I’ve been a fan of personality tests for a long time. The Meyers-Briggs is one of the most notable, and we’ve all heard about personality types A and B, but my favorite is the shape psychology quiz, which I found to be quite accurate and fun!
Ayurveda takes a different angle. Knowing about the three doshas not only gives insight into personalities and proclivities, knowledge of yours will help you understand the difference in your constitution and personality vs your friends and relatives. It helps you understand why, for instance, your coworker is thin as a rail, seems to have boundless energy, and can eat a huge meal while you gain weight just from looking at a piece of cake and you love to sleep!
Why are some people inherently happy, others intense and driven, and still others carry the weight of the world? The three doshas of Ayurveda answer these questions, as well as provide answers about why one person is sick all the time and another never catches the cold that everyone else has.
The doshas are mind-body biological energies, and they are derived from the five elements. We all have each of these energies functioning in our bodies all the time. When balance is maintained in the physiology, immune strength is maximum and the likelihood of illness is minimum.
- Vata is composed of Space (Ether) and Air, and is responsible for movement, transportation, and communication. It rules the nervous system, and is also located in the colon, joints, and inside of bones. Its qualities are dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, and changeable. Vata types are typically of a light build, thin, enthusiastic, vivacious, and talkative. If your life feels out of control, your mind races, your digestion is irregular, and you can’t sleep, vata has become deranged. Think “grounding” – focus on warm, oily foods and minimize cold, raw foods. Herbs that can help are basil, bay, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, frankincense, lavender, pine, sage, and vanilla. Additionally, deliberately slowing down, taking time for yourself, getting enough sleep, and meditation, can all be helpful in balancing vata.
- Pitta is composed of Fire and Water, and is responsible for digestion, metabolism and transformation. It is located in the liver, small intestine, and skin. Its qualities include hot, sharp, pungent, intense, and flowing (but grounded). Someone with a Pitta constitution is typically of a medium build, muscular, intense, analytical, focused, generous, and goal-oriented. Excessive pitta shows up as heartburn, high blood pressure, and inflammatory conditions as well as irritability and anger. Maybe you are trying to do too much! Slow down your pace, spend some time in nature (where it is cool), smell some flowers! To restore balance, avoid spicy foods and alcoholic beverages, and, for tea or aromatherapy, use sandalwood, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile.
- Kapha is composed of Water and Earth and is responsible for structure, strength (immunity) and lubrication. It is located in the chest and low back, and its qualities are unctuous (oily), slimy, cool, moist, sticky, heavy, stable, strong, and soft. Kapha people are generally of a large build, and are jovial, loyal, loving, and easy-going in nature. But when kapha is in excess, heaviness builds and it can be hard to let go! Fluid retention, weight gain, allergies, and resistance to change are signs that kapha has gotten out of balance. It’s really important to get moving – walking or some light exercise is the place to start. Minimizing heavy foods, like meat, and sweet foods, can really help. Lighter, dryer foods can begin to bring kapha back in balance, and helpful herbs are cloves, cinnamon, juniper, and marjoram.
This is just a brief overview of general principles regarding the doshas. There are multiple factors to take into consideration, such as the state of your digestive fire, and how much ama, or toxic waste, you have accumulated.
Ayurveda is about making life enjoyable. As you learn more about your uniqueness, and start thinking in terms of how to stay in balance, you gradually become healthier and happier.
He whose doshas (fundamental physiological elements) are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose dhatus (tissues) are functioning normally, whose malas (waste products) are in balance, and whose mind and senses remain full of bliss (24 hours a day), is called a healthy person. — Sushruta