Ayurveda & the Doshas
Ayurveda recognizes that we are all unique. That said, it provides some standard frameworks that can guide us towards living happier and more balanced lives. The primary framework is that of the doshas. There are three doshas in Ayurveda called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We are all composed of varying quantities of these doshas but generally one or two of these doshas dominates. Following the lifestyle guidelines for your dominant dosha is one of the most helpful things that you can do to maintain balance.
There are qualities that dominate in each of the doshas. Ayurveda views these qualities are being crucial. It subscribes to the concepts that “opposing qualities bring balance” and “like attracts like”. Thus, the lifestyle guidelines for each dosha favor activities with qualities that are opposite to those of your dosha and recommend avoiding activities with qualities most like your dosha.
Vata dosha is composed of the elements of ether and air. It has the qualities of being light, dry, cold, mobile, and subtle. This means that Vata people want to engage in activities that are heavy, stable, grounding, and warming.
Do’s for Vata
- Maintain a regular schedule. Vata is irregular by nature and needs regular routines to stay balanced.
- Perform daily abhyanga (self oil massage), especially in fall and winter when the air is drier. This will help to ground you and keep your skin from getting so dry.
- Drink warm beverages.
- Include plenty of healthy fats in your diet (ghee, coconut oil, avocado, …). The will help to nourish and ground you and provide some moisture to the inside of the body.
- Eat 3 meals a day at regularly scheduled times. Have a snack if you are hungry. Vatas can get busy and forget to eat and this is not healthy for them.
- Get plenty of rest. Plan on 8 hours of sleep each night, starting at or before 10 pm.
- Favor healthy cooked foods with a focus on tastes that are sweet, sour, and salty. Foods with high moisture content like soups and stews are ideal.
- Spend time in nature each day. This is very grounding.
Don’ts for Vata
- Keep an erratic schedule. This will make Vata even more irregular.
- Skip meals. This will make you spacey and unfocused.
- Overschedule yourself. This will make sure that you are both overstimulated and exhausted.
- Drink cold and iced foods and drinks, especially with meals. You are already cold, why not add a little more?
- Go on raw foods diet. Raw foods will be harder for you to digest.
- Sign up for a marathon. With all of that running, your small muscles and bones will start to talk to you and they won’t use polite language.
- Travel frequently, especially by air. You can’t get much more ungrounded that that.
- Consume coffee or other stimulants. They will make you hyper in the short term but leave you more exhausted over all.
- Eat on the run. When you don’t take the time to focus on your food, you have a harder time digesting it.
Pitta dosha is composed of the elements of fire and water. It has the qualities of being hot, sharp, light, liquid, and mobile. This means that Pitta people want activities that are calming, cooling, softening, and relaxing.
Do’s for Pitta
- Spend time in the moonlight. The lunar energy is cooling
- Schedule your deadlines to avoid time pressures. Time crunches produce stress and that is anything but relaxing.
- Allow some time in each day for fun. This lightens the mood and helps the mind to relax and unwind.
- Favor healthy, mostly cooked foods with a focus on tastes that are sweet, bitter, and astringent. These are the tastes that sooth Pitta.
- Drink plenty of room temperature water. Cold water in bad for digestion.
- Spend time in nature, especially near water. Nature helps to balance all of the doshas. The added element of the water helps to calm and cool Pitta.
- Be in bed with the lights out by 10 pm. At 10 pm, the evening Pitta cycle begins and we can get our second wind and stay awake and productive for hours. It is much better to be asleep by then.
- Keep physically cool. Keeping physically cool will help you to maintain your mental cool.
- Engage in team activities rather than individual competitions. Competitiveness is sharp and aggravates Pitta.
- Eat when you are hungry. This helps to keep the digestive fire from overheating the body.
Dont’s for Pitta
- Spend time under the mid day sun. The mid day sun is too heating. Instead get out early or wait until the moon comes out.
- Consume coffee and alcohol. These are both heating and tax the liver that already tends to be overheated in a Pitta person.
- Eat lots of spicy foods. This just builds up heat in the body.
- Drink ice water with meals. Ice water may make you feel cool but it hampers with your digestion and will cause issues later.
- Take showers that are too hot. Pitta skin is sensitive and overheating it can exacerbate any skin issues.
- Engage in lots of competitive activities.
- Take hot yoga. There are lots of other styles. Give something else a try. You will be more relaxed when you aren’t adding all of that extra heat
- Schedule yourself to work 7 days a week. Pitta needs time to relax. Even if you love your job, this doesn’t give you time to relax.
- Eating salty snacks. Salty taste is actually very heating.
Kapha dosha is composed of the elements of water and earth. It has the qualities of being heavy, slow, cold, oily, dense, and static. This means that Kapha people want to engage in activities that are warming, stimulating, lightening, and enlivening.
Do’s for Kapha
- Get up and get moving. Perform vigorous exercise daily. This helps to keep Kapha from being so slow and heavy.
- Wake up early. Plan to rise with the sun. The energy at that time of day is lighter and it will make it easier to get up.
- Eat light and healthy foods favoring the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. These are the tastes that balance Kapha.
- Spend time outdoors. The air is lighter and more invigorating than indoor air.
- Spend time with friends and family on a regular basis. This helps to enliven your mood and stimulate your mind.
- Give off your time and energy. Consider engaging in volunteer work. It warms the heart to help others.
- Perform garshana (dry brush massage) daily. This helps encourage lymph flow.
- Regularly clean out your closets and give things you don’t use away. This helps to lighten up your home.
- Engage in a more vigorous yoga practice, hot yoga is for you. Hot yoga helps you to liquefy some of that stored Kapha in the body and it keeps you warm.
Dont’s for Kapha
- Take naps. This just encourages feelings of heaviness and sedation.
- Sleep past sunrise. The energy starts to get heavier from sunrise until about 10 am. This makes is much harder to get up.
- Spend too much time in front of the television. When you are watching television (or spending time on the computer) you are usually stagnant.
- Have dessert after every meal. This encourages weight gain, making you heavier.
- Eat when you aren’t really hungry. This also encourages weight gain.
- Eat oily or fatty foods. Kapha has an inherently oily quality already. It doesn’t need more.
- Devote all of your yoga time to yin and restorative classes. They make feel good but they are also likely to put you to sleep. You need to move more.