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Knowing ‘Your Mind-Body Make-Up’: The Doshas – Vata, Pitta & Kapha Explained

Three people get stressed at work, one has a nervous breakdown, one has a heart attack and the other develops diabetes.

Why do three different people on the same exercise program get three completely different results?

Have you ever wondered why any of the millions of diets that have been invented, none ever work for everyone?

In fact, if you looked closely, you would find that any diet or exercise regime etc, works great for about one third of the population, is averagely successful for another third, and for the other third, they are downright damaging to one’s health.

Why is this so?

Because we are all DIFFERENT!!!

Now this is blatantly obvious, and you and everyone else already know that. Strangely though, when it comes to diets, supplements, health and exercise programs etc, most people (and experts) tend to search for some universal remedy that is right for everyone. Ridiculous!

What’s missing is a comprehensive system of understanding of how we are all different…and most importantly, what specific foods, exercise and daily/seasonal routines are right/balancing for you. The ancient & eternal science of Ayurveda does just that, through it’s timeless understanding of what’s called ‘the doshas’.

The Ayurvedic Doshas – The Missing Link to ‘Individualising Health-Care’:
According to Maharishi Ayurveda (the modern revival of Ayurveda, which I trained in), each one of us is comprised of a unique mix of three mind/body principles which are responsible for our ‘unique’ physical, mental and emotional characteristics.

These doshas are the ‘governing principles’ of ‘Intelligence’ that literally govern everything in the universe…and therefore each one of us…including you!

Vata, Pitta & Kapha:

The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Understand these three doshas and how to influence them and you literally hold the reins of life in your hand. As the doshas govern ‘everything’, if you know how balance them, in principle you can eliminate ill-health, create perfect balance and enjoy ideal health…without any need for an ‘external’ expert, doctor, guru or anyone/anything outside your own ‘Self’.

And that’s the way health is meant to be – where YOU are in control of your wellbeing, completely self-sufficient.

How It All Works:

According to Ayurveda, everything is comprised of different proportions of five fundamental elements – space, air, fire, water and earth.

Those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine will know that they also detail 4 fundamental elements. Ayurveda contends that ‘space’ is also an element as without space the other elements have nowhere to exist. Get familiar with the doshas, so you can understand your unique nature and what you need to create perfect balance in your life.

Vata – ‘Airy (‘Windy’):

Vata is dominantly expressed as ‘space and air’ and is responsible for all ‘communication and movement’.

It’s qualities are light, dry, changeable, quick, cold & subtle…like the ‘wind’.

Pitta – ‘Fiery’:

Pitta is dominantly expressed as fire and a liitle bit of water. Pitta governs all ‘energy and transformation’in our bodies and the universe. Its qualities are like fire – hot, intense, sharp, dynamic, sour/acidic, related to colour (red, orange, yellow etc).

Kapha – ‘Earthy’:

Kapha is dominantly expressed as water and earth. As such it is almost the exact opposite of Vata dosha. It is heavy, slow, non-changing, sweet and moist/unctuous/oily. Kapha governs all ‘structure and lubrication’.

How Are You DIFFERENT/UNIQUE?

While each of us has some of each dosha (you couldn’t live without all the doshas being present), the proportion of the doshas in your ‘make-up’ will be different from those around you. Your individual mix of doshas is called your ‘Prakriti’. It’s your individual or unique ‘mind-body’ make-up or constitution – your essential ‘Nature’ to be precise.

Are You a Vata predominant?

If you are dominated by vata, you will naturally,

• be more light, quick, entusiastic, fun

• have a lighter/slimmer build

• be more changeable, versatile and creative by nature

• have a tendency towards dry hair, dry skin & light/interrupted sleep

• have a delicate appetite/digestion that can be easily disturbed

• love change and movement (travel, dancing…not sitting still!!!)

• like to talk/communicate/express…chat, gossip etc!!!

• get enthusiastic about new things but change your mind/mood easily

• be a bit of a ‘daydreamer’, but also the ‘life of the party’.

You will probably find it harder to gain weight, to sleep deeply, or to ‘stick’ at the same thing for a long time.

You are more likely than others to have a tendency towards cracking joints, wind or bloating and you may dislike cold or windy conditions.

Your work/vocation will likely involve being; in something more ‘creative’ or involving communication, travel (movement)or people – an artist, dancer, flight attendant, receptionist, entertainer etc. You are more likely to be an ‘ideas’ or ‘people’ type of person’.

* I described the vata’s first, because otherwise they (‘you’) might have got bored and fluttered off to read something else!!!

Are You Pitta predominant?

If you are pitta predominant, you will naturally,

• be more fiery, dynamic, focused, competitive

• have a medium (possibly muscular) build

• have blond/white, reddy, golden, grey or receding hair

• have a sharp mind and strong intellect

• have skin that is generally more sensitive, maybe freckly and burns easily

• have a strong appetite and digestive system – you love eating and get irritable/’angry’ if a meal is late

• like order, systems and ‘having lists’!!!

• be motivated, passionate and have strong drive about something

• be more likely to get ulcers…and to give other people ulcers!!!

• be a bit perfectionistic, be conscious of your image and have a ‘healthy ego’!!!

You are more likely than others to have a tendency towards anger/being short-tempered, highly critical (of yourself & others), skin rashes, eye or liver problems, over-competitive, sensitive to hot weather & impurities (alcohol, cigarettes, pollution etc.

Your work/vocation will more likely involve being; a businessperson/entreprenaur, an athlete, self-employed, in something combative (police, army etc), highly intellectual (science, physics etc), sales/marketing, leadership, a ‘get the job done’ type role.

Sound like you? If so, that’s good, because pitta’s are the best!!!

Well not really (no dosha is better than another), but if you’re pitta predominant you probably ‘think’ you’re better than everyone else!!!

Are You Kapha predominant?

If you are dominated by kapha, you will naturally,

• be sweet, dependable, earthy, stable & supportive

• have a larger (more ‘cuddly’ build)

• have large lustrous eyes, soft but possibly oily skin and thick hair

• be down to earth and happy (slow to get stressed)

• be slow to start new things/get information etc, but once you start you have great endurance and rarely forget things etc

• have a slower/heavier digestion

• be well liked for your placid, sweet & supportive disposition

• have a tendency to retain/hoard things – money, jobs, junk…weight (“I just look at a piece of cake and put on 2 kgs”)

You are more likely than others to have a tendency towards excess mucous and congestion, allergies or becoming lazy, depressed or unmotivated (‘couch potato’).

Your work/vocation will likely involve being; in something nourishing/supportive or requiring patience/thoroughness etc – a teacher/education, a doctor/nurse, administrator, finance person (accountant, treasurer), support staff, labourer etc.

* Note – You Have All 3 Doshas:

It’s important to appreciate that you (or anyone) are not just one dosha, but a combination of all three. Most people have one or two doshas most dominant in their nature, with the other one(s) less prominent.

Where someone has equal amounts of all three doshas, this is called ‘sama dosha’.

Are YOU ‘Out of Balance’?

Because the doshas govern ‘everything’ in the universe, everything you do, affects the balance of doshas within your mind & body.

For example, due to particular weather/seasonal influences, lifestyles, foods, relationships etc, you may create too much or too little of one or more doshas in your bodymind. Such imbalance is called ‘Vikriti’. Although anyone can develop any doshic imbalance, individuals with naturally strong vata tendencies are more prone to vata imbalances, those with naturally strong kapha tendencies are more prone to kapha imbalances etc.

How Vata Gets Out of Balance (Excessive):

Vata is increased/aggravated by ‘too much’

‘cold’ – food, drinks, weather etc

‘dryness’ – windy weather, dry (non oily) food etc

change’ – irregular mealtimes, variable routine, changing seasons etc

‘stimulation’ – computers, action movies, intense execise…coffee!!!

Signs Your Vata Is Out of Balance (Excessive):

• you feel anxious/worried

• you find it hard to make up your mind…and change it often

• you forget things regularly (“where did I leave my car keys”)

• your skin/hair gets dry…as do your bowels (possibly making you constipated)

• you find it hard to ‘settle down’, to sleep well & you want to ‘move’ constantly (as may people near you as you are more prone to ‘wind’!!!)

• your digestion/appetite, mood & energy levels fluctuate throughout the day

• you feel the cold, get tired easily just wish life could ‘slow down’

Common Diseases/Health Problems Related to Excess Vata:

Arthritis/Cracking Joints, Nervous Conditions, Insomnia,Chronic Fatigue, Restless Legs, Constipation, Asthma.

How Pitta Gets Out of Balance (Excessive):

Pitta is increased/aggravated through too much ‘hot/spicy’ food a lot of ‘sour or salty’ food, ‘hot weather’, too much ‘intensity/seriousness’ not enough ‘fun/play/relaxation’

Signs Your Pitta Is Out of Balance (Excessive):

• you feel angry, irritable and impatient – ’hot under the collar’

• you are over-competitive/ over-critical (usually of others!)

• you are too serious (people say “you need to ‘chill out”)

• you are really uncomfortable in hot weather

Common Diseases/Health Problems Related to Excess Pitta:

Heart Disease (Type A Heart Attacks), Excess Anger/Aggression, Skin Conditions (Eczema, Psoriosis etc), Liver Disease/Cirrhosis, Eye Problems (sensitive eyes, needing glasses etc), Diahorrea, Acid Stomach/Reflux/Ulcers etc.

How Kapha Gets Out of Balance (Excessive):

Kapha is increased/aggravated by

too much ‘cold’ – food, drinks, weather etc

‘heaviness’ – excessive heavy or oily foods (or too much food in general)

‘insufficient activity/exercise’

‘damp’ weather

‘not enough variety/change/stimulation’

Signs Your Kapha Is Out of Balance (Excessive):

• you feel lethargic, depressed and lazy

• you have gained weight and generally feel ‘heavy’

• your digestion is sluggish…you feel’ ‘stuck’

• you may feel congested and resistant to change

Common Diseases/Health Problems Related to Excess Kapha:

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Fluid Retention/Excessive Mucous, Depression, Lethargy (Couch Potato Syndrome!), Joint Problems, Congestion/Sinus Problems/Coughs & Colds, Allergies.

Okay, I’m Out of Balance…How Do I Fix It?

Balancing Vata:

If your Vata is out of balance balance, you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle etc to bring in the opposite qualities of Vata.

E.g. increase,

• REST – get to bed early & get plenty of rest generally

• GOOD ROUTINE – regular daily routine – sleep & mealtimes etc

• WARMTH – keeping your body warm, warm food & drinks

• OIL – unctuous diet (non-dry), warm oil body massages

• SWEETNESS – more sweet foods/relationships etc (Vata’s love touch/hugs)

• SLOWNESS – go for more relaxed/calming activities/exercise

– e.g meditation, gentle yoga, quiet time, cat naps…

Vata is also balanced by avoiding exposure to wind and cold, listening to relaxing, soothing music, and generally ‘slowing down’.

Balancing Pitta:

If your Pitta is out of balance balance, you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle etc to bring in the opposite qualities of Pitta.

E.g. increase,

• COOLNESS – cool foods/drinks/climate (avoid hot sun), water activities – swimming etc

• FUN/LEISURE – take regular breaks from ‘work’ & have more ‘funtime’

• NATURAL BEAUTY – spend time looking at trees, moonlight, tranquil water etc

• SWEET & BITTER foods…and reduce ‘hot’ (spicy), salty and sour foods

Pitta is also balanced by reducing/avoiding ‘impure substances’ (alcohol, cigarettes etc) and and generally ‘chilling out’ more.

Balancing Kapha:

If your Kapha is out of balance balance, you need to adjust your diet and lifestyle etc to bring in the opposite qualities of Kapha.

E.g. increase,

• LIGHTER diet – i.e. reduce heavy/sweet foods/drinks

• VARIETY – keep diet, exercise, work etc varied

• STIMULATION – e.g go for ‘spicier’ food, more vigorous exercise etc

• WARMTH – keep your warm body, have warm food/drinks

• DRYNESS – e.g. less oil in diet, ‘dry’ (silk glove) body massages

• ACTIVITY GENERALLY – lots of regular exercise

Kapha is also balanced by avoiding avoiding cold, damp environments and generally ‘spicing things up’.

* Note:

If you have read about Ayurveda previously, you may have had it explained that the doshas are equated with the ‘humours’ of the body. This is a very gross understanding of the doshas. In Maharishi Ayurveda, an important distinction is that the doshas are far more fundamental than the humours of the body (or anything ‘physical’). They are literally the ‘intelligence’ that underlies all the structure and function in the universe.

You can’t literally see or touch the doshas…though you can see their expressions. So always view the doshas as the principles of ‘intelligence’ that run your body – they are not a physical part of your body as such.

Still Confused?…Personalised Help:

The above article is meant only for general educational purposes.

If you are interested in more Ayurvedic health diagnosis/advice etc, feel free to contact a properly trained practitioner in this area.

For practitioner suggestions, email

Mark Bunn

Mark Bunn – is a leading natural health researcher specialising in Ayurvedic medicine, author of the three-time best-selling ‘Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health‘ and one of Australasia's most popular health and performance speakers