What is a dosha? Ayurveda groups the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth) into three basic types of energy, collectively called Tridosha. These elements make up everything around us. The Sanskrit word, dosha, literally means fault, impurity or mistake. This sounds a bit harsh, but dosha can simply be a way to organize things. When the doshas are in balance, there is no impurity or mistake, it’s just a way to describe one’s nature. When the doshas are out of balance, we would then use it to mean fault. The following are the Tridosha types:
- Vata– ether and air
- Pitta-fire and water
- Kapha-water and earth
Everyone is born with a specific ratio of all five elements, this is known as prakruti. Prakruti is organized by the doshas. The ratio of the doshas you were born with will be balanced for you. Everyone has a difference combination of doshas, which is why one diet will not work for all people.
In ayurveda, like increases like. This is where it becomes important to know your prakruti. We always seek to balance our prakruti. For example, if you are a vata-type person (naturally cold and dry) eating salad in the fall and winter would increase vata qualities. Instead, a better choice would be steamed root veggies with some ghee and warming spices. Qualities of vata are light, cold, dry, mobile, clear, subtle and rough. Vata out of balance may manifest as things like constipation, anxiety or insomnia.
A pitta person (naturally warm and oily) eating fried buffalo wings in the middle of summer would increase pitta qualities. It’s already so hot out, that the pitta person should try to consume cooling drinks and cooling food. A better choice would be a cucumber salad with coconut and cilantro. Pitta qualities are hot, sharp, light, oily, mobile, and liquid. Pitta out of balance may experience heat-related problems such as ulcers, skin rashes or anger.
Kapha people (naturally heavy and cold) consuming ice cream in winter and spring would be increasing kapha qualities. Kaphas should favor warming, light foods and drinks. Light, warming soups are a great choice for kapha people during this time. Kapha qualities are heavy, slow, cold, oily, liquid, smooth, dense, soft, static, cloudy, hard and gross. An unbalanced kapha person might be overweight, experience greed or attachment, and could have lung problems.
So a combination of vata, pitta and kapha make up the constitution, or prakruti. There are seven different combinations that can be made. Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta-Kapha, and an equally balanced vata-pitta-kapha. It’s important to know your constitution so that you can bring it into balance as life and the seasons change around you.