Ayurveda is the Science of Life, the Science of Self Healing. In order to heal ourselves and to live life to the fullest, we must understand ourselves. Ayurveda is based on the principal of the Five Elements; Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Everything in the Universe is made up of these elements, which also exist within each person. The Universe is the macrocosm and each person is a microcosm, containing the Universe within. We are all connected.
Ether is seen in the spaces within the body and the vibration of our energy. All movements in the body, and the movements of thoughts in the mind, are the expression of the Air element. Metabolism and intelligence are our Fire. Water is the juice of the body, our fluidity. And the Earth element is present in everything solid and structural, it gives us stability. It is the interplay of these elemental energies that create the Dosha.
The dosha are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They are “the psycho physiological principals of the body,” as my teacher Vishnu Dass says. We each have all three doshas present in our constitution, the ratios of which are determined at the time of our conception based on the diet, lifestyle, thoughts, feelings and emotions of our Mother and Father. Our “prakruti” is similar to our genetics, it creates our tendancies that influence how we experience the world. This combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha make up our unique expression of Consciousness in this life.
The dosha govern the mental, physical and emotional aspects of the body and mind. We each have our own definiton of ideal health, our own vulnerabilities and our own habitual patterns of behavior. This recogniton of individuality is a foundational aspect of Ayurvedic medicine.
Dosha literally translates to “fault,” something that can go wrong… But really the dosha are our protective barrier to the outer environment. Ayurveda states that like increases like, and that opposites balance. The doshas are in a constant flux of increase and decrease to keep us balanced as we move through the days, seasons, and years. When the dosha are functioning normally they maintain our health and bodily processes, when aggravated or out of balance, they create discomfort and disease.
The dosha can be further understood by looking at their qualities and how those qualities manifest in our being.
Vata dosha is a combination of Air and Ether elements. It is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear. Vata regulates all activity and movement in the body. Vata individuals have a light body frame, large teeth, small eyes, and prominent joints. Vatas tend to be underweight and feel cold, often having cold hands and feet. The skin can be dry, and this dryness can be present in the colon as well, as constipation. The appetite and digestion can be variable. The joints may pop and crack. Vata’s mobile quality can be seen in fast talking, quick walking, multitasking, and sometimes as a scattered mind. Mentally, Vatas are creative and excited. They have a tendency to over think things and can experience anxiety and fear. Vata people can also become easily bored, as they love change.
Pitta is Fire and Water. It is hot, sharp, light, oily, liquid and spreading. Pitta is the body’s metabolic system. It digests and assimilates all of our sensory experiences. When Pitta is healthy it gives us clear understanding, intelligence and courage to live our life’s purpose. Physically, Pittas are attractive. They have a medium body frame with muscular tone, fair skin and bright eyes. They are warm to the touch and have a strong appetite. Pittas have a sharp mind and are often successful at what they put their attention to, but they also tend to be perfectionists and to be too hard on themselves. They are sensitive and can be reactive. When imbalanced Pittas tend to be irritable, judgmental and impatient. Pitta can manifest as inflammation in the body.
Kapha dosha is made up of Water and Earth. It’s qualities are heavy, slow, cold, oily, liquid, smooth, dense, soft, static and cloudy. Kapha dosha forms the structure of the body, lubricates, gives strength and protection. It is responsible for our memory, immunity, and vitality. Kaphas have a large, strong body frame and tend to gain weight easily. They have thick hair, strong teeth, big beautiful eyes and soft skin. Imbalanced Kapha can cause a feeling of heaviness in the body and mind. It can cause slow metabolism and sluggish digestion, weakened immunity and disorders of excess- obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cysts and tumors. Emotionally, Kaphas are loving, compassionate and forgiving. They are grounded, gentle and kind. They love to relax. Kaphas can sometimes become overly attached in relationships and routines. They are creatures of habit.
Most individuals have one or two dominant doshas, with representations of each dosha as different characteristics. Understanding ourselves is the beginning of living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, it is the beginning of experiencing well being. With this knowledge of Self, we can make choices in our diet and lifestyle to keep the doshas balanced and in harmony. It is possible for every constitution can achieve optimal health.
When the doshas become imbalanced because of diet, lifestyle, emotions, age, and environment, we can become unhealthy. It is important to pay attention, to have awareness around our choices, our actions, and our thoughts. Ayurveda doesn’t separate mind and body- by connecting with our deepest Self we can be more receptive to our own inherent wisdom and lead a more balanced life.
Wether we think in terms of dosha or not, to have good health is to have good digestion, restful sleep, a calm mind, a positive outlook and a body that is strong, flexible and free of pain and disease. It is to be whole in body and mind. Ayurveda provides us with a way to live in this fullness.