As a sister practice to yoga, Ayurveda is the master teacher for doshas (constitutions). The dosha approach stems from a connection with nature and its elements. The traditions of yoga and Ayurveda are rooted in the belief of "as within so without and as without so within" which means that by looking at the world of nature we can understand our own nature and also that we see the world the way we see ourselves.
To understand doshas and get aquainted with our dosha we begin by exploring the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space and by learning how these elements impact and create our body.
Let’s first look at each element and reflect on their substance: Earth: Stable, grounded, rooted and heavy; Water: Fluid, movement, wet and nourishing; Fire: Hot, light as in luminous, intense and transformational; Air: Light in weight, breath, breezy and windy; and Space: Untouchable, expansive, hard to measure and understand.
The Five Elements in the Context of Our Body:
Earth: Earth is represented in the aspect of our body that is tangible; What we can touch and measure. Like a plant, it grows from seed and eventually returns to the earth;
Water: Depending on what we read the body is 60 - 80% water. Need I say more?; Fire: The fire element is the process of digestion. A fire eats and transforms what we give it. We do the same with food, conversations, and studies. We take something in, digest it and become it either through our physicality or through our mental focus; Air: Breath is a natural source of nourishment and cleansing for the body and it controls the energy of the mind. If our breath is short, shallow and fragmented our thoughts are short, shallow and fragmented and our body becomes tense and ill. If our breath becomes quiet and deep the body is energized and the mind stabilizes; and Space: Think of the Sun and the planets that orbit around the sun and apply this to your cells. The nucleus and the electrons and feel how space takes up the majority of the space. Think about space in terms of giving space to your vertebras, breath and so.
The Three Doshas
Although we all have all five elements, our individual constitution can be more earthy, watery, or fiery and so on. And, based on the primary elements that make up our body and mind we are either vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water) or kapha (earth and water).
Kapha (Earth and Water)
People with this constitution tend to have thick features which includes thick hair, big lips, roundish nose and round eyes. They are either short or very tall and have thick and heavy tissues whether it be muscles or excess weight and they put on weight easily. They have a content nature, are great listeners and if you tell them a secret you know it’s in the vault. The animal symbol to define kapha dosha is the elephant.
Pitta (Fire and Water)
Pitta people are fiery, they have intense piercing eyes and go after what they want. They are typically average height and weight and are often very fit. Theya re courageous visionaires but when out of balance they have a bad temper. Pitta's have the highest chance of burn out as they can easily go, go, go until they burn out. The animal symbol is the lion.
Vata (Air and Space)
Vata people are often taller than average, thin with thin features and they often suffer from dry skin. They are easy going, sensitive beings who are willing to help but they are often victims of nervousness and/or lack of confidence with an inability to make decisions. The animal symbol is the deer.
Some of us are clearly one dosha. Others are a mix of two and some are what we call tridoshic, which means they have a balanced combination of all three doshas. Knowing your constitution is very helpful as it provides excellent guidance for dietary needs as well as exercise requirements, asana practice, herbs and so on. There are many online questionnaires to find out your constitution but the best approach is to speak with an ayurvedic practitioner to identify your unique requirements.
This is very general and for the purpose of this blog. A kapha person who is tired often needs exercise to increase energy. A tired vatta person needs help with improving their sleep quality, which is often light with weird dreams. A tired pitta person will need basic rest and restoration. A vata person with problems of bloating and constipation will need to hydrate and to slow down and chew. A kapha person suffering from bloating and constipatin will need to reduce heavy foods and increase light foods such as greens and sprouts. A Kapha person often benefits from salads and a vata person will benefit from warm soups. A pitta person does not really get bloated or constipated they could digest a rock, but acid reflux is a high possibility.
In the Context of Asanas
If you are very vata, you benefit from grounding poses or simply from emphasizing the grounding aspect of any asana. If you are pitta or kapha you benefit from lightening up. For a kapha person that means practicing poses that stimulate movement and for a pitta person this means lightening up in terms of attitude, for example, reducing the competitive mental edge.
Be Yourself Everyone Else is Taken
This is never about becoming something we're not. The world needs the balance of variety but it is about providing an avenue for personal and balanced expressions. I offer both ayurvedic astrology and ayurvedic consultations to help each individual identify their unique constitutions and develop individualized dietary, exercise, relaxation and so on.
Please keep in mind that this post is about 1200 words and I could have easily written 5000 if not 10000 words and if I really sat down I could write a little book. So as much as I hope this information is valuable there is much more to it and I would love to share it with you, should you choose to dive-in and see me privately.
Om Shanti Sylvie