation
Ayurveda Lifestyle Consultation