Welcome to The Ayurveda Glow Podcast, a show dedicated to helping you live your healthiest, happiest life, stay balanced in mind, body and spirit, and glow from the inside out by applying the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda to your everyday, modern life.
I’m your host, Katrina, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor & plant-based nutrition advocate based in Santa Monica, California. Through this podcast, I’ll be sharing with you what I’m learning in the areas of plant-based nutrition, sleep, yoga, meditation and a variety of holistic mind-body approaches to optimal health. I aim to explore each of these areas through the lens of Ayurveda.
If you are new to Ayurveda and wondering what it’s all about, be sure to check out episode 002, “What is Ayurveda?” where I shared the origins and core concepts of Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic health systems that originated in India and has been practiced for over 5000 years.
One of the things I appreciate most about Ayurveda is that it’s all about personalized wellbeing. It’s for this reason that in Ayurveda, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, fitness plan, nutrition plan, lifestyle plan or health or healing plan. Everything must be personalized because no two people are exactly the same.
In this episode, I want to share three core concepts that support Ayurveda’s personalized approach to well-being. These concepts can help us to keep our mind and body in balance, stay healthy and achieve our highest potential.
Specifically, I want to talk about the doshas, the five elements, and the Ayurvedic principle of “like attracts like”, which teaches that we can restore balance in the mind and body by applying opposing qualities to a condition.
Let’s dive in!
First, let’s talk about the doshas. You may have heard the word dosha. Dosha is a Sanskrit word that means energy. In Ayurveda, there are 3 doshas or energies within the body called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
The doshas also represent unique mind-body types and we can use our understaning of the doshas to better understand ourselves. This understanding gives us the insight we need to keep our mind and body in balance so that we can stay healthy and thrive.
Speaking of the doshas, Vata dosha is known as the Wind Energy. Pitta dosha is known as the Fire Energy. And, Kapha dosha is known as the Earth Energy. I’ll circle back on each of these doshas in more depth in a moment.
For now, I just want to share that you can think of the doshas as being a mind-body type that is unique to you, determined at conception and provides a blueprint for optimal health that stays constant throughout your life.
The more you understand your dosha or mind-body type, the more you’ll understand how to take care of your mind and body so that you stay in balance and thrive.
Okay, so there are three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Again, I’ll circle back on each of these in a moment.
Next up is the concept of the five elements.
The 5 Elements
Ayurveda teaches that everything that exists is made up of the five elements that we experience all around us. The elements are: earth, water, air, fire, and ether (or space). Like everything, the doshas are also made up of the five elements.
It’s important to note that the five elements refer to more than just the tangible elements in their physical form. The five elements also represent ideas – they are symbolic metaphors that help us to understand the building blocks of everything that exists.
Earth, for example, is dense, heavy and grounding. It’s the idea of stability and solidity. A rock, a piece of wood or metal is infused with earth energy. In the body, earth represents our physical structure. In the mind, earth represents mental stability.
Water is fluid and cool. It represents the idea of flow, liquidity and cohesion. In the body, water represents fluids. In the mind, water represents gentle, loving and compassionate emotions.
Fire is hot and powerful. It represents the idea of transformation. In the body, fire governs digestion. In the mind, it governs perception.
Air element is also referred to as the Wind element – it’s light, and moving, like our breath. Air is the energy behind all motion. In the body, air element represents the movement of nerve impulses and movement of the breath and limbs. In the mind, air is the energy that moves thought.
Ether is the idea of Space or connectedness. It’s the space within us when we meditate or still our minds. In the body, ether represents the empty spaces that exist. In the mind, ether represents consciousness.
So that’s a quick overview of the elements.
Everything in nature, including each of us, is made up of all five elements at once, but the element that is most dominant determines the characteristics that will be expressed.
This is where the doshas Vata, Pitta, and Kapha come in. One person may have a dominant Vata dosha with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual characteristics that characterize Vata dosha, and someone else may have a dominant Pitta dosha with characteristics unique to Pitta.
No one is entirely one dosha. We all have all three doshas but one dosha or more may dominate. Ayurveda teaches that optimal health occurs when the doshas are in balance. For this reason, the dosha that is out of balance is always the one that’s treated.
Okay, so let’s talk about the three doshas or mind-body types called Vata, Pitta and Kapha! And, most importantly, how you may be able to recognize these doshas in yourself so that you can give your body what it needs to stay in balance, optimize your energy, and thrive.
First up is, VATA.
Vata dosha is made up of air and ether elements and is often called the Wind dosha because it’s just like wind – cold, dry, light, mobile and moving. Vata is the energy in the body that is responsible for all motion.
When Vata energy is in balance, the movements of the body are graceful, unimpeded, and controlled. If you have excess vata, it means you have too much wind energy.
A few signs of excess vata in the body are: gas, excessive bloating, constipation, tremors or twitches or a tendency to feel cold. In addition, excess Vata shows up as dry skin, frizzy or dry hair or dry, cracked nails.
The doshas also reveal themselves in the mind. For example, a vata imbalance may show up as having racing thoughts, feeling easily overwhelmed, not being able to stop worrying, having a hard time falling to sleep, or anxiety.
To counteract any of these conditions or tendencies, Ayurveda teaches that you can help bring Vata back into balance by introducing the opposite qualities of Vata into your lifestyle or diet.
For example, if you recognize the characteristics of Vata dosha in yourself, you can help yourself stay in balance by infusing practices that provide more grounding energy into your lifestyle. Introducing grounding activities is helpful because they oppose the Vata qualities of being cold, light, dry and mobile.
If you recognize Vata dosha in yourself, some grounding activities to keep you balanced include spending time in nature, eating meals at regular times throughout the day, going to sleep and waking up at the same time and committing to moderate exercise like yoga or a walking each day. All of these activities help ground Vata’s light, airy, mobile energy and can help you stay balanced and healthy.
Also, because Vata dosha is characterized as being cold, light, dry and mobile, the best foods keep Vata dosha balanced are foods that are warm, oily, and moist. Foods that are sweet, sour or salty are also best to keep Vata balanced. Think grounding foods like warm soups, root vegetables like sweet potatoes, avocados, or warm stews. And sweet, heavier foods like mango, dates, squash or pumpkin.
Okay, so that’s a brief overview of Vata dosha, how it shows up in the mind and body and a few ways to keep yourself in balance if you recognize Vata dosha in yourself.
Next up is Pitta.
Pitta is known as the Fire dosha – it’s hot, fiery, transformative and responsible for digestion and metabolism. Pitta is made up of fire and water.
If you have excess Pitta in the body, you have excess heat. An example of the signs of a Pitta imbalance in the body include experiencing a fever, heartburn, ulcers, skin rashes, acne or red, bloodshot eyes.
In the mind, someone with a Pitta temperament is ambitious, driven and gets things done. This is great when Pitta dosha is in balance. An excess of Pitta energy in the mind, however, shows up as impatience or anger.
If you recognize the characteristics of Pitta dosha in yourself, one important way to stay balanced and keep Pitta in check is to stick to a regular eating schedule throughout the day.
Pittas stay in balance with consistent meal times, preferably eating at least three square meals a day, and preferably in a calm, peaceful environment. This one lifestyle hack of eating consistently is key because Pittas have a strong, fast metabolism.
Hunger is a way our body signals us that digestion and metabolism from the previous meal is complete.
If you recognize yourself as having a tendency to become “hangry” – hungry and angry – when you skip meals, it’s a sign that your digestion is strong which is a characteristic of Pitta dosha.
If being “hangry” sounds familiar to you, you can use this insight to plan ahead and make sure you eat regularly or, if you’re on-the-go or traveling, be sure to always have some healthy, Pitta-pacifying snacks on hand. You may want to consider bringing some almonds, fresh fruit, coconut energy balls or another healthy, Pitta-pacifying snack with you so that you’re never stuck without something to eat and you can bypass the uncomfortable “hangry” experience.
Keep in mind, that because Pitta dosha is characterized by heat, foods that will aggravate Pitta dosha are those that are hot, spicy, extremely sour or overly salted.
For this reason, the best foods to keep Pittas balanced are foods that have the opposite qualities. For example, the best foods for Pitta dosha are cool, soothing, and hydrating. Also – foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent will similarly counteract the excess heat of a Pitta imbalance and help alleviate the heat of a Pitta imbalance.
If you’ve ever been to a Thai restaurant and ordered an extra spicy curry with red chilies, as I have, you know that one of the best options to soothe the burning sensation in your mouth is a cool, sweet, creamy Thai ice tea!
A Pitta-pacifying lifestyle includes activities that keep you cool in mind and body. A peaceful, soothing, calming environment is also especially beneficial for Pittas.
Okay, so that’s a brief overview of the characteristics of Pitta dosha and a few ways to keep yourself in balance if you recognize Pitta dosha in your mind or body.
Last but not least, is Kapha!
Kapha is known as the Water + Earth dosha because it’s made of these elements. Like water and earth, Kapha dosha is defined as being soothing, grounded, cool, moist, stable, and heavy. Kapha is the energy that gives our body structure and stability. Emotionally, Kapha individuals are known for being especially loving and compassionate.
When the body has too much Kapha energy, this excess shows up as weight gain, excess mucus, sluggish digestion, and low energy.
In the mind, excess kapha may show up as stubbornness and lack of motivation.
For example, if you have an excess of kapha dosha, you may feel sluggish and have a hard time waking up in the morning. You may also have a weak digestion, in which case, you may have a tendency to skip meals since you don’t feel hungry as often..
Once again, Ayurveda teaches that it’s helpful to introduce the opposite qualities to keep Kapha dosha in balance.
Since Kapha is made up of the elements water and earth, it has the qualities of being cool, heavy, and moist.
For this reason, if you recognize excess Kapha dosha in yourself, it’s helpful to introduce foods into the diet that are light, warm, and dry. Fresh veggies and leafy greens are especially helpful for Kaphas. And – since Kaphas tend to have a weak ability to digest – another Ayurvedic hack is to use warming spices like ginger, black pepper and cinnamon to aid digestion.
Okay, so those are just a few examples of food hacks you can incorporate into your diet to keep yourself in balance if you recognize Kapha dosha in your mind or body.
Ayurveda teaches that we can support our best health by taking care of all five senses. So it’s not just about food. It’s also about what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
With this in mind, a Kapha-balancing lifestyle also includes exercise. Most important is exercise that you enjoy so that you’re inspired to get moving. That said, the livelier and more invigorating the exercise, the better. Also, energizing music and warm, spicy smells or aromatherapy are stimulating and therefore, beneficial for Kaphas.
So that’s a quick summary of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
As mentioned, we each have all three doshas within us. But one dosha is often dominant.
Being able to identify the combination of doshas that make up our unique individual constitution can provide us with valuable insight into what our mind and body needs to stay balanced and thrive.
As a side note, I just want to share that it’s taken me quite a bit of time to wrap my head around the concepts of doshas and five elements. So, if this is new to you, I want to assure you that you’re right on track and it may be helpful to listen to this episode more than once. I’ll be talking about doshas and other core concepts of Ayurveda in future podcast episodes as well. So with repetition, these concepts and the wisdom they provide should start to sink in and everything will make a lot more sense. This will be especially true as we start to apply the concepts to our own lives. I know for myself this was the case.
Okay! So this brings us to the end of this episode.
I’m so excited to share more in future episodes.
As Aristotle once said:
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
I’m so grateful that Ayurveda provides us with ancient wisdom to help us to better know ourselves and a holistic set of tools to help us personalize our diet and lifestyle so that we can stay healthy and thrive.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. We covered a lot of ground and I’ll be building on these concepts and more in future episodes. If you are interested in figuring out your specific mind-body type or dosha and knowing which herbs, foods or diet to use for a specific imbalance, it’s best to consult with a Ayurvedic practitioner one-on-one to make sure you are treating the right dosha.
Thank you for joining me today.
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Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate you so much. Wishing you a beautiful day.