Now that we have an understanding of our unique blend of the doshas within our bodies, we can start to talk about how to balance the doshas through food in order to reach or maintain optimal health and well-being. But first, let’s talk about each dosha in detail.
Vata dosha is comprised of air and ether, making it light, cold, dry and, above all, mobile. Vata governs all of the movement of the body, including our ability to breath, move our muscles, take nutrients into cells and wastes out, to speak and express ourselves, to move food through the digestive system and to eliminate. The traditional vata body type is long and thin, with narrow bones and sinewy muscles. Their hair tends to be dry, thin and often curly, and their nails are thin and brittle and break easily. Vata types tend to have blue or grey eyes and small facial features. When out of balance, their body exhibits symptoms with cold, dry, light and mobile qualities like constipation, poor digestion, cold hands and feet or a cold feeling in general.
Through the expansive qualities of vata, vata types tend to be excellent multi-taskers, flitting from one thing to the next without the ability to focus on one thing for very long. Vata’s tend to have lots of inspiration and are known as the idea-makers of our culture. They are the artists, the musicians and the out-of-the-box thinkers. Through the ether element, vata-types can reach higher realms more easily, often creating a deep spiritual life. When vata’s are balanced, they are like an enthusiastic and exuberant butterfly flitting from friend to friend or project to project. When vatas are out of balance it leads to over-circulation of thoughts or “monkey-mind” and cold emotions like fear, worry and anxiety and insomnia.
Pitta dosha is comprised of fire and a little water, which gives pitta an oily quality. We find pitta in any transformational process within the body, including digestion (here, Pitta holds the agni, or digestive fire), hormones, and the oily component of our sweat. It also governs the liver, the red parts of the blood and our vision. The traditional pitta body-type can be summed up in one word: medium. Pitta’s have medium bone structure, tend to have well developed musculature (but not overdeveloped), often have deep-set eyes, reddish or ruddy skin with freckles or moles, can tend towards red hair or hair that goes grey or bald prematurely. When out of balance, pitta’s tend toward heat symptoms like burning mucous membranes, burning indigestion or heartburn, diarrhea, red eyes and headaches behind the eyes, feeling overheated and having liver problems.
The fiery qualities of pitta make them very passionate, driven people. Pitta’s are those who set goals and always reach them, pushing themselves further for success, often to the point of “burn-out.” When balanced, they are dedicated, passionate friends and workers, forward thinkers, excellent teachers, and truth-seekers. When they are unbalanced, they will shove anyone out of their way to get what they want as they let their ego take over. A pitta imbalance in the mind can lead to trouble sleeping due to constant list-making or mental organizing and hot emotions like anger, rage, jealousy and lust.
Kapha is comprised of the earth and water elements, making kapha the building blocks for all the tissues of our physical body. Kapha is the substance of our muscles, bones, skin, hair, nails — anything with physical substance. It also is within the water qualities of our body, including our blood plasma, sweat, sexual fluids and mucus. The traditional kapha body has more tissue than the other doshas, creating a stockier build of either greater muscle or fat around wide bones. Kapha people tend to have lustrous hair and thick nails, large eyes and soft facial features. Their skin tends to be soft and even. When imbalanced, the kapha body tends toward excess — weight gain, increased mucus production, water retention, slow or halted digestion and elimination and mucusy-type colds and flu.
Kapha in the mind manifests as someone who is steadfast — in the midst of an emotional storm, it is a kapha who will be standing firm. Their stability makes them excellent, dedicated friends. As an employee, it is the kapha person who will stick with one job and slowly work their way to the top. Kapha’s tend to be slower at learning, but once they master a skill they will do it perfectly for the long-term. When a kapha-type becomes imbalanced, they tend towards attachment to food, people or material possessions. They also tend towards lethargy, depression and sadness.
Balancing – Where to Begin?
Before we can think about what to eat to achieve balance, let’s consider the basic principles of creating balance through Ayurveda. The basic rule is that like increases like and opposites reduce. In order to balance the doshas, we’ll look to their main qualities to what to balance. The following chart describes each dosha, their main quality, their balancing qualities and a couple of ideas for diet and lifestyle balancing.
Obviously, this gets a bit more complicated when there are multiple doshas in our type, which there always are. Treat the dosha that is most prominent. If two are dominant then you balance treatment for the two. If it’s the case that you equally have all three chakras dominant, you are called “tri-doshic,” and balancing will always be a bit more of a dance.
The good news is that the doshas also govern our climate and the seasons, and that our bodies change given the climate or season that we’re in. This means that whether or not we understand how to eat for our doshic type, we can always eat according to the season in order to maintain basic body balance. In the next part, we’ll cover both eating for the seasons and eating for our type. Stay tuned!