Yoga For Your Doshas: Pitta
It’s one of those days: You had a project due at work and even though everything was going according to plan, someone had to take it a different direction at the last minute. Why did they not realize that you know best and things should be done your way? No wonder you are feeling a little short-tempered.
Coming home you notice that your dog chewed on your favourite new heels and you have a water stain on your beautiful teak coffee table from the tea bag your honey left laying around (again, not using a coaster). You feel the pressure building as steam comes out of your ears and your face turns a rich shade of scarlet. In short, your Pitta Dosha is stretched to its limits and your are off balance. You need to cool down.
According to Ayurveda, Yoga’s five thousand year old sister science, everything is governed by the natural elements of air, space, fire, water and earth. Each of these elements are associated with one, or in some cases two, of the Ayurvedic Doshas; the constitutional types. Vata Dosha, which I spoke about in part I of this series, is governed by space and air; Pitta Dosha is governed by fire and water, and Kapha Dosha is associated with water and earth.
Each of these Doshas are linked to certain qualities and can be pacified or aggravated by inner and outer circumstances that display these qualities.
What Dosha Are You?
In this article I will address Pitta, the Dosha that is governed predominantly by fire. If you are a little bit hot headed, have a “my way or the highway” attitude and would much rather go skiing down the slopes than lay in the tropical sun, you will want to read on.
Cool As A Cucumber: Food for Pitta
The flavors that sweeten a hot-headed and hot-bodied Pitta person are sweet, bitter and astringent. The tastes most aggravating to this type are salty, sour and pungent. The Pitta type tends toward acidity, and this may surface in heart burn and inflammatory conditions. Keeping a lightly alkaline blood environment is beneficial for Pitta and can be achieved by eating lots of yummy green leafy and alkaline veggies. Sweet and cooling fruit, such as sweet mangoes, apples berries and melon (particularly watermelon which is sweet and cooling in nature and has many healing benefits) are great choices for your diet. Sipping cool (never cold) water with a spritz of lime or lemon is a great way to keep a cool temper and keep your blood from boiling.
Pitta and Exercise
If you are a Pitta person, you likely love yourself some friendly competition both in your athletic endeavors, and in your personal and business life. Getting into a sport that requires a certain skill level and allows you to achieve and compete will likely give you a much needed outlet for your competitive and perfectionist work style. Competitive sports, such as running, cycling, playing tennis or racket ball, or even training for a body building competition, will give you a sense of purpose while jiving with your sense of drive and achievement.
There’s nothing wrong with being a little competitive, but you’ll want to consider a cooling or calming activity to balance your Dosha. Consider swimming (sure, compete if you must) as an active form of cooling refreshment with the added ability to push and challenge you. You will be a very happy Pitta camper if you allow yourself regular evening walks in the cooling moonlight, especially when sharing this down time with a sweet friend or loving partner.
Be Still: Meditation for Pitta
The Pitta person tends to be strong willed, determined and driven, and is often busy pondering and planning out new endeavors. If you are a Pitta planner and leader you may know how difficult it is for you to step out of busy mode to chill and relax. Meditation is a fantastic tool for Pittas who need to take a break from thinking and planning. Spend time calming your mind, and you’ll resurface feeling refreshed, with new ideas and increased problem solving skills.
The Pitta mind responds well to a meditation centered around soothing sound, smells, and colors. You may wish to listen to calming sounds of water or light a scented candle with a fresh cooling scent. Surrounding yourself with cool and light colors, or focusing your gaze on a cooling and calming Yantra, will guide your mind into a peaceful and tranquil state. Gentle or cooling Pranayama (breath work) such as Shitali or Sitkari Pranayama will also soothe your temper and focus your mind.
If you are of high Pitta constitution, you’ll be drawn to hot yoga classes like a bee to honey. But remember that hot yoga, Vinyasa flow classes and traditional Ashtanga are styles best practiced in moderation.
The often A-type-ish Pitta person likes nothing more then working hard and reaping the benefits in business, their relationship, or in physical activity. Pitta tends to be of a strong and agile build and they like to move and sweat. To balance the challenge of the challenge with cooling calmness and to keep from over extending your limits, consider switching your Hot Yoga shorts for comfy casual wear and a Restorative or Yin style class once or twice per week. Forward bends and twists in particular are beneficial for Pitta as they are cooling and have a refreshing and rejuvenating effect on the blood and lymphatic system, thus allowing for optimal oxygen-blood exchange that is perfect for releasing built-up heat and tension from the midsection, while also fueling the mind.
The Pitta Motto
For you, dear Pitta type, relaxation should be your preferred motto. Staying calm, cool and collected while focusing and leading your team to success is the perfect balance. Remember to take time out for family, friends, loved ones and to enjoy the sweetness life has in store for you.
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.