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The three doshas in Ayurveda

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit language - meaning "ayu" (life) and "Veda" (knowledge). To know about life is Ayurveda. It includes holistic techniques and lifestyle practices that people in India and Nepal have used for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda emphasizes good health and the prevention of illness through a variety of practices, including dietetics, herbal medicine, relaxation methods, and excretory procedures. According to Ayurvedic ideas, these serve to remove toxins from our bodies. According to Ayurveda, good health and well-being depend on a balance between the mind, body, soul, and senses.

Ayurveda can help us understand our physical and mental states by observing our prakriti (nature). The human body is made out of 5 elements. Ayurveda focuses on bringing these five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) into harmony, both internally and externally, and thus to achieve better health. The unique combination of these elements makes up the "doshas" - known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Each dosha has a number of qualities that are expressed in the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of an individual. All of us have some aspects of each dosha, but one or two doshas dominate, informing about health and well-being. Prakriti describes the state of balanced doshas - while vakriti refers to an imbalanced state of doshas, e.g. when our body feels physically and mentally unwell. The aim of Ayurvedic practices is to also create a balance between the three doshas. A disturbance of the doshas leads to symptoms of disease and the deposition of toxic waste products in the organism.

There are three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Vata dosha consists of Air & ether.

Body: thin, light frame, dry skin and hair, cold hands, and feet, light sleeper, sensitive digestion, a tendency to pain, low thirst

Personality: creative, enthusiastic, restless, gets tired easily, sometimes anxious, nervous, and fearful.

How to balance?

  • Get to bed before 10 PM

  • Maintain a regular daily routine

  • Follow the following diet: Warm drinks and food, freshly prepared, little amounts of ghee, butter, olive oil, and coconut oil for cooking

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and chocolate, avoid raw or gas-forming vegetables (broccoli family) and large beans

  • Practice Trataka meditation

Pitta dosha consists of Water & fire.

Body: muscular and athletic figure, good digestion, warm body temperature, strong appetite, digestion and energy, high thirst

Personality: smart, determined and naturally cheerful, courageous, perfectionist, good leader, sharp intellect, is sometimes prone to hot flashes and fever when out of balance and could get irritable and critical.

How to balance?

  • Be careful not to over-work or strain the eyes, especially in the evening

  • Enjoy exercise, but avoid getting overheated.

  • Walking in nature, especially by bodies of water or in the shade of mature trees, yoga, swimming, skiing, cycling, etc. are good choices

  • Protect yourself from the mid-day sun, and get to bed before 10 PM

  • Favor ghee in the cooking along with cooling spices like fennel, coriander, cardamom, and turmeric. Coconut oil and olive oil are also good. Avoid chili peppers, vinegar, caffeinated beverages, and chocolate.

Kapha dosha consists of Water & earth.

Body: large frame, heavy, strong build, large eyes, thick hair. Can be prone to congestion, allergies, and diabetes.

Personality: loyal, patient, generous, supportive, attached. When out of balance, can sometimes show slow speech, a tendency for procrastination, and resistance to change.

How to balance?

  • Engage in physical activity daily

  • Light, warm meals (with lots of green vegetables and beans dominating)

  • Raw honey, taken in moderation, is an ideal sweetener for Kapha balance (not heated much above body temperature)

  • Start the day before 6 AM and take the main meal at noon

  • Avoid tamasic foods and drinks (e.g. peanuts, garlic, onion, mushrooms, and fermented foods or drinks)

Asana & Pranayama to balance dosha disturbances

Just like nutrition, yoga also plays a major role in Ayurveda. The right practice of asanas, pranayama, and meditation can balance dosha disturbances. This might include dynamic exercises that stimulate and energize the metabolism, static asanas that build strength and stability, and slow flows that, synchronized with the breath, calm the nervous system. Yoga practitioners who have predominantly Vata in their constitution should be mindful to include enough calm asanas in their routine for strength and endurance. This helps to calm their often erratic minds. Meditation can also assist here. For pitta dosha, the right mix of all asana types is important to balance dynamism, strength, and regeneration. Practitioners with Pitta dosha may want to focus on poses that help to release excess heat from the body, including those that open the heart and the hips. Kapha types can literally get going with very active and dynamic yoga styles such as Vinyasa.

In Madan Yoga 200hr Yoga Teacher Trainings, students are getting an introduction to the basic principles of Ayurveda, including the three doshas, food, and trigunas, dinacharya (daily routines), and learn about the limits of Ayurveda. This knowledge helps yoga practitioners and teachers to analyze their bodily constitution and incorporate important healthy practices in their daily lives accordingly.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us!


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