According to Ayurveda, we are born with a specific constitution, or makeup, that informs our needs, physical health, and how we live our lives. That constitution is called prakruti, and it is constant. There are environmental and lifestyle factors that can throw our prakruti off balance, or alter it just a little, but overall, the constitution we’re born with is what we have to work with for our entire lives. The three doshas, or qualities that make up all of life, run through everyone’s individual prakruti to varying degrees. Vata, pitta, and kapha are the names of the three doshas, and we each have all of them within us, even though one (or sometimes, rarely, two; or, even more rarely, all three) is dominant in our prakruti/makeup. It’s helpful to know about our personal constitution, so that we can make informed decisions about dietary and lifestyle choices that will best serve our mental, emotional, and physical needs. Having a basic understanding of the doshas allows us to better care for our bodies, and to recognize that our bodies really do need constant rebalancing over time. But, there is a lot to each dosha, and uncovering your own particular constitution is nuanced and complex. The easiest and most accurate way to find out about your constitution, and how to balance and rebalance yourself, is to schedule a consultation with us, which you can do by heading to our website—link below.
Regardless of constitution, our journey to wellness looks different as we age, depending on where we are in life (literally where we live/the environment we live in, and also what phase of life we’re in). Ayurveda operates from the basic principle that all of life is in harmony and relationship, woven together in a fabric that reflects, back and forth, the state of the inner and outer worlds. What’s going on around us is happening within us, and what happens within us ends up happening around us—and so on. From this perspective, every action we take (or choose not to take) shapes the world we live in, and in turn, comes back to shape our own nature over time.
An easy way to understand this concept is: when we feel a certain way, we behave based on those emotions or that state of consciousness available to us at the time. If we’re tired, angry, or sad, our actions may not be the most loving to the people around us, and could impact small (but not so small) actions like: taking our stress out on loved ones and creating conflict in our relationships (not in harmony with others); being so bogged down by our emotions or stress that we forget to bring our own bags to the grocery store and need to use plastic or paper bags that then contribute to waste on the planet (not in harmony with nature); eating sugary foods like cakes and cookies, or drinking something stimulating like coffee, to feel better (not in harmony with our body, which most likely needs to be soothed and supported with something like mineral-rich vegetables or herbal teas). The list could go on.
Once we disrupt our environment through unconscious or out-of-harmony actions, the environment eventually gives that back to us. We can see it in our relationships, when we show up tired or stressed or cranky, and we pick a fight or say something we don’t mean. If we don’t have the wherewithal to stop ourselves and to find a more loving approach, the relationship gets thrown off balance. Then, the other person eventually mirrors that behavior back, further instigating conflict or tensions, either in the moment or on another day when they’re feeling low.
We can also see it with the buildup of pollutions on our planet—we’ve all been unaware or lazy and contributed to that waste from time to time, and now the waste and hazardous pollutants are changing the climate, air quality, water quality, etc., which then affects our own health (breathing in particulate matter, heavy metals and toxins on our foods or in the soil or in the water, etc.).
Ayurveda doesn’t tell us to shame ourselves into making “better” choices; it asks us to slow down a bit, and make time in our day to feel our feelings and rebalance our minds, hearts, and bodies, so that we can show up in our relationships and in the world in a way that contributes to more balance, wellness, vitality, support—not more unresolved tensions, unclear communications, and piles and piles of things that are hard to process (like unsaid expectations or disempowering dynamics in relationships, or foods that are harmful or not easy to digest for our bodies, or products and producing waste that take thousands or more years to breakdown).
To understand this better, it’s helpful to take a second and talk about the root of the word, dosha. Dosha loosely translates to “impurity” or “fault,” but that’s only true when our doshas are out of balance. It isn’t so harsh, nor meant to be so direct, as to say that we’re completely at fault when our doshas go out of balance—because even small shifts in weather (which is in large part out of our control) can affect our inner balance; but, Ayurveda does teach us that we do have a responsibility to tune into our bodies and take care of them deliberately, regularly, and honestly. To listen—really listen—to what our body needs, and make that a priority, is one of the main principles in Ayurveda. So in a way, if we only eat burgers and fries, or drink a lot of coffee and alcohol, or make choices that are out of alignment with who we really are, then, yes, we could be considered “at fault” in some way for what ails us. We are taught that once we become aware of how our actions can disrupt or contribute to harmony, that it is our responsibility, and within our power, to make more harmonious choices that benefit us and the whole. According to Ayurveda, we all have the power to change our lives, in every moment, even when it doesn’t feel that way. It starts with a simple thought, something like, “I am worthy, I am loved, I am enough, I can do this.” And it extends into larger thoughts and actions that show our gratitude and reverence for our bodies, our relations, the earth, our life as a whole.
Starting from the deepest, innermost point is a great place to go: finding gratitude and appreciation for our own bodies. Showing our bodies gratitude for all the hard work they do, every day, to keep us alive isn’t necessarily easy to do when we’re having hard days. It’s also not easy to inhabit our bodies and feel grateful for them when we’re feeling less than or unhappy or stressed out—especially in a world that teaches us to keep busy and be distracted on a regular basis; we’re shown through advertising, TV, and media of all kinds that there’s always something else we could be doing or wearing or buying that would make our bodies look better or be healthier, or make us fit in more—it’s as though there’s all these cultural prerequisites for inhabiting our body like, “when I loose 10 pounds, then I can feel good about my body,” “when I look more like this actress or that actor, then someone will love me,” “if I could just get the right clothes, or the right makeup, or the right shape of this part of the body or that, then I’ll be able to feel good in my skin.” So, the best thing we can do is recognize that the comparison/if-when way of thinking (which we’ve all been taught to various degrees) is an insatiable trap that will forever keep us out of our bodies so long as we don’t stop long enough to take stock of what it is, right now, that makes our bodies so special, incredible, unique, miraculous. If you’re having a hard time coming up with something, maybe starting somewhere like this will help: It’s a miracle that my organs work every second of every day to keep me alive. It’s incredible that all the cells in my body are in constant communication with each other, working to balance my body and keep me alive. I’m grateful for the ability of my mind and body to facilitate various types of experiences for me—I can taste, smell, think, feel, move, hear . . . It’s easy to move through life somewhat unconsciously, and to feel compelled or controlled by our ever-changing emotional state, and it’s sad that our culture puts a lot of emphasis on comparison, but that doesn’t mean we have to take that mindset on. Ayurveda teaches us to be responsible for, and empowered around, how we care for and connect with our bodies. It reminds us that if something isn’t helping us or bringing more life and vitality, it’s up to us to find a way to reframe that perspective or those actions until we come into greater balance and harmony with ourselves and the natural world. Ayurveda isn’t a “one size fits all” approach; it’s very personal, and asks us to tune into our bodies and the world at large. It takes an inner willingness to strive for harmony, clarity, vitality, wellbeing. And it oftentimes takes a lot of support along the way! The easiest way to know if your doshas are out of balance is by taking stock of your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. How have you been feeling lately? How are things going in your relationships (intimate, professional, familial, friendly, etc.)? Are there negative thought loops you’ve been stuck in, or hard emotions you’ve been having trouble processing? Is your body showing signs and symptoms of discomfort, dis-ease, or pain? Be really honest with yourself. The state of harmony is full of life-giving, energizing thoughts, feelings, and physical functions, so if you’re experiencing something other than that, something is probably a bit (or a lot a bit) off balance.
Making time to get to know your body is a must from an Ayurvedic perspective. You can try laying down or sitting quietly somewhere that you won’t be interrupted for 10-60 minutes. Close your eyes and feel your breath. Notice the quality of your breath—are you breathing quickly and shallowly? Are you breathing deeply? Allow your awareness to then scan each part of your body, starting with your feet and moving to your legs, your hips, your back, your belly, your chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, head and face. Really give yourself time to feel what’s happening within each part of your body and notice any emotions that come up for you. Let yourself become present and aware of you. Notice how that feels, and let the emotions arise as they do. After taking stock of your body, maybe ask your body what it needs. Chances are, you already know what you need to be doing more of, or doing less of, in your life, to feel more nourished and happy and fulfilled. It’s just a matter of taking the time to really listen, and then to implement change. We are here, every day of the work week, to support you! Reach out with questions, or schedule a consultation with us here: https://santacruzayurveda.com/appointments/
Basic Qualities for each Dosha
Dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, moving, flowing, changing, clear, for Vata. Vata can bring us a lot of creative direction and perception, or, out of balance, can bring us anxiety and an inability to put our thoughts into words.
Hot, sharp, light, liquid, spreading, oily, are some qualities of Pitta. Pitta impacts how we digest food, experiences, thoughts, relationships . . . anything in life we take in. In balance, we’re able to process quickly, be direct, articulate well, and hold leadership positions effectively. Out of balance, we’re quick to anger and can become agitated, irritable, frustrated, resentful and/or bitter.
Heavy, dense, slow, grounding, smooth, oily, soft, stable, gross, sticky, viscous, are some qualities of Kapha. Kapha is incredibly nourishing—think of it like the ultimate Mother. It’s grounding, nurturing, generous, and loves to make things cozy. Out of balance, it can make us sluggish, unmotivated, heavy, stubborn or dense in our thinking, and inert.