Have you ever taken a step back and observed how you differ from your friends in seemingly inexplicable ways? Perhaps you’ve compared yourself to the people in your life, somehow mystified by how or why they do the things they do, or even wondered why you don’t have some of the same qualities that you see and admire in those around you.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, these differences are because you and each of your friends embody a very unique composition of the doshas. This understanding is one of the most magical things about India’s ancient healing science. The wisdom offers us an understanding of our uniqueness, and in doing so, it has the capacity to inspire more LOVE — love through acceptance of ourselves, and of each other. This is key because when we have love for ourselves and those around us, we can show up more fully for our purpose.
Let’s take a deeper look at this ancient way of understanding ourselves and the world around us. What are the doshas, and how do they make each of us so unique and extraordinary?
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the entire cosmos is an interplay of the energies of the five elements: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. Ayurveda combines these five elements into three basic types of energetic or functional principles that are present in everybody and everything. When I say “energetic and functional principles,” I mean that they help govern how the mechanics of the Universe, body and mind work.
Since there are no single words in English to describe these principles, we use the Sanskrit words vata, pitta and kapha to describe the elemental combinations. Collectively, these are known as the doshas, and you are born with a unique ratio of the three, which defines your mind body constitution. This inherent constitution is your constant — it does not change throughout your life, and it defines much of who you are, how you relate to the world around you, and how you experience your physical body.
That magic is that, by understanding which doshas are predominant in your constitution, you can find more acceptance of your body, forgiveness for your habits, and more compassion for any of the imbalances that challenge you. As we dive into understanding each of the doshas, see if you can identify which one you resonate most with. Later, you’ll have an opportunity to take a quiz to find out your unique ratio.
VATA is made up of the ether (space) and air elements.
Like air and space, vata embodies the energy of movement — it is light, cool, mobile, clear and subtle. Take a moment to consider the qualities of wind. Imagine how it feels to stand outside on a gusty day at the beach or in Autumn. Wind is a form of vata, so this gives you a sense of how this dosha, and those who embody it, might behave.
If you have a predominance of vata dosha in your constitution, you are likely inspired, creative, adaptable and spontaneous. You bring vision and ideas to every group you join. The frame of your body may be on the petite side and your body quite thin. Your hair, skin and nails are generally on the drier side, and you tend to feel best in warm, humid climates. While vata is a wonderful dosha to be, emotionally, you may be prone to anxiety, fear or restlessness. Physically, you may be prone to gas, bloating, constipation and joint pain.
PITTA is made up of the fire and water elements.
Like fire, pitta embodies the energy of transformation — it is hot, sharp, quick and spreading. Take a moment to consider the qualities of a wildfire. Fire is a form of pitta, so this gives you an idea of how this dosha, and those who embody it, might behave.
If you have a predominance of pitta dosha in your constitution, you are likely driven, courageous, analytical and goal oriented. Your frame might be more on the athletic side and your body strong. People are in awe of your ability to perform both mentally and physically. Your hair, skin and nails are oily and sensitive to the sun, and you tend to feel best in cool, dry climates. While pitta is a wonderful dosha to be, emotionally, you may be prone to irritability, anger and over-work. Physically, you may be prone to heartburn, inflammation, skin rashes and loose stools.
KAPHA is a combination of the water and earth elements.
Like water and earth, kapha embodies the energy of structure and lubrication — it is stable, grounded and juicy. Take a moment to imagine a lake or ocean at dawn, where the water’s edge meets the earth. What qualities does this conjure up in your mind? Earthen clay is heavy, wet, juicy and slow. When clay is molded, it creates structure. This gives you an idea of how this dosha, and those who embody it, might behave.
If you have a predominance of kapha dosha in your constitution, you are likely loving, stable, patient and loyal. Your body might be be more sturdy or voluptuous — people often say you give the best hugs! Your hair, skin and nails are thick, strong and luscious, and you tend to feel best in warm, dry climates. While kapha is a wonderful dosha to be, emotionally, you may be prone to lethargy, depression and attachment. Physically, you may be prone to congestion, weight gain or a cloudy mind.
The key thing to remember here is that every dosha has its enjoyable qualities, as well as its challenges. No single dosha makes a person more attractive or more successful — instead, they combine to make up different parts of a beautiful whole. Understanding your unique mind body constitution provides you with a new baseline for the cultivation of self love, and a new mind-body awareness that informs your ability to always return to your highest expression of balance. You might also find that with your new understanding the doshas, you have more compassion for the tendencies of the people around you!
You can discover how the doshas are organized naturally within you by taking this Mind-Body Type Quiz by Cultivate Balance. Answer a few simple questions to find out your unique ratio, and then learn how to best support and nurture your predominant dosha for optimal wellness as you read your results.
Here’s to a lifelong journey of knowing — and loving — yourself ever more deeply.
Sierra Brashear, MA, is a Clinical Ayurvedic Practitioner and wellness educator with a focus on women's unique needs. She offers consultations and online courses in Ayurveda through her joint practice, Cultivate Balance. As a graduate of Alandi Ashram’s 2,000+ hour, National Ayurvedic Medical Association certified program, Sierra's Ayurvedic wellness coaching focuses on nutrition and lifestyle choices that align her clients with the rhythmic and elemental influences of the Earth. Sierra is also a doula, founder of Vibrant Souls and co-founder of Moon Bath.