In Ayurveda, body, mind and consciousness work together in maintaining balance. They are simply viewed as different facets of one’s being. To learn how to balance the body, mind and consciousness requires an understanding of how vata, pitta and kapha work together. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the entire cosmos is an interplay of the energies of the five great elements—Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
Ayurveda bases its view of health and disease upon an understanding of the three Doshas or ‘biological humors’ of Vata (air and energy), Pitta (fire and light), and Kapha (water and form) and their interactions with us. According to this science, the three doshas are the basis of our biological functioning and govern the different tissues, organs and systems of the body.
Vata, pitta and kapha are combinations and permutations of these five elements that manifest as patterns present in all creation. In the physical body, vata is the subtle energy of movement, pitta the energy of digestion and metabolism, and kapha the energy that forms the body’s structure.
All people have the qualities of vata, pitta and kapha, but one is usually primary, one secondary and the third is usually least prominent. The cause of disease in Ayurveda is viewed as a lack of proper cellular function due to an excess or deficiency of vata, pitta or kapha. Disease can also be caused by the presence of toxins.
Vata Dosha: A subtle energy, balancing all doshas.
According to Ayurvedic science, Vata is the first and foremost of the three doshas as it reflects life-force. Composed of space and air, it guides and directs the other two doshas that are considered incapable of movement without it. Vata’s main manifestation is through the nervous system for which it is the activating electrical force, but it provides the motivation and energy for all the systems and organs of the body and their functions. In balance, it promotes creativity and flexibility. When imbalanced, causes degeneration, disease and ageing.
Health. To stay healthy, and energetic Vata type should go to bed early and make plenty of time for relaxation. It is important for Vatas to keep a regular circadian rhythm and get plenty of sleep.
Nutrition. Vata types should balance out their tendency towards anxiety and stress by eating at regular mealtimes. Hot meals – particularly sweet, sour and salty flavours – are helpful for restoring balance to the Vata Dosha.
Meditation. A morning routine, for example, a temple massage or a nice, long shower, can balance the Vata Dosha and ensure they have a relaxed start to the day.
Pitta Dosha: An active force, governing the body's metabolic systems.
Composed of Fire and water, pitta’s main manifestation is through the digestive system, of which it is the active force. It is not simply the digestive fire, but the light energy pervading body and mind. On the positive side, Pitta promotes digestion, metabolism, light, warmth and lustre in the body. In balance, pitta gives understanding and intelligence. When imbalanced, causes heat, inflammation, toxicity fever and bleeding.
Health. To stay healthy, Pitta types should find an outlet for their fiery energy through plenty of exercises. Drinking water throughout the day also reduces Pitta.
Nutrition. Pitta types can contain their fiery temperament by avoiding hot meals and drinks. Cold or moderately warm meals are more suitable, ideally with sweet, bitter and tart flavours. Pitta – reducing foods include pulses, coconut, and sweet and bitter-tasting vegetables.
Meditation. To balance the Doshas, a Pitta – dominate type should go for long walks in nature – ideally on colder days. Breathing exercises are also advised.
Kapha Dosha: Energy that forms the structure of the body.
Providing the “glue” that holds the cells together, Kapha is composed of Earth and Water. Its main manifestation is through the tissues of the body, particularly the liquids, plasma, fat and reproductive system. It is the main factor of positive health and longevity. It lubricates joints, moisturizes the skin, and maintains immunity. In balance, kapha is expressed as love, calmness and forgiveness. On the positive side, it promotes proper development of all bodily tissues and fluids, giving lubrication, stability, fertility and endurance. When imbalanced, it causes overweight, accumulation of water, mucus and fat, inhibiting movement and circulation, and blocking perception.
Health. Kaphas should make sure they integrate plenty of exercise into their daily routine. Choose healthy alternatives, for example instead of taking a nap after a meal, go for a walk.
Nutrition. Kapha types in particular are susceptible to lethargy, so they should choose light, warm foods and drinks. Spicy, bitter and tart tastes are best, and they should avoid rich and fatty meals to prevent weight problems.
Meditation. According to Ayurveda, excess weight can be put down to a surplus of Kapha. Powerful massage techniques can be used to positively support a diet, and detoxing can give a Kapha type the boost of energy they need to make it easier to exercise.