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The Three Doshas

Written by John Immel, Asheville, NC
What's Your Dosha?

Body Types & Constitution

The three body types in Ayurveda, called doshas, are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Your body type shows you how you use energy. Vata spends energy, Pitta manages it, Kapha stores it. That's why Vata tends to be underweight and depleted, Pitta tends to be medium weight and focused, and Kapha tends to be overweight and congested.

We all know what red looks like but it's difficult to talk about. Similarly, talking about dosha can seem confusing at first. For example, everyone has all three doshas. Even if one dosha is the cause, often all three go out of balance simultaneously. Sometimes, asking "What dosha is causing my imbalance?" can yield more practical results than "What's my dosha?"

Your constitution is simply your background and general tendencies. If a person has a Vata body type, they have the gifts of Vata but also the tendency to get Vata type illnesses. Your dosha can be inferred, but your imbalances can be experienced. That's why starting with your imbalances often leads you to discovery of your doshas.

Dosha affects your body physically, mentally, and spiritually. Vata people tend to be hyperactive and inspired. Pitta people tend to be disciplined and logical. Kapha people tend to be couch potatoes, but nurturing. Dosha is just a broad approximation. The benefit of dosha is perspective, like looking at the forest instead of the trees. Every individual has a different constitution and perfect health is different for each person. In the early morning, you can feel your constitution just to the right of the heart as a wish. Your wish shows you how you use your energy and spend your time, thus revealing your dosha.

Buffering Change

Every day, your body must react to change. In Ayurveda, a disease is any change from "normal" in the body. The body uses various mechanisms to buffer changes and self-regulate. These mechanisms leave behind chemical and metabolic residues which Ayurveda calls "aggravated" dosha. Dosha is therefore the body's preventative medicine, which provides a cushioning effect. Doshas and qualities accumulate in the body until they begin to overwhelm tissues and cause symptoms. For example Vata has the quality of dryness and includes the mechanisms used to defend the body against the dryness. Drinking less water, skipping a meal, and exercise all cause dryness and thus Vata to accumulate.

The natural changes required of the body to accommodate seasonal climates leave behind residues and accumulation of dosha, which eventually weaken the body. Ayurveda recommends a seasonal cleanse to remove all residue.

Balancing the Doshas

Ayurveda helps people heal by balancing the doshas. When the doshas are balanced, the body is in homeostasis (a state of zero change), and that is a state of perfect health. In this state of balance, the doshas are silent. When the body is healthy it automatically repairs and protects itself. When doshas are aggravated or provoked, they stress the body and cause disease. For example, beans aggravate Vata. Chilies provoke Pitta.

Generally, to balance dosha, Ayurveda uses opposites. If the body is cold, Ayurveda recommends heating foods. Ayurveda also uses the six tastes to balance the doshas. In a consultation you'll learn techniques to find your state of perfect health. If you don't know your body type yet, take the quizzes on Joyful Belly to find out. If you do know your body type, start catering to its digestive needs by click one of the links below!

How to Eat Right for Your Body Type

Find the Right Lifestyle for Your Body Type

How Does Your Body Type Affect Digestion?


Vata in its prime is creative, imaginative, vivacious, and outgoing. Vata folks are always up for an adventure and easily adapt to change. They enjoy being on the go, but need to be sure to take time to slow down and rest, as they tire easily and are prone to overstimulation. When Vata is out of balance, individuals become anxious, scatterbrained, dehydrated, constipated, and exhausted. They are best soothed by routine, warmth, good quality oils in their diet and on their skin as well as grounding foods like root vegetables, whole grains and animal products.

What is Vata?

Vata is the force of propulsion. It governs all movement, including muscles, nerve impulses, and thoughts. Vata literally means "wind." Vata is a subtle dosha that goes out of balance easily. Vata people often suffer from depletion of nutrients. Their behavior is creative when balanced and erratic and dispersed when imbalanced. Vata is the element of ether and air in the body. Ether has a spacey quality and air has movement. Vata senses are hearing and touch.

Vata Characteristics

  • Light body weight
  • Talk and walk quickly
  • Creative and imaginative

Vata Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Irregular schedule and appetite
  • Gas, bloating, and constipation
  • Dry skin

Vata Disorders

  • Colon disorders, including constipation
  • Dryness, including dry skin and gas
  • Underweight
  • Arthritis
  • Nervous system disorders, worry, anxiety, and stress
  • And many others...
Famous Vata People

Vata Treatments

Avoid These Foods

Vata Aggravating Foods

Avoid Food With These Qualities

Favor this Lifestyle

  • Routine sleeping and eating schedule
  • Keep warm, comfortable, and hydrated
  • Avoid raw foods and too much cleansing
  • Increase sweet, sour, salty, and pungent taste
  • Massage yourself daily with Vata oil
  • Keep the colon clean with herbs like triphala

Favor this Diet

Favor these Herbs

  • Triphala - Keeps the colon clean
  • Haritaki - Keep the colon clean
  • Ashwagandha - Strengthen your body
  • Hingvastak Churna - Warm Digestion
  • Ghee - Nourish Tissues
  • Dashamoola - Relax, Reduce Anxiety
  • Licorice root - Moisten Tissues
  • All Vata Pacifying Products
  • Vata Times of Day

    Vata comes at the end of digestion, the end of the day, the end of the year, and the end of a person's life. Vata naturally increases during the following times:

    Autumn - Vata gets high in the autumn due to cold, dry, and mobile qualities. Autumn is mobile because the weather is irregular and windy.

    Before sunrise and sunset - In the late afternoon, before sunset, Vata is high because the body is weary and deficient from a long day's work. In the early morning before sunrise, Vata is high because the nervous system stimulates the body to wake up.

    5-6 hours after a meal - Five to six hours after a meal, Vata rises when blood sugar levels dip and the body gets hungry.

    After 50 - Vata is deficiency and the body becomes deficient in later years of life.

    Vata Sites of the Body

    Colon - The body reabsorbs moisture from feces before elimination in the colon. When the body is dry it struggles to absorb more water, leading to dryness in the colon. The signs of dryness are gas and constipation.

    Waist & Lower Half of the Body - When Vata is high, the body becomes more mobile and the mind more active. We tend to forget about the lower half of the body.

    Bones - In Ayurveda, the colon is the site of mineral re-absorption. Mineral deficiencies show up as white spots on the nails, hair loss, or arthritis. Problems with bones, nails, and hair are due to high Vata.

    Skin - When ama from the colon vitiates the blood, the kidneys try to eliminate the toxins through the urinary tract. The result is excess loss of fluids leading to dry skin. Vata is also the dosha of touch.

    Ears - Ringing in the ears is due to high Vata. When the quality of the blood is poor due to ama, the sense organs get stimulated. The ears are especially sensitive. Many Vata people are musicians.

    Mind - When Vata is high, the mind becomes stimulated, anxious, or afraid. Vata people often experience racing, disjointed thoughts. They are highly imaginative and quick to understand, but are also quick to forget.

    About the Author

    John Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.

    John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

    John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.

    READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC
     
    Vata Dosha
     
    Pitta Dosha
     
    Kapha Dosha
     
    How to Eat Right for Your Body Type (Dosha)
     
    How Does Your Body Type Affect Digestion?
     
    Find the Right Lifestyle for Your Body Type (Dosha)
     
    Introduction to an Ayurvedic Diet
     
    The Five Elements of Ayurveda
     
    The Heart of Preventative Medicine
     

    * These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information and products on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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