Ayurveda – Yoga’s ‘sister science’ of holistic medicine and preventative health care describes three Doshas or three constitutional types that each of us have in some combination. The Doshas are a system of classification that help us to understand our essential makeup which greatly influences our physical body, the function of our mind, our behaviors, beliefs and tendencies. Understanding your doshic balance helps you to know yourself better, and when used in a therapeutic setting can become a diagnostic tool to understand the root causes of imbalance, as well as understanding the steps you can take to enhance your health, vitality and self-evolvement.
Your doshic profile is based on your characteristic physical attributes as well as your thought patterns, tendencies and proclivities. We inherit our basic dosha type from our parents. Our prakruti (natural state) is determined at the time of conception and is a combination of the doshic balance of our parent’s at the time; we have a genetic pre-disposition towards a particular dosha and therefore a particular expression of self. Our prakruti is behind our physical structure and our innate tendencies, and influences our choices, our lifestyle and our stages of growth.
As we grow and develop, our choices, the environments we spend time in, and our goals and experiences in life influence our doshic balance. Thus our vikruti, our current state of being, can sometimes drift from the prakruti our natural creative state. When the vikruti becomes altered, this is where a state of imbalance or ill-health manifests. Thus, all Ayurvedic practice is designed to bring the individual towards their natural state of prakruti.
The Doshas are made up of the five Great Elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The three primary active Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is air and ether, Pitta is fire and water, and Kapha is water and earth. Most people will find their constitution is formed by a combination of two doshas, with one slightly or strongly predominant.
Today let’s talk about Pitta. Pitta is the Dosha that is made up of Fire and Water. We all have Pitta within us, to certain degrees. Pitta helps us to digest, transform our food into energy, create heat in the body, and refines our perception and focus. Pitta helps us to transform thought into movement.
Those with a Pitta predominant constitution would tend towards:
Medium build, muscular, warm, moist, piercing eyes, tendency to have fair or red hair, tendency towards thinning hair or baldness.
Tendency to have great focus, very logical, intellectual and perceptive, ambitious and idealistic. Can tend towards impatience, anger, and intolerance.
Very active, often interested in sports/competitive fields, work in the interests of strong ideals, tendency to choose leadership roles and careers like law, finance, sport/fitness, entrepreneurial.
Athletes (strong, focused, competitive), Adventurers (seeking, taking risks), Politicians (leaders, ambitious, idealistic) examples include Madonna (focused, ambitious, athletic) and Donald Trump (reddish, thinning hair, determined, leader).
Understanding your predominant dosha can help you to understand what elements are of principle influence in your body, as well as in thoughts, actions, interests and habits. Balancing the doshas is a matter of balancing these elements and their qualities ie: hot/cold, movement/stability, heaviness/lightness, to make the most of your natural constitution. As well, we can discover through a study of the doshas that when an imbalance occurs, we see too much of a certain element, which can be balanced by utilizing the other elements intelligently. In the case of Pitta, often the imbalance is caused by too much Fire (heat) and/or Water (oil) causing the natural heat and moisture of the dosha to become excessively host and/or oily.
It is interesting to note that our culture is quite Pitta dominant so there is a tendency in the Western world towards Pitta imbalance – impatient, time-conscious, success-oriented, and striving. So, for many of us there will be an element of Pitta in our lives. Here are a few points about the Pitta Dosha…does this feel familiar to you?
Signs of Pitta Dosha Balance
Strong digestion and healthy nutrient absorption
· Focused, goal oriented, decisive
· Good problem-solving skills and lateral thinking
· Keen perception and intelligence
· Bold and courageous
· Bright eyes and complexion
Signs of Pitta Dosha Imbalance
· Angry, irritable
· Impatient, frustrated, easy to enrage
· Critical, judgmental, intolerant
· Argumentative, aggressive, controlling
· High acidity, heartburn, stomach ulcers
· Fitful sleep, disturbed dreams
· Bad breath, sour body odor
· Excessive hunger and/or thirst
· Excessive body heat, sweating, fevers
· Diarrhea, food sensitivities
· Skin rashes, acne
· Bloodshot eyes, poor or blurred vision
· Low blood sugar, fainting spells
· Cold, chilled
· Stiff joints and muscles
· Lack of joy and enthusiasm
· Weak digestion, poor nutrient absorption
· Eyes – experiencing headaches, pressure or blurred vision
· Stomach – experience heartburn, gastric reflux, ulcers
· Digestion – poor digestion
· Skin – experiencing acne, skin eruptions, lack of luster
Balancing Principles – How to Balance the Pitta Dosha
· Encourage principles of coolness, stability, calm
– eat cooling or warm and mildly spicy foods – avoid excessive spices, hot foods and salt
– take cool showers or baths, especially during the warmer months
– avoid excessive stimulants like caffeine
– do not go too long without a meal, eat when you are hungry
· Practice compassion, tolerance and understanding
– meditate daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes
– take a deep breath before responding, particularly in heated or conflict situations
– give yourself enough time to complete tasks and travel from place to place
– volunteer – dog walking, helping out in a soup kitchen, or helping in a community garden are all great therapies for Pitta
– get creative – arts and crafts projects, gardening, music and dance will soothe and inspire the Pitta soul
· Cooling, non-competitive practices
– avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day (10-2pm)
– exercise at a moderate intensity – enough to break a sweat, but not overly perspiring
– choose some non-competitive activities like yoga, swimming, and walks (particularly in nature)
– see if you can refrain from assessing/evaluating yourself in your fitness activities ie: time, reps, intensity etc.