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What’s a Dosha? What’s YOUR Dosha? What’s My Dosha?

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, “DOSHA” please allow me to explain. Your “dosha” is your mind-body type, and this term comes from the ancient wisdom teachings of Ayurveda which is more than 5,000 years old. As with MANY ancient wisdom teachings from around our world, the “doshas” are described through the elements. In Ayurveda these elements are described as the “Great Elements” (Mahabhutas): and they are Space (akasha), Air (vayu), Fire (agni), Water (jalu) and Earth (prithivi). I am providing the ancient Sanskrit terms for these principles and elements.

Ayurveda, which is also a Sanskrit word which can be translated as “the science of life” is an ancient wisdom tradition which is more than 5,000 years old. It is one of the earliest documented approaches to holistic and alternative medicine, and understanding ourselves, our health and our body as a multi-dimensional and spiritual being in a physical body.

Back to the “Doshas” … According the Vedic science (Ayurvedic Science), consciousness mainifests the world through the five great elements of space, air, fire, water and earth. Since our bodies reside in the world, they are composed of the five elements. Ayurveda teaches that as the field of pure potential (“The UNIVERSE)” unfolds into living forms, the five elements organize themselves into three essential principles: Movement, Metabolism and Structure. These three principles are known as the three doshas.

Vata is the principle of movement.

Pitta is the principle of metabolism

Kapha is the principle of structure.

I know, this is starting to sound complicated, right? Well, really, this ancient wisdom system made it very simple. All of life, including us are all just composed of bits of space, air, fire, water, and earth. When we begin thinking about these five basic elements and their qualities, it becomes more simple.

Western thought divides us into 3 basic body types: Endomorph, Ectomorph, and Mesomorph, and it takes noting into consideration of our mind and our way of interpreting our world.. Ayurveda looks deeper into the complete mind-body type of the individual, which is determined at conception. This is our “psychophysiological constitution” which is a big word for our “mind-body type”.

Though we come into the world with our own unique constitution, or mind-body type, or combination of the doshas—our experiences and choices in live influence our current state. If one of the doshas is out of balance, it means we have “too much” of that principle active, and once we understand these principles there are things we can do to bring ourselves back into balance.

Let’s begin by understanding a little more about each of the three dosha types:

Vata Dosha: The Principle of Movement

Elements: Space and Air

Characteristics: dry, cold, light, irregular, mobile, quick, rough

Vata Constitution: Light, thin frame; active, restless, creative mind; variable diet and sleep patterns; digestive irregularity; dry skin & hair; anxiety/insomnia under stress.

Responsible for: mental activity, neuromuscular activity, respiration, gastrointestinal mobility/elimination, cardiovascular circulation.

Vata Psychology: to balance Vata, think “Rhythm”

Balanced, Vata is energetic, adaptable, has strong initiative and is a good communicator.

Imbalanced, Vata can become restless, insconsistent, unreliable and overly talkative.

Imbalances of Vata often lead to dryness of the skin, hair, fingernails and large intestine. One may experience an irregular appetitie, delicate digestion, constipation, gas or bloating. One may become restless or suffer from insomnia. Emotionally, people with an Air imbalance may feel anxious, isolated, fearful or overly sensitive.

Some general tips for Balancing Vata: Keep warm; Keep calm; Avoid both raw and cold food; Avoid cold temperatures; Eat warm foods and spices and Keep a regular Routine.

Pitta Dosha: The Principle of Transformation

Characteristics: Hot, moist, light, intense, fluid, pungent, sour

Pitta Constitution: Medium fram, keen intellect with hungry minds, strong appetite and digestion (for everything), warm extremeties, perspires easily, irritability and angry under stress.

Responsible for: Transformation and digestion, mental discrimination, visual perception, digestion, coloration and pigmentation, temperature regulation (all the colored body fluids are Pitta).

Pitta Psychology: To balance Pitta think “Decompression”

Balanced, Pitta is intelligent, warm, friendly, courageous, and are good leaders.

Imbalanced, Pitta dosha can become critical, irritable, headstrong and controlling.

An imbalance of the Pitta dosha creates an excess of heat and acidity in the body. This may create symptoms such as skin rashes and irritations, burning pain in the digestive tract, indigestion or heartburn. Emotions may become inflamed when the Fire principle is out of balance, and the person may become angry, intolerant and hyper-critical. Fire imbalances are more likely to develop when one feels pressured or has “too much on their plate.”

Some general tips for balancing Pitta: Avoid excessive heat, Avoid excessive oil &nd steam; Limit salt intake, Eat cooling, nonspicy foods, Drink cool (but not iced) drinks, Exercise during the cooler part of the day.

Kapha Dosha: The Principle of Protection & Structure

Characteristics: cold, heavy, stable, viscous, dense, smooth, slow

Kapha Constitution (earth & water): Heavy set build, methodical, thoughtful nature, slow steady appetite and digestion, smooth, soft, lustrous complexion, deep, prolonged sleep, withdraws under stress and when imbalanced tends to hold onto things for too long.

Responsible for: Principle of protection, nervous system support, digestive tract protection, respiratory tract lubrication, joint lubrication, water and fat regulation. Kapha body fluids are clear.

Kapha Psychology: to balance think “Action”

Balanced, Kapha is calm, steady, devoted and tolerant. Imbalanced, Kapha becomes boring, inert, needy and and complacent.

An imbalance in the Kapha dosha will make one feel sluggish, congested and lazy. Weight gain, retention of fluids, allergies and sinus congestion all reflect an excess or imbalance of the earth principal. Earth imbalances may manifest emotionally as depression, attachment, sentimentality, or an inability to let go.

General Tips for Balancing Kapha: Keep active and get plenty of exercise; Avoid heavy foods; Vary your routine; Avoid dairy foods, and fatty or oily foods; Avoid iced food and drinks; Eat light, dry food.

In a conflict … 

Vata may ask, “What did I do wrong?”.

Pitta may ask, “What did YOU do wrong?”

Kapha might respond with, “Who cares … I don’t want to deal with it.”

Daily Routines:

According to Ayurveda, human beings are a part of nature and therefore, good health requires that an individual’s internal rhythms be in tune with the natural cycles in the environment. We humans have a circadian rhythm just like all the other animals in nature. The cycles of time during the day and night as well as the seasonal changes through the year influence the doshas. Understanding the effects of environmental changes on the doshas allow you to make choices to enhance balance.

Daily cycles:

Kapha dosha predominates from 6:00 in the morning until 10:00 am and from 6:00 in the evening until 10:00 pm. In the morning, the body feels slow, heavy, relaxed and calm; all of which are qualities of Kapha. The period of peak physical activity and appetite occurs at noon, during the middle of the first Pitta period. Pitta is responsible for metabolizing food and distributing energy throughout the body. Vata dosha, which governs the nervous system predominates in the late afternoon, during which time mental activities and physical dexterity are most efficient.

The second cycle of the day begins at 6:00 pm with Kapha and its tendency to create a slow relaxed evening. During the night time Pitta period, the body is metabolizing dinner, but since the body is asleep during the 10:00 pm to 2:00 am period, the energy is being converted into warmth and the rebuilding of tissues. The early morning Vata time activates the nervous system in the form of active dream sleep (REM or rapid eye movement).

According to Ayurveda, synchronizing your daily routine with the natural daily rhythms inhances health. Awakening before dawn during the end of the Vata period allows you to take advantage of the Vata qualities of alertness and energy. Eating your main meal during the noon hour when the Pitta fire is strongest insures strong digestion. Going to bed by 10:00 pm at the end of the Kapha period takes advantage of the slow, dull Kapha qualities and encourages sound sleep.

Seasonal Cycles

As with the daily rhythms, the seasonal cycles that run throughout the yeare are matched to the doshas. Kapha season applies to the months when it is predominantly wet and cold, usually during late winter, spring and early summer. Pitta season applies to the hot summer and early autumn. Vata season is during the months when the weather is cold, dry and windy, usually occurring during the late fall and early winter. However, the three Ayurvedic seasons are only approximate and have to be adjusted according to local conditions. In addition, it is not really the calendar but the natural influences that determine how the doshas are affected. For example, any damp, cold or overcast day will increase Kapha to some degree, regardless of the season.

Kapha Seasonal Routine: Generally late winter, spring, and early summer
Favor a diet that is lighter, drier and less oily. Reduce heavy dairy products. Favor warm food and drink. Eat more foods with pungent, bitter and stringent tastes and fewer with sweet, sour and salty tastes.

Pitta Seasonal Routine: Generally midsummer through early autumn
The digestive fire is naturally high during hot weather, so your appetite may be increased. Respect this change by not overeating. Favor cool food and drink, but not ice cold. Favor sweet bitter and astringent tastes and reduce sour, salty and pungent ones. Your body will desire more fluids in hot weather but avoid large volumes of ice cold liquids during or after meals.

Vata Seasonal Routine: Generally late autumn through winter.
Favor warm food and drink, heavier food and a more oily diet than other times of the year. Your food should be well cooked and easy to digest, accompanied by plenty of warm liquids. Eat more foods with sweet, sour and salty tastes and fewer with pungent, bitter and astringent ones. Reduce dry or raw foods. It is natural for your appetite to increase during the Vata season. You may take increased quantities of food during this season but be careful not to overeat.

The pinnacle of accomplishment within the world-renowned Chopra Center is to be certified to teach all three pillars of Ayurveda which includes Yoga, Meditation and the Lifestyle Principles of Ayurveda. Proficiency in—and mastery of—these three disciplines conveys a special designation known as the Chopra Center Vedic Educator. This coveted triple certification represents the highest level of commitment to exploring the depths of Vedanta, Ayurveda and Yoga.

Kay Rice, M.Ed.

Certified Vedic Educator, Chopra Center for Wellbeing

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