The pillar of ayurveda is built upon the knowledge of the three doshas vata, pitta and kapha. To understand the doshas role we first need to look to the earths five basic elements which are ether, air, fire, water and earth. Ayurveda sees these five basic elements as the foundation of this world, these elements we can clearly experience with our senses whether it be by touching, seeing or hearing their manifestations. The elements are not only carried by mother earth but we also are made up of these very subtle qualities. The outcome of the elements is well visible in the different seasons and here in the north we are blessed with their obvious variegations. This is why ayurveda takes the seasons in to consideration when adjusting diet and lifestyle, because even our environment is of importance when taking care of our inner wellbeing.
One dosha is a combination of two of the five basic elements and to understand the doshas vi look to the different qualities carried by the elements. Each one of us holds all the five elements and in a balance state of body and mind we can draw strength from their characteristics and they can then act as a source for our positive qualities. Ayurvedas knowledge looks to our differences and our individual constitutions, we are a unique combination of the different elements. One can be born with one of the doshas in dominance while the other two has less of an impact on us, another can be born with two of the doshas more in dominance than the third, and one can come to have all three doshas in the same extent. So, which elements are the doshas made up of? What impact do they have on us? How does it show when they are out of balance and what can we then do to rebalance them? In this post we will go through this dosha by dosha.
The most subtle of all three doshas is vata, this dosha holds the elements of ether and air. Its main function is movement and communication. Other qualities that describes vata is light, cold, dry, rough, irregular, subtle and flexible. In a balanced state vata acts as a natural source of creativity.
One of the most basic rules in ayurveda is that like increases like, so whatever you are applying of vatas qualities whether it be in your lifestyle or diet will also increase vata dosha. It can be excessive traveling, late nights, excessive stimulation, irregular routines, inadequate sleep, sudden changes in life or not drinking enough water. It can also be suppression of natural urges such as, not going to the toilet, sneezing, crying, eating or sleeping when you feel the need to, or if your diet contains of too much light, dry and cold food. All of this increases vatas activity in both body and mind. When vata then is out of balance one can mentally experience fear, anxiety, worry, loneliness and exhaustion. Physically you can for instance feel dryness, gas, bloating, fatigue, body ache, pain in abdomen, constipation, insomnia and cold hands and feet.
In order to balance vata you need to introduce things of opposite qualities and of course reduce the qualities vata already carries. Qualities in lifestyle and diet that balances vata are daily routines, meals that are cooked and warm, lukewarm water and warm herbal teas, yoga, breathing exercises and meditation.
The elements fire and water form pitta dosha. As one can imagine with the fire element being present transformation is pittas job and heat is one of pittas primal qualities. This dosha is also light, sharp, oily and has a spreading quality. In a balanced state pitta brings goal orientation and enthusiasm.
Pitta increases and gets out of balance if one has much suppressed anger and frustration, is very self-critical, competitive, overambitious, works under a lot of stress and deadlines, is exposed to too much sun and heat, smokes, drinks alcohol or eats to much spicy and fatty food.
When pitta is out of balance one can mentally and emotionally experience anger and frustration, one can be very critical, judgmental and stubborn. In the body increased pitta shows up as inflammations and infections, rashes, skin problems, fever, you can experience burning sensations in the body, excessive sweating, diarrheas, acid reflux and you can have an abnormal strong hunger.
For pitta to find balance you will also here have to reduce habits that increases pitta, don’t push yourself too hard, see your limitations, develop more understanding towards yourself and others and imply a calmer lifestyle. Yoga and meditation are good to practice. Avoid spicy and fatty foods, instead you can have more green vegetables and eat or make teas of cooling herbs like coriander, fennel, licorice and peppermint.
Kapha carries the elements of water and earth. This composition brings us stability, structure and is lubricating, it´s also heavy, sluggish, slow, cold, oily, sticky, immobile and compact. In balance kapha is patient, content and forgiving.
Kaphas qualities increases when one is under stimulated, doesn’t exercise, eats without feeling hunger, comfort eats and if one tends to eat more cold, frozen or fatty meals or sweet foods and dairy that is heavy to digest.
When kapha increases and is out of balance this can mentally show up as a heavy or apathetic mind. Depression, impotence, lethargy, laziness and resistance to change is something you can come to experience. In the body one can experience stagnation and congestion, difficulty in breath, nasal congestion, allergies, excessive salivation, overweight, nausea, low appetite and slow digestion.
To balance kapha you need to bring more variation into your life, open up to change and introduce more expressiveness to reduce kapahas heavy and immobile qualities. Exercise and dry massage are good for awakening kapha, reduce intake of dairy products, fatty and oily foods and avoid cold meals. Instead eat light and warm meals and drink herbal teas for kaphas slow digestion.
We are all individuals with different body types and ayurveda always takes our individual constitution into consideration when we seek balance. Through the understanding of ourselves we can make changes to access our goodly given qualities that each one of us have.