Dosha: Your Unique Constitution
Ayurveda is the Science of Life, the Science of Self- Healing. To heal ourselves and live life to the fullest, we must understand our own unique constitution.
Ayurveda is based on the principle of the Five Elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Everything in the Universe is made up of these elements, which also exist within each person. The Universe is the macrocosm and each person is a microcosm, containing the Universe within. Therefore, we are all connected.
Ether is seen in the spaces within the body and the vibration of our energy. All movements in the body and movements of thoughts in the mind are expressions of the Air element. Metabolism and intelligence are our Fire. Water is the juice of the body, our fluidity. And the Earth element is present in everything solid and structural. It gives us stability.
It is the interplay of these elemental energies that create our individual Doshas.
The Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They are “the psycho-physiological principles of the body,” as my teacher Vishnu Dass says. We each have all three Doshas present in our constitutions, the ratios of which are determined at the time of our conception based on the diet, lifestyle, thoughts, feelings and emotions of our Mother and Father. Our “prakruti” is similar to our genetics. It creates our tendencies that influence how we experience the world. This combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha make up our unique expression of Consciousness in this life.
The Doshas govern the mental, physical and emotional aspects of the body and mind. We each have our own definition of ideal health, our own vulnerabilities and our own habitual patterns of behavior. This recognition of individuality is a foundational aspect of Ayurvedic medicine.
Dosha literally translates to “fault,” something that can go wrong … But really, the Dosha is our protective barrier to the outer environment. Ayurveda states that like increases like and that opposites balance. The Doshas are in a constant flux of increase and decrease to keep us balanced as we move through the days, seasons and years. When the Doshas are functioning normally, they maintain our health and bodily processes. When aggravated or out of balance, they create discomfort and disease.
The Doshas can be further understood by looking at their qualities and how those qualities manifest in our beings. A certified Ayruvedic counselor can aid in determining one’s Dosha and offer diet, lifestyle and sometimes herbal recommendations to balance one’s constitution.
Vata Dosha is a combination of Air and Ether elements. It is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear. Vata regulates all activity and movement in the body. Vata individuals have a light body frame, large teeth, small eyes and prominent joints. Vatas tend to be underweight and feel cold, often having cold hands and feet. The skin can be dry, and this dryness can be present in the colon as well, manifested as constipation. The appetite and digestion can be variable. The joints may pop and crack. Vata’s mobile quality can be seen as fast talking, quick walking, multi-tasking and sometimes as a scattered mind. Mentally, Vatas are creative and excited. They have a tendency to overthink things and can experience anxiety and fear. Vata people can also become easily bored, as they love change.
Pitta is Fire and Water. It is hot, sharp, light, oily, liquid and spreading. Pitta is the body’s metabolic system. It digests and assimilates all of our sensory experiences. When Pitta is healthy, it gives us clear understanding, intelligence and courage to live our life’s purpose. Physically, Pittas are attractive. They have a medium body frame with muscular tone, fair skin and bright eyes. They are warm to the touch and have a strong appetite. Pittas have a sharp mind and are often successful at what they put their attention to, but they also tend to be perfectionists and can be hard on themselves. They are sensitive and can be reactive. When imbalanced, Pittas tend to be irritable, judgmental and impatient. Pitta can manifest as inflammation in the body.
Kapha Dosha is made up of Water and Earth. Its qualities are heavy, slow, cold, oily, liquid, smooth, dense, soft, static and cloudy. Kapha Dosha forms the structure of the body, lubricates and gives strength and protection. It is responsible for our memory, immunity and vitality. Kaphas have a large, strong body frame and tend to gain weight easily. They have thick hair, strong teeth, big beautiful eyes and soft skin. Imbalanced Kapha can cause a feeling of heaviness in the body and mind. It can cause slow metabolism and sluggish digestion, weakened immunity and disorders of excess – obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cysts and tumors. Emotionally, Kaphas are loving, compassionate and forgiving. They are grounded, gentle and kind. They love to relax. Kaphas can sometimes become overly attached in relationships and routines. They are creatures of habit.
Most individuals have one or two dominant Doshas, with representations of each Dosha as different characteristics. Understanding ourselves is the beginning of living an Ayurvedic lifestyle. It is the beginning of experiencing well-being. With this knowledge of Self, we can make choices in our diet and lifestyle to keep the doshas balanced and in harmony. It is possible every constitution can achieve optimal health.
When the Doshas become imbalanced because of diet, lifestyle, emotions, age and environment, we can become unhealthy. It is important to pay attention, to be aware of our choices, our actions and our thoughts. Ayurveda doesn’t separate mind and body. By connecting with our deepest Self, we can be more receptive to our own inherent wisdom and lead a more balanced life.
Whether we think in terms of Dosha or not, being in good health is to have good digestion, restful sleep, a calm mind, a positive outlook and a body that is strong, flexible and free of pain and disease. It is to be whole in body and mind. Ayurveda provides us with a way to live in this fullness.
Love You All,