Elements and Doshas
As beings of nature, we are composed of the same core elements that are present in all of nature: space, air, fire, water, earth. How these elements present themselves can be quite unique from person to person, however. This unique makeup determines our primary constitution (prakriti) and can help us understand the implications for how we can best maintain or restore health and wellbeing through what we consume in body and mind.
The three primary constitutions are: Vata (pronounced Vah-tah), air and space; Pitta (pronounced Pit-ah), fire and water; and Kapha (pronounced Kaf-ah), water and earth. These constitutions are called doshas in Ayurveda. But don't let the terms confuse you. They are simply other names for common ways the characteristics of the elements show up in our life. While we each have all three doshas, or blend of elements, identifying the degree to which they are prominent or not in ourselves is the starting point in Ayurveda.
Once we know the blend of elements that is key to our individual makeup, we unlock the reason behind many of our physical and mental characteristics and propensities. We also gain access to knowing what will support the proper functioning of our natural state of being and what will disturb it. In this way we can begin to look at all of our choices and identify what is truly beneficial for our path to balance and wellness.
A person can have either one primary dosha, a blend of two, or, although rare, all three. The seven dosha possibilites are: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, Kapha-Vata, and Vata-Pitta-Kapha. The best way to determine your primary constitution and the specific areas to focus on is to work with an Ayurvedic practitioner. For a basic inventory that can you give you some initial insight into your dosha makeup, feel free to take a short, printable test here.
Below are some very general characteristics and guidelines for each dosha. For questions or an in-depth explanation of your specific dosha makeup and its implications for your wellbeing, contact me.
General characteristics: Vata people tend to have thin frames and can have trouble holding on to weight. At their best, they are lively and energetic people who are highly creative. When imbalanced, they tend to become anxious and scattered. The digestion of a Vata person is variable, and they can be particularly prone to gas, bloating, and/or constipation when not eating according to their specific needs.
Elements: air + space
Season: fall/early winter
Qualities: cold, dry, light, mobile, subtle, rough
Qualities needed for balance: warm, wet/oily, heavy, stable, dense, smooth
Aggravating tastes: pungent, bitter, astringent
Balancing tastes: sweet, sour, salty
General characteristics: Pitta people tend to have medium frames and can both gain and lose weight relatively easily. At their best, they are highly intelligent people who are driven and passionate. When imbalanced, they tend to become easily angered, sharp-tongued, or competitive. The digestion of a Pitta person can be extremely strong. They can be prone to heartburn and other acid-related digestion issues when not balanced.
Elements: fire + water
Qualities: hot, sharp, slightly oily, mobile smooth
Qualities needed for balance: cool, dull, dry, stable rough
Aggravating tastes: sour, salty, pungent
Balancing tastes: sweet, bitter, astringent
General characteristics: Kapha people tend to have larger frames and can easily hold on to weight. At their best, they are fiercely loyal people who are rather easy going and laid back in nature. When imbalanced, they tend to become lethargic and/or depressed. The digestion of a Kapha person is often slow and sluggish, so focusing on warm, light foods and even occasional fasting can often benefit this person.
Elements: water + earth
Season: late winter/spring
Qualities: cold, wet, heavy, static, dense, dull
Qualities needed for balance: warm, dry, light, mobile, rough, sharp
Aggravating tastes: sweet, sour, salty
Balancing tastes: pungent, bitter, astringent