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Ayurveda uses five elements, being: Ether (Space), Air, Fire, Water and Earth as a metaphor to explain the entire Universe (meaning: everything inside and around us). As a result, your unique mind-body constitution is build upon these 5 elements and their respective qualities. Depending on your unique mix of these 5 elements your Dosha (or unique mind-body type) is determined. Knowing yours is very useful as it increases awareness of your natural strengths and challenges. If you know this you may find out what causes certain reactions or tendencies and start to balance them instead of making it worse. This is the first step towards health.
The combination of the three Doshas determines our body-type, metabolic nature and mental orientation. This is called your birth constitution or Prakruti (which literally means ‘nature’ or ‘source’). It is your unique psychophysical makeup and includes also your functional habits. You could say that it is your blueprint.
It's your blueprint. Your DNA.
Ayurveda believes that your prakruti is mainly due to the combination of your parents’ sperm and ovum, as well as their Dosha predominance at the moment of conception. Besides, the diet and behaviour of the mother before and during pregnancy play also a big role. No pressure mommy’s.
Even though all three Doshas (and therefore all 5 Elements) are present in every person to function Ayurveda has categorized three main constitutions. These constitutions are a combination of two elements and are called Vata (Ether & Air), Pitta (Fire & Water) and Kapha (Water & Earth).
There are seven possible combinations of the Doshas. You may – for example – find out that you have mostly Pitta qualities and secondary Vata characteristics. In this case you will have a Pitta-Vata constitution and you should therefore (depending on the situation and especially the season you are in) take care of both. Most of us will have one or two Doshas predominant, but there are also a few with a birth constitution where all three Doshas are equal.
Below you will read more about each Dosha and their qualities.
Vata – Ether & Air
Vata Dosha functions -the Dosha of movement
Vata Dosha is due to the air element responsible for all the movement in our body. Because of this Vata Dosha is referred to as the “King of the Doshas”. Without Vata Dosha (movement), Pitta & Kapha cannot move. Breathing (movement of diaphragm), heart beating, talking, walking (movement of the muscles and limbs), circulation of blood and other bodily fluids, movement of thoughts, elimination of waste and regulation of the immune- and nervous system are all driven by Vata Dosha.
A balanced Vata in the body and mind gives us a healthy circulation, strong immune- and nervous system, balanced breath, open mind and supports our elimination of waste materials.
Vata types move like the wind, love change, and are very impulsive. They will change jobs, friends and actually everything very often. Luckily for them that their dynamic nature provides them with the ability to adapt easily to new situations. This wind element keeps them moving constantly. Sometimes even involuntary movement is there (like overly blinking the eyes or ticks). They have a hard time in quitting down. They love traveling, excitement and new experiences.
Besides, they are very quick. Move quick and make things happen very quickly. They walk and talk fast, but get exhausted very quickly also. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. They understand things quickly and forget it as quickly as well.
When in balance, they are super creative, bursting with ideas and inspiration and conduct lively conversations. You could say that it’s never a dull moment when a Vata type is around. It are usually people with creative jobs like artists or writers. Vata types are mostly low in weight with a slender light physical frame. They even struggle to put on weight and find it hard to strengthen their muscles. This can cause the feeling of being ungrounded or light-headed. The lightness also keeps Vata types awake in the night which may result in insomnia.
They love change
The presences of the space element gives them a sense of clarity and openness. They are not judgemental and very open and curious to others and new situations. Too much clarity (or space) gives them an empty feeling. As such they have difficulties with being alone. They can even feel spaced-out and due to this excess space have a lack of concentration. The spaciousness gives them the feeling of being empty which will feed anxiety and panic attacks. The cold quality of space and air helps them to stay cool in heated discussions, but may also result in having a cold body. Cold hands and feet. Cold stiff muscles.
When Vata types are out of balance they lose too much weight, experience piercing pains, start to excessively blink with the eyes, get spasms and become nervous with a very overly active mind (starts to overthink everything) which makes it difficult for them to focus. Their energy burst makes them using more energy than they have which results in burn-outs, the feeling of being overwhelmed and overstimulated by surroundings. Out of balance they get addicted to drama and experience periods of very deep ups and downs.
The combination of ether and air element also creates dryness. Meaning that when Vata types are out of balance the skin, nails and hair become dry. There can even be forms of dehydration, excessive bloating or dry digestion (constipation). The most common diseases for Vata types are related to that dryness and are osteoporosis (brittle and dry bones) and arthritis (achy dry joints).
Pitta – Fire & Water
Pitta Dosha functions -the Dosha of transformation
Due to the fire element Pitta Dosha is mainly responsible for the transformative function in our body and mind. Metaphorically speaking the fire is responsible for cooking the food in our stomach and small intestine. It does this mainly by the secretion of strong fiery acidic liquid or bile. This metabolic function expresses itself mentally by giving us the capacity to digest emotions and thoughts. In addition, the hot quality of fire gives us a nice warm body temperature and a healthy rosy complexion on the cheeks. Fire (light) is also needed for visual perception (for there to be vison there need to be light). Besides, Pitta Dosha influences our hunger and thirst and determines the quality of our hormones and skin.
A balanced Pitta in the body and mind gives us a healthy appetite and thirst, well balanced production of hormones, sharp intellect, courage, flexibility, a radiant complexion and good eyesight.
Pitta types are full of vitality and have a strong intellect and willpower. They are good learners with a good memory. They burst from new creative ideas and are also able to bring those ideas into world. This clearity is not only there when it comes to new ideas, but also in a way of being clear about why they do things. They will not do something without knowing why. There always is a reason or purpose behind it. When they are on something they will finish it in an absolutely organised and perfect manner. Even if this means that they have to cross their own boundaries.
Their digestive fire (agni) and therefore appetite is very strong. Skipping a meal is definitely a no go for them as this will make them “hangry”. They tend to be medium in height and weight, but due to the light quality can have a slender body with strong visible muscles.
They love lists and regularity
Pitta types are often charming and charismatic with a love of attention. They are also good confident speakers and good decision makers – especially when in balance – but when they are not, watch out! They start to judge and comment others constantly. Are always pointing to someone else for their problems and will never lose an argument. Actually, they will search for an argument or (heated) discussion in which they can become very manipulative and may even lose their temper.
The burning quality of the fire may even cause early balding or thinning of the hair and they turn grey early. Having red fiery hair is also a sign of Pitta Dosha. As is sensitivity, as a result of lightness (which is one of the main characteristics of fire). This sensitivity expresses itself not only in the skin (skin rashes, easy sunburned, red skin & acne), but actually in their whole being. Pitta types may act like they are very strong, but deep inside they are very delicate.
The sharpness of the fire can cause a sharp body odor, sharp pains, sharp tongue, sharp penetrating high voice and even a sharp easily irritated mind. The most common health issues for Pitta types are heartburn, high blood pressure, fever and skin diseases.
Kapha – Water & Earth
Kapha Dosha functions -the Dosha of stability
Kapha Dosha is due to its cohesive nature responsible for stability and protection in the body. It’s holding everything together and provides all the cells with a protective layer. Due to its building nature Kapha is responsible for building and nourishing the bodily tissues (dhātus). Kapha has the same qualities as mud (heavy, sticky, sluggish, cold and thick) which is composed out of water and earth. Because of this it can be compared to nourishing thick fluid that supports lubrication of our body. It also has a protective quality that protects our heart and lungs and even expresses itself in a protective lining of the stomach.
A balanced Kapha in the body and mind gives us well formed lubricated tissues, protection of the cells, strong bones, stability and compassion towards ourselves and others.
Kapha types are very consistent and steady. They have a strong endurance and are naturally calm and loving. They are not so intense as Pitta types or as quick as Vata types, but take their time. Like a diesel engine a Kapha type needs to warm up a bit, but once it gets going it runs steady and reliable. Kapha types are not so concerned with the direction. They just go and will stay on track like a train on rails without constantly thinking “why?”. Once moving they become unstoppable. You can really rely on Kapha types. That’s why loyalty is one of their key characteristics and they are comfortable with routine.
Kapha types tend to be of stocky build with wide shoulders and hips. They have a smooth, well lubricated oily skin. Thick (often brown) lustrous hair and large soft eyes with often long lashes. They are known to sleep soundly and enjoy a stable appetite and good regular digestion.
They love laying on the couch
Not only physically they are strong, but also mentally. They can handle emotions very well and are your best friends as they are always there to give you a hug. They are also very supportive in times of need and are good patient listeners. When Kapha types are in balance they fully love and enjoy life.
However, when out of balance, they can become rigid as a result of excess stability. Physical rigid as they do not want to move any more and become very lazy. But also rigid in their mind. Thinking that their way of thinking is the only way and it takes a lot of time to make them switch thoughts. This rigid attitude may even flip over to greediness. They start to collect material stuff and are not able to share any of it with others.
Too much heaviness may result in weight gain, a sluggish digestion and eventually lead to overweight. This heaviness also manifest in the mind as a way of feeling too heavy which can lead to depression. They start to feel “stuck” and are very difficult to get motivated. They have a strong desire to sleep and lay on the couch the whole day.
Wet cough, congestion, stagnation and growths such as cysts are all signs that there is excess Kapha in the body. The most common health issues for Kapha types include, heart problems, diabetes, high cholesterol or becoming overweight. Excessive Kapha in the mind can manifest itself as the inability to let go of people and jobs that are no longer nourishing.
Curious about your Dosha and how you can bring this knowledge into your daily life? Come to one of my Workshops.