What is Ayurveda? Part 2.
The main term that people have heard of in reference to Ayurveda is ‘dosha.’ I often get asked ‘what is my dosha?’
Dosha translates to that which is most likely to spoil your health. In Ayurveda doshas are similar to constitutions. Each person has their own unique make up and thus doshic balance. There are three doshas and each person has a different percentage of each of the three. The doshas are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. So, for example someone might have 80 percent Vata and 10 percent of the other two doshas. Or sometimes all three doshas can be equal at 33 percent etc. Each dosha is formed by two of the elements that I mentioned in the previous blog posting on Ayurveda: Vata=air and ether, Pitta=water and fire, Kapha=water and earth.
According to Ayurveda, disease occurs both in the body, and in the outer world, when the distribution of doshas no longer match that individual’s natural make up. For example, if someone was born with all three doshas evenly distributed but then because of a traumatic event or the foods that they consume their Vata percentage increases to 50% then their entire system would be thrown off. Every individual has an inherent dominant dosha or doshas at their first breath. Doshas are present throughout the body however each dosha has a particular seat in the body based on its specific actions and functions. Movement inside and outside the body is characteristic of Vata which resides below the navel. Transformation is the result of Pitta which is seated near the navel and finally lubrication comes from Kapha which resides above the diaphragm.
People are always interested to know their predominant dosha and this is where confusion can arise. There are many online quizzes to find your dosha, however what often is not explained is that there are the doshas you were born with, which you inherit from your parents known as Prakruti and then there are the doshas resulting from your current state of imbalance which is known as Vikruti and is constantly changing. Typically, the quizzes pick up only your current state of imbalance/Vikruti and do not reflect the complete picture of your doshic balance. Ayurvedic practitioners are able to accurately see and help balance your Prakruti and Vikruti.
Below is a brief explanation of the doshas. Each dosha has different strengths and there isn’t one that is better than the others. It is their unique distribution in each of us that determines our particular health picture.
Vata is responsible for movement in the body. Unbalanced Vata (typically deficient in nature) tends to create dryness, anxiety, constipation and difficulty sleeping (awake between 2–4am). Those with a predominantly Vata constitution are artistic and fast-talking. The types of exercise Vatas are attracted to are aerial, yoga, and dancing. As each dosha has a predominant time of day, Vata’s time is from 3–6pm or the end of day.
Pitta is responsible for transformation in the body. When Pitta is unbalanced it tends to create inflammatory patterns. As such, they can be irritable or frustrated and develop rashes or diarrhea. Pittas can be discerning and analyzing. When imbalanced they tend to be judgmental. They tend towards careers as leaders, accountants, and doctors. Regarding exercise, a Pitta-predominant constitution likes to take 30 minutes analyzing and perfecting a single yoga pose. A Pitta person chooses their words carefully. Pitta’s predominant time of day is the twelve-hour span from noon to midnight, hard wired to the sun.
Kapha is responsible for lubrication in the body. When imbalanced, Kapha develops a pattern of accumulation and collects friends, objects, and body-weight. They can become emotionally stubborn or unable to move through the experience of one emotion or another. Otherwise they may become emotionally numb. In a healthy balance, someone with a Kapha constitution is easygoing and a good listener. They like sweets and have the gift of being sweet. As they like feeling secure, Kaphas prefer government desk jobs or banking. For movement/exercise they tend towards yin and restorative yoga due to their high degree of gravity, though for this reason it can be impossible to get them to move at all. Kapha time of day is in the morning. It is also associated with infancy as well as the beginning of digestion.
There are various ways to determine your doshic balance; your Prakruti and Vikruti. Your story, personality, pulse, tongue, physical body, and symptoms are all clues and can help practitioners discover your doshas. Once your imbalances have been assessed there are many tools in Ayurveda that can help to rebalance. Nutrition, herbs, lifestyle changes, breathing exercises, essential oils, marma points (similar to acupuncture points but without needles) and yoga are some of the recommendations you may encounter on the road to greater doshic balance.
By Dr. Krista Imre ND