3 Doshas that create your unique constitution
The unique constitution or Prakriti of an individual is a consequence of the relative proportions of the three Doshas. Read more here about the concept of Prakriti.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—collectively known as the doshas—are one of the most foundational concepts in the tradition of Ayurveda. Doshas are energetic forces of nature, functional principles that help us to better understand ourselves, and the world around us. Think of these as the sources of energy that propel every living being in our natural world.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are each essential to the inner workings of our body and physiology. Each of them has a very specific set of functional roles to play in the body. Whether it be movement, digestion or stability. When the doshas are out of balance, they can wreak havoc on our health.
Role of Doshas
Before going into the specifics role of the three doshas, it is helpful to understand their elemental composition, and their broader role in the natural world.
In Ayurveda, the most basic building blocks of the material world are the five elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.
- Vata is composed of the Space and Air elements. It is the most subtle or lightest of the 3 doshas. It is characterized by the mobile nature of Wind energy.
- Pitta is composed of the Fire and Water elements. It is the most fiery of the 3 doshas. It embodies the transformative nature of Fire energy.
- Kapha is composed of the Earth and Water elements. It is the grossest or heaviest of the 3 doshas. It reflects the binding nature of Water energy.
Vata governs Movement and Communication.
Vata is characterized by the mobile nature of Wind energy. Think about what happens when wind blows across a sandy beach. It scatters the sand and changes the direction of waves.
Just as the wind is mobile & ever moving, so is Vata. It is ever changing and dynamic. It moves all that is in it’s path.
It is linked to creativity and flexibility; it governs all movement—the flow of the breath, the pulsation of the heart, all muscle contractions, tissue movements, cellular mobility—and communication throughout the mind and the nervous system.
Pitta oversees Digestion and Transformation.
Pitta embodies the transformative nature of Fire energy. Think about what happens when you put batter into an oven – it magically transforms into bread!
Pitta represents the energy of transformation and is therefore closely aligned with the fire element. Elementally, Pitta is made of fire and water but for simplicity of understanding, think of it as primarily the fire element. Pitta is neither mobile nor stable, but spreads—much as the warmth of a fire permeates its surroundings, or as water flows in the direction dictated by the terrain.
Pitta is closely related to intelligence, understanding, and the digestion of foods, thoughts, emotions, and experiences; it governs nutrition and metabolism, body temperature, and the light of understanding.
Kapha provides Cohesiveness, Structure, and Lubrication.
Kapha reflects the binding nature of Water energy. Think about what happens when you mix flour with water. It becomes sticky, cohesive and gross.
Kapha lends structure, solidity, and cohesiveness to all things, and is therefore associated primarily with the earth and water elements. Kapha also embodies the watery energies of love and compassion.
This dosha hydrates all cells and systems, lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, maintains immunity, and protects the tissues. Without Kapha dosha, Vata would either scatter us away like particles of sand or Pitta would burn all the cells in our body. Kapha is what keeps us cohesive, strong and vibrant.
Constitution is expressed in terms of doshas
We started by talking about constitution but now you may be wondering why are we talking about doshas. Great question!
Constitution and doshas are intimately connected. The Prakriti of a person is a consequence of the relative proportions of the three doshas. Each of us has a unique composition of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha within each of us that provides a blueprint to define our constitution. Doshas in our body significantly influence our individual physical, mental, and emotional character traits.
Based on the combination of your doshas, you may fall into one of 7 types of constitution listed below
- Vata dominant
- Pitta dominant
- Kapha dominant
- Vata Pitta dominant
- Pitta Kapha dominant
- Vata Kapha dominant
- Vata, Pitta, Kapha dominant
Most of us are likely to be a combination of 2 doshas – Vata Pitta, Pitta Kapha or Vata Kapha. Only a very small percentage of individuals tend to be single dosha dominant or have all 3 doshas in equal proportion.
Even though there are 7 dosha types, every individual is unique because the manifestation of doshas in every individual is unique. For example, I am a Vata Pitta type and so is my partner. However, Pitta is more strongly manifested in my Prakriti while Vata is strongly manifested in my partner’s. My natural strength is to analyze and stay organized from Pitta; while my partner is deeply intuitive and imaginative from Vata. I also have the mobile and active nature of Vata while my partner has the sharp intelligence of Pitta. Understanding our constitution can be especially helpful in relationships whether it be with your partners, children, family, friends or co-workers.
While we are all susceptible to imbalances in any of the three doshas, we also tend to be somewhat predisposed to imbalances in our predominant doshas. In other words, Vata Pitta predominant individuals will usually tend toward Vata and Pitta imbalances before Kapha imbalances. This is most visible at the time of seasonal changes. When spring turns to summer, Pitta becomes pronounced in nature and as a result, in your body. Or when summer turns to Autumn, Vata becomes more pronounced. If you are just becoming familiar with how the doshas affect your day-to-day life, this awareness can be very helpful.
7 or 10 constitutions?
You may have heard that some Ayurvedic practitioners look at 10 types of constitution. The reason for this difference is that they distinguish Vata Pitta and Pitta Vata as two separate types of constitution. Similarly Pitta Kapha and Kapha Pitta are separate. So are Vata Kapha and Kapha Vata.
It can be a useful way to understand if one among the two doshas may be more prominent in an individual. At Kerala Ayurveda Academy (KAA), we don’t look at these separately following the original root texts in Ayurveda. As a student of the Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor program at KAA, I try to follow the same perspective but I do find it to be a useful nuance. I would encourage you to look into this deeper if you find it to be useful to better understand your constitution.
Additionally, you may have also come across dosha scores, pie charts or percentages for each individual constitution that look something like this:
At Kerala Ayurveda Academy (KAA), we don’t create these types of charts or scores following the original root texts in Ayurveda. I personally think showing such charts or scores can be misleading. One may interpret this as 50% Pitta or that 50% of my physiology is governed by Pitta. This is not an accurate deduction because our physiological functions may not be reduced to these types of percentages without a solid rational basis. The intent of these charts and scores is to make it easier to understand one’s unique constitution however in my opinion, it may lead to some inaccurate conclusions. So for our purposes, we will stay away from these types of scores and charts.
Now that we’ve covered an overview of the three doshas and their role in your constitution, we can go into determining your specific constitution.
If you haven’t done this already, please go ahead and complete this questionnaire that will help us assess your constitution during the workshop. It will take you about 15 minutes to complete the questionnaire.
Once completed, you will receive a copy of your responses at the same email address that you provided at the beginning of the questionnaire. Please remember to bring a print out of this email to our workshop. This will allow us to easily review your responses in order to determine your constitution.
See you at the workshop!
Here’s a fun exercise to apply what you just learnt. Which celebrities, fictional characters or superheroes do you think best symbolize the qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha? Leave a comment below with your thoughts! I would love to hear from you.