The 3 doshas are substances present in a person’s body. Ayurvedic philosophy describes how the quantity and quality of these three substances fluctuates in the body, according to the seasons, time of day, diet and several other factors.
“that which moves”
Elements: ākāśa (ether) + vāyu (air)
Vata dosha governs the flow and motion in the body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing, and the movement of thoughts within the mind. Since Pitta and Kapha cannot move without it, Vata is considered the spearhead of the three doshas.
QUALITIES (GUNAS) OF VATA
- cold, light, dry, moving, rough, dull
- Asymmetrical features in the body, unique appearance, extremes in the body (such as obesity or emaciation)
- Creative, talkative, active, whimsical
- The balanced Vata is light hearted, adaptable, creative, sociable, intuitive, and loves being active (physically and mentally)
- Anxiety, attention disorders, inability to focus, excess or rapid weight gain or weight loss.
- Feeling of cold hands or feet, poor circulation
- Trouble sleeping, insomnia or sleeplessness
- Dryness in the skin, eyes, or mouth
HOW TO BALANCE VATA
- Key words for balancing: grounding, warming
- Daily abhyanga (ayurvedic self massage with sesame oil)
- Stay in or around warm temperatures, and out of cold and windy weather
- Eat warm, cooked foods that are oily, sweet, salty, sour, and heavier in nature.
- Reduce intake of raw foods, or foods with pungent, dry, or bitter qualities.
- Take an early bed time (when the sun goes down) and get lots of rest.
- Keep up with a regular routine every day (dinacharya)
- Avoid stimulants
- Work towards regular elimination (Eat Ghee! Take Triphala!)
“that which cooks”
Elements: Agni (fire) + Āpas (water)
Pitta governs all processes related to conversion and transformation throughout the mind and body. While Pitta is most closely related to the element of Fire, it is the liquid nature of these substances that accounts for the element of Water in Pitta’s make-up. Physiologically, Pitta provides the body with heat and energy through the breakdown of complex food molecules. Pitta is the energy of digestion and metabolism in the body that functions through carrier substances such as: organic acids, hormones, enzymes, and bile.
QUALITIES OF PITTA
- oily, sharp, hot, light, moving, liquid, and acidic
- Bodily symmetry, sharp features, defined musculature, colorful eyes
- Joy, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy, and mental perception. It also provides the radiant light of the intellect.
- The balanced pitta is blessed with a joyful disposition, a sharp intellect, and tremendous courage and drive. As the fire of the mind and body becomes unruly, however, the laughing Pitta quickly becomes the yelling Pitta.
- Anger, rage, and ego replace Pitta’s positive attributes, leaving an individual who is bitter with life and overbearing towards others. Pitta imbalances commonly manifest in the body as infection, inflammation, rashes, ulcers, heartburn, and fever.
HOW TO BALANCE PITTA
- Key words for balancing: calming and cooling
- Daily abhyanga (ayurvedic self massage with sunflower or coconut oil)
- Stay in or around shady, cool places and out of direct sunlight
- Be certain not to skip meals and do not wait until you are famished to eat.
- Eat grounding, nourishing foods that are sweet, bitter, and astringent in nature.
- Reduce intake of hot and spicy foods, or foods with pungent, heating qualities (like chili pepper or dried ginger)
- Self-study and reflection
- Avoid getting into arguments, or situations that may become heated
- Keep up with a regular routine every day (dinacharya)
- Regularly spend time in nature. Take walks in the woods and along natural bodies of water. Keep plants and fresh flowers in your home and office.
- Walk in the moonlight
- Favor aromas that are cooling and sweet. Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile are recommended.
“that which nourishes”
Elements: Āpas (water) + Prtvi (earth)
Kapha governs the structure and nourishment of the body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone, and sinew. The primary function of Kapha is protection.
QUALITIES OF KAPHA
- Heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily
- Strong build and excellent stamina. Large, soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin; and thick hair. Those who are predominantly Kapha sleep soundly and have regular digestion.
- Naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving. Enjoy life and find comfort with routine. Strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive.
- The balanced kapha is loving and nurturing with a sweet demeanor. Relationship oriented and supportive, Kaphas know the perfect balance between detachment and dependence.
- People with an excess of Kapha tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness. In the face of stress, the typical Kapha response is “I don’t want to deal with it.”
- Physically, weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body with excess Kapha. Out-of-balance Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression.
HOW TO BALANCE KAPHA
- Key words for balancing kapha: heating, movement
- Stimulation, warm, moving, activity
- Follow a regular daily routine, ideally awakening before 6am each morning, and avoid taking naps during the day
- Favor foods that are pungent, astringent, and bitter in nature. Avoid sweets, salty foods, and foods that are sour.
- Avoid exposing your nose, throat, and lungs to cold winter air if you aren’t feeling well
- Perform a daily garshan (dry massage) on your body to stimulate circulation
- To prevent congestion, the ayurvedic neti pot is a powerful tool for nasal cleansing
- Keep a clean, and organized space
- Get regular exercise – preferably every day. Focus on building endurance.
- Favor running, bicycling, swimming, aerobics, and competitive sports
- Dance to energizing rhythmic music
- Use warm, stimulating aromas including cloves, camphor, cinnamon, eucalyptus, juniper, and marjoram
- Favor colors that are warm and bright, including yellow, orange, and red