To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom
What is Your Dosha?
Wait a minute, your what?
Those of you who have been in a yoga retreat or a course with me, have been exposed to the teachings of Ayurveda - the ancient system of health and well-being. And whether you have had a chance to "dip your toes" into this amazing discipline or interested in doing so, this post will provide a foundation.
I honestly can't imagine self-care without knowing at least the basics of Ayurveda. The elemental theory underlying Ayurvedic teachings may seem daunting at first, but with this understanding, you will inevitably become more conscious of what your imbalances and diseases are triggered by and how to create a life that is actually serving your health and well-being, both short- and long-term.
Ayurveda claims that there is no way we can be consistently healthy both physically and mentally unless we really get to know ourselves. To help us accomplish this task, it describes 5 fundamental elements that the entire universe - including a human being - is made of: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Based on how these elements combine, it describes 3 main constitutional types - DOSHAS - that can help us understand the tendencies and predispositions of each and every one of us. So each person as a rule, has a predominant dosha, or alternatively a combination of two or even three doshas.
Ayurveda is all about customised nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. And to be able to "prescribe" the right approach to every person, Ayurveda (besides taking into account external factors affecting the individual) takes into account the dosha of the person.
Let's have a closer look at the 3 main constitutional types.
(Air & Space)
People who have this constitution tend to have a light and delicate bone and muscle structure, have a tendency to lose weight and difficulty gaining weight or muscle. They have weaker and more erratic digestive system than other doshas, irregular bowel movements and inconsistent energy levels.
Vatas tend to be more creative, spacey, anxious, with active, often busy, minds. They think and speak quickly, and can easily get stressed or overwhelmed. Vata dosha influences the movement, including the movement of the body, of thoughts, feelings, nerve impulses, and the movement of fluids in the body.
Cold, light, dry, erratic/irregular, rough, in movement, quick, and constantly changing. Vata influences the other doshas. Vatas tend to always be on the go, with energetic and creative minds. When Vatas are in balance, they are lively and enthusiastic.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF VATA:
Thin, light, delicate frame, impressive ability to adapt. Their skin is usually thin and delicate. Their energy comes in bursts, and they are likely to experience unexpected tiredness/fatigue following the peak of energy. Vatas typically have dry skin and cold hands and feet due to poor circulation. Vatas are likely to have joints that crack. They sleep lightly (and many are prone to insomnia) and their digestive system can be sensitive. When vitiated, Vatas tend to experience weight loss, constipation, anxiety, overwhelm, arthritis, weakness, restlessness and pains.
EMOTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF VATA:
Vatas are creative, and love excitement, travel and new experiences. They are always on the move, they are energetic, curious, and flexible. They love to take initiative, strike conversations and meet new people. When imbalanced, Vatas are prone to fearfulness, worry, anxiousness, nervousness and mental overwhelm.
7 TIPS ON HOW VATAS CAN STAY BALANCED:
- Follow the dietary guidelines for Vatas. In a nutshell, favour warm and moist foods where possible and avoid cold, dry foods and icy drinks.
- Maintain a solid and consistent daily routine (dinacharya) and keep exercises both gentle and regular (f. ex. hatha yoga and slow flow vinyasa). Wake up and go to bed around the same time every day and regulate mealtimes so that you don't skip meals and have three moderate meals per day.
- Find or create time for rest, relax and to nurture yourself and your well-being. Create an environment that is calm, safe, and comforting.
- Have regular soothing and grounding Ayurvedic oil massages (Abhyanga). You can either outsource it to an experienced therapist, or learn to do it yourself.
- Avoid very cold and windy weather conditions and environments, as well as excessively dry climates.
- Keep travel to a minimum. Avoid loud, noisy places, big crowds and too much talking.
- Keep warm and get enough sleep. Vatas need a lot more sleep on average than any other dosha!
(Fire & Water)
Pittas have more fire element in them than any other dosha. They have strong appetites and a strong digestion. They can withstand the cold better, as they naturally have better circulation. They are strong, sharp, intelligent, aggressive and impatient by nature. As Pittas have strong and efficient digestion, they can generally eat and digest just about everything. Pittas are drawn to spicy and hot foods and often overtax their digestion by continued consumption of too much salt and by overeating.
Hot, light, intense, spreading, penetrating, pungent, sharp, and acidic. The Pitta dosha controls transformation (including the transformation of nutrients as they move through the digestive system), digestion in general, metabolism, and energy production. The main function of Pitta is transformation.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA:
Pittas have warm body temperature and a great digestion; they sleep well and need somewhat less sleep than Vatas. They have abundant energy, and a strong appetite and thirst. When vitiated, Pittas may suffer from hot skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat and sweating, acid reflux, and indigestion.
EMOTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA:
Pittas have a powerful mind/intellect and a strong ability to focus. They are good leaders, public speakers and decision makers. They are down-to-the-point, direct, precise and sharp-witted. They are highly ambitious and pragmatic, and love to compete and to challenge themselves. When imbalanced, Pittas can be short-tempered, angry, argumentative and impulsive.
7 TIPS ON HOW PITTAS CAN STAY BALANCED:
- Follow the dietary guidelines for Pitta dosha. In a nutshell, favour foods that are non-aggravating (meaning non-spicy, not hot. Think mild non-greasy curries, dhal, soups). At all cost avoid junk food, alcohol and stimulants including coffee and black tea.
- Get plenty of fresh air and choose cooler times of day (early morning or just before sunset) for physical exercise. Favour activities that won't over-exhaust or deplete you, and yet offer enough challenge to keep you stimulated (think vinyasa flow yoga, swimming).
- Keep calm and cool physically and mentally.
- Avoid environments that feature excessive heat, steam, or humidity and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Protect your skin from sun exposure. These points are relevant for all doshas, but especially for Pittas.
- Be patient with others and consider their point of view.
- Engage in quiet, calming and contemplative activities to balance out your busy and stimulated mind. Meditation anyone?
- Avoid situations that can lead to potential conflict. Or perhaps count to 5 before you react in a way that may trigger that conflict.
(Earth & Water)
Kaphas have a tendency to have heavier, earthier bodies than other doshas, and tend to store substances like fluids and fat in their bodies. They are naturally calm, grounded and often more committed or attached. Kaphas often have warm, caring personalities.
Heavy, solid, slow, dense, steady, cold, soft, and oily. Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is the cohesive principle that holds everything together, connecting the cells, forming the muscle, fat, bone, and providing immunity. The main function of Kapha is protection.
Kaphas have a strong build and great endurance as well as soft, smooth, radiant skin. They sleep soundly and have regular digestion. But when Kapha is out of balance, they can gain weight, retain fluid and fat, and have allergies. When vitiated, Kaphas may become overweight, sleep excessively, become lethargic or depressed, and suffer from diabetes and asthma.
EMOTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF KAPHA:
Kaphas are naturally caring, calm, loving and thoughtful. They have a natural ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. Kaphas are strong, steady, loyal and patient. They tend to favour calm activities like reading, relaxing, spa indulgence. When out of balance, they tend to get excessively attached to things, jobs, and relationships. When aggravated, Kaphas become extremely stubborn, withdrawn and resist change.
7 TIPS ON HOW KAPHAS CAN STAY BALANCED:
- Follow the dietary guidelines for Kapha dosha. In a nutshell, favour light, warm and moist foods like veggie soups and light broths, lightly cooked vegetables and as little heavy and sweet foods as possible.
- Wake early (before dawn), sleep less in general, and avoid sleeping during the day. Kapha is the constitution that needs less sleep than any other type (but tends to sleep the longest!).
- Indulge in plenty of physical exercise every day, including activities that are more on the strenuous side, like long hikes, active and athletic yoga styles, running.
- Perform cardio activities that stimulate and energize the body and mind, and build the metabolic rate.
- Seek more newness, excitement, challenge, and variety in life.
- Break away from habitual patterns, stagnation and clinging to old ways of living, thinking and behaving.
- Keep dry and warm.
I'm sure many of you have already been able to identify your primary dosha (or a combination of two or even three) based on this post. And if you are still in doubt, join us in January in Zurich for a workshop that will shine a light on your very own constitutional makeup as we test ourselves with some guidance, so that you can get to know yourself better and learn to make choices that benefit you and your dosha. Alternatively, pop by the Copenhagen City Retreat from 11-13 of January where we will investigate Ayurveda's approach to Winter self-care practices and yoga for Winter (as well as meridian theory with Karina Højgaard and many other surprises!). I look forward to having you with us!