What is Ayurveda: Understanding the 3 Doshas

July 24, 2018

What is Ayurveda: Understanding the 3 Doshas

Ayurveda (“are-yer-VAY-duh”) which translates to “the science of life,” or as some say, “the knowledge of living,” comes from India as an ancient system of healing that has been around for at least five thousand years.

Ayurveda is often found in yoga circles and has even been referred to as the “sister science” to yoga. Both practices embody a mindfulness that encourages looking within for answers as well as a belief in the mind-body connection.

For the next few minutes, let’s talk Ayurveda, break down what a dosha is, and discuss some simples ways to find balance for holistic healing.

This science of mind-body wellness is super empowering because it helps us understand that we can both create and maintain our own wellness instead of blindly trusting our health to someone else or to a medical system that operates under the belief that one size fits all.

Ayurveda emphasizes that we are all unique beings with different elements which determine what wellness should look like for us.

Woman outside in tree pose

Let’s start with the basics

Ayurveda is a way to understand our personal wellness.

It is the use of foods, plants, herbs, minerals, and lifestyle choices to find holistic wellbeing.

As mentioned above, it is an ancient practice with a focus on mind-body wellness which gives you the tools to both manifest and maintain thriving health.

One of the building blocks of this practice is the understanding that wellness occurs when our internal and external environments are in balance.

Doshas broken down

According to a leading voice in the Ayurvedic space, Sahara Rose, who is both a practitioner and author (her book Idiot's Guide to Ayurveda is definitely worth checking out!), “each person was born with a specific mind-body constitution, comprised of the natural elements.”

This unique “mind-body constitution” is a dosha. Your dosha can be determined by visiting a Ayurvedic practitioner, which we highly recommend, or taking one of many online quizzes, which may be slightly less reliable.

Based upon our Dosha, we can determine what is best for us to eat and how to find equanimity within our diet and lifestyle choices.

We are not just one dosha, but most people are dominated by one, or two doshas, with the rare person being a strong balance of all three.

The three doshas:


Vata Dosha - Air and Space - Cold and Dry - Wind

Vata is the energy of movement. It is dry, light, cold and rough, just like the elements of air and ether (space), of which it is associated with.

When out of balance, a vata experiences insecurity, agitation, indecision, and anxiousness.

A few physical ills that occur as a result of imbalance in a vata person are constipation, dry skin, and anemia.

When properly balanced, this person is adaptable and energetic with a positive and creative spirit.

This balance is found through grounding, calming and heating practices like yoga, warm baths, breathwork, time in nature, and meditation.

Foods that bring balance are warm, moist, rich, and vibrant foods that have sweet, salty and sour flavors, such as grains, fruit, lemons, yogurt, sea veggies and celery.

Ayurveda Vata Dosha Graphic


Pitta Dosha - Fire and Water - Warm and Wet - Fire

Pitta is the energy of transformation. It is associated with the elements of fire and water.

The balanced pitta is friendly, perceptive, intelligent, courageous, and a strong leader.

Imbalanced this same person can be manipulative and aggressive with willful and reckless tendencies.

Headaches, skin conditions, heartburn and burnout are a few physical ills that occur when out of balance.

The pitta balance is found through a regular self care routine that occurs at, or near, the same time each day. It is also beneficial to keep yourself cool and calm both in temperament and temperature.

Foods that bring balance are those that are also cool in temperature and energy, and those that are naturally sweet, bitter and astringent, such as grains, fruit, leafy greens, herbs, turmeric, raw veggies and legumes.

Ayurveda Pitta Dosha Graphic


Kapha Dosha - Water and Earth - Cold and Wet

Kapha is the energy of structure and lubrication. It is associate with the elements of earth and water.

The balanced kapha is loving, nurturing, grounded, loyal, and forgiving.

Out of balance the kapha is controlling, insecure and apathetic.

A couple physical ills that occur as a result of imbalance in a kapha person are depression and weight gain.

In order to find balance, kapha's do best with warm and dry environments where they can get a lot of exercise.

Warm, spicy, light, pungent, bitter and astringent foods, such as chili powder, cayenne, garlic, onions, leafy greens, herbs, turmeric, raw veggies, legumes and pomegranates are best for a person with this constitution.

Ayurveda Kapha Dosha Graphic

Finding the balance: Agni vs Prana

Ayurveda is based around the understanding that there are two opposing concepts that need to be balanced.

These two concepts are agni, which is our is digestive “fire,” and prana, which is vital life force energy.

When Agni is properly balanced and functioning, we are able to absorb the nutrients from our foods, digest them properly, and rid ourselves of the excess waste so that it doesn’t remain in the body and lead to toxicity.

Prana is often related to breath, but it is also the life force that sustains our entire existence. Through practices like yoga and Ayurveda, this energy can flow freely and be used for optimal wellness.

Ayurveda is all about creating an entire lifestyle that supports you.

It is important to remember that we are always changing. We may be dominantly one dosha in a certain season of life and then something else in another.

Just like our yoga practice, ayurveda is a journey that encourages us to continually ask questions and stay open to what is happening both inside and outside of us.

Girl sitting on yoga mat outside in sunshine

Hopefully we have shared some new concepts that will help you dive deeper into your own wellness and maybe even begin to heal your own body.

Wishing you deep awareness and a evolving understanding of the unique and beautiful being that you are. SaveSave

Also in Blog

7 Beginner Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
7 Beginner Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain

January 16, 2019

7 gentle yoga poses to help you find proper alignment in your body, strengthen your abdominal muscles & support your spinal mobility and lower back.
Anti-inflammatory Spice Tea DIY Recipe
Anti-inflammatory Spice Tea DIY Recipe

January 08, 2019

This 5 ingredient DIY homemade anti-inflammatory spice tea is simple, comforting, nutrient dense, and the perfect way to start your day.
10 Morning Mantras for Inspiration & Intention
10 Morning Mantras for Inspiration & Intention

January 03, 2019

10 morning mantras for inviting intention into your day and directing your energy towards what you'd like to manifest.