“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” —Lao Tzu
“What’s your dosha?” If you don’t already know the answer to that increasingly mainstream question, visit this website to take a dosha quiz and determine your body type.
Thanks to famous Ayurvedically influenced health gurus like Deepak Chopra, Dr. Vasant Lad and Dr. John Douillard, yoga’s sister science of Ayurveda has recently surged in popularity and its depth, complexities, and benefits are seemingly endless.
Ayurveda translates to “life knowledge” in sanskrit. Dating back more than 5,000 years, it is a science that utilizes the rhythms of nature, the subtle energetics and qualities of herbs and food, yoga asana practices, pranayama, visualization, and meditation to cultivate awareness of a person’s true nature and purpose. Ayurveda is not only the science of physical life and health, but it is also the means for uncovering our overall dharma, or individual purpose, for this lifetime.
Ayurveda operates on the principle that each person has his or her own constitution made up of doshas, which can fall out of balance. In order to thrive, one must use their constitution as a tool to achieve and fulfill their dharma.
With Ayurveda’s rise in popularity, more entities are seeking to profit off the ancient science by watering it down and presenting it as a packaged solution to all ailments, hiccups, struggles and annoyances. I do not mean to say that Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners should not make money, but I do believe that it is important to preserve the lineage and integrity of Ayurveda by respecting its complexities and using it as a tool and a way of living, rather than an quick fix.
In her book “A Life of Balance,” Maya Tiwari poetically expounds on the qualities of the three primary doshas: “Swift as a deer, cold as ice. The coldness of the harsh winds against the variegated sands of the desert nights—such is the nature of Vata. The brilliance of a raging fire dragon in a city of sparkling gems—such is the nature of Pitta. Solid as a rock, cool as a glimmering stream in the white moonlight—such is the essence of Kapha.”
It is human nature to categorize where one may fit into this (or any) model. By knowing your dosha, you are then told what to eat, what activities to pursue, what time to wake up, what climate you should live in, etc.
The dosha quiz has evolved to be the more consciously minded counterpart to the “What bikini is best for my body type” quiz in Cosmopolitan.
Calculating your dosha is not intended to provide a means to excuse nor provide a solution to certain behaviors or thought patterns. Each dosha has positive and negative manifestations. All of these energies are contained within all living things and present themselves in different ways at different times depending on lifestyle practices, diet, season, time of day, climate, etc.
Positive manifestations of Vata include being tapped into creativity, showing an interest in spiritual growth and having a positive outlook and engagement with activities and other people. Negative manifestations of Vata show up as feeling easily exhausted, scattered, overwhelmed or unable to focus.
Positive manifestations of Pitta include confidence and an ability to focus, solve problems and manifest intentions and goals. Negative manifestation of Pitta can show up as an inflated ego, bossiness, irritability or being overly goal- or results-oriented.
Positive manifestations of Kapha include nurturing, empathy, loyalty and steadiness. Negative manifestations of Kapha can appear as laziness, greed, stubbornness and an inability to let go of materials or emotions.
If it is difficult to be organized and on time, it is not because of a Vata constitution. Your dosha is not an excuse for behavior or destructive patterns that could be holding you back from goals and aspirations. Lateness and disorganization can be an indicator of Vata imbalance, but an imbalanced dosha is not a sustainable state of being.
Rather than using your dosha as a prescription for who you are, what to eat, why you exhibit certain behaviors, and how you should live, instead use your dosha as a means for svadhyaya (self-study).
Your dosha is not something that is set for life, but a baseline that is always fluctuating. A Kapha-dominant constitution can have symptoms of Vata imbalance, such as overwhelm, disorganization, or anxiety. Each dosha overlaps with and continuously gives way to another.
Below are some techniques to inquire within and investigate a particular dosha. Choose what appeals to you and practice one technique consecutively for about a week so that you can notice its effects over time.
To investigate a Vata constitution, sit down the night before and write your schedule for the next day. Stick with the same times for each daily practice to build consistency in your schedule. For example, wake up at the same time each day, eat meals at the same time each day, and aim to set a consistent time for completing any other daily practices.
People with Pitta constitutions tend to exhibit a lack of patience or frustration when out of balance. A good way to investigate the effect of this dosha and imbalance is to set a timer for three minutes each morning and take time to list things that make you grateful. Cultivating gratitude will put you in touch with patience, empathy, and positive Kapha energies to help bring you in balance.
To investigate a Kapha constitution, arise early while Vata is still the predominant dosha in the air (between the hours of 5 and 7 a.m.). Sleeping past 7 a.m. starts to get into Kapha time, where we often feel groggy upon waking, no matter how much we have slept. Begin your day by drinking warm water with lemon to stimulate digestion. From there, practice light exercise before breakfast (take a walk around the block or a practice a few sun salutations) to get the synovial fluid of the joints, blood and lymph moving. To ensure you wake up on time, get an alarm clock (in lieu of your cell phone) and put it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
Once you’ve identified your dominant constitution and investigated any effects it may have on your life, meditation can be a great tool for increasing balance.
People with Vata constitutions may benefit from a grounding meditation, such as this one:
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Once you are settled, bring your attention to your pelvic floor. Notice where you attention falls. This is the location of your muladhara chakra, the chakra associated with grounding and earth energy. Typically, this is at the base of the cervix for women and at the perineum for men, but exact location may vary from person to person.
Hold your attention in the space of the muladhara chakra. Then, imagine a cord coming from the base of your muladhara chakra and rooting down into the center of the earth. With every inhale, imagine light building at the muladhara chakra, and with every exhale, send this light down to the center of the earth through your grounding cord. Continue with this technique as long as you like (I recommend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes). If you mind wanders, bring it back to the visualization of building light at your muladhara chakra on inhale, and sending the light down your grounding cord on exhale.
When you are ready to come back to the space around you, gently disconnect your grounding cord and allow for it to return to the earth. Deepen your inhales and exhales and come back to the space around you slowly and gently.
People with Pitta constitutions may benefit from a meditation focused on love and kindness, such as this one:
Begin in a comfortable seated position with your spine straight. Connect to your breath. For a few rounds, follow the inhale from the tip of your nostrils, down to the center of your pelvis, and follow the exhale from the center of your pelvis out to the tips of your nostrils. Once you are
focused, visualize someone that you have unconditional love and support for (such as a partner, a parent, friend, pet, etc.). Send unconditional love and gratitude to this person over three consecutive inhales and exhales.
From there, visualize someone that you have neutral feelings for (such as a co-worker, the cashier at the grocery store, the mailman, etc). Send unconditional love and gratitude to this person over three consecutive inhales and exhales.
Finally, visualize someone that you have negative feelings toward. Breath into any emotions that arise, and acknowledge your feelings without judging or creating any sort of narrative behind them. When your mind and heart are steady, send unconditional love and gratitude to this person over three consecutive inhales and exhales.
From there, begin to follow the breath from inhale and exhale as you gently and slowly come back to the space around you.
People with Kapha constitutions could find more balance through this meditation, focused on third chakra fire:
Sitting in a comfortable position with your spine straight, bring your attention to the space behind your navel. Notice where you attention falls. This is the location of your manipura chakra, the chakra associated with the will and earth energy.
Visualize a small, steady, almond shape flame in the space behind your navel. Once you see this clearly, begin to concentrate the light and power of the flame on exhale, and expand the brightness of the flame outward in all direction on exhale. Breath like this for a few rounds, pulsing the light inward and concentrating its power on inhale, and expanding its power on exhale.
Next, visualize this flame rising up your spine from your navel center to the center of your chest, the anahata chakra (heart center; literally translating to ‘the unstruck sound’). Visualize this flame illuminating all corners of your heart center and, once again, begin to concentrate the power of the flame on inhale and allow for the flame to radiate outward on exhale.
This visualization draws awareness to the third chakra, the center for willpower and motivation, joining our personal power with the consciousness of our heart center.
Energy follows awareness. By cultivating awareness through using the tools Ayurveda has to offer, your energy will begin to shift, resulting in a shift of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and circumstances.
Each person has an infinite amount of potential power inside that is always available and ready to be awakened. What is your soul longing to manifest?