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Earth, Wind, and Fire

Knowing your dosha and prakriti can help you stay balanced and healthy.

By Niika Quistgard


Lately it seems as if the phrase "my dosha" is tossed around like an old shoe. We've all gotten pretty comfortable using dosha to indicate a person's Ayurvedic body type. But do we really understand what the word means?

The three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—are principles. They can't be seen with the naked eye, but their effects in the body can't be missed. Thought to be condensed from different combinations of the primal elements earth, water, fire, air, and ether, the doshas are the life energies behind all of our bodily functions. Each of them commands a specific force in the body, and each is associated with certain sensory qualities.

Dosha is a Sanskrit word that means "fault," "defect," or "that which darkens." It comes from the root dush, meaning "to become corrupt or bad; to sin." A classical text of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, employs it mainly to indicate excess that is capable of causing disease.

"Why all the negativity?" you might ask. While the doshas are certainly essential to our very existence, if one or more of them increase beyond what is normal for our particular makeup, presto! We're out of balance.

But if dosha isn't exactly the word we should use to indicate Ayurvedic constitution, what is? Prakriti means "nature," and it refers not only to the natural universe but also to a person's nature—to that distinct constellation of qualities native to an individual. Ayurveda theorizes that each of us possesses, from conception, a unique percentage of vata, pitta, and kapha. Our prakriti is our own permanent biological blueprint, a snapshot of our combined doshas at our first moment of existence. Our prakriti is the template for our original, and therefore personally ideal, state of balance.

While a rare soul may be born with the perfect tridoshic proportions (33 1/3 percent of each dosha), most of us have a prakriti that's dominated by one or two. We can say someone has a vata prakriti if his or her constitution is mostly vata. Or that someone with a prakriti that's, say, 50 percent pitta, 40 percent vata, and 10 percent kapha is a pitta-vata. (An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you determine your prakriti.)

Whatever your prakriti, though, the influence of the doshas fluctuates, affected by any stimulus that engages our senses. As the Charaka Samhita states, "The attributes of the doshas resemble those of the factors that vitiate [aggravate] them." When the qualities of our sensory experience cause any of the doshas to accumulate in us, the result is our vikriti, which means our "current state" or "manifest imbalance." Doshic imbalance can lead to a myriad of diseases, the seriousness of which is determined by which doshas are in excess, which bodily tissues are affected, and for how long they're affected.

So keep an eye on your vikriti! And don't hesitate to see a qualified practitioner for dietary, herbal, and lifestyle guidance.

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Reader Comments


How we respond to alternative medicine just shows how we as a culture have gotten used to the fix-it-fast mindset of mainstream medicine which doles out a pill for relief of the sympton, thus we think we are cured. This method releases us from personal responsibility to our bodies. I only realised this because i had an Ayurvedic analysis and when I implemented the advice and so no quick changes I gave up. I've learned it's a whole-person/lifestyle approach which requires a lot of patience and can be affective given the chance.

That's been my experience so I thought I'd share.

Is it me or is there an ad for rvita here?


Also interesting is that I gave a Web Site to visit and the "evaluator" has chosen to remove it, and yet has allowed for the "millers" to submit theirs... I suspect this statement will also be edited or chosen not to post.

I must ask... who is writing these articles and for what purpose. I am a PR graduate and hate the use of PR for "free" advertising. The Western goal of the all consuming dollar is frustrating, but I would like to simply give some honest - nonfinancially motivated perspective. For all you who care (which may be no one) Many bloggers are really corporate advertising agents who spend all day writing and posting online so that the unknowing can get hooked into a fear campaign. Consider your source and its motivation. Consider the information being presented... and if it can be validated by fact or if it simply subjective claim (?). if you would like ot know something legitimate about Ayurveda visit the Ayurvedic Institute online and you can find links and "free" information. I am NOT associated to the institute in any way, just simply a yoga practitioner who has completed many university credits in the biology sciences as well as dietary sciences. If you want to understand your body, Ayurveda is the right direction. Good luck to all!!! :-)


If anyone cares... the comments from the "millers" look like a bold advertizement for a new Web Site and I guess it bothers me and may bother others. One cannot look at Ayurveda as any form of alternative medicine. This is such a challenge in the West. One must accept personal accountability to ones own body and actions. Ayurveda is lifestyle habits that help to prevent "ama" and to elimitae the affects of "ama". If you try to use Ayurveda as a medicine, than you have lost an understanding of what Dosha is. This article is accurate and yet inaccurate... it is miss leading and confuses while giving the illusion of clarity.

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