The Sister Science to Yoga Ayurveda

A healing system that originated in India thousands of years ago, Ayurveda bases its holistic approach on the balance of natural elements within the body.

Ayurveda groups the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether—into three basic types of energy that are present in every body and every living matter. The three energy types, called “dosha,” are categorized as vata, pitta, and kapha.

Dosha literally means ‘fault,’ ‘impurity,’ or ‘mistake,’ from the Sanskrit root ‘dush’—to spoil,” explains Dr. Vasant Lad, director of The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mex. The elements are ever-present within us, but as long as they are normal in quality and quantity, they maintain a harmonious psychophysiology. The moment they’re out of balance, they pollute or corrupt the dhatus (body tissues), which then can become dosha.

“In a healthy way, dosha means three principles that govern psycho-physiological response and pathological changes,” explains Lad.

The Three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, Kapha

Vata is governed by the elements of air and ether (space), and as those elements portray, dictate movement and energetic force, communication, and expression. They are also characterized as dry, rough, cold, subtle, mobile and light. Vata energy can get aggravated in the colon, thus causing gastrointestinal problems.

When vata personalities are balanced, they express qualities such as creativity, alertness, and sensitivity to subtle energies. But out of balance, they can be restless, anxious, even thin-skinned and judgmental.

Vata is said to be aggravated by excessive consumption of “light” foods such as crackers, salad, and coffee. Irregular routines, sleeping late, frequent travel, eating on the run, and overstimulation can also perk the vata. The vata type often looks to the future.

For a vata personality, the three main qualities that restore balance are wamth, grounding, and routine.

For instance, gentle yoga such as Yin Yoga or Yoga Nidra soothe vata types. Meditation and walking in nature without music, are also beneficial. Eating in a peaceful environment, regular sleep (ideally in bed by 10; up by 6), eating in a peaceful environment (no phone), go without saying. Warm and “grounding” foods such as stews and soups soothe this airy dosha, and simultaneously raw foods should be avoided, as they are hard to digest.

The elements of fire and water constitute the pitta dosha. Sharp, hot, fluid, acidic, oily, and even pungent, their traits often manifest through metabolism and digestion. They can get aggravated in the small intestine. Pitta types think in the present.

In contrast to the airy vata, pitta dosha personalities are fiery in nature and exude confidence, intelligence, and ambition. Often high achievers, pitta personalities have sharp focus and perform well under pressure. They typically have a medium body frame, freckles, strong appetite, and average weight.

The aggravated pitta can be intense, competitive, critical, and arrogant. And as a hot oven takes time to cool, the stubborn pitta requires time to calm down.

Consumption of coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods can tip the pitta scale, as do overwork and visual exposure to violence. Pitta types should practice calming and cooling activities such as washing the eyes, head, and feet with cool water, taking cool showers, and star gazing before sleep.

In yoga, pitta types benefit from Yoga Nidra, or a balanced practice of 70% asana and 30% meditation, favoring forward bends, backbends, belly-down poses, and simple twists. Elements of cool, calm, and moderation are the keys to balancing the pitta dosha.

Kapha dosha are represented by water and earth, constituting traits that are soft, sticky, moist, heavy, and dull. Considered “lubricating” elements, they accumulate in the lungs, stomach, and chest. Kapha types often focus on the past.

Kapha personalities tend to be the most compassionate of the three dosha due to their forgiving and calm nature. They are most accepting of others, romantic, sensual, good listeners, and deeply satisfied with life.

But once imbalanced, their “heavy and sticky” nature surface through forms of greed, hoarding, possessiveness, lethargy, and depression.

Overeating, emotional eating, lack of physical exercise, and a focus on material gain can tip the kapha balance. The key to health for these types are, intuitively, expression and vigorous exercise.

Challenging asanas including backbends and lateral poses can counter feelings of sluggishness, while eating foods that are pungent, bitter, and even astringent can enliven the senses. Dry brush massages, lively music, and and an early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine without naps help regain balance for the kapha type.

An understanding of your elemental makeup and dominant dosha can work as a pathway towards a healthier, more mindful lifestyle. Understanding dosha acts as an empathetic tool as you connect with those around you as well.

For instance, you’re better equipped to deal with angry or irrational encounters if you felt their pitta dosha is predominant.

From an Ayurvedic point-of-view, you would know what foods would quell their fire, or that a little space or time spent in nature would balance their elements.

Instead of reacting, you might guide the conversation to a more calming setting—like the cool of the night or a natural surrounding.

What Dosha type are you? TAKE THE QUIZ!

There are many Ayurveda self-evaluations available online, but the following simple test will give you a fairly good idea of your dosha. Keep in mind that we all have the three dosha, but in varying degrees. It is possible to have combinations of dosha, with one being dominant.

The next 500-hour Ayurveda Healing Course in Hawaii begins April 2018 at Open Space Yoga. The course material is directly from David Frawley’s Course, and is only offered in three locations nationwide.

Check out and for more information.

After reading each description, circle a number, with 0 being the lowest (does not apply), and 7 being the highest (applies the most). The values 2 and 5 are not used. 

Tally your numbers for each section, and your highest number is your dominant dosha. If the numbers are high and close, you have dual or triple dosha!

Evaluating VATA

1. My physique is thin; I don’t gain weight
      0        1        3        4        6        7

2. I am quick and active.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

3. My skin is usually dry, more so in winter.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

4. My hands and feet are usually cold.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

5. My energy fluctuates and comes in
      0        1        3        4        6        7

6. I usually develop gas or constipation.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

7. I usually have difficulty falling asleep or  
    having a sound night’s sleep.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

8. I am uncomfortable in cold weather.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

9. My nature is lively and enthusiastic.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

10. I have difficulty memorizing things and
      remembering them later.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

11. It is easy for me to learn new things
      quickly, but I also forget quickly.
      0        1        3        4        6        7    

12. I am not good at making decisions.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

13. I am anxious or worrisome by nature.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

14. People think that I am talkative and that
      I talk quickly.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

15. I am usually emotional by nature and
      moods fluctuate.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

16. My mind is restless but also       
      0        1        3        4        6        7

17. I have irregular eating habits and
      sleeping habits.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

Evaluating PITTA

1. I don’t tolerate hot weather.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

2. I sweat a lot.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

3. I can’t tolerate delaying or skipping a
      0        1        3        4        6        7

4. My hair is fine, straight, light, blonde, red,    
    graying early or balding.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

5. My appetite is very good and I can eat
    big meals.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

6. My bowel movements are regular. I might
    have occasional loose stool but not
    much constipation.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

7. I like cold drinks and such foods as ice
      0        1        3        4        6        7

8. I often feel hot.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

9. Spicy hot foods upset my stomach.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

10. I consider myself efficient.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

11. I try to be organized and accurate.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

12. I have a strong will and my friends think
      I am stubborn.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

13. I am impatient by nature.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

14. I tend to become irritable or angry by
      0        1        3        4        6        7

15. I try to be meticulous and am a
      perfectionist by nature.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

16. I get angry easily, but I don’t hold a
      0        1        3        4        6        7

17. I am usually critical of myself and
      0        1        3        4        6        7

Evaluating KAPHA

1. It is easy for me to gain weight but difficult to lose.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

2. Skipping meals is easy for me and does not
    cause any problems.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

3. I tend to have congestion, mucus or sinus
      0        1        3        4        6        7

4. I’m a sound sleeper.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

5. I have thick, oily, dark, or wavy hair.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

6. My skin is smooth and soft with an almost
    pale complexion.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

7. My body frame is large and solid with heavy
    bone structure.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

8. My digestion is slow, so I feel full after eating.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

9. I have a steady energy level with
    good endurance and strong stamina.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

10. I’m sensitive to cool and damp weather.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

11. I tend to be slow, methodical, and relaxed.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

12. I need to sleep a minimum of eight hours to
      feel well the next morning.
      0        1        3        4        6        7   

13. By nature I am calm and composed. I don’t
      get angry easily.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

14. I am not a quick learner but I am good at
      memorizing things and remembering them later.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

15. Many people consider me affectionate,
      forgiving, and peaceful.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

16. I usually oversleep and have difficulty waking
      up the next morning.
      0        1        3        4        6        7

17. I am very reluctant to take on new
      0        1        3        4        6        7

Mary Bastien 

Owner of Open Space Studios, Mary completed her first teacher training with Shiva Rea, Max Strom, and Saul David Rea. She has studied Ayurveda with Kathryn Templeton from the Himalayan Institute and with Vamadevaji (David Frawley) & Shambhaviji. Mary includes most aspects of Hatha Yoga in her class including asana, mudra, mantra,
kriya, yoga nidra and meditation.



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