In Ayurvedic Medicine there are three metabolic body types associated with the five elements of ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. Each of us is born with what is our natural Dosha constitution, in which our physical selves will have one or two dominant Doshas. During times of illness, disease, and mental or emotional stress our natural constitution becomes imbalanced. The word Dosha दोष means defect or flaw and refers to the five flaws of human nature: lust, anger, greed, fear, and delusion, for these flaws can easily throw our natural healthy states into disharmony. This concept is very similar to the three roots of illness in Tibetan Buddhist Medicine.
The three Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata वात means wind and has the elements of ether and air. Pitta पित्त means bile and has the elements of fire and water. Kapha कफ means phlegm and has the elements of water and earth. Each Dosha has its natural qualities, and as with the Gunas of Ayurveda there are foods that are associated with each Dosha:
- Vata: cold, dry, light, moving, flighty, spiritual, thin
- Pitta: hot, oily, light, fiery, vibrant, successful, aggressive
- Kapha: cool, oily, heavy, stable, slow, methodical, greedy
- Vata: bitter, astringent, pungent/spicy, raw
- Pitta: sour, pungent/spicy, salty, fetid, warm
- Kapha: sweet, salty, sour, creamy, heavily cooked
Ayurvedic Medicine follows the principle of “like increases like,” and depending on each of our constitutions, we want to nurture our natural healthy states by taking in more foods that are unlike our constitutions. For example, if you are mostly Vata and are healthy (i.e. have no illness or imbalances) then eating more moist, sweet, heavy, warm, and salty foods than others will help to keep your body and mind healthy, grounded, and in balance.
And what if we are not healthy in body and/or mind? Though there are many lists out the that we can look at to try to determine our natural constitutions, it is best to seek out an Ayurvedic Practitioner for a proper evaluation. Besides their expertise, we may have imbalances that we are not fully aware of, or think that they are just how we are mistakenly thinking that that is part of our constitution. For example, if you are mostly Kapha, but think your tendency for rashes or to get angry easily is your natural state, you may think you are mostly Pitta. However, these may actually be signs of imbalance, and if you try to self-treat through a diet for Pitta types, you can make things worse.
Though we all have some of all three Dosha qualities, it is our dominant one or two Doshas that determines our individual type. The types are: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta-Vata, Pitta-Kapha, Kapha-Vata, and Kapha-Pitta. In additon, there are also some of us whose natural constitution is an even combination of all three Doshas. This is called Tridoshic or Tridhatu त्रिधातु, meaning threefold.
Just as there are Gunas in Vedic Astrology, the Doshas have an astrological influence too, with the zodiac signs (Rashis) and planets (Grahas) having their own dominant Dosha:
- Vata Signs: Taurus/Vrishibha, Virgo/Kanya, and Capricorn/Makara
- Vata Planets: Saturn/Shani, and Rahu
- Pitta Signs: Aries/Mesha, Leo/Simha, and Sagittarius/Dhanus
- Pitta Planets: Sun/Surya, Mars/Mangala, and Ketu
- Kapha Signs: Cancer/Karkata, Scorpio/Vrishchika, and Pisces/Mina
- Kapha Planets: Moon/Soma, Venus/ Shukra, and Jupiter/Guru
- Tridhatu Signs: Gemini/Mithuna, Libra/Tula, and Aquarius/Kumbha
- Tridhatu Planets: Mercury/Buddha
In our birth charts the Doshas of our Ascendant, its ruling planet, and the ruler of the sixth house (health, disease, and hygeine) can give us a heads-up to potential imbalances in our bodies. (To find your Vedic astrological Ascendant sign and sixth house ruler, a birth chart needs to be drawn up.)
Since I know some of you are going to ask… Both my Ascendant and sixth house are ruled by Mars indicating I have a tendency for heat-related afflictions, and for a long time I thought I was a Pitta type until I went to see an Ayurvedic Practitioner. He asked me many questions, looked at my tongue and eyes, and then took my many pulses for about 15 minutes. It turns out I am Vata-Pitta, and this revelation allowed me to properly address the heat conditions I was experiencing.