In the world of Ayurveda, everything that you encounter in nature is made up of 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements are further divided into 3 doshas that form the human body: Vata (ether and air), Pitta (water and fire), and Kapha (water and earth).
We are all born with a certain proportion of all three doshas, this is known as one’s constitution, or prakriti. The ratio of each element goes on to determine our individual characteristics, from how we digest food to physical appearance and personality traits, but also what ailments we are most prone to when our doshas are out of balance. So it’s no wonder Ayurveda can pinpoint exactly what goes wrong in our bodies as a whole, why, and how we can prevent and restore.
To honor your constitution and keep your body’s health in check, it is essential to nurture these doshas. But how can you keep them balanced and care for your body the way it needs? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet to help with that given how everyone has a unique doshic makeup. However, the indisputable starting point is understanding the qualities of each Dosha and the principle of like increases like.
Like increases like
In Ayurveda, the main concept that leads to optimal health is based on the like increases like principle, which means that when you throw the same agents at a problem, you only make it worse. Instead, opposites balance each other out. Therefore, knowing what qualities are prevalent within your body and how to balance them, this is the key to long-term well-being.
Everything in excess is opposed to nature – Hippocrates
The main factor that leads to imbalances within the body is consumption, be it food or information. Not to leave aside the changes to our environment, so living in sync with nature’s changing seasons is one of your safest bet to keep a constant, healthy body.
The Qualities of the Doshas
Vata – The Ethereal Movement
Made up of ether and air, Vata is responsible for everything that moves in our body, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Think of your train of thoughts for example, or the movement of food through your digestive system, blood circulation, waste elimination, and breathing – all Vata territory.
You can recognize Vata dominant people by their lean and delicate frame and dry skin, fine hair, and light-colored eyes. Personality-wise, Vata dominant people are usually creative, have the tendency to be anxious, and are always on the move. Just think of an agile and fast deer and you’ll see the similarities. They love change, are usually very open-minded, and are always looking for new, exciting experiences.
Vata Dosha Qualities
Vata qualities take after its dominant elements, Ether and Air: dryness – manifesting itself in dry hair and skin when out of balance; lightness – creating that light-headed, ungrounded feeling, cold – helping keep the cool in heated conversations, but at the same time causing cold extremities; mobility – manifesting itself in an overly active mind, bordering overthinking and resulting in poor focus.
Vata imbalances can lead to panic attacks, constipation, dry skin, restless legs, dry cough, irregular appetite and insomnia. When in balance, Vata Dosha supports the healthy circulation of the blood through the system, promotes a strong immune- and nervous system, and allows for the free motion of creativity and inspiration Vata types are known for.
Here are a couple of simple tips on how to balance Vata
- Avoid cold foods and drinks. With Vata being made up of two of the coldest elements, ether and air, adding extra cold into the mix won’t do any good. Try substituting these for warm meals, like soups, oatmeal, cooked vegetables, and warm teas.
- Choose gentle sports like yin yoga or go for a walk to balance out the rush Vatas are known for. Meditation and breathing exercises, pranayama, are also very effective.
- Spoil yourself with a warm oil massage, known as Abhyanga, or book a day at the spa. Not only your skin will be thankful for counteracting Vata’s dry quality but so will your emotionally overflowing soul.
- Routine, routine, routine. Vata needs stability and a daily routine, with attention to your sleeping habits. Making sure to get up and go to bed at the same time every day will help keep Vata at peace.
Pitta – The Fiery Splash
Pitta is the dosha in charge of the transformation of food into nutrients for your bodily tissues. Made up of Fire and Water, Pitta is the one that controls the digestive, metabolic, and endocrine systems, meaning it regulates the body temperatures, ensures healthy physical and mental digestion, and is the one that creates harmony in both mind and body.
Pitta Dosha is easily recognizable by its sharp features, rosy and soft skin, light-colored eyes and hair, and medium frame. Usually, Pitta-predominant people are intelligent, have a sharp memory, and have a fiery spirit. Therefore, there is no wonder Pitta is associated with a tiger: alert, active, and goal-oriented.
Pitta Dosha Qualities
Governed by Fire and Water, Pitta Dosha qualities include: heat – meaning Pitta types have a strong agni (digestive fire) and an even stronger appetite as well as a passionate personality; light – manifesting itself both in body structure and in a bright and alert mind; sharpness – displaying an inquisitive mind, decisiveness, and a sharp vision.
When Pitta’s qualities are in excess, you can experience heartburn, skin rashes or acne, irritability, self-criticism, inflammation, and burnout. Furthermore, when out of balance, Pitta types can see symptoms like low blood sugar, short temper, oily skin, and hair or excess sweat.
What can you do to keep Pitta in balance?
- It all starts with the food, so try to avoid eating fried and spicy food. Like increases like so throw spicy food on an already aggravated Pitta and hello, heartburn! Instead, go for whole grains, sweet fruit, and greens, and, for the love of God, put the hot sauce back in your bag.
- Make a habit of exercising but be gentle with yourself. Pittas can be very competitive and even a tad perfectionist and that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
- Breathing exercises and meditation are both great aid in calming Pitta’s fiery spirit.
- This one’s a doozy, especially in today’s over-stimulating environment, but try to avoid a busy, stressful schedule. Instead, try to spend as much time as you can in nature, away from the hassle and bustle of city life.
Kapha – The Stable Homebody
Made up of the elements of Water and Earth, it’s no surprise Kapha is seen as the builder of our bodies. Its main role is to feed and stabilize our bodies and, at the same time, it supports our emotional calm and our physical and mental endurance.
You can recognize a Kapha dominant person by its strong build and curves, large, soft eyes, and thick hair. Kaphas are patient, loyal, and supportive people, they have a calm and stable spirit and an inherent ability to enjoy life. In terms of associations, Kapha Dosha is the giant, friendly elephant in the room.
Kapha Dosha Qualities
Taking after its governing elements, Kapha Dosha qualities are: smooth – manifesting in the graceful movement of the body and a soft, caring personality; heaviness – usually grounding Kapha types, when out of balance, this can cause inertia, depression, and a general feeling of lethargy; slow – increases the level of conscious intentionality and the ability to create meaning and connections.
Excess Kapha leads to imbalances like fluid retention, weight gain, depression, excessive sleep, constipation, lack of appetite, excess mucous, and congestion. In addition, when in excess, Kapha’s qualities can lead to boredom, feeling uninspired, resistance to change, or an inability to let go of connections and people.
How to keep Kapha in balance
- To counteract Kapha’s slimy quality, avoid dairy as much as possible. Dairy supports mucous formation which leads to sinus congestion, inflammation, and migraines. Also sugars and excess fat are detrimental for Kapha as they create a feeling of heaviness that you want to avoid. Make sure you eat light and healthy meals that contain lots of greens and dry grains like barley, quinoa, or buckwheat.
- Kapha needs consistent exercising to avoid slugginess. Take up an active yoga class (vinyasa yoga really gets Kapha going) or go for a jog or a swim.
- Avoid napping or relaxing too much, an active lifestyle is more perfectly suited to keep Kapha balanced.
- Dry brushing is extremely beneficial for Kaphas as it stimulates the lymphatic system, improves blood circulation, and supports the release of accumulated toxins. Dry brushing is, in fact, a vigorous massage that energizes the body, which is exactly what Kapha needs, and choosing the right brush is essential. Avoid synthetic brushes and always choose a natural bristles brush, like this one from Ginger Chi which has jute bristles and a cotton, easy-to-hold handle.