According to Ayurveda, there are five elements that make up the world around us and the world inside of us: space, air, fire, water and earth. They all reflect certain qualities that we experience through our senses. In a way, they express the language of nature. For example, air is like the wind and is constantly on the move, a bit cold, drying and light; on the other hand, fire is hot, steamy and fierce; whereas water is wet, a little cooling and heavy. Inside our bodies, these five master elements combine together and exist as three primary energy patterns.
These energy patterns – or doshas, to use the Sanskrit word – are present in every tissue, every cell and every organ in our body, thereby they govern all of the body’s processes, from bodily functions to our thoughts and feelings.
The three primary energy patterns in our body, or doshas, are: wind or vata – that is cold, dry and light – is the force that controls our movement, regulates the nervous system, and oversees elimination of waste; fire or pitta – that is hot, wet and combustive – is the force that controls our digestion and metabolism; and water or kapha – that is cold, wet and heavy – is the protective force which governs stability, structure and moisture in our mind and body.
Although we’re all born with all three doshas, they come together differently in each one of us, and it is this unique combination that makes us who we are. Typically, every person has one dominant form of dosha that makes up his or her personal Ayurvedic constitution or prakriti.
Once you start to understand your own dosha and its characteristics, you'll start to notice them in your friends and family too.
Let's use an example of a person waiting for a train that's running late. The airy, vata types might start to worry and pace up and down the platform while checking the announcement board. Whereas a fiery pitta type might use the time to their advantage; a quick phone call or checking a few emails. The earthy kapha will use the opportunity to relax and listen to a podcast, read a book or just sit and relax.
Another example can be found in your eatings habits. A vata might eat sporadically during the day, often skipping meals; a hot-headed pitta usually wants to eat at set times each day, never missing a meal, and a kapha type might not to be hungry until mid-morning and can happily get by on two meals a day if they tune into genuine hunger.
Some people are pure vata, pitta or kapha types, others are vata-pitta, vata-kapha or pitta-kapha (here the dominant quality is listed first). More rarely, but possible, is an equal balance of all three doshas in one person – vata-pitta-kapha.
Once you understand what dosha combination makes up your Ayurveda constitution, you can start keeping them in balance through the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle...and maybe even the right cup of Pukka herbal tea; for it is the delicate balance of our doshas that leads to the balance of our health.
If you haven't yet discovered your dosha, Dosha quiz