Last week in my yoga class, I got injured. I tried to play it off, and not draw attention to the fact that my left hand was experiencing some sort of nerve or tendon pinch. With every vinyasa, I winced because I was unable to put the necessary weight on my hand. After about the fifth vinyasa of teeth clenching my teacher caught on. After she voiced her concern, and I explained what I was feeling she said, “You’re such a vata”. I nodded, and smiled because I had no idea what she was talking about- luckily she caught on and explained a bit further.
She explained that vata is one of three doshas (energies) that the body can be. Since I am so focused on my pose form and pushing through the pain, my instructor said that she could sense that I had a lot of vata energy. I once again smiled and nodded because I had never even heard of doshas, or Ayurveda for that matter. So- I went home and explored.
First, what I found is that to determine what your primary dosha is, you can take a short quiz. (I took mine here). The quiz asks questions about body type and condition. It asked questions like, “Is your hair rough, smooth, or neither”. After answering all of the questions the quiz identified me as a Pitta (primary) and a Vata (secondary). At this point, I was still completely unaware what all of this meant, so I furthered my research by asking these 4 questions (things that I DIDN’T KNOW that I DIDN’T KNOW).
- What is Ayurveda? According to Nadya Andreeva, a certified wellness coach from mindbodygreen.com, Ayurveda is a “holistic science of health”. She explains that the idea of this science, or knowledge of life dates back over 5,000 years to when “Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually” (Andreeva). Ayurveda is similar to the Chinese tradition of chi but is based in India. Lisa Munger, who also writes for mindbodygreen.com explains that, “Ayurveda categorizes everything–our minds, bodies, interactions, the natural world, food, energy–as comprised of a mix of five basic elements. Earth, water, fire, air, and space (sometimes called ether).” These basic elements are divided among the 3 principals-or doshas.
- What is a dosha? The doshas are the three energies that circulate in the body. The word comes from the Sanskrit word dosa which can translate to either “fault” or “disease”(yogapedia). The energies are separated into three different doshas: pitta, vata, and kapha. These three energies “govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and fulfillment” (eathealtaste.com).In total, there are three primary doshic states:
Balanced: All three doshas are present in their natural proportions; also referred to as “equilibrium.”
Increased: A particular dosha is present in a greater-than-normal proportion; also referred to as an “aggravated” or “excess state.”
Decreased: A particular dosha is present in a less-than-normal proportion; also referred to as a “reduced” or “depleted state.”
- What does it mean to be a Pitta-Vata dosha? When I took the test, it classified me as a Pitta-Vata, meaning that I have an increased level of both of those energies. Being a Pitta, the primary element in my body is the element of Fire. I commonly am warm, sweaty, or oily. The Pitta in anybody both heats the body and aids the breakdown of complex foods. Pitta also “governs all processes related to conversion and transformation in both the mind and body”. So, physically I am warm, but psychologically Pitta also is firey. Emotions change quickly, and much like a spark can lead to forest fire, moods can escalate. The VATA portion of my being is fueled by the element of Wind. “Just as the wind is balanced provides movement and expression to the natural world, the balanced vata individual is active, creative, and gifted with a natural ability to communicate.” (eathealtaste.com). The physical qualities of vata are dry, rough skin, subtle, etc. Since I am both of these qualities, I see them expressed in different facets of my life and body. For instance, the Pitta part of me makes me always sweaty, but the Vata part means that even though I am most commonly cold, I am still clamy or sweaty. The Vata portion of my personality governs my anxieties and the Pitta governs the way that I express them.
- What do I do with this information now? Since learning about my doshas I will be able to not only eat according to what aligns with the doshas, but also act and communicate better.
I have learned so much more than I have shared here. But I will leave you with this much. I am being opened up in many ways lately, and the results are amazing.
Heres to stomping out ignorance!