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The 3 Doshas Explained

three doshas explained
Written by Jackie Parker

If you’re new to Ayurveda, you may appreciate having the three doshas explained.

Because the roots of Ayurveda originated in a non-English world, we have to use some Sanskrit expressions. Also, the word dosha has two meanings. First, it refers to a way of naming the three body types, Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Also, it means “that which can go out of balance or that which is impure.”

The doshas originate from the 5 elements.

The 3 Doshas Explained

 

Each dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) is described as a combination of two elements. Every person has some combination of all three doshas, which must be kept in balance to remain healthy. The ideal state for you to be in is the proportions of the doshas that nature gave you when you were born.

Ether and Air combine to form Vata – The nature of Vata is air (wind) or that which moves things.3 doshas explained

Fire and Water combine to form Pitta – The nature of Pitta is fire (transformation) or that which digests things.

Earth and Water combine to form Kapha – The nature of Kapha is earth (cohesion) that which holds things together.

Although Vata, Pitta, and Kapha appear to have different functions in the body, the three doshas work together harmoniously to maintain life.

Everything in this world is composed of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha in various proportions.
When they are in balance, health results.
When out-of-balance, suffering results

Vagbhta, ancient Ayurvedic scholar

The Main Qualities of Vata

what are doshasVata is Ether & Air – It’s considered the strongest of the doshas because of its powerful mobile nature. Chiefly, Vata governs the nervous system. It is responsible for all movement in the body. For example respiration, blood flow, circulation, and elimination.

We only know an element by its qualities.

Ether Qualities- Light, subtle, formless, open, & expanding.

Air Qualities – Mobile, cold, dry, erratic, light, & rough.

It’s important to look at both positive and negative side of the elements. The positive side of the elements will give you superpowers. The negative side will make you unwell.

The balanced side of Vata is creative, energetic, lean, effervescent, open, available, and expansive.

The unbalance side is ungrounded, constipated, poor circulation, muscle tremors, with a scattered mind.

Characteristics of People with a Dominant Vata body Type

  • Flexibility
  • Quick mind
  • Creative
  • Always on the go – mentally and physically.

Vata types need to ground their energy. Routine is helpful to this type, though not naturally something a Vata type will create. This body type benefits from slowing down, meditation, warmth, soothing music, and taking breaks. (again not a natural Vata inclination!).

Dietary Choices that Support Vata

About foods, Vata types should include warming spices, including ginger, cloves, anise, cayenne, garlic cinnamon, horseradish, caraway, mint, mustard seeds, parsley, cooked onion, paprika, rose water, vanilla, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Vata types should minimize raw food, including salad, though salads should not be eliminated entirely as they provide valuable nutrients. But they should ground the salad with a dressing made from oil and vinegar, and be aware of the weather at the time of eating it. Being more sensitive to cold, Vata’s should have salads only on warmer days.

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Icy cold drinks are not balancing for Vata types. In fact, quite the opposite. Sugar also throws Vata types off balance, though Vata’s are lucky in that they can enjoy the sweet taste of sources other than sugar.

Vata’s generally love fruit, and it suits their Ayurvedic constitution. The exceptions are apples, pears, cranberries, watermelon and dried fruit. Vata types should go for peaches and strawberries.

Cooked grains like oatmeal, basmati rice, and brown rice are very grounding for the Vata constitution. Beans and legumes, on the other hand, are not! Beans are cold, dry heavy, and create wind, none of which support Vata.

You can find complete Vata Diet and Lifestyle recommendations here.

Things that can imbalance Vata body types include:

  • A lot of travel, primarily by plane
  • Loud noises
  • Constant stimulation
  • Drugs, sugar, and alcohol
  • Cold climates (especially extremely cold ones) and cold food
  • Frozen and dried foods.

The Main Qualities of Pitta

what are doshasPitta is Fire & Water, but for our purposes here, think of Pitta as fire or heat. Fire governs all transformation in the body and is responsible for appetite, digestion, hormones, brilliance, and luminosity. As a result, the more fire you have in your constitution the stronger your digestion, and the sharper the mind.

The Qualities of Pitta

Fire Qualities are hot, intense, sharp, light, subtle & dry

Water Qualities are heavy, liquid, flowing, cleansing, & oily.

The positive side to Pitta is a strong digestion, a glowing complexion, luster of the eyes, hair, and skin. You would recognize this person as bright, courageous, focused, & joyful.

The unbalanced side would appear as inflammatory skin conditions. For example eczema, psoriasis, or acne. Also, indigestion, heartburn, and fever are heated conditions. Heated emotions are jealousy, vindictive, anger and being critical.

Characteristics of Pitta Dominant Body Types

  • Determination
  •  Strong willed
  •  Good digestion
  •  Initiative
  • Energy
  • Passionate about many things

Dietary Choices that Support Pitta

Pitta types are calmed by cooling foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Bitter green vegetables like watercress, parsley, collards and most greens suit pitta.

Fruits that suit pitta body types include sweet berries, sweet apples and apricots, coconut, figs, mango, sweet oranges and pineapples, plums, watermelon, pomegranates, and prunes.

Other cooling foods include most dairy products, though sour cream, hard cheeses, and yogurt don’t really suit pitta due to their being too high in fat, salt, or sour. But dairy that suits pitta includes milk, cottage cheese, soft cheeses, and ice cream!

Grains that suit pitta body types include barley, basmati rice, and wheat (unless you are allergic or gluten sensitive).

Pitta body types generally like a lot of protein, and they probably need a little more than the other body types.

Spices that are cooling in nature are also important. These include coriander, cumin, mint, parsley, dill, and fennel. Garlic should be avoided though as it is too heating.

In terms of sweets, Pitta body types should use maple syrup, barley malt, brown rice syrup and honey that is 6 months or less old, preferably raw.

You can find complete Pitta Diet and Lifestyle recommendations here.

Things that can imbalance Pitta body types:

  • Excess heat, hot climates, and hot times of day
  • Humidity
  • Vacations and times when there is increased mobility
  • Excess oil in the diet
  • Too many hot foods, including spicy foods. But this can also mean too many cooked meals
  • Excess caffeine, salt, red meat and alcohol

The Main Qualities of Kapha

what are doshasKapha is Water and Earth. It’s responsible for all cohesion in the body and the force that holds everything together and gives it structure. It governs your immune system, strength, stability, muscle growth, and weight.

Water Qualities are heavy, cool, liquid, flowing, cleansing, nourishing & slow.

Earth Qualities are heavy, gross, stable, slow, cool, dry & reliable.

The positive or balanced side is strong, stable, grounded content and reliable.

Symptoms of unbalanced Kapha include obesity, lethargy, sinus congestion, foggy mind, and depression.

Characteristics of people with a Kapha dominant body type:

  • Strength
  • Stamina
  • Endurance
  • Groundedness
  • Calm and fluid

Dietary Choices that Support Kapha

Kapha body types are not suited to a high protein diet like the Atkins diet. Not only should they avoid too much fat, but also, excessive heavy protein. The Kapha quality is already heavy, and although this doesn’t sound great, it is what provides Kapha body types with a wonderful stability and strength.

These types should have light and low-fat protein. Beans, with the exception of soy and soy products, are great for Kapha.

Soy milk is preferable to dairy, though, for Kapha. Beans help move Kapha’s energy, and digestive system, a bit. Barley is also excellent.

In terms of meat, chicken, and turkey suit Kapha.

Kapha body types should have plenty of vegetables, including bitter vegetables, peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, lettuce, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, corn cobs, peas, beets, and celery.

Dairy is heavy and cooling and it does not suit the Kapha Ayurvedic body type.

Light and crispy food, like corn tortillas and popcorn, suit Kapha.

Kapha people should make sure they have variety in their diet, as Kapha body types have a danger of falling into a rut more than others.
Asian and Latin American style meals are great for Kapha. They are spicy and light, free of dairy, and have plenty of vegetables in them.

You can find a complete Kapha diet and lifestyle here.

Things that can imbalance Kapha body types:

  • Inertia
  • Too much fat in the diet, including oil we cook with!
  • Dairy products
  • Not enough stimulation and challenge
  • Absence of variety
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too much bread, iced foods and drinks, and sweets

Ayurvedic Constitutional TypeWhat are doshas?

Most people are “dual doshic.” Dual doshic means they can strongly identify with the attributes of two doshas. For instance, I’m a Vata/Kapha. I’m ruled by ether/air qualities (Vata) and have secondary earth/water qualities (Kapha).

Some people are tridoshic; In short, this means their constitution is equally Vata-Pitta-Kapha, but this is rare.

You Are Totally Unique

Each person has a unique elemental proportion.  Your constitution was set and determined at conception. It never changes. As an illustration, it’s like your fingerprint or DNA.

Everyone has all 5 elements and all three doshas. As a result, they are what give function and structure to your body/mind. Your unique balance of elemental energies is called your Prakruti. 

What are doshas? Take this free 3-minute test to learn yours!

You will discover your real personality type and your unique combination of the Doshas that no one else has. As a result, it will help you uncover the hidden cause of all your physical and mental discomforts. Furthermore, it will give you many insights into why you are the way you are.

Take the test and let me know what you discover about yourself in the comment area below. I’m here to help you, and I’ll be sure to get back with you within “hours” most of the time.

the 3 doshas explained

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About the author

Jackie Parker

9 Comments

  • Thank you for an interesting introduction to the ayurvedic concept of doshas. The way various cultures have explained how the human body works is always fascinating.

    I like the fact that you included a test so your readers can relate the information to their own body on this page. I also like the nice use of white space in the body of the post as well as your illustrations. Your headliner font that incorporates your logo is a great idea as well.

    The post is informative and makes me want to learn more.

  • Wow very unique and interesting article actually !
    I jad a good read, and I even find myself familiar with some of the elements.

    I actually searched about myself and wjat element is best describes me – which was Air.

    According to your analysis – I’m a combination of Vata and Kapha. Air and Earth:)
    Once again – this was very interesting, and thank you for provoding us with such content.

  • Hey Jackie, It turns out I am Pitta, the result cought me by surprise as I read the description of each dosha I thought maybe I will fit more in the kappa category,
    Articles to improve ones life are very appealing to me , I imaging you are a person dedicated to improvement, I am ceaning up my habits right now, and I wonder how can I be better with this new information, maybe you could direct me to some habits that could help me out

    • Hi Javier, If you strongly identified with many in the description of Kapha, you most likely have a fair amount of that dosha. Most people are duel dosha…meaning one is most predominant, and then a secondary. So, you could very likely be Pitta/Kapha. It’s hard to tell until you get into it more. The test is just mean to give you a starting place.

      Here’s an article I wrote on the ideal daily routine you may enjoy. http://motherofhealth.com/ayurvedic-health-tips-everyday-vitality. I have many more posts about Ayurveda on my calendar, so please come back! My best to you and thanks for taking the time to connect.

  • I had often heard the term Doshas and wondered what this was all about. I am very new to Ayurveda and found your article very interesting. I also like that you offer a 3 minute test to find out what Dosha you are. I enjoyed reading the article and learning about the qualities of each Dosha

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