Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing from India. According to Ayurveda, our well-being is related to the balance between the body, mind, and spirit as well as our relationship to the external environment. Ayurveda believes in five elements: earth, fire, water, air, and ether/space. These elements form everything from the taste of food to the changing seasons to our unique individual constitution.
These five elements also combine together to form three different vital bio energies called doshas. Our unique balance of doshas then informs our physical, emotional, and mental characteristics.
The three doshas
The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each one of us has characteristics of all three doshas, yet some predominate, while others are secondary and even tertiary. Here’s how they break down into elements.
Vata is a combination of air and space. Vata is categorised as “nerve energy”. In Ayurveda, it symbolises the principle of movement in our body. Vata incorporates the movements of breathing, heart and digestion. The nervous system, musculoskeletal system and immunity belong to this elemental substance.
Pitta is a combination of fire and water. Pitta is referred to the inner fire and thus associated with the fire element. Pitta doshas control digestion, metabolism and energy production, as well as being resonsible for intelligence and mental abilities.
Kapha is a combination of water and earth. Kapha is formed by the water and earth elements. It refers to the principle of stability in the body and gives the body endurance, immune strength and peace.
How to find out your main dosha
The best way to accurately find out your main dosha type is booking a consultation with a trained Ayurveda specialist. However, there are also some tests available online which could give you a rough indication. This is just an example: https://chopra.com/dosha-quiz
Being familiar with the nature of your body and understanding what makes it easier to satisfy your needs and how to utilise your mental potential can help you identifying your dominant dosha correctly. This is because, according to the principles of Ayurveda, the doshas dominate not only the physical appearance of an individual, but also the personal behaviour and disease resistance.
When the doshas are in balance, energy flows freely in the body and we feel content, healthy and strong.
Vata in balance is wonderful. It gives us creativity, quickness, alertness, sensitivity to new ideas, and the ability to develop non-attachment to material things. Many artists have much vata in them. However, when we are overrun by vata, we can become unfocused, unable to complete tasks, overwhelmed, and anxious. Our digestion also suffers.
Pitta in balance allows us the ability to channel our creativity out in the world as concrete plans. When out of balance, we can get burned out and feel adrenal fatigue. We tend towards irritability, anger, and frustration, and can suffer from ulcers and gastric reflux.
Kapha, the most stable of the three doshas when in balance, offers us calm, patience, and the ability to follow things through to their end points. When we have too much kapha, however, we can become too rigid. We begin to lose our fire and become depressed, feel lethargic, and gain weight.
How to rebalance the dosha
An Ayurvedic principle says “like increases like, while opposites balance”. So, to balance a particular dosha, we must cultivate the qualities opposite to the dosha(s) we’re trying to balance. For example, if we have too much air in us, we need more fire and earth. To achieve this, we then assess everything from the food we eat to our daily routine through the lens of the doshas.
It takes some self-awareness, mindfulness, and discipline to start to make the shifts that truly do help us to experience more balance – but we have to start somewhere right. And here are some practical suggestions to balance each of the doshas:
How to balance Vata
Vata represents movement. When out of balance, Vata causes problems in mind and body related to irregular movement such as variable appetite, constipation, insomnia, poor circulation, etc. Many individuals with a Vata-influenced constitution love variety, but they need the framework of a regular routine to remain stable and grounded while pursuing and enjoying that variety.
- Try to get to bed before 10 PM
- Maintain a regular daily routine
- Favour warm beverages
- Food should be warm, freshly prepared and unctuous
- Use liberal amounts of sesame oil. Ghee, butter, olive oil and coconut oil are also good.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and chocolate
- Avoid raw or gas-forming vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc.)
- Have some boiled milk with cardamom before bed
- Practice mediation and Pranayama breathing
- Exercise in moderation and not to the point of exhaustion: walking in nature and yoga are good choices
- Follow a Vata-pacifying diet
A Vata-pacifying diet should include warm, heavy dishes such as soups and porridge, plus root vegetables, sweet fruits and soaked nuts and seeds. Reduce dry, cold foods such as salads (unless they’re dressed well with oil), snack bars, crackers, crisps, ice-cream.
How to balance Pitta
Pitta represents metabolism and transformation. When out of balance, Pitta causes problems related to excessive heat and acidity in mind and body such as acid indigestion, anger, fever and rashes. Those with a Pitta-influenced constitution tend to be industrious, ambitious and competitive. In seeking to transform their environment, they tend to over-do it. Thus, Pitta often needs moderation.
- Cultivate moderation in all things and don’t take yourself too seriously
- Be careful not to over-work or strain the eyes with computer or TV especially in the evening
- Take time for play, particularly with children
- Enjoy exercise, but avoid getting over-heated or too embroiled in competitive sports. Swimming, skiing, walking in nature by bodies of water, cycling, yoga, etc. are good choices
- Protect yourself from the sun, especially in the hottest hours
- Favour cool, but not ice-cold, beverages
- Food should be freshly prepared and moderately unctuous
- Favour ghee in the cooking along with cooling spices like fennel, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. Coconut oil and olive oil are also good.
- Avoid chili peppers, vinegar, salt, alcohol, tobacco, caffeinated beverages and chocolate
- Before bed, have some milk previously boiled with a little ghee, saffron, cardamom and sugar, once cooled to a comfortable temperature
- First thing in the morning after brushing the teeth and rinsing the mouth, try drinking some pure water left overnight in a cup of pure copper
- Follow a Pitta-pacifying diet
A Pitta-pacifying diet should include cooling and astringent foods like asparagus, salads, grains and fruits. Aloe vera and coconut oil are also good to cool and soothe. Avoid spicy, pungent or salty foods.
How to balance Kapha
Kapha represents structure. By nature, Kapha is stable, slow and resistant to change. That is both a blessing and a curse. When out of balance, Kapha causes problems in mind and body related to accumulation and stagnation, such as obesity, slow digestion, respiratory congestion, lethargy and depression. Kapha needs mental stimulation and physical activity to stay in balance.
- Get up and get active: take a brisk walk soon after sunrise
- If you have a sedentary job, take a short walk at least 10 minutes every few hours
- Exercise regularly and vigorously
- Seek out challenge for your intellect
- Minimize heavy foods
- Take 1 tsp. raw honey in a half cup of warm water to start your day
- Favour warm beverages
- Food should be warm, freshly prepared and not too unctuous
- Enjoy spices, especially fresh ginger
- Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, chocolate and other sweets
- Don’t eat breakfast if you aren’t really hungry
- Have a light dinner, preferably before 7 PM
- Consider taking a liquid fast one day a week
A Kapha-pacifying diet should include bitter and astringent foods such as black tea, vegetables and warm spices. Turmeric is a good supplement to keep cholesterol down and reduce inflammation, and ginger to reduce swelling and tackle aches and pains. Avoid damp, wet foods like dairy and cold drinks, and sweet, fatty foods.
The benefits of balancing dosha
Ultimately, according to Ayurveda, we inhabit this lifetime to carry out a specific purpose. If we’re able to stay healthy, we’re able to fulfil our calling with more ease, vitality, and bliss. And the more we can do to balance our constitution, the easier it is for us to stay truly healthy from the inside out.
While Western medical practice primarily focuses on the treatment of disease, ayurvedic medicine is focused on the prevention of disease. Ayurvedic practitioners focus on maintaining the balance of energy through diet, exercise, and mindfulness that they believe is essential to overall health. When stress levels are low and your body and energy are aligned, the immune system can more effectively ward off disease.
If you think Ayurveda could be a fit for you, it’s a good idea to do additional research before making any drastic life changes. Always talk to your GP before stopping any medication and before starting any supplements or treatments. If you want to try Ayurveda remedies for any medical condition, it is strongly advisable to look for a medical professional with a proven background in both Western and ayurvedic medicine. Hope this helps some. ~Namaste~