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Ayurveda The Basic & The Three Doshas (Part 5 In a Series)

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

Ayurveda is a holistic science of health, focusing on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began about 5,000 - 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the "science or knowledge of life" -- Ayurveda. The principles of Ayurveda are timeless. As you look at yourself and the world through this window, unconscious patterns will enter into your awareness. As you become conscious of your basic tendencies, you can make better choices to support harmony in body and mind.

In Ayurveda, every individual is unique and there is no diet or lifestyle routine that works for everyone and prevention is key.   Ayurveda focuses on providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain physical and emotional health.

Food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. 

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three Doshas. Doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body:

Three Dosha types:

Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two dominate. Various Dosha proportions determine one's physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes. For example Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types.

VATA - Space & Air

1. Vata Dosha -- Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.

In balance: There is creativity and vitality.

Out of balance: nervousness, anxiety, panic, fear, twitches, tics, tremors, spasms, dry or chapped skin

constipation, gas, bloating, dry, hard stools, low body weight, dislike of cold and wind, difficulty tolerating loud noises, light, interrupted sleep, spacey, scattered feeling, excess thinking or worrying.

Vata derives from the elements of Space and Air and translates as “wind” or “that which moves things.” It is the energy of movement and the force governing all biological activity. Vata is often called the “King of the Doshas,” since it governs the body’s greater life force and gives motion to Pitta and Kapha.

Vata Predominant Types: Creative; Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget, Slender; Tall and a fast-walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don't perspire much.  Just as the wind in balance provides movement and expression to the natural world, the balanced Vata individual is active, creative, and gifted with a natural ability to express and communicate. When the wind in a Vata type rages like a hurricane, negative qualities quickly overshadow these positive attributes.  Vata type has a poor or inconstant digestion, so requires easily digested warming foods, because they are also a nervous type, require grounding lifestyle regimes and earthy foods. Tips for Eating to Balance Vata:

  • Favor sweet, salty, and sour tastes

  • Eat warm, oily, or heavy foods

  • Minimize cold and raw foods

  • Best to eat nourishing, easy to digest, warm, filling, heavy, moistening, strengthening, small frequent regular meals, mild warming spices, stay calm and concentrate on your food while eating

  • Eat sweet fruits, cooked vegetables, cooked grains (oatmeal), nuts, natural sweeteners, mild warming spices

  • Add these herbs to your diet: basil, bay, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, cumin, frankincense, fresh ginger, lavender, pine, sage, and vanilla

  • Herbs to give energy:  Ginseng

  • Herbs or essential oils to calm the mind:  Chamomile and valerian (jatamansi )

  • Help with elimination:  Castor oil and psyllium seed

PITTA - Fire & Water

2. Pitta Dosha -- Energy that controls the body's metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body's temperature.

In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.

Out of balance: anger, red, inflamed rash, acne, cold sores, acute inflammation in body or joints, acid reflux, gastric or peptic ulcers, heartburn, nausea or discomfort upon missing meals, loose stools, uncomfortable feeling of heat in the body, frustration, anger, irritability, judgment, impatience, criticism, intolerance, red, inflamed or light-sensitive eyes, excessive perfectionist tendencies.  

PITTA derives from the elements of Fire and Water and translates as “that which cooks.”  It is the energy of digestion and metabolism in the body that functions through carrier substances such as organic acids, hormones, enzymes, and bile. While Pitta is most closely related to the element of Fire, it is the liquid nature of these substances that accounts for the element of Water in Pitta’s make-up.

Pitta Predominant Types: Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best.   The balanced Pitta individual is blessed with a joyful disposition, a sharp intellect, and tremendous courage and drive, competitiveness, enjoy challenges, passionate and romantic, strong digestion and appetite.   They can be Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability but can become authoritarian; As the fire of the mind and body becomes unruly, however, the laughing Pitta quickly becomes the yelling Pitta. Aggressiveness, demanding, pushy, anger, rage, and ego replace Pitta’s positive attributes, leaving an individual who is bitter with life and overbearing towards others. There is a saying that imbalanced Pitta individuals don’t go to hell; they simply create it wherever they go! Pitta imbalances commonly manifest in the body as infection, inflammation, rashes, ulcers, heartburn, and fever.  Pitta type is prone to excess stomach acid, bile and hunger, so requires cooling foods without too much oils or fats, and lifestyle routines to prevent irritation and frustrations.

Tips for Eating to Balance Pitta 

  • Favor sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes

  • Reduce hot and spicy foods

  • Foods to aid in Digestion:  Aloe Vera, Turmeric, Fennel, Mint

  • Herbs to give you energy:  Licorice root and Dandelion root

  • Add these herbs to your diet: jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile and hibiscus

  • Help with elimination:  Cascara sagrada and rhubarb root

  • Essential oil for the mind:  Sandalwood

KAPHA - Earth & Water

3. Kapha Dosha -- Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.

Out of balance: Insecurity and envy, excess mucous, thick, white tongue coat, slow, sticky, sluggish bowel movements, high body weight, difficulty rising in the morning, feeling slow, foggy, dull, lethargic or heavy,

easily attached or possessive, overly sentimental, complacent or stubborn, tendency for “emotional overeating”

KAPHA derives from the elements of Earth and Water and translates as “that which sticks.” It is the energy of building and lubrication that provides the body with physical form, structure, and the smooth functioning of all its parts. Kapha can be thought of as the essential cement, glue, and lubrication of the body in one. Kapha Predominant Types: Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large "soft" eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Kapha when out of balance tend to be possessive and hold on to things.   Just as a nourishing rainstorm may turn into a rampant flood, the fluids of the body may flood the bodily tissues, contributing to a heavy dampness that weighs down the body and clouds the mind. This dense, cold, and swampy environment becomes the breeding ground for a number of bodily disorders such as obesity, sinus congestion, and anything related to mucous. Mentally, the loving and calm disposition of the Kapha individual may transform into lethargy, attachment, and depression.  Kapha’s do not like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Kapha can have a sluggish digestion and a body which tends to hold weight, so requires light easily digested warm foods - in small amounts, they can be lethargic so require stimulation and exercise. Tips for Eating to Balance Kapha

  • Favor pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes

  • Minimize heavy foods, salt, and dairy products

  • Spices to assist with digestion:  Cayenne, black pepper, ginger, clove

  • Foods and spices to give energy:  Garlic, cinnamon and basil

  • Herbs to 

  • Add these herbs to your diet: warm, stimulating aromas, including cloves, cinnamon, juniper, and marjoram

  • Herbs to assist the mind:  Sage, Basil and skullcap

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