We’re fortunate to have Ayurvedic guru Gretchen taking over the Prescribe Nutrition blog again and continuing the conversation on the world of Ayurveda, while unraveling the mystery of doshas. This is part 2 of a 2 part blog series, be sure to check out Gretchen’s bio below!
Yes, I’m back with some more information on Ayurveda and these things we call The Doshas. If you read last week’s post, hopefully you’ve given some thought to the five elements and the ways in which they show up in your body and in your mind. Perhaps you’ve become attached to a specific dosha that you feel perfectly describes you. We do that actually; we become very attached to our doshas. Knowing our dosha constitution is like having a personal handbook, a how-to guide, for finding your place of health and balance. Today I’ll highlight the doshas once again because, as I said before, Ayurveda is all about baby steps. Let’s take another step forward to explore a little deeper.
- Physically, vatas have light and flexible bodies, big teeth and small, dry eyes, cold hands and cold feet
- Blessed with a quick mind, flexibility and creativity
- Grasp concepts quickly, but forget them just as quickly
- Alert, restless and very active; vata types walk, talk, and think fast, but are easily fatigued
- Tend to have less willpower, confidence, boldness and tolerance for fluctuation and often feel unstable and ungrounded
- When unbalanced, may become fearful, nervous and anxious
- Tend to earn money quickly and spend it quickly
- Have variable digestion; irregular appetite and thirst
- Often attracted to astringent foods like salad and raw vegetables, but their constitution is balanced by warm, cooked foods and sweet, sour and salty tastes
- More susceptible to diseases involving the air principle: emphysema, pneumonia, arthritis
- Others: aching joints, dry skin and hair, nerve disorders, constipation, mental confusion, headaches, insomnia, gas and bloating, lower back pain
- Vata tends to increase with age – drying and wrinkling of the skin
- Physically, pittas are of medium height and build and have warm, coppery skin with moles or freckles, silky hair with premature graying or loss, medium eyes and sharp nose, warm hands and feet, and they perspire easily
- Blessed with a joyful disposition, sharp intellect, tremendous courage and drive
- Alert, intelligent and have good powers of comprehension
- Sleep is sound and of medium duration
- Easily agitated and aggressive, tend toward hate, anger and jealousy when imbalanced
- Leaders and planners, seek material prosperity
- Strong digestion, metabolism and appetite
- Like plenty of food and liquids and tend to love hot spices and cold drinks, but their constitution is balanced by sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes
- Tend to have diseases involving the fire principle: fevers, inflammatory diseases, jaundice
- Other symptoms: skin rashes, burning sensation, ulceration, colitis, soar throats
- Pitta is more prominent during middle-age
- Physically, kaphas have a large, strong body frame, large eyes, strong teeth, thick, curly hair, smooth and oily skin
- Blessed with strength, endurance and stamina
- Sweet, loving dispositions; stable and grounded
- Sleep is deep and prolonged
- Tend to be calm, tolerant and forgiving, but may become lethargic
- May be slow to comprehend, but have excellent long term memory
- When unbalanced, may experience greed, envy, attachment and possessiveness
- Groundedness helps them earn and hold onto money
- Steady appetite and thirst, but tend to have slow digestion and metabolism
- Attracted to sweet, salty, and oily foods, but their constitutions are most balanced by bitter, astringent and pungent tastes
- Tend to have diseases connected to the water principle: colds, flu, sinus congestion
- Others: sluggishness, excess weight, diabetes, water retention, headaches, excessive sleeping
- Kapha is more prominent during childhood
After reading over the characteristics, you’re probably able to pinpoint with a bit of assurance which dosha, or two, best describes you. Here’s one very important thing to remember about the doshas: your balance of the doshas was determined at the moment you were conceived. If the proportion of doshas in your current state is close to your birth constitution, then your health will be vibrant. However, internal and external factors act upon us, creating a divergence between these states and indicating a state of imbalance. An imbalance is typically caused by an increased or aggravated dosha which may be the result of emotional and physical stress including one’s emotional state, diet and food choices, seasons and weather, physical trauma, work and family relationships. Health is the journey from imbalance to balance, dis-ease to ease and is referred to as The Dance of the Doshas.
That’s a lot of information to take in, believe me I know! Here’s another way to think of the doshas as they relate to your state of health.
- Balanced: all three doshas are present in their natural proportions = equilibrium
- Increased: a particular dosha is present in a greater-than-normal proportion = aggravated or excess state
- Decreased: a particular dosha is present in a less-than-normal proportion = reduced or depleted state
As you begin your dance with the doshas, I’d like to leave you with a few of my favorite resources for deeper exploration.
Check out this Dosha Quiz from the Chopra Center if you need more help figuring out your constitution. While you’re there, order Deepak Chopra’s book, Perfect Health. It’s a great introduction to Ayurveda and living a life of balance.
Need help learning how various foods influence your dosha? Search Joyfull Belly for the qualities of foods, herbs and spices, along with dosha-friendly recipes.
Finally, if you’d like to explore the healing modalities of Ayurvedic medicine on a deeper level, please consider working with an Ayurvedic Practitioner. Through pulse diagnosis, a practitioner can determine your exact state of imbalance and make recommendations (dietary, herbal and lifestyle changes) to assist you on your journey to health and balance. Find an Ayurvedic Practitioner near you.
I am so happy to have shared my love of Ayurveda and I wish for you the ability to look inward, to find balanced awareness within yourself.
In peace and health,
Gretchen is a Registered Dietitian, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Registered Yoga Teacher and has been working in the health and wellness industry for over 15 years. Her passion for yoga and exploration first introduced her to Ayurveda, but it was her own, personal struggles with digestive health that finally encouraged her to branch away from western medicine and pursue a more holistic, eastern approach to gut health. She studied Ayurveda at Kanyakumari Ayurvedic Education Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduating at the practitioner level in 2011.
Having taken a break from private practice to stay home with her two young children, Gretchen enjoys educating others about Ayurveda and it’s power to heal. Amidst the chaos of family checklists and schedules, you’ll find her in the yoga studio, testing out a new recipe in the kitchen, cozied up by a warm fire, or entertaining family and friends.