Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Are you Vata, Pitta or Kapha? Unless you’ve already heard about the Ayurvedic constitutions, or about the Doshas, you’re probably wondering what I’m going on about! In this blog post, I’ll give you all the need-to-know basics and reveal how you can find out your Ayurvedic constitution for yourself.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a healing system that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. This means it’s thought to be one of the first known healing systems in the world. Ayurveda, which can be translated as 'The Science of Life', is known for its holistic and preventative approach to health. It shares roots with yoga and meditation, which are often used as part of Ayurvedic treatment.
Ayurveda might have its roots in India but its wisdom has traveled far and wide. It’s gaining ever more traction in today’s world when people are looking for more holistic and natural solutions to health issues. For example, you might have heard of people using turmeric for its health benefits or oil pulling as part of a dental care routine. These practices come from Ayurvedic wisdom.
How does Ayurveda work?
The thing you have to know about Ayurveda is that it’s not meant to replace Western medicine; it’s complementary medicine. But where conventional medicine tends to treat symptoms of disease, Ayurveda aims to restore balance before disease appears–it uses a more preventative approach.
A big part of this preventative approach to health is a focus on restoring proper digestion. Why? Ayurveda views the digestive system as the secret to health. That’s why an Ayurvedic approach centers on restoring the agni–our digestive fire that powers us through life.
The other thing you need to know is that Ayurveda is all about taking a holistic approach to health. So if you have a physical symptom, an Ayurvedic practitioner–like myself–will search for the links to what’s going on for you in every aspect of your life. They will consider you as a whole person with a rich life experience and history and all of this is taken into account when treating issues.
In a nutshell, Ayurveda is all about maintaining good health and promoting longevity by keeping the body, mind and spirit balanced. And this mind-body-spirit balance can be restored by using Ayurvedic practices, recipes and remedies. But–and this is a big but–there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone to achieve this desired balance. Ayurveda sees us as unique, which is where the Ayurvedic constitution comes into the picture. Also, imbalances are affected by the seasons and stage of life you find yourself in. This means that the methods to restore balance need to be personalized according to your individual constitution and current needs.
What are the different Ayurvedic constitution types?
Your Ayurvedic constitution is your blueprint to restoring balance and achieving optimal health. So you’re probably wondering what your constitution is, right? Well, to understand this, you need to know about the three Doshas, which define your Ayurvedic constitution.
The three Doshas
The Doshas are the entry point to understanding Ayurveda and getting to know yourself better in the process. But what exactly are Doshas?
To understand the Doshas, first you need to know that Ayurveda considers that everything in nature is made up of the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. According to Ayurveda, when you combine these elements, the result is three different energies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. You can see these energetic forces in action everywhere in nature, including our bodies and minds.
As we are also part of nature, each of us has a unique combination of the three Doshas made up of a combination of the five elements. Some of us are predominantly one of the Doshas, for example Vata. While others are a combination, for example Vata-Pitta. It's also possible to be tridoshic–a combination of all three Doshas. The bottom line is that we each have all of the Doshas in us, but in varying quantities, which defines our Ayurvedic constitution.
Your Prakriti and Vikruti
Before we dive into the three Doshas, we need to quickly touch on a super important piece of the puzzle. The Dosha you’re born with is known as your Prakriti, your natural Doshic constitution that’s your genetic make-up and can’t be changed. This includes predetermined characteristics such as your hair color, skin color, height and so on. How can you find out your Prakriti? A session with a trained Ayurvedic Practitioner is the best way to find this out.
But–and this is where things get really interesting–as your life unfolds, your constitution can be affected by diet, lifestyle, seasons and various other factors. This means that the Doshic constitution you have today, known as your Vikruti, can be different to your Prakriti. In this way, your Vikruti is who you are today based on your diet and lifestyle choices. What affects your Vikruti? Well, just about everything: your age, physical movements, living environment, stress, diet and so on. These influences can also end up in imbalance. If nothing is done to restore proper functioning, that is! This imbalance can affect your digestion, energy, sleep, mood and many other aspects of your well-being.
Here’s an example: you might be born Pitta (your Prakriti) but due to your lifestyle and diet your Kapha goes out of balance and you might notice signs and symptoms that are different from your original constitution. It makes sense then, that the aim of Ayurveda is to bring you back to your Prakriti–who you really are–with the help of Ayurvedic practices.
Ready to find out more about three Doshas and start seeing which you most resonate with? Let’s take a look at each one in turn.
Vata is the Dosha that’s made up of the elements Air and Ether. These elements mean that some of the characteristics of Vatas are dry, cold and moving. What does this look like on a physical and mental level?
Physically, Vatas tend to be slim, lean and small-boned and struggle to put on weight, even when they eat lots. They can be either very tall or very small with joints that crack. Vatas often experience dry hair, skin and nails and easily feel the cold.
Mentally, Vatas are active, flexible, creative and enthusiastic. They love thinking outside the box and so are drawn to arts, spirituality and philosophy. Vatas are dynamic beings: they talk quickly, have lots of ideas, love change and don’t really enjoy routines.
Because of all this airy, moving energy, Vatas can easily get stuck in their heads and experience anxiety and insomnia. Due to the speed they move at, they can find themselves living in the future and worrying about things that might not even happen! When Vata is high, sitting still in meditation can be a struggle. Physically, a Vata imbalance can look like dry skin or digestive issues like constipation.
When the elements Fire and Water intertwine, the resulting Dosha is Pitta. Pitta represents the principle of transformation and has fiery, sharp and oily characteristics.
Physically speaking, Pittas are medium-built and naturally athletic, seeming to put on muscle effortlessly. Their skin and hair has a tendency to be oily and they often find they get breakouts. They don’t do well in hot weather; they sweat a lot and tend to have skin that burns easily. Pittas also have a strong digestion and appetite and tend to get 'hangry' if they skip a meal.
When it comes to their personality, Pittas are the driven and sharp ones among us. They are organized and thrive in structured environments. When they start a task, they’ll methodically work through it until it’s done. Pittas often find themselves naturally drawn to leadership roles and achievement-oriented pursuits and careers.
It may come as no surprise that the fiery nature of Pitta makes inflammation and acne a Pitta imbalance. Loose stools and heartburn are also common. Mentally speaking, a Pitta imbalance can manifest as anger and impatience–they can struggle to cool down in this way! If out of balance, Pitta’s intensity can result in overworking, not sleeping enough and working out too intensely as they can have a hard time knowing when to stop.
And then there’s Kapha, the Dosha that’s made up of the elements Earth and Water. Kapha is the principle of cohesion and structure, with its earthy, slow and grounded characteristics.
People with Kapha in their constitution have a strong or curvy frame and good stamina. They are bigger-boned and have rounder features, both in face and body, and may struggle with losing unwanted weight. Soft and smooth are words that best describe the hair, skin and nails of a Kapha. They thrive in warm, dry weather but can find they feel cool.
All the grounded energy means that, mentally, Kaphas are very stable, loyal and great listeners. They make wonderful teachers, nurses and therapists–anything that allows them to be in a role of serving or taking care of others. But they can also be people pleasers who often find themselves putting others before themselves. Calm, peaceful Kaphas can take a little while to get on board with changes, especially fast ones!
Due to their slower nature, Kaphas can cause lack of motivation and accumulation in the system in the form of weight and mucus. Because Kaphas are often busy looking after everyone else, they can find themselves with no one to look after them and this can result in sadness, loneliness or even depression. Generally speaking, a Kapha imbalance is about holding onto things: heavy emotions, excess weight and even water retention and mucus.
What are the key benefits of knowing your constitution?
On a really basic level, knowledge is power. And knowing your Ayurvedic constitution is no different. When you know what your Prakriti is, you can more easily identify when there’s a Vikruti. Remember, your Prakriti is who you are deep down before the world got in the way. So uncovering your Prakriti is really the key to unlocking the power of Ayurveda in helping you restore balance in your body, mind, spirit and life. Also, understanding how your digestion works and what you need in general to thrive can help you feel more in tune with the flow of life instead of fighting against it.
But, unfortunately, it can sometimes take a long time to see the Prakriti if there is a strong imbalance (Vikruti). Your Vikruti can mask your true nature. For example, a Kapha might end up working on Wall Street as a stock trader, drinking 5 espressos a day, hitting the gym hard in the morning and being surrounded by other Pitta types all day. A lifestyle like this may result in such a strong Pitta imbalance that it’s hard to unearth the sweet, grounded Kapha underneath.
Also, it’s important to note that we all have Vata, Pitta and Kapha moments in our days and lives. We’re meant to as we have all of the Doshas within us, just in our own unique way.
How can you find out your Ayurvedic constitution?
Do you already have an idea of which of the Doshas you might be? And perhaps you’re now wondering how you can find out your Ayurvedic constitution for sure. Quite right! Knowing and understanding our constitution can be the key to unlocking balance and vitality in your life.
If this sounds like what you need then I’d love to invite you to book a discovery call with me if you’re keen to hear about my Ayurvedic coaching service. In a 1:1 Ayurvedic coaching session, you’ll discover your constitution and come up with a unique plan for lifestyle and nutrition habits that can better support your constitution and restore balance in your life.