Originally published in Yoga Journal on June 9, 2017.
Does Ayurveda make your head spin? Sahara Rose Ketabi, Ayurvedic practitioner and author of the forthcoming Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, breaks the seemingly complicated mind-body science down into terms we can understand.
Most yogis have heard of Ayurveda, the world’s oldest health system and the sister science of yoga, originating 5,000 years ago. The mind-body types, called doshas, are what got me interested in Ayurveda. If you love personality quizzes like I always have, Ayurveda took them to a whole new level. Who knew your personality type could be related to your digestion? (Take our Dosha Quiz now to discover your own mind-body type.)
The word “dosha” means energy. And the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—are derived from the five natural elements—air, ether, water, fire and earth. Vata is comprised of air and ether (think light, flowing, unpredictable). Pitta consists of fire and water (think powerful, transformational, bold). Kapha is made up of Earth and water (think grounded, calm, restorative).
But What If I Feel Like I’m All Three?
What confuses people most about Ayurveda is they often feel they identify with all three Doshas then don’t know which guidelines to follow. That’s totally normal—we are ALL a combination of all three doshas in varying amounts.
According to Ayurveda, we were each born with a unique doshic constitution determined at conception, which is called our prakriti. These are the features that do not change, like the shape of our face, characteristics of the body, and even our underlying character. If you have kids or siblings, you’ve seen how different two people can be, even with the same upbringing. This is determined by the Prakriti.
Then we have our vikruti, which is the doshic constitution we have today. This is affected by our environment, diet, stress levels, activity, sleep patterns, and many other factors. For example, you may be more Pitta and fiery during a stressful time period in your life; you may be more Kapha and grounded during pregnancy; you may be more Vata and airy in a transitional time.
Seeing the World Through an Ayurvedic Lens
As soon as I learned about the doshas, it was like a light switched on in my mind. Suddenly, I saw the world around me from a whole new Ayurvedic perspective. Everywhere I went, I saw these doshas come to life through the people I came across. You probably have to.
Take a yoga class. The fiery Pitta people are the ones practicing inversions all class in the front and going into Plank during every Child’s Pose. You can spot a Vata by zeroing in on the person who somehow manages to be in Half Moon while the rest of class is in Warrior II. And you’ll know someone is feeling Kapha that day if they’re the first to Savasana. This is obviously an exaggeration, but learning about the Ayurvedic Doshas allows you to see the world, and yourself, through a whole new lens. Ayurveda may be ancient but its teachings are just as relevant to modern-day life as they ever were before.
In these series of articles, I’m going to share 10 things each dosha will totally identify with. You will probably relate to all three to some extent, but there one will likely be your go-to. That is your predominant dosha. The one that’s sort of you but not completely is your secondary dosha. And the one that feels least like you is the one you may need to work to evoke more of.
Now that we’ve discussed the doshas from a theoretical perspective, let’s see look at how they show up in everyday life.