Isn’t it funny that even though all humans have 99.99% of the same DNA, we have such different preferences, routines, and needs? Perhaps you love a relaxing, grounding yoga practice, while your friend prefers to run ultra marathons…or you can’t stand the summer, while your sister lives for the heat. Even with all of our similarities, everyone feels best with a different set of routines and habits.
Our symptoms also differ – some of us tend towards constipation or cracky joints, while others get acid reflux and migraines. Perhaps in stressful situations you tend to get angry and fired up, or you shut down and withdraw.
The Western Medicine Approach
Western medicine often takes a one size fits all approach to mental and physical health, to varying degrees of success. Some folks respond positively to a treatment, others have no effects, and still others experience a worsening of their condition.
Ayurveda’s Approach To Wellbeing
Ayurveda is the traditional Indian system of medicine and healing. In Ayurveda, our personal differences are recognized and celebrated. We seek the root cause of a particular symptom or disease, and and then suggest different treatments based on that underlying cause. In that way, we create effective and personalized solutions.
In Ayurveda, it’s no accident that you experience both intense sugar cravings and painful period cramps. Or that you’re always cold and get bloated after eating. These seemingly unrelated symptoms actually have a common root.
The Ayurvedic Dosha System
One way that Ayurveda explores these different root causes of disease is through the dosha system. The Ayurvedic doshas are 3 ways that energy tends to congregate in the body. These 3 doshas are found in every human in different proportions and explains why people have specific tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. These general archetypes that can be used to describe people, seasons, time of day, weather, and situations/relationships.
When we understand the doshas, we can see how different situations interact with our personal tendencies to create either balance or imbalance. Then, the teachings of the dosha system can help us come more into balance with nature.
The word “dosha” has a few different meanings in Sanskrit. It’s often translated to mean “constitution”, but it can also have the meaning of “that which is messed up” or “that which is out of balance.” The doshas are not bad, but they are indicative of energy congregating unevenly throughout the body and mind. This unevenness ultimately creates tendencies that pull us further off balance.
The doshas help you make sense of your symptoms and develop personalized strategies for wellbeing.
The 3 doshas are kapha, pitta, and vata. Learn more about these doshas below and see if any of them sound like you (or someone you know).
Kapha is ruled by the elements of Earth and Water. Think about the muddiness of Spring and the congestion that accompanies that season. Kapha dosha has the qualities of groundedness, slowness, heaviness, and stability. Kapha controls growth in your body and is in charge of your bones, skin, organs, muscles, and tissues. Kapha times of day are the hours between 6-10 AM and PM where the world seems to move just a bit slower. Individuals with a Kapha constitution tend to have strong bones, endurance, are great caretakers, and are steady and loyal.
In excess, Kapha dosha can leave you feeling sluggish, heavy, and tired. Excess Kapha dosha can manifest as a lot of congestion, depression, diabetes, or excess weight.
To bring kapha into balance:
- Food: lighter food with some spice (arugula, black pepper, citrus fruit).
- Exercise: more intense, core work, get moving! Circuit training is great for you.
- Routines: Schedule morning exercise or something you’re excited about to get you up and out the door. A friend/workout partner really helps! Spend time planning/setting your goals so that you have a good reason to take action and move forward on your projects.
Pitta is ruled by the elements Fire and Water. It is hot, sharp, quick. Spicy foods are Pitta. In the body, Pitta controls your metabolism, nerve impulses, and hormones. Pitta time of day is between 10-2, when you are most hungry for lunch, or perhaps wake up from intense dreams. Summer, unsurprisingly, is the Pitta time of year. Individuals with a more pitta constitution tend to feel hot, have perhaps a more red face, and are of medium build.
Too much Pitta can make you angry, irritated, or harsh. Excess Pitta can manifest as eye issues, liver problems, and irritated skin.
To bring Pitta dosha into balance:
-Food: hydrating and cooling foods – no spice! Reduce onions, garlic, and tomatoes
-Exercise: Fun, intricate, strength builders. Not heated, please!
-Routines: Luckily, you probably love routine. So make sure that you include some cooling elements. Take time to journal, reflect, or take walks. Swimming is GREAT for Pitta. Get outside and reconnect with nature, so you don’t get too focused on your work and problems.
Vata is ruled by the elements Air and Ether. Vata dosha is light, cold, airy, and mobile. Vata controls motion in your body – your circulation, heartbeat, and breathing. Vata time of day is 2-6 AM and PM. This AM time is a time when we feel most connected to the divine or to spiritual pursuits. In the afternoon, you might find yourself get a little spacey or fatigued. The cold wind of Fall is Vata. Individuals with a more Vata constitution tend to feel cold easily, to be very active (physically and mentally), quick, and thin.
Too much Vata can leave you feeling anxious, lost, or overworked. Excess Vata can manifest as gas and bloating, cracking joints, and anxiety.
To bring vata dosha into balance:
- Food: cooked, grounding, and sweet foods (sweet potato, almonds, stew)
- Exercise: Gentle, rhythmic, or repetitive
- Routines: Repetition is good! Go to the same place for lunch every day, have the same tea when you wake up, and in general bring consistency into your routine.
How to determine your Dosha?
In reading through these descriptions, you might have noticed some qualities in yourself that sounded familiar. To better understand which of these doshas are dominant in you, take my Discover Your Dosha Quiz. It will help you see which of the doshas are most present in you, so that you can find the best foods, exercise, and daily routines to rebalance your body and mind.
It’s important to note that the point of understanding your dosha is not so that you can label yourself or develop a rigid way of living your life. Rather, it is to help you appreciate your individuality and personalized needs that guide you through your day. Understanding your dosha is a powerful way to better connect with your daily habits and routines, so that you have the health, happiness, and energy to tackle your dreams.
So tell me – do any of these Doshas sound like you? Were you surprised at what you found? Share your thoughts in the comments below!