Ayurveda (from the Sanskrit Ayur, meaning life, and Veda, meaning science or knowledge) is a healing system that dates back 3000 years. This ancient system is rooted in the idea that a healthy balance between mind, body, spirit, and environment creates an optimal state, giving us the opportunity for our best possible lives. (And it was the inspiration for naming this blog Micro of the Macro. See my About page for a little more on that.) The three doshas, or energy types at the heart of Ayurveda, govern the seasons, the days, and our lives, right down to the specifics of what’s beneficial for us to eat or avoid, our best possible work environment, and the climate that most suits us. Knowing your primary dosha(s), or constitutional type, can guide your decision-making in creating a healthier, happier life.
The three doshas of Kapha, Pitta, and Vata are present in all of us from birth, but typically, one or two are dominant. From Dr. Gabriel Cousens’ book Conscious Eating, A person’s constitutional type predetermines which doshas tend to become imbalanced more easily than others. When in balance, there is a healthy psychophysiological state. If the doshas are unbalanced, one may feel a disharmony in the body-mind. If chronically imbalanced, disease may result.
Kapha governs our earthy and watery attributes, and is associated with stored energy, heaviness, strength, stability, growth, and bodily fluids. Some qualities of Kapha include a heavy bone structure, a slow, graceful gait, large eyes, thick hair, a preference for staying home, and a calm demeanor. Their stress tolerance is high, and sleep comes easily. Those who are predominantly Kapha tend to gain weight easily and may struggle to lose it. They have a tendency toward colds and flus. Imbalances may occur if they become sedentary; eat a lot of sweets, fried foods, or dairy products; avoid emotional expression or creativity; or live in a humid, cold climate.
Pitta controls the element of fire in our bodies, along with a smidgen of our watery aspect. This dosha is associated with balance, passion, intensity, and digestion. A few Pitta qualities include an athletic build, a brisk gait, light-sensitive eyes, & fine hair; being organized, pragmatic, & competitive; and having a desire to travel and explore. If Pitta is your dominant dosha, your may have a medium tolerance for stress and fall into short but sound sleep. Maintaining a normal weight may come easier to you. You might find that inflammation is a common occurrence. Imbalances can occur as a result of a stressful, competitive job; bullying others; associating with argumentative people; or consuming too many spicy or sour foods, red meats, or too much caffeine. A hot, dry climate can also adversely affect Pittas.
Vata governs our ether and air elements, and is associated with change, movement, lightness, and creativity. Qualities of a Vata-dominant person include a thin build, a fast, irregular gait, small eyes, dry & curly hair, and being impulsive, quick-witted, and talkative. Vatas have a tendency to wander, both externally and internally, which contributes to their creativity. They have a low stress tolerance and expend energy quickly. Their sleep may be elusive. They may have a hard time gaining weight. They tend toward diseases involving the nervous system as well as joint problems. Imbalances present themselves most when Vatas are in chaotic environments, are excessively physical, suppress feelings, engage in worry, eat lots of cold, dry foods, or don’t get enough rest. A windy, cold environment does not work well for one who is Vata-dominant.
By these very brief descriptions, you can see that increasing an already-dominant quality in any form can result in imbalance. For example, I am primarily Pitta, and adding an additional fiery component to my life isn’t often beneficial. In past years, I held high-stress jobs in toxic environments that affected me in ways resulting in poor food choices, excessive drinking, and overspending. I don’t often get angry, but when I do, my blood seems to boil, so quickly talking myself down is a skill I’ve had to acquire. Long, hot baths are no longer an indulgence due to a tendency to overheat. And the intense sun and low humidity of the Desert Southwest create a need for me to be hypervigilant with hydration & shade seeking, otherwise I can suffer from a splitting headache for hours.
To learn your dominant doshas, you can take a quiz on this site. I would love to hear any feedback you have. There is so much more to the science of Ayurveda, and I will no doubt be sharing more in future posts. In fact, I’m currently reading Cate Stillman’s book Body Thrive: Uplevel Your Body & Your Life with 10 Habits from Ayurveda and Yoga. The author offers suggestions on simple, sensible lifestyle changes that prompt a deeper connection with life.
Finding balance between your mind, body, spirit, and environment can help you select the foods, work, and climate that best suit your specific needs. Determining your dosha type can assist you in making better decisions of all kinds, resulting in a healthier, happier you.
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.