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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