Isn’t it funny that even though all humans have 99.99% of the same DNA, we have such different preferences, routines, and needs? Perhaps you love a relaxing, grounding yoga practice, while your friend prefers to run ultra marathons…or you can’t stand the summer, while your sister revels in the heat. Despite our similarities, everyone feels best with a different set of routines and habits.
In Western medicine, we often take a one size fits all approach medical prevention and intervention, expecting 100% success. But in truth, medical diagnoses and interventions are rarely that effective or seamless.
It’s particularly apparent to me when I look at all of the work public health practitioners have done over the years for obesity prevention and treatment. We have yet to find a cure for obesity that is effective in the entire population, and I believe that is because of our individual differences in the causes of obesity and the lifestyle habits that help us feel out best.
In Indian medicine, on the other hand, our personal differences are celebrated and formalized into a classification Dosha system. The three Doshas, Kapha, Pitta, and Vata, represent three general archetypes that can be used to describe people, seasons, time of day, weather, and situations/relationships.
The word Dosha is often translated as your constitution. The three Doshas are present in all of us, but we each have a unique mixture of these Doshas, which results in the myriad of different preferences and needs that are present in all of us. Once we understand which Dosha is most present in our general constitution, we can understand which aspects of our personality or routine are most likely to get out of balance, and take action to keep our three Doshas in balance.
The power of understanding your Dosha is that it allows you to develop general guidelines for how to go about your day and feel your best.
You can use this information to codify your specific needs and get a better idea of which lifestyle habits will bring you back into balance so you feel your best.
Today, I’m going to go through the general framework of the Dosha system so that you can learn how you might tailor your day to your particular constitution. This is by no means a complete description of the Doshas, but it’s a great start towards better understanding your daily habits and preferences.
The doshas explained:
Kapha is ruled by the elements Earth and Water. It is grounding, it is slowness, heaviness, stability. Kapha controls growth in your body. Thick, warm foods are Kapha. Your bones are Kapha. Kapha time of day are those hours between 6-10 AM and PM where the world seems to move just a bit slower. The transition from winter to spring is Kapha time of year. Individuals with a more Kapha constitution tend to have thick, curly hair, are calm and steady.
Too much Kapha can leave you feeling sluggish, heavy, and tired. To keep Kapha in balance, people with a Kapha constitution may require smaller meals, feel better if they wake up earlier to get a start on their day, and need higher activity levels.
Pitta is ruled by the elements Fire and Water. It is hot, sharp, quick. Spicy foods are pitta. Pitta controls your metabolism. Pitta time of day is between 10-2, when you are most hungry for lunch, or perhaps wake up from intense dreams. Summer, unsurprisingly, is the Pitta time of year. Individuals with a more pitta constitution tend to feel hot, have perhaps a more red face, and are of medium build.
Too much Pitta can make you angry, irritated, or harsh. Balancing Pitta in people with a Pitta constitution could be to eat more raw foods and introduce calming practices like yoga and meditation into their daily routine.
Vata is ruled by the elements Air and Ether. It is lightness, airiness, coldness, and mobility. Vata controls motion in your body – your circulation/heartbeat and breathing. Raw, light foods are vata. Vata time of day is 2-6 AM and PM when, during the day, you most need that afternoon fuel and energy. Fall is Vata season. Individuals with a more Vata constitution tend to feel cold easily, to be very active (physically and mentally), quick, and thin.
Too much Vata can keep you feeling anxious, lost, or overworked. Balancing Vata can be done with warm, nourishing foods, and individuals may want to incorporate strength-building or grounding practices into their daily routine.
How to determine your Dosha?
In reading through these descriptions, you probably saw a bit of all three of the Doshas in you. To better understand which of these Doshas are dominant in you, you can take one of many quizzes online. I recommend either of these two quizzes from Banyan Botanicals or Yoga International to help you better understand which Dosha (or multiple Doshas) predominate in your body. I’ll also be posting more about the Dosha system in the coming weeks, so you can better understand how this system can help you navigate your days in balance and harmony.
It’s really important to note that the point of understanding your Dosha is not so that you can label yourself, or develop a rigid way of living your life. Rather, it is to help you appreciate your individuality and personalized needs that guide you through your day. Understanding your Dosha is a powerful way to better connect with your daily habits and routines, so that you have the health, happiness, and energy to tackle your dreams.
So tell me – do any of these Doshas sound like you? Were you surprised at what you found? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach, yoga instructor, and makes delicious snacks to help you eat with intention. Learn more here.