How Your Emotional State Relates to the Ayurvedic Doshas
Ayurveda is the science of life. It is a holistic form of wellness that uses natural, earth-based wisdom to promote individual balance and health. Ayurveda teaches that there are three universal intelligences at work in the macrocosm of the universe and in the microcosm of our bodies. These intelligences are called the doshas. The doshas are made up of a combination of the five great elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These five elements tend to group together into pairs that create the doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata is likened to the combination of air and ether; it is light, dry, cold, and changeable. It rules everything in the body and the universe that has to do with movement, transportation, and communication. Our speech, for example, is ruled by Vata dosha as is the motion of our intestines during peristalsis.
Pitta is the combination of the fire element with a bit of moisture. It is the intelligence that governs everything that transforms, digests, and metabolizes. It governs all that transforms in our bodies; the enzymatic action of the stomach, the power of our sight, and our metabolism are some of the areas of the body ruled by Pitta dosha.
Kapha dosha is likened to earth and water. It is heavy, cool, and stable. It rules our immunity, our strength, and our stability. Kapha dosha also rules the watery places in the body, the lining of the stomach, and the inside of the mouth, as well as our overall strength and immune system.
Understanding Your Emotional Ama
The doshas, however, do not just impact your physical body. The doshas are intelligences that rule all aspects of your mind, body, and emotions. In this way, you can see that your emotional states are likewise determined by the doshas. You can describe, analyze, and witness your emotional states in terms of the doshas.
This process allows you to process and digest your emotions. Ayurveda teaches that the result of anything undigested is ama, a thick toxic sludge that clogs up your vital channels. Just as food can remain undigested in the gut and cause ama, undigested, unprocessed emotions can also cause emotional ama. The result of this ama is repressed anger, sorrow, depression, and anxiety. The wisdom of Ayurveda can provide you with the keys to understand your emotions.
You can think of the qualities of the doshas as having balanced and unbalanced characteristics. Vata, when in balance in the body, will result in great elimination. When it is out of balance, however, you may experience a loose stool or constipation. Similarly, you can understand the emotional aspects of the doshas as having qualities that are in and out of balance.
Your Emotions & Vata Dosha
When in balance, Vata dosha will express itself as balanced enthusiasm and energy. The expression will be clear-minded, quick-witted, and supportive. When out of balance, Vata dosha will express itself emotionally as anxiety, fear, or being overwhelmed. You may become “spaced out,” flighty, indecisive, unaware, or unfocused. This is because your mind and emotions are experiencing the negative qualities of space and ether; too unfocused and spacey.
Solving for Vata
Vata dosha needs nurturing. You can calm your anxiety with awareness and meditation. If experiencing Vata emotions, you should ensure you are getting adequate rest. You can also perform a daily self-massage with warm sesame oil. Because Vata is irregular in nature, you can tame Vata by establishing a regular routine and sticking to it.
Eating warm, well-cooked, and slightly rich homemade and home-cooked foods are very nurturing to Vata. Since the salty taste is Vata pacifying (it is made of the elements of water and fire, is hot heavy, and moist by nature), you can take foods with a slightly salty taste, such as seaweed.
Someone with Vata emotions should reduce bitter flavors as they’re made of air and ether, and this flavor increases Vata dosha in the body. Other remedies that can pacify Vata emotions include the Ayurvedic practice of a shirodhara, daily meditation, and nadi-shodana pranayama. It is also a good idea to seek out people who are warm, grounding, supportive and nurturing.
Your Emotions & Pitta Dosha
Pitta dosha is like a fire (with a little moisture). The qualities of Pitta dosha are hot, penetrating, and intense. When in balance, Pitta will result in strong digestion. When out of balance, you may experience hot flashes, night sweats, or rashes. With a balanced Pitta emotion, you will be more generous, cheerful, humanitarian, successful, and be a visionary. Pitta dosha can also make you quite eloquent. When out of balance, Pitta dosha can make you irritable, frustrated, angry, aggressive, overly focused on goals, controlling, manipulative, and self-centered. It can also express in arrogance.
Solving for Pitta
Pitta dosha needs love. To placate Pitta emotions, you must get adequate rest. You can also cool off with a daily oil massage with sunflower oil. Because hot and spicy foods increase hot-headedness, you should avoid foods that are very pungent, vinegary, or acid-producing, like tomatoes and beef. Instead, if you are experiencing a great deal of Pitta dosha, you can favor bitter taste for its cooling energy. Foods like massaged kale and green juices are very pacifying to Pitta dosha. Rosewater sprays or rose petal jams (an Ayurvedic concoction) are very useful in soothing feelings of irritation.
It is also important to complete a daily meditation and to stop overworking and overdoing. To reduce the emotions of Pitta dosha, you can do a cooling pranayam (breathing technique) like sitali pranayama. It is also important to slow the pace of your speech and thoughts. A good remedy is to take a retreat day each week wherein you plan a day with no schedule, especially if you can spend that day outside in nature. People experiencing Pitta dosha will do well to focus on love and gratitude.
Your Emotions & Kapha Dosha
Kapha dosha is like water and earth. It is slow, heavy, difficult to move, and cold. When in balance, Kapha dosha will result in a strong immune system. When out of balance, Kapha dosha will result in weight gain and water retention. Likewise, when emotionally in balance, Kapha dosha will make you joyful, warm, and easy-going. You will be loving and comforting. When out of balance, Kapha dosha will result in feeling lazy, depressed, stuck, unmotivated, attached, and greedy.
Solving for Kapha
Kapha dosha needs to move stuck emotions. Remedies for Kapha emotions include a daily yoga asana practice that is vigorous, warming and creates sweat. Saunas are a great remedy for Kapha dosha. Doing a routine of sipping on hot water can be a wonderful remedy for Kapha dosha as well as taking a lighter diet with spicy, pungent foods and a lot of bitter taste to dry out and heat up the physiology that has become too wet and cold. Kapha dosha people do well to seek out very motivated, successful Pitta types. They also do well to throw out old clothes, books, and clutter.
If you are experiencing Kapha emotions, you should also perform a daily meditation and a heating pranayama practice like Kapalabhati. If you are experiencing Kapha emotions, you can focus on joy. Doing some physical exercise such as a cardiovascular workout or ashtanga yoga every day also helps to move stuck emotions as does travel.
The Process of Emotional Release
Dr. Paul Dugliss is an Ayurvedic practitioner who teaches a process of emotional release that can help you digest your emotions. In this process, he outlines the steps of emotional release.
- Become aware of your own emotional field.
- Intensify your emotions, bringing them to the center of your awareness.
- Identify the root causes of your emotions. What is the belief that is creating this emotion? Or do you have a desire that is creating this emotion?
Having a realization of the root cause of emotion will allow the emotion to shift because the very nature of emotions is to flow. To allow for this emotional flow, you need to understand the root of what is holding the emotion in place. You can then find a way to release the emotion through movement, yoga, sound, artistic or verbal expression, or through subtle energy work.
Becoming aware of the effect of the doshas on your emotions will allow you to witness your own emotional flow and to be less reactive to the emotions of the people around you. Instead of seeing your partner as “angry” you can see that Pitta dosha is out of balance and making them angry. This allows you space to witness emotional patterns rather than compulsively engaging with them.
What's your Ayurvedic dosha? Take this quiz and find out
The balance of your Ayurvedic doshas, also known as prakruti, is a key part of understanding your holistic health.
Doshas are the three energies found in nature, and also in the human body. They are broken down into three types: vata, pitta and kapha. The doshas are responsible over our bodies, minds, emotions, and thoughts. From birth, we are each individually made with a very specific blend of the five basic elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. That unique blend is your prakruti, or what uniquely constitutes your individual body, and can be broken down by a combination of the three doshas: vata (ether + air), pitta (fire + water), and kapha (water + earth).
The three doshas are the building blocks to understanding our prakruti, and once you understand which is your dominant dosha, you can know what your balanced state looks like. This is vital, as through this lens you can spot exactly when your body goes out of balance, and how to bring it back into balance. Humans are being of nature, constructed from the same five elements, and thus can use the opposing elements as needed to bring us back into balance.
It all hinges on knowing your doshas, however. You can get a general sense of where your dosha balance lies, and go from there to correct the problems. You can even seek out the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can take a look at your insights and prescribe anything from food and herbs to a new lifestyle. Thanks, Ayurveda!
Tally up the number of v’s, p’s, and k’s you receive (standing for vata, pitta, and kapha), whichever you have the most of is your dominant dosha:
- v) I am a slender person and I hardly gain weight
- p) I am medium build
- k) I am well built and I gain weight no matter what I do
- v) My skin is dry, thin, and itches often
- p) My skin looks flushed; I have lots of moles and freckles on my body
- k) My skin is smooth and soft, it looks pale sometimes
- v) My hair is dry, thin and brittle
- p) My hair is neither dry nor oily (for men: I have a receding hairline)
- k) My hair is thick, full, lustrous, and slightly oily
- v) My face is oval
- p) My face is triangular (pointed chin, prominent jaw line)
- k) My face is round
- v) My eyes are small; they feel dry often and have a bit of dullness (usually brown)
- p) My eyes are medium in shape; sharp & penetrating (usually blue)
- k) My eyes are big and round in shape, full eyelashes
- v) My hands are generally dry, rough; slender fingers; dry nails
- p) My hands are generally moist, pink; medium fingers; soft nails
- k) My hands are generally firm, thick; thick fingers; strong & smooth nails
- v) My joints are small, prominent bones, and often crack
- p) My joints are medium and loose
- k) My joints are large, sturdy, with lots of muscle surrounding
- v) I am a very active person (always on the go, mind constantly thinking)
- p) I like to think before I do anything
- k) I am steady and graceful (I don’t like to rush)
- v) I walk fast and talk fast
- p) My actions are very thoughtful and precise
- k) I like a slower pace and I take my time to accomplish things
- v) I do not sleep soundly at night. I tend to toss and turn. I wake up early in the morning
- p) I am a light sleeper but if something wakes me up, I can go back to sleep easily
- k) I am a heavy sleeper
- v) Varies, sometimes I feel hungry, sometimes not, I feel anxious if I don’t eat
- p) I always feel hungry. If I don’t eat I get irritable and angry
- k) I don’t feel very hungry. I can go without food easily for a day
12. Bowel Movement
- v) I tend to have constipation and can go a day or two without a bowel movement
- p) I am regular and sometimes stools are loose (tend to get diarrhea)
- k) I have no problem. I wake up to go to the bathroom.
- v) My voice tends to be weak or hoarse
- p) I have a strong voice, I may get loud sometimes
- k) My voice is deep, has good tone
- v) I am a born worrier, I often feel anxious and nervous
- p) If things don’t happen my way, I feel irritable and angry
- k) I am a happy person, very caring and loving
15. Weather Preference
- v) I love warm and humid weather
- p) I enjoy cool weather, I dislike a warm climate
- k) I like warm but dry weather
- v) I sweat little but not much
- p) I sweat profusely and it might have an unpleasant odor
- k) I never sweat, unless working very hard
- v) I remember quickly and forget quickly
- p) I remember what I want to remember and never forget
- k) It takes me a while to remember, but once I do I never forget
- v) I tend to be spontaneous
- p) I am a list maker. Unless I plan, I don’t do anything
- k) I don’t like to plan, I prefer to follow others
- v) I like to do things in spurts and I get tired very easily
- p) I have medium stamina
- k) I can work long hours and maintain good stamina
- v) My mind gets restless and racing easily
- p) I get impatient easily
- k) It takes a lot to make me mad. I usually feel very calm
21. Decision Making
- v) I change my mind more often and will take time to make a decision
- p) I can make a decision easily and stick with it
- k) I want others to make the decisions
- v) “Is it too late to change my mind”?
- p) “It’s my way or the highway”
- k) “Don’t worry, be happy!”
- v) I like action
- p) I like to win
- k) I like to have fun
24. Health Problems
- v) My symptoms are mainly pain, constipation, anxiety and depression
- p) I often get skin infections, fevers, heart burn, and hypertension
- k) I tend to get allergies, congestion, weight gain and digestive problems
- v) I like art (drawing, painting, dance) and travel
- p) I like sports, politics, and things that get my adrenaline pumping
- k) I like nature, gardening, reading, and knitting