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One of the keys to unlocking the magic of Ayurveda is understanding the doshas – energies or humours bearing various characteristics and properties. So what are they, why are they important and how can knowing your dosha type influence your health and wellbeing?
What is a dosha?
Roughly translated, a dosha is life energy that relates to all bodily functions, sensory qualities, some external forces and even our personality and physical characteristics. Each dosha is a combination of several of the five elements – Space, Water, Earth, Air and Fire.
Your individual dosha type determines how an Ayurveda practitioner will approach treatment or recommend care for a specific concern or ailment. Your unique constitution, a combination of the doshas specific to you personally, is known as ‘prakriti’.
Ayurveda’s focus on personalized care
Ayurveda, like many other ancient Eastern medical systems, provides a holistic and personalized approach to health and wellbeing. Ayurveda practitioners see mind, body and spirit as one, and treat the three together rather than independent of one another.
Unlike allopathic medicine it focuses on preventive healthcare – maintaining a healthy body and mind to actively ward away serious illness. It identifies various illnesses and ailments as part of progressive stages towards better (or worse) health.
The dosha system helps practitioners to more effectively target key characteristics and treat them, whilst still maintaining and individualized approach. Each person has a unique ratio of each dosha, so whilst there are shared characteristics between dosha types, the system is perfectly designed to provide personalized care and treatment advice.
The 3 main dosha types
Kapha – Earth, Water
Characteristics: Strong joints and bones, thicker/larger constitution, thick-skinned. Empathetic, caring, patient, kind. Calm, wise, trusting. Prone to weight gain, sluggishness, breathing issues and slow metabolism.
Properties: Controls immune system, lubrication of joints and tissues, physical bodily structure.
Pitta – Fire, Water
Characteristics: Athleticism, quick metabolism, slighter build. Competitive, determined, intelligent and quick-witted. Prone to impatience, conflict, hunger (and ‘hangriness’!), mood swings and impulsiveness.
Properties: Controls digestion, hormone production, body heat.
Vata – Air, Space (Ether)
Characteristics: Slim build, shy, good metabolism. Naturally kind, creative, energetic, easily distracted. Often ‘on the go.’ Prone to poor/irregular appetite, constipation, joint pain, trouble sleeping, overwhelm, forgetfulness and anxiety. Highly sensitive to cold.
Properties: Controls breathing, blood flow, cell division.
Mixed dosha types
Ayurveda is complex and multi-faceted – so it can take some time to really grasp the basic principles and understand how to use it to optimize your health. But where people become even more confused is with the concept of dual-doshic and tri-doshic constitutions. Rather than embodying just one dosha each, some tend to be a combination. In fact, most of us are a mixture of two or all doshas – with one being the most dominant.
Common dosha combinations include Vata/Pitta, and Vata/Kapha. If you are dual-doshic or tri-doshic, you will be a rough percentage of each. The percentages will inform the practitioner’s approach to your care and any lifestyle recommendations they make.
Help to identify your prakriti/dosha type
The first step to accessing the wisdom of Ayurveda is establishing your dosha type or prakriti, which roughly translates to ‘constitution’. Your prakriti becomes the starting point used by an Ayurveda practitioner in determining how they might treat a specific condition or concern, or to inform the advice they give on lifestyle changes you can make to support improved health and wellbeing.
The best way to determine your dosha type is to visit an Ayurveda practitioner, but there are some basic characteristics and traits you can assess independently to see which dosha type you’re likely to be.
Some tips to find your dosha type include:
– Examining your characteristics physically, emotionally and your lifestyle. Which dosha type resonates with you most?
– Considering any medical concerns or ailments you have and which dosha type they relate to
– Seeking out a qualified Ayurveda practitioner who can conduct a thorough assessment to determine your dosha type
– Taking a quiz to get a rough determination of your suggested dosha type (you can take our Dosha Quiz here on Instagram – just head to our highlights to find your dosha type).
Things you can do to balance each dosha
As you can imagine, there are many different ways an Ayurveda practitioner might recommend we balance our doshas – each one specifically tailored to the patient. But there are some broader recommendations we can use to help us stay healthy and support balance doshas for better health.
Pay attention to your diet
Diet is a principal focus in the administration of Ayurveda treatment. Unlike allopathic medicine, where dietetic and nutritional advice is only just becoming more prescriptive, in Ayurveda dietary advice is always tailored specifically to the individual, taking into account other external elements such as the seasons or imbalances. The importance of eating for one’s unique dosha type in line with the seasons and their current state of health cannot be underestimated.
As a general rule, when a person feels imbalanced they should avoid foods that are similar to their dosha.
Foods related to Vata include warm foods, moist foods and well-cooked foods such as stewed fruits, oats and brown rice. Foods related to Kapha include spicy and acidic foods as well as filing foods such as grains. Foods related to Pitta include light, cold foods that are often sweet and energising, such as fruits and eggs. There are also foods to avoid for each dosha type.
Most foods recommended in Ayurveda such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes are agreed in Western medicine to be beneficial for health, too. The recommendations are mostly plant-based, focusing on wholefoods and natural, unprocessed meals.
Alter your lifestyle
Once you have an understanding of your dosha type and how it affects you, as well as any imbalances you may be experiencing, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference to how you feel. This can include waking up and going to sleep at different times, making allowances or setting times to eat, establishing a better work/life balance or incorporating meditation into your daily routine. Your Ayurveda practitioner will provide you with tailored advice based on your current lifestyle and concerns.
Tailored movement and exercise
Exercise and movement are prescribed like medicines in Ayurveda. Depending on your unique dosha type your practitioner may recommend specific types of exercise. For example, Kapha types should focus on exercises that keep them motivated, like high-intensity training and cardio. Pittas should be careful of over-exertion and burn-out – team sports are a great avenue for their competitive nature. Vata types thrive on activities involving constant movement such as running, walking, cycling and yoga, due to their ‘always on the go’ nature.
How can I easily incorporate Ayurveda into my life?
Modern life can get in the way of creating an optimal environment for wellness and good health. Many people find they are too busy to incorporate a strict new routine or a host of new habits into their lifestyles.
The good news is that many in the West are slowly switching on to some of the principles of Ayurveda, such as preventative healthcare through better diet and nutrition, daily movement and remedial massage.
Our Ayurveda-inspired supplements have been carefully designed to be easily incorporated into your busy schedule and are created using responsibly sourced, premium grade ingredients designed to support your body’s natural rhythm for optimal health.