There are many aspects to Ayurveda (Traditional Indian Medicine) but the most important to understand is the tri-dosha, because when imbalanced it is the source of all disease and when balanced it maintains health. Kimmana Nichols is our favourite Ayurveda teacher and practitioner. He wrote this guest blog to give you a treasure of information that will get you well on your way to understanding the beauty and power of Ayurveda. Once reading this you will have a clear understanding of how the tri-dosha functions in the world and discover some great tips to create balance in your life.
One possible translation of Dosha is that which goes out of balance easiest; this means that we all have natural weaknesses and strengths, and with this system we can summaries all strengths and weaknesses into 3 categories known as doshas. The doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and all of the world can be divided into these three categories. The necessary understanding to grasp with the doshas, is that everything in the world is made up of all 3 doshas and when Ayurveda talks of your dosha, they are actually speaking of the dominant doshas (strengths and weaknesses) within you. With this understanding we have 7 body types and all the variations in between. E.g. Vata, Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, Kapha, and Kapha. These constitutional types show the dominance in you, giving clues to your strengths, weaknesses and ideal balance plans for life.
When an Ayurvedic doctor looks at you, (s)he sees signs of the three doshas everywhere, but (s)he cannot literally see the doshas themselves as doshas are invisible. They govern the physical processes in your body without being quite physical themselves. They have been called metabolic principles but since they also extend beyond the body and throughout our environment this term is not complete either. The doshas are concrete enough to be moved around, increased and decreased but Vata, Pitta and Kapha only come into clear focus once you begin to view yourself from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Disease occurs when doshas (environmental, mental, emotional, and physical) are not flowing through your body efficiently and get stuck in tissues. This blockage of flow then creates excess doshas and is displaced to other parts of the body where they create an excess manifestation of the function associated with that dosha e.g. Kapha would create excess cohesion causing growth and blockage, Pitta would create excess transformation causing burning and inflammation, and Vata would create excess movement causing tremors and pain.
The beauty of the Ayurvedic and tri-dosha system lies in the fact that it is a variable system and does not label you as one category for life. We are all varying beings that change with the thoughts we create and the lives we lead. What is balancing for you in the Summer may not be so in the Winter and a great system of medicine allows for this variable individuality.
The Dosha categories below are a brief listing to give you an overall understanding of the tri-dosha.
Vata = Governs Movement
Dominant Elements: Air and Ether
Qualities: Dry Light Cold Rough Subtle Mobile Flexible Clear
Personality: Thin body, quick, changeable mind, vivacious manner. These people strike others as unpredictable. Under pressure they grow excited and anxious.
Aggravating Vata: worry, fast, don’t get enough sleep, eat on the run, keep no routine whatsoever, eat dry, frozen, raw or leftover foods, run around a lot (cars, planes, trains or jogging shoes), never lubricate your skin, work the graveyard shift, avoid tranquil warm moist places, use stimulating drugs like cocaine, speed and coffee.
Disease Influence: Pain, spasms, cramps, constipation, nerve degeneration, indigestion (cold deficient type), chills, insomnia, anxiety and depression, arthritis.
Balancing Vata: keep warm, keep calm, limit raw foods, avoid cold foods, eat warm foods and spices, keep a regular routine, meditation and relaxing exercise, dominate in sweet, sour and salty tastes.
Pitta = Governs Transformation
Dominant Elements: Fire and Water
Qualities: Hot Sharp Light Oily Liquid Spreading Sour and Acidity, Red
Personality: Medium body, orderly and decisive mind, forceful manner. These people strike others as intense. Under pressure they become angry and abrupt.
Aggravating Pitta: Drink plenty of alcohol, smoke cigarettes and marijuana, eat spicy foods, engage in frustrating activities, emphasise tomatoes, chillies, raw onions, sour foods and yogurt in your diet, exercise at the hottest time of the day, wear tight cloths, never fast or detoxify your body, avoid cool fresh peaceful places, snack on highly salty foods, repress your feelings, eat as much red meat and salted fish as possible.
Disease Influence: Inflammation, fever, excessive hunger or thirst, heartburn, rashes, acne, early balding or greying, poor eyesight, heart attacks, anger, irritability and impatience, overly driven.
Balancing Pitta: avoid excessive heat, oil and steam, limit salt intake, eat cooling non spicy foods, have leafy greens at every meal, drink cool drinks (not iced), exercise during the cooler part of the day, spend time in visually calming natural environments (e.g. ocean at sunrise, rainforest waterhole), dominate in sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.
Kapha = Governs Cohesion
Dominant Elements: Water and Earth
Qualities: Heavy Slow Cool Oily Damp Smooth Dense Soft Static Cloudy
Personality: Heavy-set body, calm, steady mind, easy going manner. These people strike others as relaxed. Under pressure they balk and grow silent.
Aggravating Kapha: Take nice long naps after meals, eat lots of fatty foods and oils, overeat as much and as often as possible, deny your creative self, luxuriate in inertia, become a couch potato, assume someone else will do it, avoid invigorating, warm, dry areas, don’t exercise, live on potato chips and beer, use sedative and tranquilising drugs, repress your feelings, eat dessert every day.
Disease Influence: Congestion, mucous, blockage, heaviness, fluid retention, lethargy, obesity, chest colds, kidney and gall stones, asthma (wet type), depression, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Balancing Kapha: Get plenty of exercise, avoid heavy foods, keep active, vary routine, avoid dairy foods, avoid iced food and drinks, avoid fatty and oily foods, eat light and dry foods, dominate in bitter, astringent pungent tastes.