The Importance of Doshas in Maintaining this Balance
Doshas are the vital energies or humor, which control the whole body. The physiology of the human body is governed by three vital energies, which can never be measured in any real sense, but only observed and monitored. According to Ayurveda, everything in existence is made up of five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether/Space. These five elements are expressed as three Dosha types in the human body. Vata corresponds to Ether and Air, Pitta corresponds to Fire and Water, and Kapha corresponds to Earth and Water. Each person has a unique combination of Doshas from birth. This is referred to as your body constitution.
It is important to note that the word Dosha in Sanskrit translates to the English word ‘fault’, meaning a crash or point of weakness where you might go out of balance. By knowing your dominant Dosha and constitution, you can more easily identify where and when you fall out of balance. You can also quickly and effectively bring back balance by including Dosha balancing foods in your diet, exercising and performing recommended activities.
Those with a Vata constitution had air and ether predominantly present during their birth. Vata is responsible for the body’s energy, movement and nerve impulses, which manifests as breath, circulation, elimination, and flow of thoughts.
Balancing Vata: When balanced, people with Vata Dosha are enthusiastic, light, creative, alert, quick-witted, active and open to new experiences. When out of balance, Vatas will become anxious and suffer from insomnia, constipation, gas, bloating, dry and/or rough skin. They are also prone to bouts of headache, back and/or joint pain, and cold hands and feet.
Diet for Vata: Since Vata types need to balance their cold, light, airy and dry qualities, they need to eat foods that are warm, heavy, dense, and moist. They also require sweet, sour, and salty foods. It’s important for Vatas to avoid alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and stress. They need to maintain regular bedtimes and mealtimes and indulge in moderate exercise and meditation daily. Such people should try to stay in warm, humid, quiet, safe, and comfortable environments.
Pitta is governed by fire and water and is responsible for transformation and regulation of metabolism, body temperature, digestion and intelligence. Pitta is essential for the digestive and endocrine system of the body.
Balancing Pitta: When balanced, Pitta types are content and well-structured with strong digestion, good vision, sharp intellect, and radiant skin. When out of balance, Pittas can become angry or hot-headed and may experience acid indigestion, diarrhoea, gastritis, stomach and intestinal ulcers, fever, hot flashes, infections, rashes, acne, eczema and liver infections.
Diet for Pitta: Since Pittas need to bring balance to their hot, fluid, and sharp qualities, they need to eat cool, dry, and mild foods. They also require sweet, bitter, and astringent foods. It’s important that Pitta types practice moderation, take time for play and laughter, spend time in nature (especially around bodies of water) and enjoy exercise (but avoid extreme workouts or competition). Pitta types should also avoid sources of heat (e.g. mid-day sun) and stay in cool, well-ventilated environments.
Balancing Kapha: When balanced, Kapha types are lovable, strong, patient, loyal, supportive, stable and calm. When out of balance, Kaphas may become greedy, lethargic and depressed and may suffer from obesity, diabetes, respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis, and swelling and tumors. They may also become resistant to change and hang on to things and people after they are no longer necessary.
Diet for Kapha: Since people with Kapha Dosha need to balance their moist, soft and heavy qualities, they need to eat light, dry and fiery foods. They also benefit from eating astringent, bitter and pungent foods. In addition, it’s important for Kaphas to wake up before 6 a.m., take their main meal at noon and exercise regularly and vigorously. Kaphas tend to adhere to their routine, but they need variety and new experiences. They benefit from dry, warm environments.
Constitution - Body Type
Prakruti, an individual’s baseline constitution is determined at the time of conception and relates to inborn or permanent physical and emotional characteristics and tendencies. These would include qualities such as height, natural eye and hair colour and innate personality qualities. While all three doshas are present in every constitution, they are present in different ratios. For example, some may have a high concentration of Pitta (fire) in their constitution, with Kapha (earth) secondary and only a small amount of Vata (air), but someone else may have a different combination.
Knowing your constitution is useful because it increases awareness of your natural strengths and challenges. This can be a positive step towards understanding health. A combination of two Dosha is called Dwandwaja, which is common in everyone. Tridoshaja is a combination of three Doshas and Ekadoshaja is the term for those exhibiting a single Dosha type, which is rare. In this manner, there are a total of 7 types of constitution.
With a combination of all these additional types, there are a more complex array of types that are best determined by an Ayurvedic wellness specialist who can help you determine the best foods and activities for your body constitution.
Another step towards understanding health, according to Ayurvedic principles, is to understand if and how we have strayed from our natural, healthy constitution. Vikruti is a Sanskrit word loosely translated as a “changed condition of body, mind and consciousness.” In Ayurveda, it is most often used to describe your current state of health (or ill-health) in relation to your Prakruti, or “natural state.”
Vata, Pitta and Kapha are positive forces in the body but, due to environmental, emotional or physical conditions or stress, they can increase or, less often, decrease beyond what is the appropriate level for our constitution. Vitiated doshas may cause an imbalance in the body or mind. This imbalance, or Vikruti, creates an environment that is more hospitable to diseases. While Prakruti governs permanent characteristics, Vikruti reflects temporary changes, like gaining or losing pounds, feeling nervous or irritable, developing a cold or flu, etc.
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