Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine dating back 5,000 years to Sanskrit texts called the Vedas. The word itself translates to "knowledge of life" and it is often referred to as the sister science of yoga. According to Ayurveda, true health comes from the space where thought turns into matter. This interconnectedness is governed by three life energies or doshas known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. While the doshas can be found everywhere around us, they are particularly useful in understanding human physiology. Each person is a unique combination of all three energies, with one or two that form our dominant constitution. This is your Prakriti or your mind-body type. It is the blueprint which outlines the innate tendencies of your mind-body system. By understanding and working with these energies, you can help facilitate the mind's dialogue with the body and reawaken your body's natural intelligence system.
The proportion of each dosha fluctuates according to your environment, diet, the season, the climate, and many other factors. The goal of Ayurveda is to balance them in order to return to your natural constitution. This is why finding your specific mind-body type is so important to begin. While there are volumes and volumes written on the subject of Ayurveda and the doshas, we wanted to distill a bit of this ancient information into a bite-size piece to wet your appetite. Here's a quick intro to each dosha to get you started finding yours.
Vata embodies the energy of movement and is associated with air or the air element. It is linked to creativity and flexibility and governs all bodily movements including breathing, heartbeat, and cellular movement. Vata is also responsible for facilitating communication between the mind and the nervous system.
Vata types are usually slender, tall and physically active. Mentally, they are agile, creative, and curious - often with a lively personality. When in balance, Vatas are flexible, imaginative, joyful and original. They tend to run cold and dry which leads to cold hands and feet, constipation, dry skin, and cracking joints. The air influence causes major fluctuations in energy, mood, and appetite.
Imbalanced Vata can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and isolation. It can cause physical and energetic exhaustion, communication problems and abnormal body movements like muscle spasms and tics.
Pitta represents the energy of transformation and is linked to the fire element with a secondary tie to water. This dosha relates to intelligence, digestion, thoughts, and experience and oversees nutrition and metabolism.
Their tie to the fire element makes Pitta dominant people strong, intense and irritable. They usually have a medium build with powerful muscles and freckled skin that reddens easily in the sun or during exercise. They are strong-willed, quick learners and natural leaders who easily comprehend new skills and knowledge. Pitta’s approach to work and play with the same intensity and sound judgment. As such, they can be impatient toward those who they feel are slower or less focused than they are. They have strong digestion and intense appetites and are likely to become grumpy if they miss a meal. They often suffer from conditions such as inflammation, rashes, acne, and diarrhea.
A Pitta imbalance can lead to the expression of fiery emotions like frustration, anger, jealousy, and criticism. It can also cause inflammatory disorders that affect the organs and tissue in the body.
Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is associated primarily with the earth and water elements and is responsible for cell hydration, skin moisturization, immunity and tissue protection.
Kaphas have strong frames and are naturally athletic when exercising regularly. They are intensely nourishing, compassionate and loyal, rooted in the influence of the earth and water elements. Kaphas enjoy doing things in a methodical way and prefer a regular routine. However, they tend to hold on to things long after they are no longer nourishing including jobs and relationships. Kapha’s metabolism is slow and they have a less intense appetite than Vata and Pitta types.
Imbalanced Kapha triggers attachment, greed, possessiveness, stubbornness, lethargy, and complacency. Physically, it can cause weight gain, oversleeping, asthma, diabetes, and depression.
So, now that you have an overview of each dosha, which one resonates with you? Is there more than one? There’s the possibility that you are dual-dosha or even tri-dosha if all three apply. For a more accurate assessment of your mind-body type, take this Dosha Quiz from Deepak Chopra.