Everything in the natural world is made up of the 5 great elements.
They are the fundamental building blocks of all things, including humans! They are ether, air, fire, water & earth. These elements come together to form what we refer to in Ayurveda as the Doshas.
Ayurveda defines physiology in terms of these three forces called “Doshas”. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha:
Vata = Ether + Air → the governing principle of all movement in the body.
Pitta = Fire + water → Pitta governs functions of metabolism and transformation.
Kapha = Water + Earth → Kapha manifests as structure, stability and nourishment.
These unique energies that make up each individual are related to our mind, physiology, metabolism, digestion, personality, and so much more. As individuals, we are a combination of all three Doshas, but in varying amounts. Some of us are naturally more airy, while others are naturally more fiery and others more earthy. Living in synchronicity with our dosha can help us maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit.
V A T A = Ether + Air
Vata is cold, dry, ever changing. These types are creative, free-spirits, in constant motion. Sometimes these individuals have a hard time focusing, and have constant chatter in the mind.
Physically, vata individuals are cold, dry and tend to have long features. They tend to have dry skin and dry, coarse hair. Their skin is cold to the touch; they tend to love warmer weather. Appetites vary, digestion is varied, and sometimes they experience bloating, gas, and constipation.
Vata individuals are vivid dreamers, and have a tendency towards fear and anxiety. They are prone to insomnia, eating disorders, and ADD.
Time of day: 2-6am & 2-6pm
P I T T A = Fire + Water
Pitta is hot, firey and oily. These individuals are courageous, strong-minded, and very knowledgeable. Pitta individuals are fantastic leaders and will do whatever it takes to accomplish the task at hand. They like to work very hard and thrive in competitive situations. When out of balance this competitive nature can turn into judgement, irritability and frustration.
Physically, pitta individuals have fair skin, and often have freckles and a reddish tint to the skin. They perspire more than the other Doshas, and enjoy intense exercise to release the heat that accumulates within the body. Pitta individuals are prone to acne, eczema, oily skin and hair loss. Internally they have strong digestive fires that can cause heartburn, acid reflux and hyperacidity.
Season: Late Spring and Summer
Time of day: 10pm-2am & 10am-2pm
K A P H A = Water + Earth
Kapha is cool, moist, nourishing. Mentally, kapha individuals are sweet, kind, loving, compassionate and very good listeners. When out of balance, kapha can become attached, possessive and depressed. These tendencies often lead to overeating, lack of energy and love of sweets and sleep. It can be difficult to become motivated for these individuals at times, but once they get going they are productive.
Physically, Kapha individuals are a sturdy build. They have smooth, soft skin and thick hair with full lips. Kapha types tend to overeat and are prone towards water retention, sluggish metabolism, and weight gain. Internally these individuals have a slower digestion and can often feel heavy after meals.
Season: Winter & Spring
Time of day: 6-10am & 6-10pm
Many people are more than one dosha. Maybe you’re a Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta-Kapha, or all 3 (Tridoshic!) Through our understanding of the qualities of the elements and doshas, we can begin to recognize when things are becoming out of balance!
Understanding your Dosha can help establish a lifestyle, routine and eating habits that make you feel healthy, vibrant and mentally clear.
Each person has all three of these doshas within them, but to varying degrees. Once you understand a little more about your individual constitution, you can begin to make simple shifts in your daily life that help you to align with the elements in your body. And keep in mind ~ knowing how to work with the seasons is a beautiful way to connect with your unique qualities and avoid imbalance as the weather changes!
So now the burning question for many is, “What’s my dosha!?”
Well, let’s start here….Your prakruti is your natural state of being. It is how the elements present themselves to form who you are at the time of conception. It’s your baseline of health. Your vikruti is your current state of imbalance, it is the deviation from your natural state. Understanding this paradigm is central to understanding Ayurvedic medicine. Broken down simply, prakruti assesses the amount that each of the 5 elements are present in an individual at birth and vikruti looks at how that elemental balance has shifted, as a result of diet and lifestyle practices that disturb the balance of those elements.
Dosha quizzes are becoming more and more popular now that Ayurveda is entering the mainstream. It’s important to take these quizzes with a grain of salt and of course consult a practitioner before taking any herbal strides. One of those all too common misconceptions that yields to confusion originates in the process of self-diagnosis. This often occurs in individuals who fill out an online dosha assessment and come to the conclusion that “they are So vata!” When actually what they are discovering is that their current imbalance is likely vata. However, some quizzes are well formulated and can help you take the first step towards understanding what is going on in your mind-body connection.
Banyan Botanicals has an amazing quiz! They let you set up a dosha profile, give you suggestions and detailed information based on your natural state of being, and share how that natural state has deviated and what doshas are potentially elevated at this time. The entire goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to align this deviation! So a good quiz will always lead you more to the current state of imbalance rather than your natural state of being, because that’s not where the imbalance lies!
Writing compliments of
Blog Contributor, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Ayurdoula
Leigh’s work is characterized by a mission to share an integrative approach to health by empowering individuals to be part of their healing and wellness journey. Leigh holds a bachelor’s degree in both Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Colorado. In 2016 she received her 250-YTT at the White Lotus Foundation under the tutelage and mentorship of Ganga White and Tracey Rich. Shortly after, she moved to New Mexico and spent two years studying Ayurveda with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute and is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (CAP). She continued her journey to India with Dr. Lad and assisted as a Pancha Karma therapist at the Vasanta Institute of Ayurveda. She is a certified doula for postpartum care through the works of Ysha Oakes and the Center for Sacred Window Studies. She has studied women’s hormonal health under the guidance of Dr. Claudia Welch and uses an integration of Ayurvedic medicine and Western traditions. She is currently studying to become a clinical herbalist at the Herbal Academy.