According to Ayurveda, there are five elements – space, air, fire, water and earth – that are the building blocks of nature. These five elements, or principles, comprise everything that we perceive with our senses and exist both within and without us. These elements organize themselves into three essential principles of life: movement, metabolism and protection, known in Sanskrit as Vata, Pitta and Kapha, or our Doshas.
We can think of these elements as wind, fire and earth forces that govern every natural function and regulate every process within our mind and body. Everyone is born with a prakruti, or original dosha, and everyone has a vikruti, which is their current state of doshic balance or imbalance.
What is your dosha?
Once you know some of the characteristics of the doshas, you’ll start categorizing all your friends and family.
VATA – The Vata dosha is made up of air and space. Its primary function is movement. It is the “Queen of the Doshas” as it affects everyone and is the easiest to get out of balance.
Qualities: cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, mobile, quick, changeable
Physical Characteristics: thin, light frame, variable digestion, dry skin and hair, cold hands and feet, moves and talks quickly, lacks sexual stamina, restless or hyperactive
Temperament: welcomes new experiences, resists routine, is a lively conversationalist, spends money easily
When in balance: energetic, creative, adaptable, shows initiative, good communicator
When out of balance: tends toward mental agitation, anxiety, worry, inconsistency, insomnia, delicate digestion, constipation
Stress response: What did I do wrong?
PITTA – The Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water. Its primary function is metabolism.
Qualities: hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic
Physical Characteristics: medium build, strong digestion, thinning or gray hair, war body temperature, perspires easily, sleeps soundly for short periods of time, strong sex drive
Temperament: sharp intellect, discriminating, direct, precise, stays close to routine, courageous, good teacher/speaker, spends money on items that enhance prestige
When in balance: bright, warm, good decision-maker, strong digestion
When out of balance: angry, irritable, excessively critical or harsh, judgmental, aggressive, intimidating, skin rashes, burning sensations, indigestion
Stress response: What did you do wrong?
KAPHA – The Kapha dosha is made up of earth and water. Its primary function is protection.
Qualities: cold, heavy, solid, stable, smooth, slow
Physical Characteristics: heavyset, smooth skin, thick hair, sweet face, deep sound sleep, slow moving, regular digestion, gains weight easily and has difficulty losing it, good stamina, slow and easy sex drive, process-oriented
Temperament: easygoing and patient, thoughtful, stable, content, devoted, loving, comfortable with routine, saves money
When in balance: steady, consistent, loyal, strong, supportive
When out of balance: dull, inert, needy, attached, congested, overweight, overly-protective
Stress response: I don’t want to deal with it!
Are you already figuring out your dosha and those of your family and friends? Here’s a funny (and simplistic) way to think about it: A Vata is a Chihuahua. A Pitta is a Boxer. A Kapha is a St. Bernard.
You take a mini quiz to determine your prakruti here.
Why is it good to understand your dosha?
Ayurveda’s fundamental approach to well-being is that you must reach your unique state of balance in your whole being—body, mind, and spirit. Knowing and understanding your dosha, and especially your current doshic balance (or imbalance), helps you to maintain a vibrant state of health and happiness. It gives you the ability to listen to your own body and make often times simple and easy changes to maintain that balance. Different doshas utilize different techniques to maintain balance. For instance, heat helps balance Vata while cooling helps balance Pitta.
I can help you determine both your prakruti and vikruti, plus give you guidelines for what is best to keep your dosha in balance. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the Author
Rochelle Barcellona is an animal-loving, family-and-friends-embracing, yoga-meditation-and-ayurveda-teaching, happy red-headed yogi who owns Nourish Mind Body & Spirit in Northern California. You may learn more about Rochelle here. Rochelle may be reached directly at email@example.com and 916-353-5200.
(Photo of Rochelle courtesy of Bella Barcellona Photography.)