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THE AYURVEDIC TRIDOSHA THEORY EXPLAINED - VATA, PITTA & KAPHA

Below, we introduce the types of physical, physiological and psychological qualities of each dosha as they manifest in individuals. Also presented are common signs of indications doshic imbalances, and the general qualities that work to rebalance each dosha.

It should be noted that the majority of the population are born with a dual dosha (known as Prakruti), and thus individuals can and will have different attributes of each. Therefore, there are different doshic combinations that one can be born with: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata Pitta, Vata Kapha, Pitta Vata, Pitta Kapha, Kapha Vata, Kapha Pitta, and the very rare combination of Vata Pitta Kapha. 

In addition, imbalances (known as Vikruti) can be single a dosha imbalance (Vata, Pitta or Kapha), dual dosha imbalance (Vata Pitta, Vata Kapha, Pitta Vata, Pitta Kap[ha, Kapha Vata, Kapha Pitta, and tridoshic (Vata, PItta and Kapha together).

GETTING TO KNOW THE CHARACTERISTICS OF VATA DOSHA

Vata dosha encompasses the elements Ether (space) and Air, and is the force and energy of movement (voluntary and involuntary), circulation, and transportation within the body. Without Vata, Pitta and Kapha cannot move or operate. 

The Physical attributes of VATA types:

  • Physically undeveloped
  • Flat chest, 
  • Veins, muscles and tendons visible
  • Thin frames; prominent bones/joints
  • Too short or too tall
  • Difficulty gaining weight
  • Can have variations in weight
  • Body irregularities: legs, scoliosis, knock-knees
  • Poor circulation
  • Pulse fast, thin, irregular
  • Crave the sun
  • Love external heat sources: sun, sauna, hot springs
  • Brown complexion; dark skinned
  • Shape of nose bent or turned up
  • Generally do not burn easily
  • Few dark moles
  • Hair curly/frizzy; coarse/rough
  • Head can be oily and/or dry in places
  • May be prone to dandruff
  • Eyes typically blue or grey
  • Eyes may be sunken
  • Eyes lustreless
  • Thin eyelashes
  • Skin prone to eczema and psoriasis
  • Nails rough and brittle; irregular depressions
  • Colour of fingers just below the nails can look bluish/grey
  • Often bite nails
  • Teeth may be bunched or crooked, may have needed braces
  • Teeth may be brittle and overly sensitive to hot and cold
  • Gums may recede early
  • Can have bitter/astringent taste in mouth
  • Jaw can be out of alignment with rest of the mouth
  • If they miss breakfast, they may have a tendency to become hypoglycemic
  • Have a harder time fasting than Pitta/Kapha types
  • Irregular bowel functions, prone to constipation
  • Period can be irregular, missed or scanty; cramps can be painful
  • Joints can make cracking noises
  • Often there is extra weight around midriff
  • Often corns and calluses
  • Chapped lips
  • Body hair neither scanty nor abundant
  • Tongue often coated – thin and adherent – greyish/pinkish
  • Often grind their teeth
  • Prefer warm and dry climate
  • Think a lot about sex and fantasies
  • Usually light sleeper – but sleep varies night to night
  • Wake in morning feeling unrested
  • Frequent sleep-walkers or sleep-talkers


The Physiological attributes of VATA  

  • Appetite/digestion variable
  • Anxious to eat
  • Erratic eaters – often take more than they can eat
  • Often eat too much and get indigestion
  • Often need to snack between meals
  • Crave sweet, sour, salty
  • Find it hard to miss breakfast, yet often skips meals during the day
  • Loves hot drinks
  • Urine production scanty
  • Faeces dry, hard and small
  • Can have life-long constipation
  • May miss menstruation if weight too low or too much exercise
  • Spacing between periods can be > 1 month
  • Menstruation scanty with clots, dark in colour
  • Constipation and cramps before menstruation, sometimes loose stools
  • Abdomen can feel tense and rigid
  • Perspires less than Pitta and Kapha
  • Sleeps less than Pitta and Kapha
  • Sleep may be disturbed
  • Dreams a lot and forget dreams easily
  • Dream about motion, pursuing
  • Hands and feet often cold
  • Expend energy quickly
  • Tendency for overindulgence in sex
  • Tendency for bun-out
  • Highly creative
  • Alert
  • Speak with breathy voice
  • Voice often goes hoarse and cracks with strain
  • Usually very talkative and can talk on any subject


The Psychological attributes of VATA

  • Visionaries, artists, theorists
  • Loves excitement and variation in lifestyle
  • Sensitive to subtle energies
  • Desire harmony
  • Short memory but quick understanding
  • Alert, active and restless mind
  • Open minded – on spiritual path, but willpower can be weak
  • Active and restless, but often low endurance
  • Tends to earn money quick and spend it quick with the result of remaining poor
  • Little willpower
  • Reasoning power is weak
  • Tends towards mental instability
  • Nervous fearful
  • Afflicted by much anxiety
  • Possesses little tolerance, confidence, boldness
  • Sensitive nervous system
  • Often sensitive to environmental noise and pain
  • Thinks predominantly in words
  • Tendency to insomnia
  • Dream frequently, often intense active dreams, often flying
  • May be irritable and quick to anger, but also quickly over it
  • Often appear as ‘space cases’
  • Characteristically are the first to show fear or anxiety
  • Resist regularity
  • Sometimes craves companionship, other times solitude
  • Often fail to complete projects and can start many projects at once


How to recognise a VATA imbalance
As Vata dosha governs so much within the body, it has the tendency to become imbalanced first. According to Ayurveda,  approximately 80% of imbalances are Vata imbalances, while Pitta is 40% and Kapha 20%.

Classical signs (but not a complete list) of a Vata imbalance can include:

  • Nervousness, fear, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, pain, tremors, spasms, twitches
  • Drying tendency – rough skin, arthritis, emaciation, stiffness, constipation, general dryness
  • Excessive sensitivity, excitable
  • Tendency for large intestine disorders and/or gas
  • Lower back pain, sciatica, paralysis, along with various types of neuralgia
  •  Low energy, persistent fatigue and sluggishness 
  • Anything to do with the nervous system – e.g. neuropathic pain
  • Anything associated with immunosuppression or immunodeficiency
  • Dry, flaky skin and brittle, cracking, and peeling nails 
  • Constipation, gas, bloating, and hard stools
  • Irregular digestion that is unpredictable from day to day 
  • Low body weight, inability to gain weight, lose weight very easily
  • Light sleep often interrupted by waking up in the early morning hours (especially between 2 and 6)
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling of being spacey, forgetful, or scattered
  • Excessive thinking, worrying, and ruminating
  • Racing mind
  • Sensitive to loud, sudden noises


What balances VATA dosha
The ‘qualities’ or characteristics of Vata are light, cold, dry, sharp, mobile, hard, rough, subtle and clear, with  bitter and astringent tastes. Therefore, the opposite of these qualities will help bring Vata dosha back into balance. 

  • Routine, grounding, warming, and calming activities.
  • Foods with that are soft, unctuous, smooth, gross, cloudy, warm, stable, with sweet, sour and salty tastes.
  • Medicinal herbs and Ayurvedic bodywork therapies that have the qualities as listed above.


Qualities of a balanced VATA
When in Balance, Vata types are energetic, vivacious, joyful, friendly, open-minded, free in spirit, easily embrace change and learn easily. They are are clear and alert, sleep long and lightly, have a well balanced digestion, good circulation and an even body temperature.

GETTING TO KNOW THE CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA DOSHA

Pitta dosha encompasses the elements Fire and Water and is seen as the dosha of transformation as it has the ability to digest and change our experiences from one condition to another.  Pitta governs our metabolism and converts food into bodily tissues, and is responsible for the digestion of mental and emotional experiences.


The Physical attributes of PITTA types

  • Medium height, medium shoulders and hips
  • Slender body frame, can be delicate
  • Body frame generally well-proportioned and well-balanced
  • Average weight for build
  • Not as flat-chested as Vata
  • Can gain and lose weight fairly easily
  • Deposit fat quite evenly over body
  • Veins and muscles show medium prominence
  • Muscle development moderate
  • Hair is thin, silky, red or brownish
  • Tendency for hair loss and premature greying
  • Eyeballs of medium prominence
  • Eyes medium in size and light in colour
  • Eyes hazel, grey, green, copper brown and sharp
  • Shape of nose sharp and tip tends to be reddish
  • Fingers and toes are medium length
  • Nails are soft, strong, well-formed and a bit rubbery
  • Nails may have a pink hue
  • Complexion may be coppery, yellowish, reddish or fair
  • Skin is soft, warm and less wrinkled than Vata
  • Light coloured skin – pink or coppery
  • Irritable skin, can be worse in summer
  • Prone to rashes and pimples and inflammations like impetigo, red sores
  • Blushes easily
  • Many moles or freckles – bluish or brownish-red
  • Skin tends to wrinkle early
  • Body hair is light and fine textured
  • Lips deep red
  • Teeth medium size
  • Gums tend to bleed easily
  • Tongue occasionally coated (yellow, orange or red)
  • Mouth and tongue prone to canker sore
  • Hate to miss meals
  • Can be irritable if they don’t eat when hungry
  • Characteristic ‘fire’ in their eyes


The Physiological attributes of PITTA 

  • Strong metabolism
  • Good digestion and strong appetites
  • Can usually take large quantities of food and liquids
  • Natural craving for sweet, bitter and astringent tastes
  • Love cold drinks
  • Sleep is medium duration, but interrupted
  • Large volume of urine and faeces – yellowish, liquid, soft and plentiful
  • Body temperature can run slightly high and hands and feet tend to be warm
  • Tendency towards excessive sweating
  • May sweat even in cold weather
  • Palms may be sweaty
  • Do not tolerate sunlight, heat or hard work well
  • Circulation is strong, but can lead to elevated blood pressure
  • Tend to burn easily and may suffer from sun allergy
  • Enjoys stimulants (coffee, tea) and tend to misuse them
  • Rarely constipated
  • Frequent stools, yellowish and well-formed
  • Intense yellow or orange stools indicates Pitta overload in body
  • May feel hot on excretion
  • Many Pittas find milk, dates, sultanas and/or figs act as laxatives
  • Menstruation is regular but can bleed for longer and heavier
  • Menstruation may be shorter than 4 weeks
  • Menstrual blood is intense and bright red
  • When out of balance, the menstrual blood may be bluish, yellowish or blackish
  • Usually loose stools during or just before period
  • Medium strength cramps
  • PMS: irritable, crave foods, there may be flare up of acne or rashes//migraine
  • Prefer colder climates
  • Mixed Pittas don’t find heat intolerable, but prefer cold climates
  • Prefer window open for sleeping in winter
  • Ample sex drive
  • Fertility average
  • Physical exercise ok, as long as they don’t get overheated
  • Naturally competitive
  • Muscle tone and coordination average
  • Sleeps easily, sleeps light, and wake up alert
  • If wake up at night can fall back to sleep easily
  • If unable to sleep, this is usually from over attention to work or from worry
  • Pittas are the least affected of all doshas by bad food combining
  • After a good work-out they tend to be hungry or thirsty
  • Pulse medium: approx. 70 bpm


The Psychological attributes of PITTA

  • Very intelligent and sharp
  • Ambitious, intense and competitive
  • Make good managers and executives; great leadership qualities
  • Strong leaders who can dominate those around them
  • Good comprehension
  • Enjoy exhibiting wealth and luxury possessions
  • Moderately well-off financially
  • Can remember dreams
  • Dreams are passionate and intense, involving heat, light or other energy
  • Usually Pittas are in control of their dream situation
  • Often dream in colour
  • They are concise and one-pointed speakers, know the message they want to impart
  • Can carry a tone of impatience to the listener
  • A Pitta’s whisper can be heard across the room
  • Frequently accused of having a quick tongue
  • Can pace themselves well at work
  • Live by their watch and hate people who waste their time
  • Do not easily forget a slight
  • Outgoing and make friends easily
  • Believe in fair play and a warrior’s courage
  • If angered, can be hurtful and vengeful
  • When in balance, happy, confident and friendly
  • Easily imbalanced by the toxic emotions of others
  • Can be hostile and angry under stress
  • Can be sarcastic
  • Often dedicated to self-growth
  • Can work well with energy and can create a well-organised and balanced lifestyle
  • Money is spent appropriately and not impulsively or excessive


How to recognise a PITTA imbalance

  • Vanity, intolerance
  • Pride, aggressiveness
  • Stubbornness, hatefulness
  • Jealousy and excessive anger
  • Acid indigestion, sourness or burning in mouth (or burps), small intestine, stomach
  • Burning feeling in eyes
  • Fainting, excessive perspiration, restlessness, increased thirst, desire for cold drinks & even delirium
  • Heat stroke is more common in Pittas
  • Anger, grief, excess physical extension & too much salty, pungent and dry or heating foods
  • Inflamed skin rash, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores
  • Inflammation in the body – e.g. joint inflammation with rheumatoid arthritis, digestive inflammation with irritable bowel syndrome 
  •  Acne 
  • Acid reflux and heartburn, stomach ulcers 
  • Hyper-metabolism  
  • Constant feeling of hunger 
  • Loose stools and diarrhoea 
  •  Excess body heat 
  •  Frustration, anger, irritability, jealousy 
  •  Perfectionism, impatience 
  •  Red and inflamed eyes 
  •  Light sensitivity 
  •  Extremely high libido 
  •  Impotency


What balances PITTA dosha
The ‘qualities’ or characteristics of Pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy, spreading and liquid, and salty, sour and pungent in taste. Therefore, the opposite of these qualities will help bring Pitta back into balance.

  • Cooling, grounding, balancing, calming, moderately-paced, and non-competitive activities.
  • Heavy, cool, dry, dull, hard, stable, static, gross and cloudy foods with bitter, astringent and sweet tastes.
  • Foods, medicinal herbs and Ayurvedic bodywork therapies that have the qualities as listed above


Qualities of a balanced PITTA
When in Balance, Pitta types are focussed, have a strong intellect, good discernment, a strong digestion, have a radiant energy, glowing skin, can sleep well through the night and have inner peace. and happiness.

GETTING TO KNOW THE CHARACTERISTICS OF KAPHA DOSHA

Kapha dosha encompasses the elements of Water and Earth and is considered as the dosha of binding, form and structure. Kapha dosha provides stability, grounding, and stamina while Vata and Pitta are more associated with movement. Kapha helps one feel grounded, calm, content, and compassionate, gives us the ability to taste our food, builds and nourishes body tissues, lubricates joints and mucosal linings, and protects the physical systems of the body.


The Physical attributes of KAPHA types

  • Well developed bodies
  • Strong tendency to carry excess weight
  • Chest expanded and broad
  • Veins and tendons not obvious
  • Muscle development good
  • Excellent muscle tone
  • Naturally coordinated
  • Rarely feel hungry after exercise
  • Wide hips and shoulders – store energy
  • Complexion fair and bright
  • Skin soft, lustrous and oily
  • Skin pale
  • Skin is cool, but not cold
  • Hair thick, dark, soft and wavy
  • Hair dark brown/chocolatey and thick and slightly wavy (borders on coarse)
  • Eyes generally very attractive
  • Eyes large and liquid – blue or milk chocolateJoints well lubricated & deep set
  • Eyes dense and black or blue
  • White of eye generally very white
  • Teeth large, gleaming; rarely need attention
  • Tongue rarely coated when healthy
  • Fingers and toes short/squarish
  • Nails strong, large and symmetrical; can be thick and pale in colour
  • With moderate exercise can keep moderate weight
  • Gain weight easily and specifically on the lower body parts
  • Enjoys sun and burn after overexposure
  • Rarely have cold hands/feet
  • May have a few freckles
  • Oily smooth and thick skin
  • Moderate body hair
  • Lips full and moist
  • Sweat moderately, even in climatic extremes


The Physiological attributes of KAPHA

  • Regular appetite
  • Digestion relatively slow
  • Tend to move slowly
  • Craves pungent, bitter, astringent foods
  • Perspiration moderate
  • Generally happy, healthy and peaceful
  • Appetite moderate and stable
  • Can go the whole day on juice alone
  • Can easily skip breakfast
  • Bowels regular – 1/day
  • Stools well-formed, rarely hard
  • Stools soft and may be pale in colour
  • Evacuation is slow
  • When constipated, respond to medium strength laxatives
  • Effortless and regular menstruation
  • Average amount of menstrual blood
  • Imbalance can add mucus to menstrual blood
  • Period cramps are mild and dull
  • Prone to water retention
  • PMS: water retention, bloating, swollen breasts, vaginal itches, slow digestion and lethargy
  • Not greatly disturbed by any climate but prefer warm weather and low humidity
  • Enjoy sex but are not fascinated by it
  • Can be aroused but remain passionate for a long period of time
  • Sleep soundly and prolonged
  • Drop of to sleep easily and wake rested and alert
  • Gladly sleep many hours at a time
  • Rarely have trouble sleeping
  • Dreams are cool, calm, quiet, uneventful
  • Do not bother to remember their dreams unless the dreams are intensely emotional
  • Speak slowly and cautiously
  • Don’t volunteer much information
  • Tone is lower in pitch than Vata or Pitta
  • Like to avoid confrontation
  • Strong disinterest in change
  • Predominantly calm and quiet; steady and serious
  • Enjoy home and family
  • Stable personalities
  • Study each subject carefully before committing to anything
  • Innately more compassionate than Vata or Pitta
  • Think in emotions and ‘feel’ connection between words and forms
  • Manage well and are good managers but not leaders or theorists
  • Slower to learn but once learned, never forget
  • Once angered, never forget a slight
  • Can dig themselves into ruts
  • Not motivated to exercise until they start to exercise


The Psychological attributes of KAPHA

  • Tolerant, calm, forgiving
  • Greed, attachment, possessiveness, envy
  • Tend to be wealthy
  • Good at holding onto their money
  • Withdraw when confronted
  • Can procrastinate when under pressure
  • Express through thought and emotion
  • Very loyal
  • Are ‘in it for the long term’


How to recognise a KAPHA imbalance

  • Excess mucous in the respiratory system and in stools
  • Thick, white coating (ama) on the tongue
  • Infrequent and sluggish bowel movements (e.g. consistently not having a bowel movement every day)
  • Emotional eating
  • High body weight, difficulty losing weight and easily gains
  • Difficulty waking in the morning and from naps
  • Feeling slow, foggy, dull, lethargic, or heavy in mind and/or body
  • Feeling overly attached and possessive of people, things, or experiences
  • Stubbornness, complacency
  • Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, enlarged prostate


What balances KAPHA dosha
The ‘qualities’ or characteristics of Kapha are oily, heavy, cold, dull, stable, slow, soft, smooth, dense gross and cloudy, sweet, sour and salty in taste. Therefore, the opposite of these qualities will help bring Kapha back into balance.

  • Fun, varied, enlivening, stamina focussed and orientated activities.
  • Light, warm/hot, sharp, hard, pungent, liquid, subtle, clear foods with bitter, astringent and pungent tastes.
  • Foods, medicinal herbs and Ayurvedic bodywork therapies that have the qualities as listed above.


Qualities of a balanced KAPHA
When in Balance, Kapha types are stable in temperament, have a good long-term memory, good strength and stamina, a healthy and robust physiology, are team players, are reliable and enjoy sound sleep, are compassionate, loving, nurturing and affectionate.

If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.

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Disclaimer:
The above information is for information and educational purposes. As such we are not, diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before taking any form of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

 

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