At the time of conception, the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) combine in unique proportions that define your constitution. It's a doshic combination determined by genetics, diet, lifestyle, emotions, the karma of your parents as well as your own karma. Prakruti very rarely changes so it represents balance, or a state of health, for your entire life.
When we talk about balancing the doshas, ayurvedic practitioners are not trying to make vata, pitta and kapha all equal each other. We’re trying to correct the ratios of the doshas so they match your personal state of balance, your prakruti.
All three doshas are present in each of us in varying proportions. There’s vata, pitta and kapha in every cell of the body. So, even if one is a "vata" type, he/she still has pitta and kapha expressing in various ways. Sometimes it’s obvious (an unchanging physical trait like the size and shape of the eyes) and other times more subtle (an emotional or psychological state).
The following are generalized profiles of the vata type, pitta type and kapha type. You’ll see some of yourself in each profile but more so in one or possibly two. Most of us have one dosha that’s predominant but some have two doshas that seem equal and a few may have equal proportions of all three doshas. When reading these profiles and comparing yourself to them, think about traits that are consistent for you over the span of your life, not your current state. (We’ll get to your current state when we discuss vikruti.)
VATA CHARACTERISTICS Physically, vata people are small-framed, thin or underweight with dry skin, hair, nails and joints. They’re often “too tall” or “too short”. They tend to have small, dark eyes and irregular teeth. Their circulation can be poor so their hands and feet are often cold. They’re often uncomfortable in cold and windy weather so they tend to enjoy summer.
Vata types have variable appetites, thirst and digestive strength. It’s not uncommon for them to experience gas, bloating and constipation. They produce little perspiration and urination. They are often attracted to astringent foods like salad and raw vegetables but their constitution is balanced by warm, cooked foods and sweet, sour and salty tastes.
Vatas walk and talk quickly. They’re always in a hurry and like to keep moving. Remember, vata is the principle of movement.
Vatas sleep less than other body types. They tend toward interrupted sleep and insomnia.
Vata minds are quick, agile and creative. In balance, they are joyful, imaginative and happy. They are easily excited and can be impulsive. They are always ready for change but this can make them unstable and unable to commit. They may lack willpower and groundedness. Vatas are quick to grasp new concepts and often just as quick to forget them.
Vatas make money quickly and spend it quickly too. They’re often impulsive and have a hard time planning and saving.
Psychologically, vatas are worriers. They can experience fear, anxiety, insecurity and loneliness if unbalanced. Fear of the dark, heights and enclosed spaces are vata fears.
Because Vata is the principle of movement, vata individuals are drawn to mobility and change. They love travel, erratic hours and habits, constant stimulation and frequent change. These often lead to common vata disorders such as constipation, gaseous distention, weakness, arthritis, excessively dry skin, hair and nails. Nerve disorders, twitches and tics, aching joints, palpitations, low backache and sciatica are also due to aggravated vata. Vata tends to increase with age as is indicated by drying and wrinkling of the skin.
Frequent travel, a racing mind, anxiety, loud noises, multi-tasking, drugs, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, cold weather and cold foods disturb vata dosha. PITTA CHARACTERISTICS Physically, pittas are of medium height and build but can also be on the delicate side. Their eyes are bright and may be green, gray or copper colored. They can have reddish complexions and may have red hair. Pittas often experience hair loss and premature graying. Moles and freckles are common.
Pittas tend to run on the hot side, often feeling warm. Their hands and feet may sweat easily. They have low tolerance for hot weather, bright sunshine and hard, physical work.
Pittas have strong appetites, strong metabolisms and strong digestion. When out of balance, they crave hot, spicy foods. When hungry, pittas must eat right away because they can soon become irritable and hypoglycemic.
Pitta sleep is of medium duration but is uninterrupted and sound. They often need to “tire their eyes” before sleeping by reading a book or watching TV.
Mentally, pitta intellects are keen and memories sharp. They love investigation and analysis. Problem solving and puzzles interest them. They love knowledge and have good organization and leadership skills. They are ambitious, disciplined and aggressive by nature. When imbalanced, pittas can become controlling, domineering, critical, competitive and perfectionists. If there is no one else to judge, pittas will judge and criticize themselves. They are typical workaholics and have a strong fear of failure.
Pittas like to seek material prosperity and spend on luxury items. They like big homes, fancy cars, big jewelry, perfumes and other status symbols.
Pitta ailments are generally related to heat and excess fire element in the body. Fevers, inflammation, acid indigestion, excessive hunger, jaundice, profuse perspiration, hives, rashes, burning sensations, burning eyes and all conditions ending in “-itis” are caused by excess pitta.
Eating spicy foods and exposure to hot (and humid) weather aggravates pitta dosha. Anger, hate, jealousy, hypercriticism and irritability flare when pitta is high. KAPHA CHARACTERISTICS Kapha people have strong, healthy, muscular bodies with large bones. They gain weight easily and can have a hard time taking it off.
Kaphas have good stamina. Their skin is soft, smooth and oily. Their eyes are large with thick lashes. They have strong teeth and lots of thick hair.
Kapha digestion is slow with a steady appetite and thirst. Kaphas can comfortably skip meals (unlike pittas who get cranky). A sweet tooth is a common kapha trait. They are attracted to sweet, salty and fatty foods which aren’t the best choices for them.
Kaphas may be a bit foggy in the morning and slow to get up. They can be very lethargic and love daytime napping which isn’t good for them. Their sleep is long and deep.
Despite their stamina and strong bodies, kaphas don’t like to exercise. They prefer to be couch potatoes. They are slow and steady in every way. They move slowly, decide slowly, talk slowly and change slowly.
Kaphas are loving, peaceful, tolerant, forgiving and loyal. Their minds are calm and steady. They may be slow to grasp concepts but once they know something, it is remembered forever. Due to the stability of kapha, they are good at saving money and spending little. When imbalanced, kaphas can become greedy, possessive, envious and depressed.
Physical ailments tend to be related to excess water element. Colds, flu, high-mucus conditions, excess weight, diabetes, high cholesterol, water retention and sinus headaches are common.
Sweet foods, dairy, cold foods and drinks, excess sleep and a sedentary lifestyle increase kapha. Cold, wet, cloudy weather increases kapha so winter is “kapha season”.
Source: Vasant Lad. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.