Day Two: The Doshas
An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of sync, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.
According to Ayurveda there are five master elements or mahabhutas that make up everything within our bodies and everything outside of our bodies: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Space carries all the aspects of pure potentiality—infinite possibilities; air has the qualities of movement and change; fire is hot, direct, and transformational; water is cohesive and protective; and earth is solid, grounded, and stable.
Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda further describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces, or doshas, that shapes our nature. They are most easily thought of as mind-body principles that govern our style of thinking and behaving. Vata dosha, woven from the elements of space and air, regulates movement and change in our minds and bodies. Pitta dosha, comprised of fire and water, governs digestion and metabolism. Kapha dosha, made from earth and water, maintains and protects the integrity and structure of our mind and body.
If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that dominate. For each, there is a balanced and imbalanced expression.
When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When Pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when Kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain, and sinus congestion.
A simple questionnaire can help you determine which ayurvedic element is most lively in your nature. Take the Dosha Quiz here. Answer the following questions as honestly as possible and see which element(s) receives the highest score. Remember that all three doshas are present in every cell, tissue, and organ—for movement, metabolism, and protection are essential components of life. What makes life interesting is that although everyone has all three doshas, each of us mixes them together in a unique way, which determines the distinctive qualities of our mind and body.