This consciousness-based medicine offers us simple tools to care for our inner landscape. By understanding ourselves and the world around us, we can come back in tune with our own nature and with Earth.
Looking through an ayurvedic lens, understanding ourselves means discovering our prakriti, also known as our constitution.
Prakriti is something that doesn’t change
Your Inner Landscape: The Three Doshas
Just as everything in the universe is comprised of the three ayurvedic doshas: vata, pitta, kapha, every person is also comprised of the three doshas.
Generally, a person is predominantly one or two of these doshas, and we call this predominance that person’s prakriti.
Someone who is primarily pitta would have red, blonde or prematurely gray hair. She would have blue, green or hazel eyes, a yellowish or pinkish hue to her skin and have a body shape much like a triangle: broad shoulders with a small waist.
These people typically have intense personalities, are driven to succeed in all things and have a competitive and athletic nature.
Someone who is predominantly vata would likely be tall and thin or very short and thin. His build would be similar to a beanpole—straight up and down with few curves and a petite frame. Vata people are generally excitable, talkative, flighty daydreamers who enjoy change. A vata person may have small brown eyes, thin silky hair that is brown and delicate facial features.
Kapha people have large, round eyes, broad shoulders and hips with not much difference in waist and hip size. A kapha person generally has milky white, soft skin, dark brown hair that is curly, large white teeth, a peaceful, gentle nature and a voice that is sweet and melodious.
Of course, mixtures of all of these doshas occur. For example, a pitta-kapha prakriti might have a tiny waist and broad shoulders with large green eyes, a strong drive to succeed and an equally strong desire for peace and stability.
A person could also be pitta-vata, vata-pitta, vata-kapha, kapha-vata, kapha-pitta or tridoshically balanced as vata-pitta-kapha.
To learn more about your prakriti, visit an ayurveda practitioner who will visually assess your tongue, structure, gait, voice and demeanor.
Within the world around us, everything in the universe can be understood through these qualities of vata, pitta and kapha.
Think of the three states of matter: gas, liquid and solid, as V, P and K, respectively. (If you’ve heard of the fourth type of matter as plasma, that would be synonymous with kapha.)
Air and space, wind and movement are attributed to vata. Burning fires, lakes, oceans, streams, the sun and water are pitta attributes. Ground, rocks, trees and mountains are kapha attributes.
Within the body, vata is breath, movement of the muscles, pumping heart and firing neurons as well as elimination of waste and menstruation.
Inside the body, pitta governs metabolism, heat, homeostasis, eyesight, insight, skin and liver functions. Kapha provides the structural integrity and immunity.
Our skeletal system, as well as all viscous fluids like cerebral fluid, stomach lining and lymphatic system, are kapha representations in the body.
None of this will change. Your prakriti 10 years ago is your prakriti today and it will remain your prakriti until your final breath.
Understanding your prakriti is essential to understanding yourself.
If you can begin to see the commonalities between Earth and your own being, perhaps you will begin to feel more connected, more understood and more supported by our beautiful Earth.
There’s more to understand than just prakriti.
A State of Imbalance
We also have a vikriti—a state of imbalance that changes from day to day, season to season, year to year.
When we have too much of one dosha represented, all three doshas become off balance: one in excess and the other two in deficiency.
You can notice these imbalances by experiencing dysfunction or maladies within your emotional or physical state.
If vata was in excess in a person’s body, that person may feel worried, anxious, ungrounded and perhaps suffer from insomnia. This person would feel unsure, unsafe and become unreliable, darting around from one topic to the next in conversation, losing weight or gaining weight due to improper digestion.
If these imbalances were to occur, a person would then turn to Earth for resources to restore balance.
Looking at the world as a universal pharmacy, we can take in more of the qualities we wish to experience more of and diminish the qualities we have in excess.
Using this model, a person with vata excess could eliminate salad, raw fruits and vegetables, and cold foods from the diet. She could then begin eating heavy, unctuous, well-cooked, warm, nutritious meals and go to bed at least an hour early, which leaves time to give herself a sesame oil massage from head to toe before bed. She would then drink a cup of hot milk with ghee and turmeric before going to sleep.
If an individual had a pitta imbalance, he may find himself feeling irritable, losing his temper quickly and frequently, having acid reflux, and waking in the night between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and unable to get back to sleep. He might experience breakouts on the skin, an intensity in personality that becomes overbearing–and most of all, this person may have a tendency to become overly critical of himself.
Again, turning to the Earth as a medicine cabinet, this person could spend at least an hour outside in nature every day; eliminate peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes from their diet and instead favor a fresh kale salad with oily dressing, fresh sweet fruit and comforting, heavy healthy food like a chicken pot pie (without potatoes).
A person with too much kapha in his or her life would have feelings of lethargy, depression and lack of motivation.
This person might experience sinus pressure or congestion, phlegm in the lungs and throat, slow-moving bowels, weight gain, excessive sweating or formation of adipose cysts.
With this type of imbalance, before food can make a change in the body, this person would benefit from detoxing with an ayurvedic fast for one week.
Then after the fast eliminate cheese, dairy, fried foods, cold drinks and meat from the diet.
This person could engage in an asana yoga practice in the morning and take a walk after every meal, eliminating cold drinks from the diet and favoring hot water with lemon at all meals and in between meals.
Bringing more vata energy into the body through fresh fruits and veggies and more pitta energy into the body with moderate exercise and warm drinks would balance this individual.
The beauty of ayurveda is recognizing that each individual exists in his or her own unique composition. What is a healthy diet and lifestyle for one person may not constitute as healthy for another person.
By understanding ourselves and understanding the composition of the world in which we live, we can begin to use the universal pharmacy to bring balance to life.
Sally Raspberry is an ayurvedic practitioner with a background in therapeutic massage and yoga. As well as being a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and Yoga Alliance, Raspberry is an approved provider of continuing education through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. For more information about ayurvedic fasting, the doshas, and exponentially more, contact her or sign up for an upcoming class. Her approved courses include Meditation, Ayurveda, Sound Healing and Yin Yoga. She wrote “Love Your Mama: Mother Earth Needs Us” for the March 2017 print issue of MASSAGE Magazine.