Health Tips for Kapha, Pitta, and Vata Doshas
Now that you know which dosha (or combination of doshas) your body has, you can pinpoint even further exactly how your body works and responds. If you need a recap, remember that doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body. Important stuff to keep track of!
It’s thanks to Ayurveda that we have knowledge of the doshas. It is a holistic science of health, focusing on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began about 5,000 – 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the “science or knowledge of life”: Ayurveda.
It’s a sharp contrast to modern medicine, as in Ayurveda, every individual is unique and there is no diet or lifestyle routine that works for everyone. Modern doctors, as you probably well know, simply look at the symptoms and prescribe the same pill to everyone. In Ayurveda, prevention is key. Ayurveda focuses on providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain physical and emotional health.
As you continue thinking about your doshas, remember that food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. Try to follow the diet and lifestyle routine that fits your mind/body constitution. Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two dominate. Various Dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes (i.e. Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold, and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types). Generally these are considered to be characteristics of each mind/body type. Here are the three doshas, and the characteristics associated with each:
- Vata Dosha
The energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
Creativity and vitality
Out of Balance:
Fear and anxiety
The third dosha, Vata, tends to be the most slender of the three body types. Vata people can actually find it difficult to gain weight. Physically, Vata individuals are thin with prominent bony structures; tend to be cold all the time; have dry skin and hair; and have little muscle tone. Mentally, they learn fast and forget fast, enjoy change, and are very creative. Emotionally, Vata types are excitable, enthusiastic, but can become easily anxious.
Out of balance, Vata individuals can have poor digestion with lots of bloating and constipation. They can have dry nasal passages and easily catch colds during the fall and winter. They can also easily develop insomnia and fatigue. To help with the digestion, there is an herbal supplement, Triphala, which is a lifesaver for people with a Vata imbalance. To prevent dry nasal passages and fight off colds, Vata individuals can use a sesame oil nasal spray – you just spray 1-2 sprays in each nostril in the mornings. To fight off insomnia, a regular routine is critical, which, of course, Vata individuals tend to resist. Nonetheless, they should be waking up at the same time, eating lunch at the same time, and going to bed at the same time. Additionally, Vata types will benefit from a warm, spiced milk drink at bedtime.
The dietary recommendations for Vata individuals are to avoid dry/crunchy foods, carbonated beverages, and cold/raw vegetables. Their ideal diet consists of warm, cooked, soupy foods; cooked cereals; nuts; cooked vegetables; and hot milk. Also, ghee, which is clarified butter, is particularly good for Vata individuals.
Creative; quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget; Slender; Tall and a fast walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.
General Health Tips:
Maintain regular habits, try to eat and sleep at the same time every night. Get enough rest and choose foods that are warm, cooked, nourishing, and easy to digest. Sweet berries, fruits, small beans, rice, and all nuts and dairy products are good choices for Vata types. Exercise intensity should be moderate. A more meditative yoga, Tai chi, walking, and swimming are all good. Avoid strenuous and frantic activities.
- Pitta Dosha
Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.
Contentment and intelligence
Out of Valance:
Ulcers and anger
Pitta individuals are typically of medium build. Physically, they have good muscle tone; have a tendency to always feel warm; have premature graying hair or balding; have reddish complexions; enjoy high energy levels; and have really strong digestion – they can eat almost anything. Mentally, they are extremely intelligent, focused, ambitious people. Emotionally, they are passionate about life, have a tendency to be perfectionists, and can become easily irritated.
Out of balance, Pitta types can experience excessive anger, suffer from inflammatory conditions (such as headaches and rashes), encounter digestive problems (such as acid reflux, diarrhea and ulcers), and become over-stressed, workaholics. To help with the inflammation, Pitta individuals can do a quick coconut oil massage to the scalp and feet for 5 minutes before getting into the shower. To prevent the digestive problems, they can drink a mixture of a quarter-cup of aloe vera juice with a half-cup of pomegranate juice in the morning on an empty stomach. To help take the “edge off” at work and fight off stress in these worker bees, they should eat a teaspoon of rose petal jam – it can be taken alone or with toast. The rose petal jam is sweet and calming.
In terms of their diet, Pitta people should avoid hot spices, alcohol, coffee, vinegar, and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. Of course, these are typically their favorite foods! They should eat sweet juicy fruits such as mangos and melons. They should also include lots of cooling vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, kale and lettuce, in their diet.
Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; Aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance; Competitive, enjoy challenges; Passionate and romantic; Strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal; When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry; Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily; Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired; Perspire a lot; Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian; Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger; Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, dry or burning eyes.
General Health Tips:
It’s important for Pittas to keep cool by avoiding overexposure to direct sunlight and fried and spicy foods. Avoid alcohol and tobacco, overworking, and overheating. When aggravated, susceptible to feeling negative emotions like hostility, hatred, intolerance, and jealousy. Choose fresh vegetables and fruits that are watery and sweet, especially cherries, mangoes, cucumbers, water melon, and avocado. Have lots of salads with dark greens such as arugula, dandelions, and kale. Avoid conflicts. Cultivate the virtues of honesty, morality, kindness, generosity, and self-control.
- Kapha Dosha
Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.
Out of balance:
Can lead to insecurity and envy
Kapha is typically the largest of the body types. Physically, they have wide hips/shoulders; thick wavy hair; good physical stamina. Mentally, Kapha types tend to me slow to learn, but they have great memories. Emotionally, they tend to be very loyal, stable, and reliable – they are often referred to as the “rocks” in a relationship.
Out of balance, Kapha individuals have a tendency towards sinus congestion, poor circulation, and sluggish digestion that can easily lead to obesity. To help improve circulation, they can do a stimulating dry body massage, called garshana, performed with raw silk gloves – you can use a loofah sponge as a substitute. The massage helps get rid of excess water weight and is a natural cure for cellulite. Exercise is also critical to keep Kapha people in balance; if you have a Kapha body type, you have to get up and move!
To combat the congestion, Kapha types can add garlic to their diet or take garlic supplements. To help boost metabolism, Kapha individuals can use the herbal supplement guggul, which is a plant that is closely related to myrrh. The dose of guggul is typically 75mg-150mg a day.
Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Tend to be possessive and hold on to things. Don’t like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
General Health Tips:
It’s important to be active on a daily basis as Kapha types are prone to sluggishness, depression, and being overweight. Getting out of the house and actively seeking new experiences is also recommended. Be receptive to useful change, be intentional in implementing life-enhancing actions. Choose foods that are light, warm, and spicy. Tea with dried ginger and lemon is a great pick-me-up for Kaphas. Avoid heavy oily and processed sugars, which are detrimental to Kaphas. Use lots of spices such as black pepper, ginger, cumin, chili and lots of bitter dark greens.
What is the Ayurvedic Perspective on Cannabis?
The cannabis plant serves a thousand purposes and is a remarkably renewable resource (it literally grows like a weed). This global shift towards legalization is long overdue and offers hope that we can yet reverse the absurd suppression and violent defamation this sacred plant has suffered in the last century.
In his book, Shiva’s Broken Dream— detailing the world history of cannabis and the powerful movements to vilify it — Mel Thomas relates how,
The Vedas… describe how cannabis was created when the Gods stirred the heavenly oceans with the peak of Mount Mandara. A drop of amrita (heavenly nectar) fell from the sky and a sacred cannabis plant sprouted on the spot. Lord Siva brought the cannabis plant down from Mount Mandara for the pleasure of Mankind and for this the plant was consecrated to him [Siva].
Indeed, there are some intriguing theories that the cognitive and spiritual evolution of mankind was due in part to our interaction with sacred plants acting as vehicles for higher consciousness. For example, did you know mushroom spores can survive the vacuum of outer space?
The Ayurvedic tradition recognizes marijuana (known as vijaya in Sanskrit) as a medicinal herb. However, it is only ever recommended in minuscule doses, and always in combination with other more sattvic herbs to balance the tamasic effects of cannabis.
Alakananda Ma, a highly respected spiritual teacher and doctor of Ayurveda, acknowledges marijuana as “a muscle relaxant, euphoriant and analgesic” in her article on the topic. She explains,
Although long revered in India as a sacred plant of Shiva, ganja has, as we have seen, significant physical, emotional and spiritual impacts. In its ancient cultural setting, it has for centuries been used by world renouncing sadhus in conjunction with fasts and severe austerities.
In such a context, ganja could potentially be of value on the spiritual path, although this author has rarely met a ganja-smoking sadhu who had attained the ultimate goal. Taken out of its cultural context and introduced into a party lifestyle unheard-of in ancient tradition, ganja has become far more problematic.
This is a crucial point. Neo-hippies and new-age spiritualists often invoke the use of ganja as an ancient and therefore legitimate tool on the road to enlightenment. What these invocations generally lack, however, is the proper ceremonial context and attendant sattvic lifestyle habits that accompanied the practice in the past. Ritualistic inhalation of a sacred herb on rare, auspicious occasions is very different than daily spliffs or perfunctory bong rips.