Key Words: Ayurveda - Yoga - Vata - Pitta - Kapha - Dosha - Prakriti
Ayurveda is the traditional healing modality of the Vedic culture from India. It is said to be 2000 to 5000 years old, meaning it has stood the test of time. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity”. In accordance with this definition, Ayurvedic medicine views health as much more than the absence of disease. The wise seers and sages of the time, intuitively understanding the physiology and workings of the mind-body-spirit long before the advents of modern medicine, explained the basic principles of Ayurveda.
Yoga – particularly in its formation through the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – is one of the six systems of Vedic philosophy (shad darshanas). These are the systems of Indian philosophy that accept the authority of the Vedas and try to systematize the meaning of the Vedic teachings. The other Vedic systems include Nyaya (Logic), Vaisheshika (Categorization), Samkhya (Enumeration of Cosmic Principles), Purva Mimamsa (Ritual) and Uttara Mimamsa(Vedanta or Metaphysics). Yoga to some extent pervades all the six systems and represents their practical side, outlining the prime principles and methods for developing the meditative mind that is the basis of all Vedic knowledge.
Vata governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system and the process of elimination. Vata influences the other doshas.
Qualities of Vata: Cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, changeable
If Vata dosha predominates, movement and change are characteristic of your nature. You will tend to always be on the go, with an energetic and creative mind. As long as Vata is in balance, you will be lively and enthusiastic, with a lean body.
Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Vata dosha are usually have a thin, light frame and excellent agility. Their energy comes in bursts, and they are likely to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. Vatas typically have dry skin and hair and cold hands and feet. They sleep lightly and their digestion can be sensitive. When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, it manifests in the body as weight loss, constipation, hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, and digestive challenges.
Emotional Characteristics: Vatas love excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, and flexible. They also take initiative and are lively conversationalists. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia.
The Pitta dosha controls digestion, metabolism, and energy production. The primary function of Pitta is transformation.
Qualities of Pitta: Hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic. Those with a predominance of the Pitta principle have a fiery nature that manifests in both body and mind.
Physical Characteristics: Pittas are usually of medium size and weight. They sometimes have bright red hair, but baldness or thinning hair is also common in a Pitta. They have excellent digestion, which sometimes leads them to believe they can eat anything. They have a warm body temperature They sleep soundly for short periods of time and have a strong sex drive. When in balance, Pittas have a lustrous complexion, perfect digestion, abundant energy, and a strong appetite. When out of balance, Pittas may suffer from skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn, and indigestion.
Emotional Characteristics: Pittas have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. When they’re in balance, they are good decision makers, teachers, and speakers. They are precise, sharp-witted, direct, and often outspoken. Out-of-balance Pittas can be short-tempered and argumentative.
Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone, and sinew. The primary function of Kapha is protection.
Qualities of Kapha: Heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily
Physical Characteristics: Kapha types have a strong build and excellent stamina. Large, soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin; and thick hair are also important Kapha characteristics. Those who are predominantly Kapha sleep soundly and have regular digestion. But when Kapha builds to excess, weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body. When they’re out of balance, Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression.
Emotional Characteristics: Kaphas are naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. When in balance, Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. People with an excess of Kapha tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness. In the face of stress, the typical Kapha response is “I don’t want to deal with it.”
Dosha is a Sanskrit word that translates as “mind-body constitution” or “mind-body personality.” According to ayurveda – the 5,000-year-old “science of life” – there are five master elements or mahabhutas that make up everything within our bodies and everything outside of our bodies: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Space carries all the aspects of pure potentiality – infinite possibilities; air has the qualities of movement and change; fire is hot, direct, and transformational; water is cohesive and protective; and earth is solid, grounded, and stable.
Prakriti is your basic constitution. It is determined at the moment of conception and relates to your genetically inherited physical and emotional qualities. Prakriti specifically relates to those qualities, characteristics and tendencies that are stable. For instance, while you may experience temporary changes, like gaining or losing ten pounds, feeling nervous or irritable, developing a cold or flu, etc., in the natural course of life you will never gain or lose five inches on your height or experience a change of eye color. Prakriti is enlivened and described by three main doshas or forces: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are loosely translated as Air, Fire and Earth, respectively. Each of us has all three doshas in our constitution, in unique proportions. In Ayurveda, seven dosha-predominant Prakritis are described: Vata-predominant, Pitta-predominant, Kapha-predominant; three dual Prakritis, where two doshas are equally, or nearly equally predominant: Vata-Pitta predominant, Pitta-Kapha predominant and Vata-Kapha predominant; and one Prakriti that has all three doshas equally prominent: Vata-Pitta-Kapha predominant.