What are Ayurvedic doshas and why do we care?

I’m the first to admit that, fascinating as it is, I have an extremely limited knowledge of astrology, holistic healing and naturotherapy. During the Modo Yoga teacher training, my friend Erin did her presentation on the Ayurvedic doshas, or energetic forces of nature. The what? Yeah, I had never heard of them either, but my curiosity was piqued.

Ayurveda is an ancient science that determines whether or not people are living in harmony and balance (spoiler alert: most of us aren’t) based on the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. It’s the original Myers–Briggs Type Indicator— the OG what cartoon character/movie genre/pizza topping are you.

Erin and I in our home studio, Modo Yoga Griffintown in Montreal.
Erin and I in our home studio, Modo Yoga Griffintown, in Montreal.

There are three doshas: pitta (fire and water), vata (air and ether) and kapha (water and earth). Balancing them is supposed to lead to a healthy life by revealing both your most admirable strengths and your greatest challenges. When the doshas are out of balance, often caused by diet, lifestyle, stress or emotional trauma, they can wreak havoc on your health. You come back into balance by focusing on the opposite of what you’re imbalanced in (e.g. cold vs. hot).

Pitta

This fire (and water) element represents the energy of transformation. It is linked to intelligence, understanding, digestion, thoughts, emotions and experiences. It governs nutrition, metabolism and body temperature. When imbalanced, pitta can cause fiery, reactionary emotions like frustration, anger, jealously and criticism. This can cause inflammatory disorders, which affect organs and tissue.

Vata

This air (or wind) element is all about movement. It is linked to creativity and flexibility, including internal movements, like the flow of breath, heartbeats, blood circulation and the nervous system. An imbalanced vata can feel fear, anxiety, isolation, loneliness and exhaustion, causing physical and energetic fatigue, inhibiting communication and causing abnormal tics, tremors or muscle spasms.

Kapha

This water (and earth) element is associated to structure and solidity. It represents love, forgiveness and compassion, hydrating the internal body, lubricating the joints, moisturizing the skin and upholding immunity. Kapha, when imbalanced, can trigger unhealthy attachment, greed, possessiveness, stubbornness, lethargy and a resistance to change. An imbalance can lead to stagnant and congested organs and tissues — including in the mind.

Before I starting the test, I already knew the result of my mind dosha would come out pitta. I have all the traits of a typical pitta: hyper-organized, Type A, stubborn and with a fiery temper. My body breakdown showed I’m predominantly vata — and imbalanced, at that. Erin, the friend who introduced me to the science, is vata all the way; she’s so vata, she could float away at any moment.

My Ayurvedic results from Sahara Rose and Banyan Botanicals.
My Ayurvedic results from Sahara Rose and Banyan Botanicals.

I took two tests, the Banyan Botanicals quiz and the Sahara Rose test. I like these tests because they evaluate your results, and then tell you exactly what you should do to bring your life back into equilibrium.

At first, I was surprised at how imbalanced my results were. The more I thought about it, the easier it was for me to see the truth; I rarely slept well, I was irritable almost all the time and the smallest things would flare my temper. I’ve been out of my typical work-life routine lately, having taken a month off to study yoga, but having an awareness of my imbalances has helped me make a few really important dietary and lifestyle changes. One of my favourites is that an imbalanced vata body is encouraged to eat more grounding foods — comfort food, here I come!

In all seriousness, one of the best solutions to counter pitta is the breath. In the last week or so, little things have come my way that would have normally sent me spiralling. I am choosing instead to ask myself: What is actually happening right now? Is this important to you? Do you really care? Does this change your life at all? Often times, I notice the answer is, “no.” Rather than creating stories that paint me as the victim, I’ve chosen to take a moment, a breath, and let it go. I definitely have a lot more work to do, but with just this one simple tool, I can already feel a shift in my doshas.

I’ll make sure to keep you posted as I dive deeper into the topic.

So, which dosha do you think you are? Do you think you’re out of balance? Let me know!
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Articles consulted for this blog post:

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