3 Doshas: Understanding Your Ayurvedic Constitution

By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP, CAADC

The 3 Doshas: Understanding Your Ayurvedic Constitution

3 doshas

Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences, and combining these two healing practices together can exponentially increase the benefits of both in your life. When used together as one, you can genuinely deepen healing in your body, mind, and soul. The first step to combining yoga with Ayurveda is to determine your Ayurvedic constitution, which is defined by the doshas.

There are 3 doshas, and each person has a unique combination of these doshas, usually with one or two that are predominant. Once you determine your dosha combination, you can tailor your yoga practice to find balance in your daily life. See below to learn more about the doshas and which yoga poses are the best for each dosha!

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the traditional medicinal practice of India. Ayurveda dates back over 5,000 years ago and is the world’s oldest known scientific healing practice. Many modern surgeries and healing practices actually originated from Ayurveda. In India, Ayurveda is still commonplace to this day, and it is increasingly spreading around the world, with Ayurvedic practitioners on every continent.

Many other alternative medicine practices, including homeopathy, Unani, and traditional Chinese medicine, were also greatly influenced by Ayurveda. All of these healing systems have a similar focus on understanding the individual person and using nature as a healing tool to shift the energetic and elemental principles of the body.

Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that focuses on treating disease and improving overall health. But on a deeper level, Ayurveda is a preventative healing practice that teaches you how to live in balance in every moment. Most Ayurvedic treatments involve herbal medicines, cleansing techniques, nutrition, yoga practices, and lifestyle changes to influence your body and mind and truly get at the root cause of imbalance.

Yoga practitioners in ancient India used Ayurveda to keep a healthy body so that they could dive deeper into the more advanced spiritual yoga practices. As you may have experienced, sitting in meditation, doing breathwork, or holding yoga poses is quite tricky if you don’t have a healthy body and mind. Certainly, yoga is also a healing practice, but when combined with Ayurveda, you can significantly increase the healing power and deepen the benefits you gain from yoga in every practice.

What Are the 3 Doshas?

Your Ayurvedic constitution or prakriti and current condition or vikriti are defined by the doshas in Ayurveda. There are 3 doshas, and each dosha is represented by 2 elements. Vata dosha is made predominantly of the air and ether elements, pitta dosha is mainly fire and water elements, and kapha dosha is mostly water and earth.

There are many online quizzes that can give you some valuable insight into your dosha combination. Still, the best way to understand your Ayurvedic constitution is through an individual consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor. See below for a brief explanation of the three doshas.

Characteristics of Vata:

·      Light, clear, and subtle

·      Mentally distracted or spacey

·      Easily adaptable and fluctuating mind

·      Moves quickly and lightly, a tendency toward hyperactivity

·      Thinner-bodied and may have difficulty gaining weight

·      Dry skin, hair, and joints

·      Low blood circulation and cold limbs

·      Small eyes and delicate eyelashes

·      Irregular appetite, a tendency towards constipation

·      Mentally creative but easily bored

Characteristics of Pitta:

·      Sharp intelligence and quick responses

·      Overactive digestive system, often hungry

·      Passionate, determined, and hardworking

·      Tendency towards jealousy, competitiveness, and anger

·      Medium-sized and proportionate body

·      Consistent weight

·      Enjoy learning and working

·      Skin is warm and oily

·      Often have premature gray hair or balding  

·      Don’t tend to forget quickly and are great at organizing

Characteristics of Kapha:

·      Grounded and stable

·      Slower wit but thoughtful responses

·      Calm and centered mentally

·      Heavier or larger sized body and may gain weight easily

·      Dense muscles and bones

·      Reliable, laid back, and compassionate

·      Cool, oily, and smooth skin

·      Sluggish metabolism and difficulty digesting heavy foods

·      Long and stable memory

·      Big eyes and thick eyelashes  

All of us contain all the elements, so we also possess all the doshas to a degree. But when you understand your dominant dosha, you can gain greater insight into how you may quickly go out of balance and what you can do to bring your body and mind back to their original state. Daily Ayurvedic routines and yoga practices can support you in this process of finding inner balance of your unique dosha constitution.

Vata Yoga Sequence

If you are a predominant vata dosha or have a vata imbalance, then slow and grounding practices can help to calm your mind and ground any erratic vata in the body. Vata dosha is also associated with the large intestine, pelvis, bones, ears, legs, and skin, so any practices that balance these organs can be incredibly nourishing for vata dosha.

Yoga Poses for Vata:

·      Child’s Pose (Balasana)

·      Cat and Cow Pose (Marjariasana and Bitilasana)

·      Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

·      Warrior 1 Pose (Virabhadrasana I)

·      Extended Side Angle Pose (Parsvokanasana)

·      Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)

·      Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana)

·      Garland Pose (Malasana)

·      Crocodile Pose (Makarasana)

·      Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

·      Seated Forward Fold Pose (Paschimottanasasna)

·      Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

·      Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

·      Reclined Spinal Twist Pose (Jathara Parivartanasana)

·      Wind-Releasing Pose (Apanasana)

·      Corpse Pose (Savasana) – with sandbags on the lower abdomen

Vata dosha greatly benefits from consistency and routine, so try to create a set sequence and follow it daily at a set time to build some regularity into your day. Also, try to emphasize meditation, mindfulness, and soothing breathwork during this yoga sequence to calm vata dosha and harmonize the air and ether elements.

Pitta Yoga Sequence

If you are predominantly pitta dosha or have a pitta imbalance, then cooling and calming practices can help to reduce the excess heat in your body and alleviate the sharpness of your mind. Pitta dosha is also associated with the small intestine, stomach, liver, eyes, skin, and blood, so any practices that bring this cooling and calming energy to these organs can be wonderfully pacifying for pitta dosha.

Yoga Poses for Pitta:

·      Child’s Pose (Balasana)

·      Thread the Needle Pose (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana)

·      Moon Salutations (Chandra Namaskar)

·      Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

·      Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

·      Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

·      Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivritta Trikonasana)

·      Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

·      Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

·      Head to Knee Forward Fold Pose (Janu Shirsasana)

·      Half Boat Pose (Navasana)

·      Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

·      Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

·      Corpse Pose (Savasana)

·      Cooling Breath Practice (Sheetali Pranayama)

Pitta dosha has a tendency towards competitiveness and pushing things too far, so be cautious of overexertion during your yoga practice and try to emphasize slowing things down. Brings some playfulness and gentleness into your routine to soothe pitta dosha and avoid overly stimulating practices that can bring even more heat and imbalance into your body.

Kapha Yoga Sequence

If you are predominantly kapha dosha or have a kapha imbalance, then warming and energizing practices can help to reduce the tendency of stagnancy and stuckness that can happen with excess kapha dosha. Kapha dosha is also associated with the lungs, chest, and spinal fluid, so any practices that clear and awaken these parts of the body can help to pacify kapha dosha.

Yoga Poses for Kapha:

·      Skull Shining Breath (Kapalbhati Pranayama)

·      Cat and Cow Pose (Marjariasana and Bitilasana)

·      Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

·      Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

·      Twisting Chair Pose (Parivritta Utkatasana)

·      Warrior 2 Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

·      Extended Side Angle Pose (Parsvokanasana)

·      Dancer’s Pose (Natrajasana)

·      Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

·      High Lunge Pose (Anjanyasana)

·      Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

·      Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

·      Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

·      Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

·      Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)

·      Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

·      Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

·      Headstand Pose (Shirshasana)

·      Child’s Pose (Balasana)

·      Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Kapha dosha is the only dosha that really benefits from regular power yoga and fast-paced vinyasa classes. Try to practice an energizing sequence earlier in the day to break up the heavy feeling common in the early mornings, awaken your metabolism, and bring some lightness into the body. Remember to emphasize warmth, so don’t be afraid to get a little sweatier!

Learn Ayurvedic Yoga Flows in Our Online Yoga Teacher Training

Infusing your yoga practice with the theory and understanding of Ayurveda can deepen your connection with your own body. We all have a unique Ayurvedic constitution, and taking the time to learn your own balance of the doshas can help you gain greater insight on how to stay in balance in your daily life. what are the 3 doshas?

Understanding Ayurveda can also make you a better yoga teacher by learning how to see each student as their unique individual constitution. Instead of opting for a one size fits all approach, Ayurveda teaches us how to understand each student individually and choose the best yoga practices for each person’s unique constitution. what are the 3 doshas?

Our high-quality online yoga teacher training programs incorporate more profound guidance on Ayurveda and how you can bring this knowledge into your yoga classes. Reach out to us for more information on how you can combine Ayurveda and yoga together and learn more in our next yoga teacher training course!

About the Author

Founder of Online Yoga School and Yoga & Ayurveda Center

Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP, CAADC

Steph has over 25 years of experience in yoga and movement.  Her understanding of yoga and the human body has been influenced by lifelong dancing and holistic health.  She found her life’s purpose in helping people become happier and healthier through her own healing journey.  Steph assists her students in knowing the joy and wonderment of integrating the mind and body through accessible yoga.  She encourages an authentic and life-nurturing practice, one that brings greater consciousness to each moment and every movement of the body with a heavy emphasis on breath.  

With a masters degree in counseling, Steph brings awareness, acceptance and a down to earth approach to her classes.  She studied with Maty Ezraty and later completed her second 200-hour training with Nancy Candea at Yoga Impact in New Jersey and her 300-hour training with Chris Loebsack at Boundless Yoga Studio in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.   The perpetual student, Steph has studied with Leslie Howard, Travis Eliot, Bryan Kest, Donna Farhi and countless others.  She has extensive training in pelvic floor yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, power yoga and accessible yoga.  Most recently, Steph was certified as a Grand Master of Meditation through Swami Vidyanand.

Steph founded Yoga and Ayurveda Center with her husband.  She later launched Online Yoga School to support her local trainings and has recently launched a virtual yoga studio to accommodate the international community of trainees.

When she isn’t on her mat, Steph can be found volunteering, enjoying her husband and children, dancing and cooking.  She currently enjoys serving on the board of World Yoga Federation and Meditation Alliance International and previously enjoyed serving on the Education Committee of Yoga Alliance and places a strong emphasis on inclusivity in her teacher trainings.