Editor’s note: It is important to always keep in mind that while the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health acknowledges that Ayurvedic medicine is effective, it also warns that some Ayurvedic preparations may contain lead, mercury, or arsenic. This article is simply an invitation to explore Ayurvedic principles and new routes to self-discovery, always under the guidance of a specialist.
Known as “the science of life,” Ayurveda is to India what traditional medicine is to China: an ancient knowledge that integrates all aspects of life and seeks healthier ways of living.
As a 5,000-year-old field, summarizing Ayurveda in a thousand words is an impossible — and disrespectful — crusade.
As is the case with other traditional medicines — and as is the case with Western medicine — Ayurveda includes various types of medical treatments: from general medicine (Kāyachikitsā) to pediatrics (Kaumāra-bhṛtya) to surgery (Śalyatantra) to sexual pleasure and infertility problems (Vājīkaraṇatantra).
All Ayurvedic medicine is based on the three elemental doshas: Vata, pitta, and Kapha. By understanding the doshas, you can use Ayurveda to observe your life and consider what changes to implement.
The doshas are types of constitutions. Like the somatotypes used by Western medicine (ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph), Ayurveda uses the doshas to understand physical and spiritual traits, as well as personality types. The doshas are based on the five classical elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether), and the three of them are present in everyone, although they balance differently in each one.
So get paper and pen, and learn the meaning of the pillars of this fantastic millenary tradition.
Vata – The energy of movement
The Vata dosha is made of air and is responsible for all kinds of movements (from creativity to the body’s movement). Thus, it is related to flexibility, creativity, and a quick mind.
People of a predominant Vata dosha are quick at learning new things (but they may forget them just as quickly), they are alert and very active, but they get easily tired. Think of a cheetah: they are the fastest terrestrial animals, but they can’t hold their pace for long. Vata people are not good planners and tend to earn money quickly and spend it just as fast as they got it.
Physically, they tend to be taller, thinner, less muscular, and suffer from cold, so they should try to keep their body temperature, avoid icy foods, and look for spicy foods to balance themselves.
They tend to be ungrounded, and when out of balance, they can be fearful or very anxious, but they also have a unique ability to express and release their emotions.
Pitta – Live’s fire
The pitta dosha is the one in charge of warmth and transformation. Fire is present in digestion and metabolism, a taste for spiciness –though they shouldn’t eat too spicy food to keep themselves balanced–, strong will, sharp intelligence, good leaders, joyful energy, and the ability to manifest intentions and desires.
Pittas are determined and perform well under pressure; they have strong power of concentration, tend to be organized, punctual, and precise.
Physically, they tend to be of medium complexion and to have warm bodies. When out of balance, they can easily become angry, hateful, or jealous.
Kapha – Live’s glue and grounding
The Kapha dosha is made of earth and water; therefore, they have a nurturing, grounded, and calm nature. Kaphas are in charge of building long-lasting relationships, especially in communities, and are good lovers as their affections grow slowly and are long-lasting.
Kaphas tend to be methodical at their work but not obsessive or anxious about the results. Additionally, they tend to listen a lot and talk little, which is why people value their contributions when they speak. Since they are good listeners, they are perceptive about other people’s feelings. Kapha people may take longer to understand or learn something, but their long-term memory is excellent.
Kapha energy is the one that forms body structure –from bones to tendons–, which is why they tend to have more muscular physical structures, high stamina, gain weight easily, and have a slow metabolism. Just as a tree would stay wherever it starts growing, a Kapha person can sleep anywhere.
When in balance, they are calm, loving, and forgiving, but out of balance, they can be greedy, envious, and possessive.
At this point, and after reading each type of dosha, you likely feel identified with the descriptions of more than one. This is perfectly normal, as our human nature is complex.
However, recognizing your predominant doshas can help you balance your life and know where to start looking for help.
In my case, I am intellectually pitta, but when I face difficulties, I tend to get nervous (Vata tendency), not aggressive, as would be expected. So I understand that drinking something hot helps me balance my emotions.
Knowing your predominant dosha can thus help you better understand the intricacies of your personality, such as your diet, your meditation style, or better choose the type of sport that best suits you.
As our ancestors wisely saw, Ayurveda understands life holistically, from observation and understanding. After all, there is no better way to grow than understanding ourselves and learning to know ourselves in depth.