Doshas

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Pitta Dosha

Pitta doshas benefit from cultivating a calm, relaxed attitude toward their practice, letting go of their competitive tendency. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others in your yoga class, and be gentle and patient with yourself.

Since Pittas have a tendency toward excess heat, avoid yoga forms that cause profuse sweating, favoring cooling, relaxing poses instead. Also avoid holding long inverted poses, which create a lot of heat in the head. You may want to schedule your yoga sessions during cooler times of day, such as dawn or dusk.

Focus on poses that help to release excess heat from the body, including those that compress the solar plexus or open the chest, especially the pigeon, camel, cobra, bow, fish and bridge poses. For standing poses, the best ones for Pitta are those that open the hips, including tree, warrior, and half moon.

When you enter Savasana, quietly focus on your breath. This will calm your mind and center you in your body and heart.

Vata Dosha

If your dosha is predominantly Vata, calming and grounding yoga poses are ideal. For example, tree pose (Vrksasana) and mountain pose (Tadasana) root your feet into the ground, reducing anxiety and stress. Warrior I and II are also beneficial, helping to ground you while also building strength.

Fast-paced vinyasas or flow sequences can aggravate Vata, which is prone to anxiety, overexertion, and fatigue. To make a vinyasa more Vata-pacifying, move deliberately and slowly, extending the length of time that you hold each pose. Also pay attention to the transitions between poses, performing them with conscious awareness rather than rushing on to the next pose.

Since Vata is prone to constipation, poses that compress the pelvis are healing, including all forward bends (standing or sitting). Also focus on poses that engage the lower back and thighs – major regions of the Vata dosha.

Finally, Vata types benefit from doing a long, deep Shavasana or corpse pose – at least 15–20 minutes.

For more information on the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, please click here.

Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone, and sinew. The primary function of Kapha is protection.

Qualities of Kapha: Heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily.

Physical Characteristics: Kapha types have a strong build and excellent stamina. Large, soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin; and thick hair are also important Kapha characteristics. Those who are predominantly Kapha sleep soundly and have regular digestion. But when Kapha builds to excess, weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body. When they’re out of balance, Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression.

Emotional Characteristics: Kaphas are naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. When in balance, Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. People with an excess of Kapha tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness. In the face of stress, the typical Kapha response is “I don’t want to deal with it.”

What's Your Dosha

Balancing Kapha:

  • Since Kapha is inherently cold, heavy, and dense, the key to balancing Kapha is stimulation. Kaphas tend to cling to the status quo and routine, so they need the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and experiences.
  • Follow a regular daily routine, ideally awakening before 6am each morning. Avoid taking naps during the day.
  • Stay warm and avoid dampness. Kaphas are particularly sensitive to cold, damp conditions and benefit from heat. Use dry heat if you are congested (a common Kapha complaint). Using a heating pad under your back or a sunlamp at your chest is often helpful. Avoid exposing your nose, throat, and lungs to cold winter air if you aren’t feeling well.
  • Perform a daily garshan (dry massage) on your body to stimulate circulation. Click here for garshan massage instructions.
  • To prevent congestion, the ayurvedic neti pot is a powerful tool for nasal cleansing. Read on for instructions on how to use a neti pot here.
  • Clear your space. To avoid clutter from accumulating in your home, office, car, and other physical spaces, regularly clean out and give away things that you know you’ll never use.
  • Get regular exercise – preferably every day. This is the best way to avoid stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in the body. Focus on building endurance. Favor running, bicycling, swimming, aerobics, and competitive sports. Dance to energizing rhythmic music.
  • Use warm, stimulating aromas including cloves, camphor, cinnamon, eucalyptus, juniper, and marjoram.
  • Favor colors that are warm and bright, including yellow, orange, and red.

Kapha-Balancing Nutritional Guidelines

According to ayurveda, it is important to eat foods that have a balancing effect upon the dominant dosha or that will pacify (stabilize) a dosha that has become excessive or aggravated. Because Kapha is heavy, oily and cold, favor foods that are light, dry, or warm. Foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes are most beneficial for pacifying Kapha. Reduce foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes.

Recommendations:

  • Try a liquid fast one day per week, ingesting only fresh vegetables and fruit juices, and pureed vegetable soup.
  • Reduce the intake of dairy, which tends to increase Kapha. You can use small amounts of ghee, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt.
  • Honey is a sweetener that is said to best pacify Kapha. Other sweeteners should be avoided because they increase the Kapha dosha, contributing to problems such as blocked sinuses, allergies, colds, and lethargy. Take a tablespoon or two (but no more) of raw honey every day helps release excess Kapha; please do not cook with honey.
  • Drinking hot ginger tea with meals helps stimulate slow digestion and sharpen dull taste buds. Drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. Find our ginger tea recipe here.
  • All beans are good for Kapha types except for soybeans and soybean-based foods such as tofu, which should be eaten in moderation.
  • Favor lighter fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, and apricots. Reduce heavier fruits like bananas, avocados, pineapples, oranges, peaches, coconuts, melons, dates, and figs.
  • In general, all vegetables are recommended but reduce consumption of sweet and juicy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini.
  • All spices except salt are pacifying to Kapha. Use pungent spices like pepper, cayenne, mustard seed, and ginger freely in your diet.
  • Reduce intake of all nuts and seeds. Favor pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  • For non-vegetarians, fresh, organic white meat chicken, turkey, eggs, and seafood are acceptable. Limit consumption of red meat.
  • A Kapha diet should be lively and full of energy to help spark the digestive and metabolic systems. Eat your largest meal at lunchtime and a smaller meal at dinnertime. Allow at least 3 hours to digest before bedtime.
  • Fats and oils: Use small amounts of extra virgin olive oil, ghee, almond oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, mustard oil, or safflower oil.
  • Grains: Favor barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye. Reduce intake of oats, rice, and wheat.

The Pitta dosha controls digestion, metabolism, and energy production. The primary function of Pitta is transformation.

Qualities of Pitta: Hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic. Those with a predominance of the Pitta principle have a fiery nature that manifests in both body and mind.

Physical Characteristics: Pittas are usually of medium size and weight. They sometimes have bright red hair, but baldness or thinning hair is also common in a Pitta. They have excellent digestion, which sometimes leads them to believe they can eat anything. They have a warm body temperature They sleep soundly for short periods of time and have a strong sex drive. When in balance, Pittas have a lustrous complexion, perfect digestion, abundant energy, and a strong appetite. When out of balance, Pittas may suffer from skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn, and indigestion.

Emotional Characteristics: Pittas have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. When they’re in balance, they are good decision makers, teachers, and speakers. They are precise, sharp-witted, direct, and often outspoken. Out-of-balance Pittas can be short-tempered and argumentative.

When Pittas are overstressed, their typical response is “What did you do wrong?”

What's Your Dosha

Balancing Pitta

  • Pitta is hot, sharp, sour, pungent, and penetrating. To balance Pitta, we need to make choices that are cooling, sweet, and stabilizing.
  • Follow a regular daily routine allowing some free time everyday. Be careful not to create unnecessary time pressures for yourself.
  • Be certain not to skip meals and do not wait until you are famished to eat. Favor foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent. Favor cooling foods such as cucumbers, sweet fruits and melons.
  • Regularly spend time in nature. Take walks in the woods and along natural bodies of water. Keep plants and fresh flowers in your home and office. Walk in the moonlight.
  • Perform a daily oil massage using cooler oils such as coconut or olive.
  • Favor cooler colors in your clothing and environment such as blues, greens, and silver.
  • Laugh many times each day!
  • Favor aromas that are cooling and sweet. Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile are recommended.

Pitta-Balancing Nutritional Guidelines

    Since an excess of Pitta dosha overheats the mind and body, favor cool foods and liquids. Foods with sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes are best. Reduce foods that are pungent, salty, and sour.

    Recommendations:

  • Dairy can be helpful in balancing the heat of Pitta, take milk, butter and ghee. Sour, fermented products such as yogurt, sour cream and cheese should be used sparingly as sour tastes aggravate Pitta. Ghee (clarified butter) is recommended. Find our ghee recipe here.
  • All sweeteners may be taken in moderation except molasses and honey.
  • Olive, sunflower, and coconut oils are the best oils to pacify Pitta. Use less sesame, almond, and corn oil, which are more heating.
  • Wheat, rice, barley, and oats are the best grains to reduce Pitta. Eat less corn, rye, millet, and brown rice.
  • The sweeter fruits such as grapes, melons, cherries, coconuts, avocados, mangoes, pomegranates, fully ripe pineapples, oranges, and plums are recommended. Reduce sour fruits such as grapefruits, apricots, and berries.
  • The vegetables to favor are asparagus, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, celery okra, lettuce, green beans, and zucchini. Reduce tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, beets, eggplant, onions, garlic, radishes, and spinach.
  • Pitta types need to use seasonings that are soothing and cooling. These include coriander, cilantro, cardamom, saffron, and fennel. Hotter spices such as ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, clove, salt, and mustard seed should be used sparingly. Very hot seasonings such as chili peppers, and cayenne are best avoided. Chew on fennel seeds after meals to cool down acid in the stomach.
  • For non-vegetarians, chicken, pheasant and turkey are preferable; beef, seafood, and eggs increase Pitta and should be minimized.

To learn more about Doshas, come to our signature program Journey Into Healing, where we explore doshas and Ayurveda.

Vata governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system and the process of elimination. Vata influences the other doshas.

Qualities of Vata:Cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, changeable

If Vata dosha predominates, movement and change are characteristic of your nature. You will tend to always be on the go, with an energetic and creative mind. As long as Vata is in balance, you will be lively and enthusiastic, with a lean body.

Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Vata dosha are usually have a thin, light frame and excellent agility. Their energy comes in bursts, and they are likely to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. Vatas typically have dry skin and hair and cold hands and feet. They sleep lightly and their digestion can be sensitive. When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, it manifests in the body as weight loss, constipation, hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, and digestive challenges.

Emotional Characteristics: Vatas love excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, and flexible. They also take initiative and are lively conversationalists. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia. When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is, “What did I do wrong?”

What's Your Dosha

Balancing Vata

If excessive stress in your life leads to your Vata force becoming imbalanced, your activity will start to feel out of control. Your mind may race, contributing to anxiety and insomnia. You may start skipping meals, resulting in unintended weight loss, and your digestion may become irregular. If you notice these early symptoms of a Vata imbalance, slow down, take time to meditate, don’t skip meals, and get to bed earlier. A regular lifestyle routine helps ground Vata so you are not carried away into the ethers.

  • Vata is cold, light, irregular, dry, and always changing. To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life.Try to get to bed before 10pm, awaken by 6am, and eat your meals at regular times.
  • Avoid becoming chilled. Wear adequate clothing appropriate for the season and keep your head covered when the weather is cold.
  • Perform a daily self-abhy massage using warmer, heavier oils like sesame and almond. Learn how to perform a self-abhy here.
  • They experience periods of high energy, but they also tire easily. Light exercise that enhance balance and flexibility is best for a Vata body type. Take care not to push yourself too far and exceed the limits of your energy. Beneficial activities for Vatas include: yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, walking and short hikes, light bicycling, light tennis, golf, dance, and aerobics.
  • Fresh ginger root is beneficial and can be used frequently. During the cool weather, sip ginger tea throughout the day.
  • Be certain that your bowels move regularly on a daily basis.
  • Favor soothing, calming music.
  • Touch and be touched regularly by the people you love. Get regular massages treatments. Learn about ayurvedic massage here.
  • Favor warm colors in your clothing and environment such as earth colors, pastels, browns, and warm yellows.
  • Favor aromas that are sweet, heavy, and warm. Examples include basil, bay, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, frankincense, lavender, pine, sage, and vanilla.

Vata-Balancing Nutritional Guidelines

According to Ayurveda, it is important to eat foods that have a balancing effect upon the dominant dosha or that will pacify (stabilize) a dosha that has become excessive or aggravated. Since Vata is drying, cooling and light, favor foods that are oily, warming, or heavy. The best tastes to pacify Vata are sweet, salty and sour. Minimize foods that are pungent, bitter, or astringent.

Recommendations:

  • To balance the lightness of Vata, eat larger quantities, but don’t overeat.
  • All sweeteners pacify Vata and may be taken in moderation.
  • Fats and oils are beneficial in the digestive system and help reduce Vata. Use up to 3 teaspoons daily of ghee or extra virgin olive oil. Learn how to make ghee here.

(ghee)

  • All low-fat dairy products are recommended. Milk is easier to digest when warm or heated.
  • Rice and wheat are the best grains for balancing Vata. Reduce the amount of barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, and rye.
  • Favor sweet, heavy fruits such as: bananas, avocados, mangoes, apricots, plums, berries, coconut, figs, grapefruit, orange, lemon, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, rhubarb, kiwi, dates, nectarines and dried fruits.
  • Eat fewer dry or light fruits such as apples, cranberries, pears, and pomegranates. To ease digestion, fruits are best eaten lightly cooked or sautéed or eaten alone.
  • Cooked vegetables are best. Raw vegetables should be minimized. Favor Asparagus, beets, and carrots. Other vegetables may be taken in moderation if cooked in ghee or extra virgin olive oil, including peas, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and sweet potatoes.
  • Sprouts and cabbage tend to produce gas and should be minimized.
  • Dairy products pacify Vata. For optimal digestion, boil milk before drinking it and consume it while warm.
  • Spices that pacify Vata include cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, basil, asafetida, cilantro, fennel, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme, and black pepper.
  • All varieties of nuts are recommended.
  • Beans can aggravate Vata, so minimize your consumption of them, with the exception of tofu and mung bean dahl.
  • For non-vegetarians, use fresh, organic chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs.

Note: Favoring heavy foods such as sweets, oils, and richer foods may contribute to weight gain. Focus on natural grains, and heavy, moist fruits and vegetables. Keep your sweets to a minimum and use low-fat milk products. Cook your food for easy digestion.

For more information on how to ballance a Vata Dosha, please come to Perfect Health! Offered every week at the Chorpa Center.

La Costa teacher newsletterHere at the Chopra Center, we teach guests to balance their lives according to what dosha they are. A definition of this Sanskrit word is “mind-body constitution” or “mind-body personality.” Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s my dosha?” or “What is a dosha and what does it mean to me?”

According to Ayurveda – the 5,000-year-old “science of life” – there are five master elements or mahabhutas that make up everything within our bodies and everything outside of our bodies: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Space carries all the aspects of pure potentiality – infinite possibilities; air has the qualities of movement and change; fire is hot, direct, and transformational; water is cohesive and protective; and earth is solid, grounded, and stable.

five-elements

At the moment we are conceived, these five master elements are sprinkled into our DNA and our physiology. Of course, because they are sprinkled by a divine hand, each of us has a different amount of each master element in our mind-body constitution. Certain combinations of the elements occur more frequently than others: These are space and air; fire and water; and water and earth.

These three combinations are referred to as the doshas. So when someone asks, “What’s my dosha?” the answer is found by assessing which combination of the master elements is predominant in their body and mind. If it’s mostly space and air – we call that Vata; if it’s primarily fire and water, we call that Pitta; and if it’s mostly water and earth, we refer to that as Kapha. The three doshas are Vata . . . Pitta . . . Kapha. Since each of us has all five of the master elements within us, we also have all three doshas. But typically, each person has one primary dosha.

Aside from this being a fun way to look at ourselves and everyone and everything in our lives (dogs and cats have doshas, as do cars, houses, and geographic locations), figuring out your dosha is a helpful way to maintain balance in your life. It’s like holding up a mirror to your bodymind and seeing what needs to be adjusted and healed. Once you know what your innate tendencies are, you can make more nourishing choices. One easy, natural technique that balances all of the doshas is meditation. A spacey Vata, a fiery Pitta, and a lethargic Kapha can each move forward on the path to balance through a regular meditation practice.Dosha Quiz

Take our Dosha Quiz and find out right now what’s in or out of balance in your life. If you feel overwhelmed, if you’ve been barking at people, or if you feel sluggish, completing the quiz will help you identify the cause and restore your natural equilibrium.

After you have taken the quiz, leave a comment and let us know your dosha.

david-simon-portrait-web

Dear Dr. Simon,
I am in my 30s and for years have struggled with low thyroid levels, yet I’m mostly within the “normal range.” Endocrinologists tell me they can’t help me until I am clinically hypothyroid, but I have symptoms of tiredness, mild depression, and weight gain already. What can I do to keep it from progressing?

Dr. Simon Responds:
Thyroid hormone influences many aspect of human health, including body temperature, body weight, mental clarity, fertility, skin texture, hair growth, heart rate, and digestion. A variety of factors including immune function and nutrition can affect the thyroid gland. Due to its widespread effects, we often suspect that thyroid problems may be contributing to physical or emotional health challenges. Fortunately, current laboratory studies are often able to detect changes in pituitary and thyroid hormone levels before they produce noticeable problems.

Since your tests don’t show a significant problem with your thyroid function, you have a good opportunity to take steps to balance your life. Look at the basics. Are you getting enough rest? Try regularly getting into bed with the lights off by 10 p.m. and seeing how this affects your energy level.

Are you exercising daily? Exercise is one of the major links between hormones and metabolism and has been shown to improve the sensitivity of cells to thyroid hormone.

A well-rounded balanced diet will supply you with the iodine and selenium necessary for healthy thyroid function. Iodine is present in iodized salt, dairy, fruits and vegetables grown in coastal soils, and sea kelp. Selenium is found in eggs, seafood, brewer’s yeast, and wheat germ. Brazil nuts are a particularly rich source of selenium.

Over the past several years concern has been expressed over the interaction between soy intake and thyroid function. A few studies have suggested that soy may slightly inhibit the absorption of thyroid hormone in people taking replacement doses. Other reports have found that if people are deficient in iodine, soy protein may further inhibit normal thyroid production. Overall, these concerns appear to be insignificant for people who follow a reasonably healthy diet.

From an ayurvedic perspective, symptoms of low thyroid reflect a Kapha imbalance. Try following a Kapha-pacifying diet, using Kapha spice blends, and drinking Kapha tea. Think stimulating and invigorating. Find more information on balancing Kapha here.

Very few herbal medicines have been studied regarding their effects on low thyroid function. One exception is the ayurvedic herb guggulu, which has been shown to have a slight thyroid-stimulating effect in animals. This herb is most commonly used as a detoxifying agent in people with arthritis and elevated cholesterol.

I encourage you not to wait for your blood tests to become abnormal. Look at your life holistically and take steps now to promote balance and wellbeing.

With love,
David

To read and post comments, click here!

Sweet Potato Salad

This delicious salad will help pacify Pitta dosha. The sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, and  honey provide an abundance of sweet flavor, while the celery, parsley, and leeks contain the bitter and astringent tastes.

Ingredients

6 large sweet potatoes (you may also use yams)
1 bunch celery, finely diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
½ bunch fresh parsley or cilantro, minced
1 small leek
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon pressed garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon ghee    Find our ghee recipe here

Steam the sweet potatoes with the skin on. Be careful not to overcook or they will become mushy in the salad. After they have cooled, skin and cut into half-moon slices. Chop and rinse the leeks and cook them in a small saucepan in ghee until tender. Set them aside to cool.  In a large serving bowl, mix the celery, red bell pepper, and parsley (or cilantro) and toss these ingredients with the salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the sweet potatoes, leeks, and dressing and gently combine.

Dressing

¾ cup extra virgin oil
¼ cup stone ground mustard
⅓ cup honey
½ cup apple cider vinegar

In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together, making sure the honey is well incorporated into the dressing.

Learn more about ayurvedic nutrition by attending our signature mind-body workshops, Perfect Health and Journey into Healing.

To read and post comments, click here!

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