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A Beginner’s Guide to Ayurveda with an Outline of the Doshas

Your guide to Ayurveda includes an overview of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha dosha. 

Ayurveda is an ancient Vedic practice and one of India’s oldest medicines, originating more than 5,000 years ago.

Observing and attuning our sleep patterns, diet, exercise, relationships— all the ways we consume and come into contact with the world— maximizes our potential to feel good and take care of ourselves.

Many factors contribute to an individual’s overall health, including environment, seasons, relationships, diet, exercise, habits, trauma, work, and stress.

These factors affect our constitution and our feelings; they can create balance or disorder. 

A person’s constitution is made up of three unique energies called doshas in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  

Keep reading to see the personality profiles, yoga classes, and food recommendations for each dosha. 

Beginners Guide to Ayurveda

Also called the Mother of Healing, Ayurveda is rooted in the prevention of illness through balance and reflection on each individual’s diet, thoughts, relationships, environment, and activities. 

To create balance and return to a state of equilibrium, Ayurveda holds: like attracts like, and opposite heals.

Ayurveda translates from Sanskrit as ‘The Science of Life.’

The premise of this rich and multifaceted approach to wellness is that when we feel good about ourselves, we’re better able to take care of others and the world around us. 

Check out the blog post below to get quick tips on how to start designing a lifestyle with Ayurveda. 

Outline of the Doshas

Ayurveda focuses on three energies that make up everything we see and every living being.

In Sanskrit, these energies are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The three energies are composed of the five great elements: air, ether, fire, water, and ether. Each person has a unique blend of these three energies.

Vata: air and ether, governed by movement, creativity, flexibility, vision, space, and sound. In harmony, Vata is inspired and inclusive. Out of balance, Vata is anxious, fearful, and flighty.
Pitta: air and fire, governed by digestion, metabolism, direction, absorption, assimilation, and intelligence. In harmony, Pitta is a leader and advocate. Out of balance, Pitta is angry, resistant, and jealous.
Kapha: earth and water, governed by structure, stability, patience, compassion, nurturance, and immunity. In harmony, Kapha is loving and vulnerable. Out of balance, Kapha is lethargic, withdrawn, and greedy. 
Each person is born with a specific Prakriti, or constitution, based on the conditions when born. Prakriti translates from Sanskrit as true nature. 

A person’s constitution is dynamic and changes depending on many variables, including age, environment, mood, diet, activities, and relationships.

Understanding the three energies and their presence in each person provides insight into how to take the appropriate action to come back into harmony with the self. 

If the person has an over-abundance of one of the doshas, activities and diet opposite from the primary constitution create balance. For example, Pitta’s heat and intensity would choose cooling foods and slower-paced activities to settle the fire. 

Individual Dosha Profiles

Read the personality profiles for each of the three doshas to gain a better understanding of the characteristics associated with each.

Vata Personality Profile
Vata—Your ability to imagine new ways of bringing ideas to life is what lights you up!
 

You’re a beam of shimmering energy who enjoys meeting new people, exploring new places, and engaging with the ever-evolving facets of the world.

Vata people have high energy and lots of enthusiasm; you revel in asking questions and quickly digest new information. Your ease of discovering and engaging with new ideas tends to get lost in the ether, as you are just as quick to forget all you’ve learned.

Vata delights in the imagination; the creative spark glimmers in every interaction where the real meets the fantastic. A passion and zeal for music and dance lend an ear for harmony. Vata loves languishing in warm baths, oils, and foods; group activities and work inspire Vata and keep their personality on track.

Vata Body Type

The mind is swift and active in Vata personalities; moods change quickly, and you’re affected by how you feel and react to stressors by becoming anxious or over-excited. In terms of body type, Vata tends to be finer-boned and long-limbed. Vata has trouble putting on weight and is weaker at the joints. Cold feet and hands, dry skin, and constipation or gas are requisites for the Vata constitution.

Vata Imbalance

Vata tends to be disorganized; energy comes in bursts, and when it fizzles out, Vata needs to ground to replenish—which is hard for Vata to do. Vata loves being around people; this personality recharges through being with others and is quickly excited. Vata has trouble sleeping; waking frequently is not uncommon with intense and vivid dreams.

Vata In Harmony

Vata, in harmony, appears grounded and calm as the mind seeks and soars, exploring new ways to create and contribute to the world. Restorative and Yin are two styles of yoga that help ground Vata when out of balance. Gardening walks in the forest, meditation, and Qi Gong are other activities that help ground Vata.

Anxiety is a condition of Vata if imbalances are left unresolved. Unbalanced, Vata is anxious, fidgety, and restless; in this state, Vata forgets to eat and listen to the body. Sleep and stomach issues ensue as a result.

Classes that ground the over-excitement and angst associated with Vata.

Pitta Personality Profile
Pitta—You are a force! Fireworks ignite when you enter the room.

Pitta people are feisty, productive, purposeful, and competitive; this dosha revels in precision and pragmatism, but don’t let their aggressive attitude fool you. Pitta personalities are dedicated and devoted; relationships tend to be intense and long-standing, especially if founded upon relatable work, hobbies, or shared goals.

Fire is the ultimate symbol for Pitta. The Pitta personality runs hot literally and figuratively; Pitta angers easily, forgives quickly, and is highly impatient. When Pitta doesn’t get their way, they keep pushing until they do—or end up avoiding and denying the unsettling outcome.

Time in nature, bright and spacious environments, exercise, and play with pets or children serve Pitta people in taking a break from their single-pointed focus. Pitta luxuriates in making plans, following a system, and building on past processes.

Pitta Body Type

Stocky, well-defined muscles, a proportionate physique, and soft skin constitute Pitta. This constitution has regular bowls that pass easily and moderate appetites. Cool and moist atmospheres serve Pitta, as do colder foods such as raw salads, ice cream, and cold drinks. Pitta tends to get irritable and react emotionally when hungry, so skipping meals is not advised.

Pitta Imbalances

These personalities tend to be so driven and focused on the task at hand; they go into overdrive and can’t slow down or put down what they’re doing. As a result, hypertension and anger erupt. Pitta has difficulty relaxing and making space to unwind; sleep disorders, inflammation, and gastric issues may occur.

Pitta in Harmony

To create harmony and balance, Pitta should avoid all extremes in exercise and food. Smaller meals are advised with cool, predominantly vegetarian, and bitter foods. Many vegetables and minimal sweet, salty, and spicy foods are recommended. Less coffee, teas, and alcohol are advised. In terms of movement, Pitta should balance high-intensity workouts with slower-paced activities such as yoga, meditation, and dancing.

Classes to soothe the intensity of Pitta while gently stimulating the inner fire.

Kapha Personality Profile
Kapha—You are most loveable and loyal; friends and family feel your warmth and reside in your gentle care.

You are calm, easy to be around, thorough, and profoundly thoughtful. Slow to start any new project or commit to a relationship; you’re careful and considerate, revealing a longstanding commitment once you let others in.

Kapha is notorious for their patience and understanding; a quiet and controlled sensibility makes them experts in financial matters and accruing wealth. Routine and pleasure suit your style; you tend to avoid new situations and conflict, withdrawing into a deep depression if triggered. Your emotions are steady; you don’t excite or anger easily and are just as slow to forgive and move on.

Kapha prefers to be cozy, wearing layers and surrounding themselves with nourishing sights and scents. Strong, steady, and reliable, the Kaphic personality also has difficulty letting things go. Fresh air, invigorating music, spicy foods, and lively company help animate Kapha.

Kapha Body Type

Stocky, curvy, and larger-boned, Kaphic people tend to have oily skin and hair. Luminous eyes, white teeth, and a clear complexion add to Kapha’s sweet and demure character. Kapha has slow digestion, in life experience and diet, and is prone to skipping meals. Good stamina and physical endurance allow Kapha to take on any physical activity, but Kapha prefers solo sports, enjoying the time alone. Kapha gains weight easily and likes slower movement and lots of sleep.

Kapha Imbalance

Kapha prefers a slower-paced lifestyle; when imbalanced, over-eating, avoidance of exercise, and over-sleeping may cause Kapha to become overweight. Kapha has many close, longstanding friendships, but when hurt or angered, tends to withdraw and pull away, which may cause depression.

Kapha in Harmony

To maintain equilibrium and balance, Kapha should maintain regular exercise and eat regular meals in smaller proportions. Avoiding fatty, sweet foods in preference for spicy and flavourful foods helps stimulate Kapha’s digestion. Running, vinyasa yoga, and other heat-building activities stoke the inner fires of Kapha’s calm and steady nature to burn off the lethargy and clear the static energy.

Classes to stimulate the inner flame and digestive fires to clear stagnant energy and lethargy.

Eating For Your Dosha

Food has a profound effect on the body and the brain, more so than the activities we choose. Switching up what we eat to suit our constitution is one of the fundamental attributes of leading an Ayurvedic lifestyle. 

By choosing the right foods and flavor profiles, you have the opportunity to boost your body’s immunity and give yourself all the essential nutrients you need.

We created three unique nutrition guides to Ayurveda to explore the diet for each of the doshas. Make yummy meals for yourself or your loved ones to satiate the flavor profiles associated with your constitution.

Learn about the foods that stimulate or aggravate each of the doshas. 

In each of the dosha nutrition booklets, you’ll find:
  • Personality profiles.
  • Activities to create balance.
  • Foods to eat and foods to avoid.
  • Dietary considerations. 
  • Elements: air + ether.
  • Governed by movement, creativity, flexibility, vision, space, and sound.
  • In harmony, Vata is inspired and inclusive.
  • Out of balance, Vata is anxious, fearful, and flighty. 
  • Elements: air + fire.
  • Governed by digestion, metabolism, direction, absorption, assimilation, and intelligence.
  • In harmony, Pitta is a leader and advocate.
  • Out of balance, Pitta is angry, resistant, and jealous.
  • Elements: earth + water.
  • Governed by structure, stability, patience, compassion, nurturance, and immunity.
  • In harmony, Kapha is loving and vulnerable.
  • Out of balance, Kapha is lethargic, withdrawn, and greedy. 
The right question to ask is, what am I feeling right now?

The final word: don’t get attached to your dosha since it will change as you age.

Supplementary Resources 

The Ayurveda Collection contains yoga and meditation classes that help balance the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, & Kapha).

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