Intro to Doshas... or The 101 of Ayurvedic Body Types

Ayur - veda
"To preserve life in form" "knowledge/wisdom"

Ayurveda is a centuries-old system of medicine, originating in India. It is considered the system of wisdom that shows us how to understand the world and to preserve life. It’s also a vast medical system that covers everything from nutrition, to surgery and pharmacy, to environmental awareness.

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One of the foundational concepts of Ayurveda is that of the 3 Doshas. Each Dosha represents a unique body type / constitution and it’s inherent traits / characteristics / metabolic principles. Dosha means “defect.” The understanding is that these 3 constitutions express the ways that we most easily become imbalanced, and therefore experience dis-ease.

Doshas go beyond human traits as well, and ultimately express the functional principles of reality…. the way the world works.

If you remember when we were going through balancing the 7 Chakras, each Chakra is connected to one of the 5 elements (root - earth, sacral - water, solar plexus - fire, heart - air, throat/third eye/crown - ether) The same is true for the 3 Doshas. Each represents 2 of the elements, and ultimately we need all 5 elements in balance to live healthily.

So what are the 3 Doshas and what elements do they represent?

Ether / Air Fire / Water Water / Earth

Characteristic of the 3 Doshas (remember the doshas not only represent human traits, but can also apply to an environment, circumstance, action, food, etc)

Characteristics of VATA:

crow animal representative for vata
  • Ether / Air

  • Cold and Dry

  • Light and uplifting (floating upward)

  • Subtle and Mobile

  • Irregular, uneven, asymmetrical

  • Clear (see-through)

  • Astringent (drawing inward, puckering)

  • Governs movement, inspiration, enthusiasm, desire, passion, releasing waste

  • Colors: purple and black

  • Animal representative: Crow

When in balance the Vata type is enthusiastic, vivacious, joyful, serene, alert, a quick learner, confident, moves lightly and gracefully, sleeps lightly but well, has smooth skin, and regular bowels.

When out of balance the Data is restless, nervous, flighty, forgetful, space, anxious, worries, has difficulty sleeping, lacks nutrients, experiences body pain and stiffness, experiences dry skin and constipation.

Characteristics of PITTA:

animal representative for pitta
  • Fire and a little water (think steam or humidity)

  • Hot and steamy

  • Sharp, penetrating, pointed

  • Slightly oily, greasy, fast

  • Direct and goal-oriented

  • Irritable, sour

  • Spreading outward and upward (as a fire does)

  • Predictable in reaction to stimulus (less changeable than the wind-like Vata)

  • Governs metabolism, digestion, regulation of appetite and thirst, hormones and enzymes, intellect, courage, quality of complexion and eyesight

  • Colors: Red and orange

  • Animal: Lion

When in balance, Pitta is joyful, lively, friendly, enterprising and idealistic, a charismatic leader, curious, has broad interests, radiant, with warm skin and often freckles, good appetite and digestion.

When out of balance Pitta types pressure themselves and others, become excited and try to cram too many things into the day, are task oriented and critical, irritable and quick tempered, overloaded with activities, turn grey and bald early, have blemished and acne, get stomach ulcers and acid reflux.

Characteristics of KAPHA:

elephant animal representative for
  • Water and Earth

  • Wet and heavy

  • Stable, solid, slow and dense

  • Soft, lubricating, sticky

  • Cool (not cold like the Vata)

  • Cloudy and liquid

  • Sweet, loving, and nurturing

  • Learn once and don’t change easily

  • Good memory

  • Governs cohesion, community, structure, strength, solidity, endurance, and lubrication

  • Color: White

  • Animal: Elephant

When in balance Kapha is tranquil, easy going, loving, calm, strong, has good stamina, steady and methodical, with a large well built body, plentiful hair, smooth oily skin, is a careful learner with a good memory, sleeps soundly and long, has slow but regular digestion.

When out of balance Kapha becomes depressed and bored, listless and weak, with a lethargic stiff body, becomes overweight, disinterested in life, and sleeps excessively, has overly oily skin and hair, loses appetite.

Now that you’ve read through the descriptions of all three Doshas, take some time to think through which of these speak to you most. Remember this is about which traits are most likely to become unbalanced. We all have some of each of these traits, but one or two will predominate and play a larger role in whether or not we are balanced, healthy, and living to our full potential.

Question for you…

Which of these speaks most to you? Are there “in balance” traits that stick out? What about "out of balance" traits? If you need help answering, grab a friend or loved one you trust and both of you take turns discussing which fits you most. Share your insights with us in the comments.