Are you in your element? You and your doshas

Most of us know that this creation is made up of fundamental elements – 118 at the last count.  Some we’ve heard of – oxygen, gold, silver – and some most of us haven’t – number 118 is Ununoctium.

Knowledge of this doesn’t help us very much with our day to day care for our bodies.  Most of us wouldn’t even know which of these elements we have in our bodies, let alone whether we have the correct balance or not.

From ancient times, a simpler method was used to describe the elements of creation.   These are the five fundamental elements; space, air, fire, water and earth.

5 Elements

These elements are all present in differing quantities in various substances.  As the human body is seen as a microcosm of the universe, it too is formed of these 5 elements.

Viewing the body and mind through the lenses of these elements, the Ayurvedic sages discovered the unique concept of doshas; three principles which govern our minds and bodies.  These doshas have biological and energetic properties and regulate all physiological and psychological aspects of our lives.

These three primary patterns or doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – are present in every cell, tissue and organ of the body.    We are all born with a unique and individual combination of these doshas (our constitution), which defines the ways our bodies and minds naturally function and respond. It is important to be aware of our doshas as it is only when they are in their natural balanced state that we remain in health.   When they get out of balance, diseases occur.  Often an individual will have a primary dosha, and it is most often that dosha which will tend to go out of balance when our lives aren’t as measured as they should be.

Elements and Doshas

Vata, based on the elements of air and space, regulates movement and change.  Pitta, woven from elements of fire and water, governs digestion and metabolism.  Kapha, comprised of earth and water, maintains, grounds and nourishes.


Vata predominant constitutions tend to:

  • have a nature of change and fluctuation; irregular appetite, thirst and bowel movements, variable energy levels coming in bursts and irregular menstrual cycles.
  • be more endowed with movement; active eyes, fast speech, quick bodily movements and always on the go.  The mind is also agile, creative, lively and enthusiastic.  There is a desire for change and routines are often a struggle.  Things are picked up quickly but more often forgotten in the long term.
  • have more dryness and roughness in the body; dry, rough skin, lips and hair, cracking joints.  They are more likely to be constipated and have wind.
  • be more cold; often have cold hands and feet and strongly dislike cold and wind, prefer warm environments, food and drinks.
  • be light; in general have a slender body and thin muscles finding it hard to put on weight.  Specifically lightness also shows with thinner lips, visible joints and sharper nose.  Sleep is also light and sometimes elusive.

Those with a vata constitution will be more likely to suffer from constipation, gas and insomnia when not in balance.  The mind when out of balance tends towards anxiety, fearfulness and insecurity.

Pitta button

Pitta predominant people tend to:

  • be hot; be warm regardless of season, sweat easily and be fatigued by heat.  There will be a preference for cool environments, cool food and drink and there will be quite a lot of thirst.
  • have lightnessliquidity and a sense of flow due to the combination of water and fire, thus they have moderate build and energy;  by putting their mind to it, they’ll be able to gain or lose weight as they choose.   Energy is naturally moderate, movements are of moderate speed and sleep is moderately sound (less than 8 hours leaves them rested).
  • have fire in their bellies; strong appetites and strong digestion of food, information and experience.  If they go long without food, they’ll suffer and get irritable.  Their strong digestive fire makes for easy, regular, looser bowel movements.
  • have more red or yellowish tones; skin, hair, lips and teeth . Their hair will more likely be fine and prone to early greying or balding. The warmer, reddish skin will be prone to irritation and burns easily.
  • have a certain mental intensity; focused, driven, goal-oriented and naturally alert, intelligent and persevering.  The eyes will have a penetrating gaze and their speech is equally penetrating and clear.  They will love to convince, like structure and detail and are often organised.  Decision making comes easily.  Compete with and criticise them at your peril!
  • have a degree of oiliness (versus the dry, roughness of vata for example); lips are red and soft, skin is relatively soft and joints are flexible.
  • more likely to have an odour (one of their least flattering characteristics!)

Those with more pitta dosha in them will tend towards inflammation, hypertension and hypersensitivity if they are out of balance.  Mentally they could end up being more angry, aggressive or argumentative.

kapha button

Those with Kapha predominance are most likely to:

  • be solid, heavy and firm.  These might not sound like attractive qualities but actually, they make for very healthy bodies and minds. Build will be naturally larger and round, with a broad frame and large, well-knit, padded joints.  They gain weight easily and find it hard to shift.   Their eyes are large and pleasant, lips, nose and teeth are also large.  Sleep is heavy, 8 hours is often needed, and often they will oversleep and have difficultly waking.
  • have the quality of thickness in their tissues; thick, moist skin and abundant and thick hair.
  • be smooth and have higher levels of oiliness; skin and hair is smooth and oily, eyes are well lubricated as are the joints.  This also equates to a lower thirst.
  • be earthy and deliberate or slow; solid, reliable, contented souls who tend to be grounded.  Speech and movements are slow and deliberate.  Their energy levels are steady and they tend to have good endurance and stamina.  The slow quality is also seen in the digestion and bowel movements.   Mentally this quality shows a natural resilience in the face of stress making for a calm person who is loyal and patient with an inner sense of stability and contentment.  Sometimes it takes a while to grasp new things but once they are remembered, they stick, as do decisions.
  • have colder bodies; adaptable to most temperatures but tend not to like cold, wet weather; prefer hot, dry weather.

Kapha dominant people will tend to have excess mucus, congestion and water retention if they aren’t in balance.  When they are not on good form, they can tend towards lethargy and withdrawal.

The beauty of this knowledge, is that once you get a gauge on what doshas are strongest in your constitution and which tend to go out of balance, you can look after yourself in such a way that these doshas don’t get the upper hand.   More on this in future blog-posts!

Have fun ruminating on your doshas, those of your friends, partners and children…

Have a wonderful Christmas and may the beginning of 2014 be as joyous as the rest of the year that will follow.

Till next time, take care of yourselves.


Author: Kate Siraj, Ayurvedic Practitioner, BSc Ayurveda, MChem (Oxon), MAPA.
© The Ayurveda Practice

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