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Three mind-body constitutions (doshas)

Vata—formed by air and ether

Vata in our bodies behaves with the same characteristics of air and ether. It is drying, cool, and light. It is responsible for movement including circulation, elimination, nerve impulses, and breathing. Mentally, it can be seen in the flow of thoughts.

Pitta—formed by fire and water

Pitta presents in our bodies with the characteristics of fire and water, although fire is dominant. It is hot and oily. Pitta is responsible for transforming food into nutrients and waste, and for the metabolic functions in all our organs and tissues. Mentally, pitta represents fire in the temperament, commonly seen as passion and drive.

Kapha—formed by earth and water

Kapha presents in our bodies with the characteristics of earth and water—moist, heavy and cool. Kapha gives stability, structure, growth, protection, endurance, calmness and cohesion. Examples of kapha dosha in our body include the cerebral-spinal fluid, the structure of our cell walls and the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Mentally, kapha governs memory, learning capacity, and promotes the qualities of love and calm.

The doshas in the human body

Each dosha is responsible for different functions in the body. Every human body has each dosha represented in their body to some degree, even though most people show the characteristics of only one or two doshas. The balance of the three doshas is constantly in flux depending upon the season and even the time of day! The aim is to achieve balance in all three doshas. When they are out of balance, toxins accumulate, and disease can manifest.

Mind-Body constitution (prakruti) and imbalance (vikruti)

Prakruti is the combination of the doshas that a person in born with. It remains constant for the person’s life and is influenced by the doshas of their parents, including the mental and physical states of the parents at the time of conception, and the diet and lifestyle of their mother throughout the pregnancy.

The doshas that are dominant at birth determine physical characteristics, personality and any tendencies that may result in specific types of illnesses. The aim of Ayurveda is to keep the prakruti in balance with the original ‘set point’ at birth.

Vikruti is the result of our prakruti falling out of balance. Improper diet, lifestyle, stress levels, the seasons and other environmental factors can cause imbalance. The imbalance may present with the characteristics of a dosha that is different to your original prakruti. For example, you may be kapha prakruti but have a condition of dry skin which would be vata vikruti.

By knowing our prakruti and our vikruti, we can treat the cause of the illness or condition, as well as maintain balance with our original mind-body constitution. We can better understand why we have certain personality traits, emotional tendencies, likes and dislikes, and why we are susceptible to certain illnesses. The knowledge enables us to take practical steps to design a diet and lifestyle in harmony with our environment.

Common symptoms of imbalanced doshas

Vata imbalance

  • Dryness of the skin
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety and worry
  • Nervousness

Pitta imbalance

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Skin irritation and rash
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • High blood pressure and other circulatory problems
  • Hot flushes

Kapha imbalance

  • Overweight
  • Sluggishness
  • Slow digestion
  • Oily skin
  • Sinus congestion and colds
  • Chesty cough
  • Allergies and hay fever
  • Cysts and other growths