What are Doshas In Ayurvedic Medicine?
What are Doshas?
Ayurveda is the ancient holistic art and science from India that uses herbs, roots and minerals to promote optimum well-being and harmony of the individual in balance with nature and the environment. Legend has it that over 3000 years ago, Nature revealed to the great sage Dhanwantari, as he sat in profound meditation in the midst of a forest, the beneficial properties of each tree, plant, herb, root and flower and the subtle links of oneness that exist between the vegetable and mineral worlds and humans. The application of this wisdom developed into Ayurveda, the science of life, where Ayur means life and Veda means science. It is the Hindu system of medicine that uses diet, herbal treatment and yogic practices to balance the body’s systems.
According to Ayurveda we are made up of the five elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space (ether) and the combination of these elements gives rise to the three Doshas. Doshas are the energies that make up each person. Doshas can also be thought of as mind body types or our unique physical and mental constitution. Doshas can be used to classify people so Ayurveda then provides a personalized approach to our health since knowing our Dosha allows us to make optimal choices about our diet, exercise, supplements, and all other aspects of our life. Learning about our Ayurvedic body type gives us valuable information for nurturing our body’s inner intelligence.
“The Doshas express particular patterns of energy - unique blends of physical, emotional and mental characteristics” - Deepak Chopra
There are three Dosha types Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two dominate. These are characterized as:
VATA – ‘AIRY (‘WINDY’):
The elements of Vata are air and ether. Vata is responsible for all ‘communication and movement’. Its qualities are light, dry, changeable, quick, cold & subtle like the ‘wind’. It is associated with the bodily functions of motion including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
ARE YOU A VATA PREDOMINANT?
If you are dominated by Vata, you will naturally:
- be light, quick, enthusiastic
- have a lighter/slimmer build
- be more changeable, versatile and creative by nature
- have a tendency towards dry hair, dry skin & light/interrupted sleep
- have a delicate appetite/digestion that can be easily disturbed
- love change and movement
- like to talk/communicate/express
- change mind/mood easily
- be a bit of a ‘daydreamer’, but also the ‘life of the party’.
- You probably find it hard to gain weight, to sleep deeply, or to stick at the same thing for a long time.
When the Vata Dosha is in balance, there is feelings of creativity and vitality.
PITTA – ‘FIERY’:
The elements of Pitta are fire and water. Pitta governs all ‘energy and transformation’ in our bodies and the universe. Its qualities are like fire – hot, intense, sharp, dynamic, sour/acidic. It is associated with the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body's temperature.
ARE YOU PITTA PREDOMINANT?
If you are pitta predominant, you will naturally:
- be more fiery, dynamic, focused, competitive
- have a medium, muscular build
- have a sharp mind and strong intellect
- have skin that is generally more sensitive, maybe freckly and burns easily
- have a strong appetite and digestive system – you love eating and get irritable/’angry’ if a meal is late
- like order, systems and creating lists
- be motivated, passionate and have strong drive about something
- be a bit perfectionistic
When the Pitta Dosha is in balance it leads to contentment and a sharp mind.
KAPHA – ‘EARTHY’:
The elements of Kapha are earth and water. It is almost the exact opposite of Vata Dosha. It is heavy, slow, non-changing, sweet and moist/unctuous/oily. Kapha governs all ‘structure and lubrication’. It is associated with maintenance of the immune system, lubrication and growth.
ARE YOU KAPHA PREDOMINANT?
If you are dominated by Kapha, you will naturally:
- be sweet, dependable, earthy, stable & supportive
- have a larger (more ‘cuddly’ build)
- have large lustrous eyes, soft but possibly oily skin and thick hair
- be down to earth
- have a tendency towards excess mucous and congestion
- be slow to start new things/get information, but once you start you have great endurance and rarely forget things
- have a slower/heavier digestion
- be well liked for your placid, sweet & supportive disposition
- Seek emotional comfort from eating
When the Kapha Dosha is in balance it is expressed as love and forgiveness.
Weather, seasonal changes, lifestyle, foods, relationships can lead to imbalances, creating too much or too little of one or more Doshas within the body and mind. This imbalance is called Vikriti. People with naturally strong Vata tendencies are more prone to Vata imbalances, those with naturally strong Kapha tendencies are more prone to Kapha imbalances.
Vata imbalance can produce fear and anxiety. A Pitta imbalance can cause ulcers and anger. A Kapha imbalance can lead to insecurity and envy. There are many ways to balance the Doshas.
If your Vata is out of balance, you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle to bring in the opposite qualities of Vata.
Rest – get to bed early & get plenty of rest generally
Routine – regular daily routine – sleep & mealtimes
Warmth – keeping your body warm, warm food & drinks
Oil – unctuous diet (non-dry), warm oil body massages, natural perfume oils
Sweetness – more sweet foods/relationships (Vata’s love touch/hugs)
Slow – go for more relaxed/calming activities/exercise
such as meditation, gentle yoga, quiet time, cat naps…
Vata is also balanced by avoiding exposure to wind and cold, listening to relaxing, soothing music, and generally ‘slowing down’.
If your Pitta is out of balance, you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle to bring in the opposite qualities of Pitta.
Coolness – cool foods/drinks/climate (avoid hot sun), water activities – swimming
Leisure – take regular breaks from ‘work’ & have more ‘fun-time’
Nature – spend time looking at trees, moonlight, tranquil water
Foods- Increase sweet and bitter foods. and reduce ‘hot’ (spicy), salty and sour foods
Pitta is also balanced by reducing/avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
If your Kapha is out of balance, you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle to bring in the opposite qualities of Kapha.
Light diet – reduce heavy/sweet foods/drinks
Variety – keep diet, exercise, work varied
Stimulation – go for ‘spicier’ food, more vigorous exercise
Dryness – less oil in diet, ‘dry’ body brushing
Activity – lots of regular exercise
Kapha is also balanced by avoiding cold, damp environments and generally ‘spicing things up’.