In our previous blog we explained how we are all made up of the 5 Elements. From these elements 3 groups can be formed where two of the elements are naturally drawn to each other. This combination is referred to as Dosha. The Doshas are called Vata (Ether & Air), Pitta (Fire & Water) and Kapha (Water & Earth). You can see the doshas as main systems running the body. When they are in balance they maintain a harmonious body-mind state. Once the doshas, which literally means “fault, impurity or mistake” go out of balance, they bring harm to our body and mind and this in turn can lead to disease. The doshas each have specific functions, and they cannot perform these functions without the other 2 doshas.
- VATA is the bio force of mobility and transport
- PITTA is the bio force of heat and transformation water.
- KAPHA is the bio force of growth and nourishment
Doshas are bio forces, or intelligent managers of the life systems. They are responsible for the creation and maintenance of all structures in the body and the primary forces behind all physiological functions. Everybody has, luckily, all three managers working inside of us. However the dominance of the Doshas vary from person to person. This is what we mean when we speak about your dosha or your constitution.
Your unique design
Every human being has a unique constitution, called Prakriti, which is the blueprint of your being. Your prakriti is developed at the day of conception and during your time in your mothers womb. Your prakriti depends on emotions, genetics, lifestyle and diet of your parents. Consequently the dominance of Doshas in every person varies. Your prakriti shows through your physiological and personality traits, your emotional tendencies, as well as your general likes and dislikes. There are 7 main constitutions recognised in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, Vata-Kapha and Vata-Pitta-Kapha. Within these 7 constitutions there are many varieties, or expressions, that can occur as well, as the doshas can also (inter)act in different ways in every person. However by knowing your birth constitution and acting accordingly, you can maintain a healthy state of body-mind and prevent disease. Therefore Ayurveda emphasises an individualised approach to wellness & healthcare.
How imbalances can occur
Our lifestyles, the food that we eat, what is going on in our emotional bodies, stress, working and life environment, all has an effect on our doshas. If we live a certain lifestyle that is enhancing a particular Dosha, that can make your doshas deviate from your basic constitution. This present imbalance is called Vikriti. Note that perfect health is not having all three doshas in the same amount, but to have the three doshas in the amount of our Prakriti. When the doshas are functioning exactly as stated in your blueprint, you are in optimal health. This is what we aim to achieve in Ayurveda. When you visit an Ayurvedic Practitioner, you will first look at your current imbalances and work on that. Often only after that, your Prakriti will reveal itself. This is because many of us hold imbalances for so long, that we have forgotten what our actual nature is. It is a bit like dusting off the mud of a diamand to let it shine.
Vata Dosha: Ether & Air
Vata is the life force, also called prana or life energy. It governs all movement in the mind and body. It is considered the “King of the Doshas” since without Vata, Pitta and Kapha cannot move. Therefore Vata is always treated first when more of the Doshas are out of balance. It controls voluntary and involuntary actions; breathing; removal of wastes; speech (movement of vocal cords); pumping of the heart; sense of touch; kindling digestive fire; absorbing nutrients and the movement of thoughts across the mind. Contained by Ether, Vata resides in empty spaces in the body. The main location of Vata is the colon. Other locations are pelvis and pelvic organs, thighs, legs, skin, ears, brain, nervous system and lungs. The main properties of Vata are: Dry, light, rough, cold, subtle & mobile.
Personality Balanced Vatas are contagiously energetic and are the people you might say, “light up the room”. They are full of ideas. Often geniuses artists or inventors, they grasp things easily and do things quickly. You can easily spot a vata dominant constitution because they tend to talk a lot, move a lot, and worry a lot. They are creative worriers and usually have too many things going on at the same time. Their mind is constantly going everywhere and they have a very hard time unwinding or sitting still. This is due to the mobile quality of Vata. It is hard for them to find peace and grounding within themselves. Due to the two elements of Ether and Air they cannot hold on to things. This reflects in the mind by forgetting things easily, and in the body by not being able to store energy – They are easily run down, fatigued during the day and are are often not able to store fat.
Physical With that creative flare also comes irregularity, they often have long and irregular shaped limbs, curly hair, and angular features. They move like the wind are impulsive and love change. Vata people are generally slim, light in body weight and slender, either very short or very tall with prominent bones. Other physical characteristics are oval face, small eyes, dry skin, thin hair, small joints (that crack often), and long fingers. Variability is Vata nature. Metabolism The metabolism and sleep pattern of Vatas is always changing. Due to the dissipating energy of wind, the digestive fire gets blown out in Vata types. Vatas also tend to eat erratically and skip meals, which further taxes their ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Vatas tend to bloat and get gassy. Due to dryness, Vatas tend towards dehydration and constipation, especially when they are travelling.
Vatas in balance Vatas that are balanced, are often great source of creativity and vitality, easy to grasp new ideas, highly active, alert. They have regular breathing, consistent appetite, normal excretion of wastes, positive enthusiasm, a calm mind and inspirational creativity. They are non-judgemental and very open and curious to others and new situations.
Vatas out of balance Vatas out of balance can easily forget things, are fearful, anxious, impatient, easily distracted, ungrounded, loss of weight, numbness, lower back pain, tremors, cracking joints, dry skin, dehydration, dizziness, painful or scanty periods and insomnia, fatigue and arthritis.
Tips for Vata While our society encourages rushing and multitasking, Vatas are particularly vulnerable to becoming imbalanced and ill when they don’t have a daily routine that includes regular periods of rest. To balance Vata focus on nurturing and make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life. Calming Vata is a daily practice in awareness. At some points in your life, you may need to do more to ground Vata and at other times, you will find that it is easier to stay in balance. Tune in to yourself and the changes in your environment place self-care first when vata is high. Slow it down!
Pitta Dosha: Fire & Water
Pitta Dosha governs transformation. It is responsible for all chemical and metabolic functions. Pitta provides the heat that transforms food, thoughts and physical exertion into energy. Supported by the water element, Pitta mainly exists in an acid form like digestive juices and blood. Since Pitta people are made of fire and water, they are more sturdy than Vata types and it takes them a moderate amount of time to get out of balance and come back into balance. Pittas tend to be on the warm side and are prone to “heated” imbalances like fevers, hypertension, pink eye, and skin problems (acne, eczema, rash). The main seat of Pitta is the small intestine. Pitta is also found in the stomach, the umbilicus, , sweat & lymph glands, blood, plasma, eyes and the skin. The main properties of Pitta are: Slightly oily, sharp, hot, light, bad smelling, spreading and liquid. Personality Pittas have fiery personalities. They love a good debate or sporting event where they can be competitive. They make great leaders and have very sharp and quick witted intellect. Pittas are quick problem solvers but have a tendency to be opinionated and controlling. They want everything done their way and they want explanations for everything. For example, Pittas are often the first people to start arguing. They are the lawyer-types and will argue, using logic until people see things their way. Pittas are also extremely punctual-often times doing a ‘drive-by’ before the appointment so that they are sure to be on time. Pittas are also list-makers and extremely organised. Their socks are probably ironed, folded, in rows, according to color. Balanced pittas have razor sharp minds, glowing skin, a witty sense of humor and have the ability to attract others to follow their direction.
Physical Pittas are medium in size often with an athletic build. Their skin has nice tone and glow and they may have freckles or some moles. The features on their face are sharp – sharp chin, nose, and piercing eyes. Eyes tend to be blue or light in colour. The finger nails are pink and strong and their hair is straight and shiny. Pittas have a tendency to have a receding hairline and/or early balding. Pittas are sensitive to the sun and can easily burn their skin if not careful.
Metabolism Pittas have the strongest digestion and can eat almost anything. They have a stronger appetite than Vata and Kapha persons. If Pitta digestion is imbalanced, it can result in an acidic stomach, heartburn, and diarrhoea.
Pitta in Balance Balanced Pittas are intelligent, alert, decisive, with a good power of comprehension and contentment. They are leaders by nature, good speakers and charming.
Pitta out of balance Pittas out of balance can show jealousy, competitiveness, egoism, envy, lack of compassion, are easily agitated, can have acne, acid stomach, premature greying/ balding, skin rashes, loose stools or diarrhoea, achy hot eyes, skin inflammation, migraines.
Tips for Pitta Pitta is soothed by experiences that are: heavy (think grounding and nourishing), Slow (think tranquil and stress-free), cool (think in terms of keeping cool both mentally and physically) and dense (think wholesome, enriching, and sustaining). These qualities help to balance pitta’s lightness, raw intensity, fierce ambition, fiery personality and desire to be in control. In general, it’s important to slow down, ground, relax, and enjoy yourself, making time for sweet, meaningful experiences. Pace yourself as you move through your day, and embrace relaxed effort in as many of your responsibilities and commitments as possible. Be willing to make mistakes and to laugh at yourself, while balancing your sense of responsibility with play. Practice gratitude. Think sweet, keep cool and soften the attitude.
Kapha Dosha: Water & Earth
Kapha is the dosha responsible for lubrication and structure of the body. It governs the lubrication in the brain, around the joints, reproductive fluids, and is responsible for building most of our tissues. As Kapha is made of water and earth, Kapha constitutions are very sturdy, grounding and they are difficult to move. Kapha people tend to be the healthiest of the three doshas, including mental health due to their solid structure. The principle site of Kapha is the chest area and the head. It is als seated e.g. in the stomach, the small intestine, the pancreas, and the plasma. Kapha is contained in the medium of earth; it resides in skin, tissue linings and muscles. The main properties of Kapha are: Oily, smooth, heavy, slow, cold, soft and stable.
Personality Kaphas are peacemakers, good listeners and the nurturers. They are usually loved by everyone. When in balance they are tolerant. They are not the best leaders but are good followers and highly loyal. Their mind is steady with a positive and sweet attitude. Water and earth combined become mud, which is a substance not so easy to be moved. So Kapha also does not like to move too much and needs some extra encouragement to get moving. They do not like change so they can get attached to past experiences, emotions, relationships, and collection of stuff.
Physical They have big and strong structure. Joints, skin and bones are also strong. The skin tends to be pale and oily (but more clammy) not hot oily skin like Pitta. Their hair is thick and oily. The eyes of a Kapha are big and lustrous like a Bambi. Their eyelashes are long, full and curly. Kaphas teeth are big and beautiful. Their hands have thick knuckles, thick palms, strong nails and are more meaty than Vata/ Pitta hands. They tend to gain weight easily. It stores energy that Vata has brought in and that Pitta has managed, in the form of fats in the cell membrane and carbohydrates in the cell wall.
Metabolism Kaphas have a slow appetite and metabolic rate. Due to their earthy and watery structure, they can easily skip meals (and should) and remain content and happy. Fasting is necessary for Kapha because it will lighten their load and it also increases their digestive fire.
Kapha in balance Balanced Kaphas are calm, tolerant, loving, compassionate, forgiving, have courage, flexibility, a healthy appetite and thirst. They have excellent long term memory, strength and stability.
Kapha out of balance Kaphas out of balance can have excess mucus, congestion, wet cough, the excessive desire to sleep, laziness. They can be greedy, lethargic, attached, possessive and insecure.
Tips for Kapha At the most fundamental level, following a Kapha-pacifying lifestyle is about inviting more Kapha pacifying qualities into your day-to-day experience whether through specific and focused practices, the overall attitude you cultivate towards life, or both. Since Kapha is inherently cold, heavy, and dense, the key to balancing Kapha is stimulation. Kaphas tend to cling to the status quo and routine, so they need the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and experiences. In general; Move, Spice it up and seek new experiences!
Please note that this overview is by no means complete but is intended to give you a summary of the doshas how we work with them in Practice. Make sure to consult a coach or practitioner if you want to integrate Ayurveda into your life and get the most benefits out of it. 💚