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Downward Dog for Dosha Dilemmas & More

Just as there are foods and herbs that can steer us back into balance, so are there types of exercise, yoga, and daily rituals that avail us in consoling our constitutions.

There are reasons why some of us are inclined to exercise or practice yoga more than others no matter what the type of exercise or yoga we are doing, while some of us are only inclined to exercise or practice yoga if we truly enjoy the type of exercise or yoga we are doing. And yet it never occurs to some of us to even get up off the couch and do anything at all!

As you may know, we are comprised of the five great elements (pancha mahabhutas)—space, air, fire, water, and earth. When these elements combine they become the elemental energies—vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water), kapha (water and earth).

Further, when vata, pitta, and kapha become out of balance, they become known as vata dosha, pitta dosha, and kapha dosha. You may have seen the word dosha used to describe a person’s constitution (prakruti), but for the intents and purposes of this article, dosha is referred to by its true definition which is “that which is out of balance.”

A well known Ayurvedic tenet is that diet, lifestyle, and environment create imbalance and are also that which can be used to bring us back into balance.

Another well known Ayurvedic tenet is that, when there is an imbalance we apply the opposite qualities to bring ourselves back into balance. More on this to come!

But first, learning and understanding the psychophysiology of vata, pitta, and kapha is paramount to becoming adept at tackling any weal and woe that come our way.

Vata, pitta, and kapha each have combined elements, circadian rhythms (times of the day when they are active), seasons, qualities, organs/systems, imbalanced and balanced traits, and tastes with which they are associated.

Psychophysiology/Personalities of Vata, Pitta, & Kapha

“That which moves things.”
SEASON: Winter
CIRCADIAN RHYTHYMS: 2:00–6:00 am & 2:00–6:00 pm
QUALITIES: Dry, Light, Cold, Mobile, Rough, Subtle, Erratic
ORGANS/SYSTEM: Colon, Bones/Joints, Nervous System, Ears
IMBALANCED TRAITS: Dryness, Constipation, Dry Cracking Joints, Insomnia, Gas, Bloating, Fear, Anxiety, Nervousness, Indecision, Frivolous spending, inability to focus/concentrate.
BALANCED TRAITS: Exuberant, Creative, Spontaneous, Entertaining
TASTES: Bitter, Astringent, Pungent—in regard to dryness

“That which digests things.”
SEASON: Summer
CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS: 10:00 am–2:00 pm, 10:00 pm–2:00 am
QUALITIES: Hot, Sharp, Oily, Penetrating, Mobile, Light, Liquid, Malodorous
ORGANS: Small Intestine, Liver, Spleen, Skin, Eyes, Gall Bladder
IMBALANCED TRAITS: Hot Flashes, Inflammations, Skin Problems, Eye Problems, Acid Indigestion, Ulcers, Heartburn, Anger, Agitation, Irritable, Judgmental, Short Tempered, Lacking Compassion, Overly Driven
BALANCED TRAITS: Perceptive, Intelligent, Goal Oriented, Passionate, Leader
TASTES: Pungent, Sour, Salty

“That which holds things together.”
SEASON: Spring
CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS: 6:00–10:00 am, 6:00–10:00 pm
QUALITIES: Heavy, Solid, Cool, Inert, Wet, Dull, Sticky, Soft,
Organs: Stomach, Lungs, Pancreas, Nose, Head
IMBALANCED TRAITS: Mucous Build Up/Congestion, Weight Gain, Lethargy, Laziness, Slow Digestion, Nausea, Depression, Greed, Attachment, Bossy
BALANCED TRAITS: Sweet, Trustworthy, Intelligent, Care Taker, Loyal
TASTES: Sweet, Sour, Salty

After having read a little bit about the psychophysiology or “personalities” of vata, pitta, and kapha, you may now be thinking that you are a combination of them. You are correct! Most of us are what is known as dual-doshic. This means that our constitutions are a combination of two of the three elemental energies that you have come to know as vata, pitta, and kapha.

We typically possess a bit more of one of the elemental energies than another and when categorizing the combinations of elemental energies, we first list the one that we are predominant in. For instance, if your constitution is a combination of vata and pitta but your constitution lends itself to having more vata than pitta then, you would be classified as vata/pitta.

The dual-doshic constitution combinations are

  • vata/pitta
  • pitta/vata
  • vata/kapha
  • kapha/vata
  • pitta/kapha
  • kapha/pitta

A person can also be mono-doshic—either mainly vata, mainly pitta, or mainly kapha—but this is rare, as is being tri-doshic, an equal combination of vata, pitta, and kapha. Yet, mono-doshic and tri-doshic constitutions do exist!

Take the quiz and discover your dosha here.

The million dollar question we tend to ask is: Which constitution is best?!

Suffice it to say, there is not one constitutional type that is better than the others. Your unique constitution is just as it should be as long as you maintain balance.

You can also ascertain as to what types of imbalances you might be prone to, by studying the elemental energy personalities. Then, apply their opposites to reel yourself back into balance.

For instance, your vata is vexed if you are feeling cold, tired and have dry skin. Add layers of clothing for added warmth to balance out vata’s cold energy. Slow down and take time to relax and recharge your batteries to soothe vata’s tendency for being erratic and on the move. This is vata’s windy nature! Lubricate yourself with warm oil massage (abhyanga) to hydrate your skin, improve digestion, and ameliorate anxiety and depression.

Your pitta is peeved if you’re overheated and irritable. Turn down the flame by staying out of mid-day sun and steer clear of competitive sports or heated debates!

There is a kapha conundrum when you’re feeling lazy and down, caused by the heavy build up of earth and water. Avoid napping as it will instigate inertia. Mitigate your melancholy by turning up the music and getting your moves on!

More Lifestyle, Yoga, and Exercise Tips for Dosha Dilemmas

Lifestyle. Vata benefits greatly from regularity and routine, setting boundaries, socializing and creating balance by making time for rest and quiet time as well.
Yoga. Practice alternate nostril breathing, restorative, gentle or moderate yoga with emphasis on slow, steady movement and restorative poses, mantra and japa meditation.
Exercise. Tai-chi, walking in nature.

Lifestyle. Practice moderation in all activities as pitta tends to be intense. Make time for rest, relaxation, meditation, and fun. Chill out, practice compassion for yourself and others. Keep cool, avoid saunas, hot baths/showers. Favor moon bathing over sun bathing.
Yoga. Practice moderate yoga but keep it interesting, lunar breathing and shitali/shitkari.
Exercise. Walking in nature, non-competitive activities, swimming, hiking, tai-chi, gentle walks at night.

Lifestyle. Stay stimulated and be open to new experiences, push towards your edge more, keep moving, take saunas, get deep massages, dry brush the body from bottom to top/towards the heart.
Yoga. Yoga practice can be vigorous, kapalabhati or solar breathing, walking meditation
Exercise. Daily, strong aerobic exercise that promotes sweating is beneficial. *It’s important to note that those who lean toward having a kapha constitution are more likely to stick with an exercise routine if they do something they enjoy.

Circadian Rhythms Explained

Have you ever wondered why you feel tired at 8:00 or 9:00 at night and fight off falling to sleep, only to get a second wind at 10:00 PM? Do you notice that eating late at night causes intestinal discomfort and leads to weight gain? This is because vata, pitta, and kapha each do their jobs at certain times of day. These are known as the circadian rhythms.

Kapha Time: 6:00–10:00 am

  • Rise By 6:00 am In  order to avoid the heavy, sedentary qualities of kapha that will make you not want stay in bed.
  • Exercise between 6:00–10:00 am as this is when muscle strength and endurance is best. If you can’t exercise in the morning, then do it between 6:00–10:00 pm. Ultimately, do it whenever you are most likely to do it!

Kapha Time: 6:00–10:00 pm

  • Be in bed no later than 10:00 pm so that the still, sedentary qualities of kapha allow you to fall asleep and remain asleep more easily.

Pitta Time: 10:00 pm–2:00 am

  • Sleep during this time as this is when the body detoxifies and burns fat. *Molecules of emotion are stored in the fat cells. So, if you do not sleep during this time, the fat will not be burned and undigested emotions may cause interrupted sleep, nightmares, and too many thoughts that keep you up. Just lying awake, reading or watching TV steals energy away from the liver and kidneys. Therefore, the detoxification/fat burning process will not take place.

Pitta Time: 10:00 am—2:00 pm

  • Eat your biggest meal during this time as this is when the digestive fire is strongest.

Vata Time: 2:00 am–6:00 am

  • Sleep during this time. *This is the time when people commonly wake up and can’t go back to sleep because it is a time of movement and active mind. But, if you follow the natural circadian rhythms of going to sleep By 10:00 pm and wake by 6:00 am, you will have less chance of waking up in the middle of the night.

Vata Time: 2:00—6:00 PM

  • Work or study during this time as this is the active mind time.

Downward Dog for Your Dosha

As mentioned earlier, yoga is an amazing therapy that Ayurveda employs to support homeostasis. Here are yoga sequences for vata, pitta, and kapha balancing.

Vata yoga. Think slow, smooth, steady, and safe.

  • Cat/cow
  • Seated twist
  • Downward-facing dog
  • Tree pose
  • Warrior I
  • Wide-standing forward bend
  • Bound angle
  • Child’s pose
  • Long relaxation—add a weighted blanket if you have one or improvise.
  • Alternate nostril breathing with eyes closed.
  • Mantra meditation using mala beads if you have them.
    Mantra: I am safe and secure—repeat three times out loud, whisper three times, and say to yourself three times.

Pitta yoga. Think gazing softly with your eyes and a smile on your face, no need to be in a hurry, it’s not a race!

  • Moon salutations
  • Downward-facing dog
  • Triangle
  • Revolved triangle
  • Seated open angle
  • Half shoulder stand
  • Child’s pose
  • Relaxation with a chilled eye pillow over the eyes
  • Lunar breathing
  • Metta (loving kindness) meditation
  • Mantra: I am safe and secure—repeat three times out loud, whisper three times, and say to yourself three times.

Kapha yoga. Think stimulating and spicy!

  • Sun Salutations
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Warrior II
  • Warrior III
  • Side Angle
  • Revolved Side Angle
  • Camel
  • Supine Knee to Chest
  • Seated Relaxation
  • Solar Breathing
  • Walking Meditation
  • Mantra: I am energized and optimistic—repeat three times out loud, whisper three times, say to yourself three times.

The goal is to keep in sync with nature. Following the circadian rhythms, practicing yoga, and exercising are alembics for arogya (good health).

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