The 3 Ayurvedic constitutional types or Doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha – are responsible for homeostasis and health. The doshas determine various functions, including sleep. According to the Ayurvedic texts, sleep is caused by increased kapha and insomnia by increased vata or pitta, which may follow physical or mental exertion, or disease.
Excessive KAPHA – Excessive Sleep
Insomnia – Increased Vata or Pitta or both
High vata– higher vata scores being associated with a longer time to fall asleep and a lesser feeling of being rested in the morning
High Kapha- higher kapha scores being associated with longer day-time naps.
High Vata – If Vata types remain out of balance for an extended period of time, anxiety and nervousness may occur. Leading to lack of quality sleep
High Pitta – Signs of pitta imbalance include diarrhea, burning sensations, skin irritations, odorous sweating, fever, inflammation, and a hypercritical or intense mental outlook
Pitta’s elemental makeup consists of fire and water. The common translation of pitta is “that which digests things.” According to ayurveda, this is the dosha responsible for our ability to mentally digest our life experiences and biologically digest our food. Pitta is responsible for all of our chemical and metabolic transformations.
QUALITIES OR ATTRIBUTES OF PITTA DOSHA
Sharp or penetrating
A little oily or “unctuous” (some ayurvedic texts describe it as moist)
CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA DOSHA
The classic ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita says that when pitta is in balance within any individual, according to their prakruti or constitution, their blood will be healthy and the acid secretions in their intestines and stomach optimal for digestion. Mental digestion, sound judgment, and discernment are functions of balanced pitta. Our ability to clearly perceive what the body senses (sees, hears, smells, etc.) is governed by pitta. Regarding transformation, pitta governs the ability of the body to combust, or digest, the materials needed to bring warmth and color to the body. The body’s ability to maintain warmth and absorb sunlight as well as our ability to mentally digest our thoughts and emotions are governed by pitta dosha. The Charaka says that the “light of awareness” is governed by pitta as well.
Actions of pitta dosha in the body and mind are:
Color and complexion
All heat in the body and mind
Softness and health of the skin
Regulation of the liver
Proper function of the small intestine
CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA DOMINANCE IN APPEARANCE
Sharp, almond-shaped eyes (often green or hazel)
Little body hair or soft, light body hair
High hairline, with medium amount of soft hair; in aging process thinning hair to male pattern baldness
Early to grey
Sharp nose, teeth, and chin
Freckles (red hair is also pitta quality)
Medium to small frame
Flexible yet stable joints
Symmetry of hips to shoulders
Red colored tongue
Rosy cheeks and lips
EXAMPLES OF PITTA DOSHA IN EXCESS OR IN AN IMBALANCED STATE
Agitation as a stress response
Burning sensation in eyes, skin, mouth, or with urination
Yellow, smelly urine, or excess urine
Flushed nose, cheeks, or ears
Bloodshot eyes or yellow in eyes (and skin)
Acne or skin rashes
Nosebleeds or excess bleeding when cut
Smelly feet, armpits, or a general sour smell to the body
Tunnel vision with goal-orientated behavior
Obsessive or compulsive thinking
Desire to seek revenge
Inflammation in general
Heat and agitation with sleep
Small intestine/digestive acid issues
DIETARY TIPS TO SUPPORT PITTA BALANCE
Foods that are great to balance pitta are, in general, sweet, bitter, and astringent in taste. Ayurveda considers these tastes to be medicine for cooling, drying, and calming excess pitta. Generally, all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent) are recommended for healthy digestion.
Vata’s elemental makeup consists of air and ether. The common translation of vata is “that which moves things.” Vata is often referred to as the vayu (wind) in the body, and it is the primary motivating force of the doshas—without it, the other doshas are unable to move.
According to ayurveda, vata is responsible for our mental and physical adaptability. It is the energizing force of the body and mind, and it governs our nervous system, our bones, and our senses of touch and hearing.
QUALITIES OR ATTRIBUTES OF VATA DOSHA
Subtle (as opposed to gross)
Mobile (agitated movement)
CHARACTERISTICS OF VATA DOSHA
When vata is in balance for our prakruti, or constitutional nature, we are coordinated in body and mind and in our response to stimulation. When in balance, vata allows us to seamlessly navigate our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our ambulation is easy, our sensory integration and mental processes flow, and we feel spacious, creative, and energized. When our vata is in balance, our breath supports our nervous system, and there is homeostasis between tissues and organs. The movement of our life force (prana) is regulated by vata, and this function allows us to “inspire” (inhale) easily and to surrender (exhale) with ease as well.
THE ACTIONS OF VATA DOSHA IN THE BODY AND MIND
Menstruation; delivery of baby
Elimination of wastes (urine, feces, sweat)
Movement of thoughts and feelings, and the general functioning of our nervous system
All physical movements
CHARACTERISTICS OF VATA DOMINANCE IN APPEARANCE
Light-colored eyes, smaller in shape or irregular in shape and/or spacing
Light frame; either very tall or very short
Veins can be easily seen under skin
Hair is fine in nature
May have large upper body and small lower body or vice versa; lack of symmetry in frame
Skin is often dry
May have irregular hair pattern
Nose may appear too big or too small in relation to other facial features
Lips may be irregular or thin
Delicate features overall
EXAMPLES OF VATA DOSHA IN EXCESS OR IN AN IMBALANCED STATE
Irregular appetite; “grazer”
Cold hands and feet
Tapping fingers, pulling hair, tics
Stiff muscles and joints
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Trouble staying asleep
Trouble getting to sleep
Shortness of breath
Bone density issues
DIETARY TIPS TO SUPPORT VATA BALANCE
Foods that are great for balancing vata are, in general, sweet, sour, and salty in taste. Ayurveda considers these tastes to be medicine to increase qualities of warmth, moisture, and heaviness/groundedness to promote even digestion—which helps to balance vata. Generally, all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent) are recommended for healthy digestion.
Kapha’s elemental makeup consists of water and earth. The common translation of kapha is “that which binds things” or “that which holds things together.” According to ayurveda, this is the dosha responsible for the stability, lubrication, substance, and support of our physical body.
Kapha supports our emotional calm, our mental and physical endurance, and it allows us to feel deeply, to empathize, and to be patient and compassionate.
Soft or hard (Think of mud—it can be sticky or soft and slimy or hard.)
Steady or static
Gross (as opposed to subtle)
When kapha within us is in balance, according to our constitution, or prakruti, we feel a sense of support in bodily function. The dense, stable, conserving qualities of kapha support our body heat and protect our organs. There is a firm quality to our joints, which are well-lubricated and support the bones, and there is internal support from mucous membranes and GI lining, as well as the myelin sheath for proper brain function.
Ayurveda says that contentment is one of the benefits that balanced kapha brings to our lives.
Kapha’s ability to love and forgive supports relationships with compassion and patience.
Strength and stamina
Stability in body and mind
Support for bodily functions
Nourishment of the liquid body tissues; plasma
Nourishment in general
Repair and regeneration
Quality of saliva (ability to perceive taste)
Sense of smell
Large eyes; especially the white (sclera) of the eye
Eye color is dark and rich in tone; chocolate brown, deep blue
Abundance of body hair and/or low hairline
Lush, thick, sometimes curly quality to hair
Smooth, dense skin (oily)
Solid frame; may be stocky or large and strong
Large, well-formed teeth
Slow or dull digestion
Edema (water retention)
Excessive napping; difficulty waking
Lack of appetite
Feeling heavy or sleepy after eating
Difficulty initiating (slow starter)
Foods that are great for balancing of kapha in general are pungent, bitter, and astringent in taste. Ayurveda considers these tastes to be the medicine for warming, drying, and stimulating digestion for kapha. Generally, all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) are recommended for healthy digestion!