Dosha Mat

The Ultimate Guide to the Three Doshas

The Ultimate Guide to the Three Doshas

Have you ever wondered why no two people are the same in terms of their disposition, refinement, appetite, fitness level, and so much more? Modern science and genetics can provide some real answers, but what about the peculiarities that make each person different from the rest, and everything relevant in between? Ayurveda, yoga’s close relative, can provide additional insights by reference to the three doshas.

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year old system of holistic healing which refers to and studies the interconnection of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of life. According to the ancient Sanskrit texts of the Vedas, an individual’s life force exhibits itself in three different energetic forces or doshas, which are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It is said that all of us possess these three life energies in varying degrees.

Our doshas are determined at the time that we were conceived by our mothers, which purposely becomes our true individual nature. By default, these doshas are not equal – meaning most individuals can have a larger quantity of one or two doshas, which makes them truly distinct and different from others. Additionally, these doshas do not remain constant all throughout our lives, and can fluctuate as we grow older.

Further, our doshas are interdependent with the environment in which we spend our time in, the food we regularly eat, the seasons of the year, the climate, the people we interact with, our daily habits, and many other factors. As our doshas change and move in and out of balance, our health, energy levels, general mood, and state of mind also become affected.

In this blog post, we will discuss the functions of these three doshas, how to identify them, and what can be done if they become unbalanced.

The Three Doshas and Their Physiological Functions

As mentioned earlier, the doshas are energetic forces present throughout the human body and mind. Each dosha represents two natural elements and its related properties. Vata represents space and air, which are elements that govern movement and communication; Pitta represents fire and water, which are elements that govern digestion and transformation; and Kapha represents earth and water, both of which are elements of cohesiveness, structure and lubrication.

Additionally, doshas have three states, namely balanced, increased, and decreased. Balanced means that all three doshas are present in equal proportions, and can also be denoted as a state of equilibrium. Increased on the other hand means that a dosha exists in greater than normal proportions, which can be described as being in an aggravated or excess state. Lastly, decreased means that a dosha exists in less than normal proportions, which can indicate a reduced or depleted state.

In this context, an individual with Vata as his/her principal dosha generally has a slender figure, is flexible, and is a creative thinker. If they are in a balanced state, Vata-predominant individuals love to be active both mentally and physically, love coming up with original ideas, and enjoy travelling and meeting new people. On the other hand, manifestations of an imbalanced Vata-predominant individual are anxiety, a general sense of fear, loneliness, weariness, dry skin and constipation. The colon, thighs, bones, joints, ears, skin, brain, and nerve tissues contain the most concentration of Vata energy in the body.

Pitta-predominant individuals are generally intense and short-tempered, and usually have a medium physical build, high endurance and strong musculature. If they are in a balanced state, Pitta-predominant individuals have a joyful presence, they’re sharp thinking, strong-willed and are very competitive. On the other hand, an imbalanced Pitta will likely show unruliness and fieriness towards others. It is also common for an imbalanced Pitta to suffer from inflammation, infection, ulcers, heartburn, fever, and loose stools. The small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, blood, eyes, and sweat contain the most concentration of Pitta energy in the body.

Kapha-predominant individuals are generally cohesive, understanding, loyal, and easily achieve strong frames and athletic builds just by having a regular exercise regimen. If in a balanced state, they are methodical, structured, and like sticking to a regular routine. On the other hand, an imbalanced Kapha will likely show lethargy, lack of motivation, and stubbornness. Additionally, they may also experience various physical changes like weight gain, sinus congestion, as well as mucosal infections. The chest, throat, lungs, head, lymph, fatty tissue, connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons contain the most concentration of Kapha energy in the body.

Always keep in mind that a great number of imbalances arise from having an increased or aggravated state of one’s predominant dosha. These imbalances are most often caused by having a poor diet and carrying too many negativities and stresses in life.  The key here is balance – for instance, Pittas are easily susceptible to heartburn after eating spicy foods. By eating cool foods, they will be able to create balance and support their doshic make-up.

By keeping an eye on your dosha and its imbalances, you may be able to detect a disease even before it manifests. Luckily, Ayurveda has tailored approaches in correcting these imbalances. In order for you to take the right approach, you must know how to identify your dosha constitution first, which will be discussed in the next section of this post.

Getting to Know Your Dosha Constitution

In general, most individuals often have a primary dosha, followed by a secondary dosha. It is also possible, although rare, for an individual to equally possess the three doshas. Below is a comprehensive questionnaire to help you identify your dosha constitution. However, keep in mind that self-assessment may not fully provide all of the answers you need. Thus, consulting with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner may also be helpful.

We recommend answering this questionnaire twice – the first set of answers should reflect your life’s trend in general, while the second set of answers should reflect how you feel today. The first result will reflect your underlying birth constitution, while the second result will reflect your imbalance.

0-1 Doesn’t apply

2-3 Sometimes applies

4-5 Applies most of the time

Vata - Physical Characteristics

1. I am slender and don’t gain weight easily.

0 1 2 3 4 5

2. I am taller or shorter than average.

0 1 2 3 4 5

3. “Thin” describes many of my bodily features (like hair, fingers, and lips).

0 1 2 3 4 5

4. My energy fluctuates and often comes in bursts.

0 1 2 3 4 5

5. My appetite is variable (i.e., high one day and low the next).

0 1 2 3 4 5

6. I have a tendency to become bloated, gassy, or constipated.

0 1 2 3 4 5

7. My skin frequently becomes dry.

0 1 2 3 4 5

8. I tend to have cold hands and feet.

0 1 2 3 4 5

9. I am a light sleeper and often have difficulty falling asleep.

0 1 2 3 4 5

10. I prefer warm, moist weather to cold or dry weather.

0 1 2 3 4 5

 

 

 



















             

Vata - Psychological Characteristics 

1. I am creative and imaginative.

0 1 2 3 4 5

2. I enjoy artistic forms of expression.

0 1 2 3 4 5

3. My mind is active and often restless.

0 1 2 3 4 5

4. I learn quickly but also forget quickly.

0 1 2 3 4 5

5. I become “spaced out” quite easily.

0 1 2 3 4 5

6. I have a tendency to feel anxious, nervous, and insecure.

0 1 2 3 4 5

7. I speak quickly and use hand gestures.

0 1 2 3 4 5

8. I am always on the go.

0 1 2 3 4 5

9. My lifestyle and daily routine are irregular.

0 1 2 3 4 5

10. My dreams are active and colorful.

0 1 2 3 4 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pitta - Physical Characteristics

1. I have a medium build and gain or lose weight easily.

0 1 2 3 4 5

2. My height is average.

0 1 2 3 4 5

3. My physical features are sharp or pointed (such as my nose, chin, and teeth).

0 1 2 3 4 5

4. My energy and activity levels are high.

0 1 2 3 4 5

5. My appetite is strong; I can eat large quantities of food. 

0 1 2 3 4 5

6. My bowel movements are regular; I occasionally have diarrhea.

0 1 2 3 4 5

7. I perspire quite easily.

0 1 2 3 4 5

8. My skin is oily and has a reddish tone.

0 1 2 3 4 5

9. My eyes are penetrating and light in color.

0 1 2 3 4 5

10. I prefer cooler weather and become irritable in hot weather.

0 1 2 3 4 5



 
    

Pitta - Psychological Characteristics     

1. I am goal oriented and achieve anything to which I put my mind.

0 1 2 3 4 5

2. I have a good sense of humor.

0 1 2 3 4 5

3. I have a strong intellect and enjoy learning new things.

0 1 2 3 4 5

4. I have a natural ability to lead others.

0 1 2 3 4 5

5. I am a perfectionist.

0 1 2 3 4 5

6. I tend to become irritable, impatient, and angry.

0 1 2 3 4 5

7. I am critical of myself and others.

0 1 2 3 4 5

8. Many people think I’m stubborn.

0 1 2 3 4 5

9. I become irritable if I skip a meal.

0 1 2 3 4 5

10. I enjoy competition.

0 1 2 3 4 5



             

Kapha - Physical Characteristics

1. I gain weight easily and lose weight with great difficulty.

0 1 2 3 4 5

2. I am short and stocky or tall and sturdy.

0 1 2 3 4 5

3. “Thick” describes many of my bodily features (such as my hair, neck, fingers, and lips).

0 1 2 3 4 5

4. I have abundant strength and stamina.

0 1 2 3 4 5

5. My digestion is weak and I often feel heavy after eating.

0 1 2 3 4 5

6. My bowel movements are highly regular.

0 1 2 3 4 5

7. My skin is smooth and oily and tends to be pale.

0 1 2 3 4 5

8. I sleep deeply and soundly.

0 1 2 3 4 5

9. I catch colds quite frequently.

0 1 2 3 4 5

10. I prefer hot weather over cold or damp weather.

0 1 2 3 4 5


        
      

Kapha - Psychological Characteristics

1. I have a big heart and prefer to focus on the good in the world.

0 1 2 3 4 5

2. I am calm in nature and not easily angered.  

0 1 2 3 4 5

3. I prefer a slow, relaxed lifestyle.

0 1 2 3 4 5

4. I don’t learn as quickly as others, but my long-term memory is excellent.

0 1 2 3 4 5

5. I become sentimental quite easily; I often think about the past.

0 1 2 3 4 5

6. I am methodical in my actions

0 1 2 3 4 5        

7. I am highly protective of myself and family. 

0 1 2 3 4 5

8. I let negative emotions build up rather than addressing them.

0 1 2 3 4 5

9. I usually let others take the lead.

0 1 2 3 4 5

10. I am a natural listener and frequently help others with their problems.

0 1 2 3 4 5


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 

 

 

Balancing Your Dosha

Now that you have a better understanding of your doshic constitution, it is time to learn how to maintain or bring it back into sync in order to stay healthy and happy. In the next section of this blog post, we will further discuss the causes of dosha imbalances, and how to balance them through diet and lifestyle.

Ayurveda states that our body has its own inner intelligence, and that we desire foods that are good for us when we are in a balanced state. However, if our mental, physical, and spiritual aspects are not in sync, this intelligence may not manifest itself. When this happens, we engage in destructive habits both in our diet and lifestyle choices. Unlike modern, one-size-fits-all nutritional practices, Ayurveda states that there is no single eating pattern that can be healthy for all individuals.

As a general guideline, your predominant dosha may increase or decrease in the nature of the concept of like attracts like. In this regard, your predominant dosha will always have the tendency to increase or be aggravated unless you choose something that can oppose or balance it. The following sets out the major signs and causes of doshic imbalance (as well as ways to resolve those imbalances):

Major Signs of Vata Imbalance

  1. Light and interrupted sleep.
  2. Muscle spasms.
  3. Dry skin.
  4. Constipation and bloating.
  5. Loss of body weight.

Major Causes of Vata Imbalance

  1. High consumption of Vata-aggravating foods such as pungent, bitter and astringent foods. Examples of pungent foods are chilies, radishes, turnips, raw onions, and many spices; bitter foods are the likes of kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, bitter melon, artichokes, burdock root, eggplant, and dark chocolate; astringent foods include adzuki beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans and soybeans.
  2. Irregular schedules of daily activities.
  3. Not eating enough or eating too fast.
  4. Suppressing bodily urges like sneezing, passing gas and excretion of waste  such as stool and urine.
  5. Staying up excessively late.

Ways to Counter Vata Imbalance

  1. Consume foods that are naturally sweet, sour and salty.
  2. Follow a daily regular routine.
  3. Engage in gentle and calm forms of exercise such as yoga.
  4. Eat in a peaceful environment; thoroughly chew your food and take a deep breath after your last bite.
  5. Enjoy relaxing places or simply listen to soothing music.

Major Signs of Pitta Imbalance

  1. Appearance of skin inflammations such as cold sores, acnes and rashes, as well as the inflammation of other parts of the body, especially the joints.
  2. Various digestive issues such as heartburn, gastric or peptic ulcers, acid reflux and diarrhea.
  3. Nausea or discomfort upon missing meals.
  4. Uncomfortable feeling of heat in the body.
  5. Negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and irritability, as well as judgment, impatience, criticism and intolerance.

Major Causes of Pitta Imbalance

  1. High consumption of Pitta-aggravating foods such as pungent, sour and salty foods. Pungent foods are the likes of chilies, radishes, turnips, raw onions, and many spices; examples of sour foods are grapefruit, lemon, pickles, dough breads, yogurt, juices and most fermented foods; salty foods are the likes of celery, seaweeds, cottage cheese, tuna and most spices and flavorings like table salt, soy sauce and tamari.
  2. Eating while emotionally unwell.
  3. Overconsumption of coffee, black tea and alcohol.
  4. Overworking.
  5. Being overtly aggressive and competitive.

Ways to Counter Pitta Imbalance

  1. Consume foods that are naturally sweet, bitter and astringent.
  2. Consume your meal in a peaceful environment. Take a deep breath after swallowing your last bite and going on to your next activity.
  3. Consume cooling foods and beverages, and aim to keep yourself cool in both mind and body.
  4. Follow a regular routine for eating, working and sleeping. Always make time for leisure and relaxation as well.
  5. Engage in moderate forms of exercise like yoga, swimming or biking and avoiding exercising during the hottest time of the day.

Major Signs of Kapha Imbalance

  1. Sudden weight gain which is often a result of slow digestion of food, as well as swelling or retention of water in the body.
  2. Increased frequency of infections such as colds, cough and nasal congestion, as well as the presence of excess mucous.
  3. Increased triglycerides, cholesterol and sugar levels in the body.
  4. Feelings of lethargy, slowness, dullness and heaviness, as well as difficulty rising up in the morning.
  5. Becoming easily attached, possessive, complacent and stubborn.

Major Causes of Kapha Imbalance

  1. High consumption of Kapha-aggravating foods such as sweet, salty and oily or fatty foods. Sweet foods include bananas, mangos, sweet potatoes, rice, coconut, almonds, as well as spices like vanilla and tarragon; salty foods are the likes of celery, seaweeds, cottage cheese, tuna and most spices and flavorings like table salt, soy sauce and tamari; oily or fatty foods include fatty cuts of meat, dairy products, and tropical oils.
  2. Eating heavy meals or overeating.
  3. Drinking too much cold and carbonated drinks.
  4. Having little to no physical activity or exercise.
  5. Excessive sleep.

Ways to Counter Kapha Imbalance

  1. Consume foods that are naturally pungent, bitter and astringent.
  2. Consume light, dry and warm foods. Use only a small amount of oils. Avoid cold and carbonated drinks.
  3. Follow an energetic daily routine and avoid stagnation as much as possible. Engage in vigorous exercises such as jogging, hiking, biking or challenging activities like martial arts at least five times a week.
  4. Keep warm and dry at all times.
  5. Listen to energizing music, and always choose lively experiences and company.

Conclusion

Ayurvedic practices and principles are ageless. By knowing your dosha, and by being aware of your body’s tendencies, you can make wiser decisions in respect of your diet and lifestyle. It is never too late to start – follow these simple principles and always be in harmony with your mind, body and spirit to remain happy and healthy. Also consider acupressure as another treatment to help keep your doshas in balance.

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