The Doshas, Prakruti and Vikruti

The Vata dosha is comprised of the air and ether elements. This means that it has qualities that are similar to these elements. Vata is very much like the wind — it is light, cold, dry, and mobile. People with a Vata nature experience these qualities by having bodies with low weight, thin bones, and dry skin and hair. They often move and speak quickly. When out of balance, they may lose weight, become constipated, and have weakness in their immune and nervous systems.

People who have a Vata personality reflect the qualities of lightness, coolness, dryness, and mobility. They tend to be talkative, enthusiastic, creative, flexible, and energetic. When out of balance, they may become easily confused and overwhelmed, have difficulty focusing or making decisions, and have trouble sleeping. This becomes more apparent when they are under stress. They are challenged by cool emotions like worry, fear, and anxiety.

Vata is balanced by the opposing qualities of warmth, heaviness (or nourishment), moistness, and stability. In the diet, this is reflected in the consumption of cooked grains (such as rice and cooked vegetables), as well as the intake of warm milk with ghee and spices. Warming herbs (like ginger, cumin or cinnamon) increase internal heat, and nourishing herbs (like ashwagandha) bring balance to Vata.

The Pitta dosha is comprised of the fire and water elements. People with a significant amount of Pitta nature have many of the qualities of fire within them. Pitta tends to be hot, light, dry and oily, mobile, sharp, and penetrating. The oily nature of Pitta is related to the secondary component of water. People with a Pitta nature reflect these qualities. They tend to feel warm, have somewhat oily skin, penetrating eyes, and sharp features. Their bodies tend to have moderate weight and good musculature. When out of balance, they tend toward diarrhea, infections, skin rashes, and weakness in the liver, spleen, and blood.

People who have a Pitta personality tend to be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic, clear communicators who get right to the point. They like to solve problems, and, when under stress, they dig in their heels. However, they can also become overly intense and speak with a sharp tongue. They make great friends but feared enemies. Emotionally, they are challenged by the heated emotions of anger, resentment, and jealousy.

Pitta is balanced by the opposing qualities of coolness, heaviness (nourishing),and dryness. Cool spices like fennel or cardamom are recommended in the diet, along with foods such as raw vegetables, cooked rice, and wheat, as well as most beans. Sweet herbs like shatavari are used to nourish the body, while bitters like dandelion root temper the fire.

The Kapha dosha is comprised of the water and earth elements. Like these elements, Kapha tends to be cool, moist, stable, and heavy. People with a Kapha nature reflect these qualities in their bodies, with dense and heavy bones, lustrous hair, supple skin, low metabolism, coolness on the skin surface, and large stocky frames. When out of balance, Kapha individuals are prone to gaining weight and tend to have weaknesses in their lungs and sinuses, where there is an accumulation of mucous. Those of Kapha nature are also most prone to non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

The elements of water and earth are also manifested in the personality. The heavy, stable nature of Kapha is reflected in a steady personality with few fluctuations. Those with a Kapha nature handle stress very well, often not even noticing that it exists. They don’t like change, are generally conservative, and would prefer to keep things just the way they are. Those with a Kapha nature are also comfort seekers because of their soft, watery nature. They become very possessive and attached. Too much comfort, however, can lead to a lack of motivation and a feeling of becoming stuck.

When Kapha is out of balance the heavy emotions of depression and lethargy result. Kapha is balanced by the opposing qualities of lightness, dryness, and warmth. Grains such as quinoa and amaranth are recommended, as well as hot spices like cayenne pepper and dry ginger. Lots of vegetables and very small amounts of nuts or dairy are prescribed. Cleansing herbs like guggul and pungents like clove bring balance to Kapha.

Prakruti (Essential Constitution)
The doshic constitution you are conceived with. There is usually a mixture of doshas with one dosha dominating. This is your essential nature that will remain constant for life. It determines the distinctive qualities of your mind and body when you are in balance. Knowing what your dosha is provides invaluable information that will help you get in touch with your body’s inner intelligence.

Vikruti (Imbalance)
Vikruti is the set of imbalances that you are currently experiencing in the body and mind. An Ayurvedic practitioner tailors the therapies to address these imbalances. For example, if one is experiencing dryness in the system, then eating more soups, drinking warm teas, and adding demulcents may be the appropriate therapy to counteract the dryness.