Vata, Pitta and Kapha - What's it all mean? In a prior blog post, I discussed the basics of Ayurveda. This blog post builds on those concepts and provides an overview of the three doshas made up of the five elements.
Before I share the characteristics of Vata, Pitta and Kapha - let's touch on the golden rules of Ayurveda:
These golden rules are the backdrop to any discussion of Ayurveda. The golden rules offer you the practical knowledge of how to heal through balancing Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Said another way, the golden rules pacify the elements within you that may be out of balance. In order to apply the golden rules, Ayurveda offers a very handy tool called Gunas. The Gunas are ten pairs of opposites that are characteristics of the elements. The Gunas are listed below:
The Gunas are characteristics of the five elements which make up your dosha. For example, when Vata is too high and you are feeling cold, dry, light, mobile, or subtle - you should favor the opposite characteristics to find balance: hot, oily, heavy, static, and gross. As an example, it may be easiest to apply this thinking to foods. Cold, dry, light foods increase Vata while hot, oily, heavy foods pacify Vata.
Now that you have taken the dosha quiz, know the golden rules of Ayurveda, and understand the Gunas; the following slides will help you understand your dosha or Ayurvedic constitution.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of wellness and natural healing that originated in India. The word Ayurveda derives from Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge so it is commonly thought of as the science of life. Unlike your high school and college biology classes that competed with this "Science of Life" title, Ayurveda offers a body of wisdom that through its practice helps you realize your full human potential.
How does Ayurveda help you realize your full human potential? Good question and I'm glad you asked: through daily and seasonal routines that effect all aspects of your life, including: diet, exercise, behavior, relationships, etc. Ayurvedic routines remind us that health is the fragile balance and dynamic integration between the environment and ourselves: body, mind, and spirit.
Prior to reading on about the fundamentals of Ayurveda, I would encourage you to take this Ayurveda quiz. Once you complete the quiz and write down the results, please return to this blog post and continue to learn about the fundamentals of Ayurveda.
Take a moment and picture a deep mountain lake. Visualize the surface of the lake - still and quiet. Picture a rock tossed into the lake and the small ripples that amplify across the surface. Picture nature acting upon the lake - the wind from a spring storm, the heat from a summer day, the ice from a cold winter night. The surface of the lake is always reacting to the environment. Yet the water at the bottom of the lake is unaffected by what happens at the surface of the lake.
Just like the surface of the lake, you are affected by your environment: family, friends, work, play, weather, etc. In Ayurveda, your current state of balance (or imbalance) is known as Vikriti. Just like the water at the surface of the lake, your vikriti can change on a short-term basis: daily, seasonally, etc. The water at the bottom of the lake in Ayurveda that is unaffected by what happens at the surface of the lake is analogous to your natural state of balance. Your natural state of balance is constant throughout your life - from birth to death. This natural state of balance is known as Prakriti.
Now that we know our vikriti is your current state of balance and your prakriti is your state of balance determined at birth, you may wonder - how can we better align the sometimes turbulent water at the surface of the lake with the peaceful water deep at the bottom of the lake?
In order to build daily and seasonal routines in our lives to help you live in balance (i.e., better align your vikriti with your prakriti) and realize your full human potential, we need to look at the Ayurveda quiz results.
Your vikriti and prakriti are made up of certain elements - and no, I don't mean carbon, calcium, etc. These are Ayurveda elements and there's only five: (1) Ether, (2) Air, (3) Fire, (4) Water, and (5) Earth. The combination of these elements give rise to the three Ayurveda constitutions which is known as your Dosha. And yes, every living being has a dosha - including your dog, cat, horse, chicken, etc.
The Ayruveda quiz you took provides you with insight into the combination of the five elements that make up your dosha. If you answered the questions in the quiz while contemplating yourself over the course of your life - you now have a good understanding of your prakriti (i.e., birth constitution). If you answered the questions in the quiz while contemplating a current situation in your life - you now have a good understanding of your vikriti (i.e., current state of balance). Generally, the results of this particular quiz give you insight into your prakriti.
No that you know your dosha, we can discuss what it means to be predominately Vata, Pitta or Kapha and how to stay balanced through daily and seasonal routines to live your best life. And this will be the subject of an upcoming blog post!
In Ayurveda, there's a tradition of a daily routine, called dinacharya. Dinacharya is one of the best tools for improving your overall health and wellness. Think about it - from the time you open your eyes in the morning to the time you arrive at work, school, etc. - what is your routine? Pause and think about your routine this morning, would you describe it as mindful, nourishing, utilitarian, chaotic?
Since studying Ayurveda, I've been more mindful of my morning (and evening) routine. I will share with you that it is not always as routine, mindful or nourishing as it could be but it often is now that I am aware of the benefits of a dinacharya practice.
My morning routine generally includes: waking up a consistent time each day, a couple gentle stretches in bed while focusing on my personal mantra, dog/cat/chicken feeding, scraping my tongue, a glass of room temperature water, making a cup of green or rose black tea for me, personal reflection time with nature, personal hygiene, enjoying a green smoothie, vitamins (don't forget your vitamins!), yoga and other physical exercises, and an occasional face mask of some kind (more on this in a moment).
Ayurveda taught me a lot about my morning routine. First, it had to be routine (kinda makes sense, right?). If every morning starts differently, that's not a routine. Basically, your morning routine should be a consistent practice. Second, Ayurveda taught me to be mindful and contemplative. Pre-Ayurveda, my morning routine was extremely pragmatic and minimal. What is the minimum amount of time I need between the time my alarm goes off and the time I need to be somewhere or do something. Now my morning routine provides time for personal reflection - watching the sunrise, sitting outside, quiet meditation, mantra, pranyama, etc. As I write this I am sitting outside and listening to roosters in the distance, hens murmuring, and many local birds chatting in the trees - oh, and the bull frog in my neighbors pond that I've never seen but imagine him to be about 100 pounds based on the volume and bass of his morning calls. Finally, one of my last practices of my morning routine - which I try to incorporate once or twice a week - is a homemade face mask. This is practical - after all, I live in sunny and dry New Mexico so taking care of ones skin is important. This is also a very mindful, contemplative, reflective, nurturing time as you will have ten minutes of complete stillness for yourself - a morning gift to yourself.
I've barely scratched the surface on the Ayurvedic practice of dinacharya. A good reference to read further on dincharya is on Banyan Botanicals webiste. If you move in this direction, don't get too caught up in making it perfect and adding 15 new things to your morning routine. Instead simplify your morning routine by adding what serves you and your ability to be mindful, contemplative and feel nourished.
Without further ado, here's one of my favorite facial mask recipes:
Facial Mask Ingredients:
Mix the above ingredients together in a bowl and let come to room temperature since the dairy is likely cold. The bananas will even your skin tone and help your skin glow, the dairy will gently renew your skin and reduce blemishes, and the honey will nourish your skin deeply. Next, I usually add one of the follow but not both:
Adding the egg whites will firm your skin. Adding the oatmeal will cool your skin. Either way, the mixture should be ready to apply to your skin. Prior to applying, gently wash your face and neck. Apply the mixture to your face and neck area with your fingers, a clean paint brush, etc. It can be a bit messy. Now, relax somewhere for ten minutes or so prior to washing the mixture off your face and neck. I typically follow with a moisturizing product and my favorite is Badger's Organic Damascus Rose Beauty Balm. Rose is tridoshic meaning it is good for all Ayurvedic constitutions. You can pick this product up at Sprouts Grocery Stores, Whole Foods, etc. Your skin is going to love you even more for this simple treatment! Don't forget a bit of sunscreen too!
Give this a face mask a try and let me know what you think! I hope you are enjoying your morning routine as much as possible.