Managing a Vata-Pitta Constitution
Ayurveda recognizes the uniqueness of every single human being, and uses the three doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha to help us understand our individual needs. While some people are predominant in just one of the doshas, it’s helpful to remember that everyone is made up of all three. In fact, many people experience two or even three primary doshas within themselves.
Being a vata-pitta type means that two doshas are predominant in your prakriti, or constitution, and these will likely be in a dynamic dance depending on the seasons, your lifestyle habits, and any external influences.
It is usually best to manage a dual dosha prakriti according to the season. In general as a vata-pitta, follow a vata-balancing regimen during the fall and winter seasons, during the change of seasons, and especially when the weather is cold and windy.
Follow a pitta-balancing regimen during the spring and summer months, and especially when the weather is warm. You can also take our dosha quiz at any time to see which dosha most needs your attention.
“Tatra ruksho laghu sheetah, khara sukshmaschalo nilah”
The qualities of Vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile.— Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana I:11
This Sanskrit line lists the main qualities of vata and provides a key to understanding what it means to have a predominantly vata constitution.
The main qualities of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile. So, having a vata-predominant prakriti means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional, and physical make up.
As you become familiar with the doshas, you can get a feel for how these qualities manifest. A vata-predominant individual's strengths and weaknesses both reflect these qualities.
- In excess, the dry and rough qualities may manifest as dry or brittle skin, lips, hair, nails, or bones, as feeling “dry” emotionally, or having a dry sense of humor.
- The “light” quality may give you a lanky physique, but excess lightness may manifest as being underweight, having insufficient muscle mass, light bones, difficulty sleeping, or feeling “spacey” or insecure.
- The cold quality of vata may lead you to feel cold more easily than others around you, experience cold hands and feet, and crave a feeling of warmth.
- The subtle quality may express itself as being sensitive, highly intuitive, creative, and having an active fantasy life.
- The mobile quality may lead to a healthy ability to “multi-task” or, in excess, to scattered attention, a fidgety tendency, restlessness, and nervousness. It may manifest as extremes; as in being very tall or very short or being drastically different weights at different times in your life.
Decreasing or Balancing Vata
Like Increases Like
A basic tenet of Ayurveda is “like increases like.” Therefore, increasing the inherent qualities of vata will increase vata in your body, mind, and spirit.
For example, because vata is inherently cool—cool weather, cool foods, the cool seasons and times of day, and even cool emotions can increase vata. Likewise, dry seasons, foods, environments, or emotions will increase the dry quality and thereby increase vata.
Example: You are a vata individual. One of the qualities of vata is dryness. You live in a dry climate, like a desert, and you regularly snack on dry crackers. This added dryness adds to the dry quality of vata, which you already have plenty of. This usually increases vata and can lead to dry conditions like constipation or dry skin. This is an extreme example to illustrate the point.
Tastes That Increase and Decrease Vata
Along with the main qualities of vata, it is also helpful to know those tastes that increase and decrease vata.
- Pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes increase vata by increasing its drying and cooling qualities. An example of the pungent taste is chili peppers. Bitter and astringent tastes are common in most leafy greens and many herbs.
- The sweet, sour, and salty tastes decrease vata by bringing moisture, bulk, and warmth to the body, which are opposite qualities to those of vata. An example of a naturally sweet taste is wheat; of sour: pickles; of salty: seaweed.
Using Opposites to Maintain Balance
Each of us has a unique proportion of the three doshas in our prakritis. Ayurveda teaches us that if a dosha increases beyond its original, natural proportion for our unique constituition, it fosters an environment where imbalance can flourish.
It is common for our predominant dosha (vata, pitta, or kapha) to increase more quickly than other doshas because we tend to perpetuate what we know best.
For example, if your dominant dosha is vata, you will naturally incline towards a life filled with activity, due to the mobile quality of vata. However, if you are too active, you are likely to eventually aggravate vata and thereby exhaust the nervous system.
To do this, we want to incorporate things that decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities. For example, if vata has increased due to excess activity, a quiet, calm environment can be the perfect solution. If it has increased due to excess dryness, wetness provides the needed balance. Too much cold? Use heat.
One of the wonderfully practical aspects of Ayurveda is that anything can be used to restore healthy balance because everything that exists has a quality. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, foods, colors, drinks, environments, smells, and lifestyles.
Qualities opposite to vata are moist, grounding, warming, smooth, oily, and stabilizing. It is therefore best for vata individuals to seek out physical and emotional environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities.
Dietary Support to Balance Vata
A vata individual does wonderfully with warm, freshly cooked, nourishing, mushy foods, like soups, stews, kitchari, and one-pot-meals.
Because of the inherent “light” quality in vata, you may think that heavy foods would nicely balance that quality, but actually too much heavy food—or just too much food at a sitting—is too heavy for the lightness of the vata digestive system.
Because the sweet, sour, and salty tastes decrease vata, these tastes should be predominant in your diet.
When selecting sweet foods, note that naturally sweet foods like many grains, squashes, and most fruits are appropriate, but processed foods high in refined sugars are not at all balancing for vata.
Refined sugars merely offer a quick burst of energy, followed by a “crash,” a pattern that is already a hallmark feature of vata, and one that the vata individual does well to avoid.
Herbal Support to Balance Vata
Using herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle and can be incredibly supportive in promoting overall health.
Ashwagandha, shatavari and vidari kanda are three of the primary herbs used to remove excess vata from the body and maintain balance. All of these herbs can be found in our Healthy Vata herbal tablets.
Climate and Lifestyle to Balance Vata
The ideal environment for a vata individual is warm and wet, like Hawaii. Sweet scents, sweet music, sweet experiences, and sweet emotions are also wonderful for vata.
The mobile quality of vata can drive vata-types to do a thousand things at one time. This can lead to exhaustion of the nervous system, which in turn causes emotional and physical restlessness and eventual “dis-ease.”
While a daily routine can feel contrary to your nature, it can be extremely beneficial for you to incorporate into your life.
To balance vata, it’s helpful to go to bed and rise at the same time every day, as well as taking time for meditation, gentle yoga, or other strengthening exercise that is easy on the joints. Also try eating regular meals, chewing your food thoroughly, and taking a breath before moving on to your next activity.
Yoga for Vata Types
The practice of yoga goes hand in hand with Ayurveda. Visit the vata-pacifying yoga section on our website for information on how to customize your yoga practice to help calm the mind, settle the nervous system, and keep vata balanced.
Famous Vata Examples
Christy Turlington. Lanky. Moves around a lot. Very tall. Angular face.
Mick Jagger. Jumps around. Creative. Lanky. Disproportionate features.
“Pittam sasneha tikshnoshnam laghu visram, saram dravam”
Pitta is oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy-smelling, spreading and liquid.— Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana I:11
This Sanskrit line lists the main qualities of pitta and provides a key to understanding what it means to have a predominantly pitta prakriti.
The main qualities of pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading, and liquid. So, having a pitta-predominant prakriti means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional, and physical make up.
Here are some ways you may find these qualities reflected in both your strengths and weaknesses.
- The oily quality allows for softness of skin but, in excess, can manifest as oily skin, clogged pores, or perhaps occaisionally being a “snake oil salesman” and manipulating situations to your advantage.
- The sharp quality may manifest as a sharp, bright intellect or, in excess, as a sharp tongue.
- “Hotness” can manifest as a warm, rosy complexion, warm body temperature, strong metabolism and appetite or, in excess, as burning digestion or a hot temper.
- The light quality may lead you to have a slender body or to get light-headed if you miss a meal.
- The “fleshy-smelling” quality may manifest as a strong body odor.
- The spreading quality may manifest as a tendency to spread your name or influence or opinion around the local or global neighborhood. This quality can also manifest as a spreading redness in the skin.
- The liquid quality may manifest as excess sweating; when it's combined with the hot quality it can present as an acidic, burning sensation in the stomach.
Decreasing or Balancing Pitta
Like Increases Like
As discussed above, a basic tenet of Ayurveda is “like increases like.” Therefore, increasing the inherent qualities of pitta will increase pitta in your body, mind, and spirit.
For example, because pitta is inherently hot—hot weather, hot foods, the hot seasons and times of day, and even hot emotions can increase pitta. Likewise humid environments will increase the liquid quality and thereby increase pitta.
Example: You are a pitta individual. Pitta is hot in nature. You visit the equator for a vacation where you sunbathe every day and enjoy hot, spicy foods. At the end of the week, you suffer from red, irritated skin and find yourself in an awful temper. Ayurveda would say that your heat-increasing indulgences increased the natural heat in your pitta constitution, causing hot conditions to “erupt” in your body and emotions.
Tastes That Increase and Decrease Pitta
Along with the main qualities of pitta, it is also helpful to know those tastes that increase pitta and those that decrease pitta.
- Pungent, sour, and salty tastes increase pitta, by increasing its hot quality. An example of the pungent taste is chili pepper; of sour: pickles and of salty: salt.
- Sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes will decrease pitta by providing the opposite qualities to those of pitta. An example of naturally sweet taste is wheat; of bitter and astringent (which are often coupled): many leafy greens and herbs.
Using Opposites to Balance Pitta
If your dominant dosha is pitta, you may be intellectually bright, due to the hot and sharp qualities of pitta. However, this very quality that is inherent in pitta may eventually aggravate it and create mental or physical “burn out.”
To regain healthy balance, we want to incorporate substances which decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities.
For example, if excess mental focus has resulted in “burn out,” a comfortable, soft couch and a cool mind can bring a return to balance. If pitta has increased due to excess heat, coolness is in order. Too much moisture? Use dryness.
Qualities opposite to pitta are those that are dry, soft, cool, heavy, sweet smelling, and contained. It is therefore best for pitta individuals to seek out physical and emotional environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities.
Dietary Support to Balance Pitta
A pitta individual does well to have fresh, cooling foods. They have difficulty skipping meals because they tend to have strong appetites.
Because they also have strong digestive systems, they tend to tolerate raw foods better than the other doshas but they must be careful to avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and fried foods, as these will create too much pitta and weaken the digestive system.
Because the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes decrease pitta, these tastes should be predominant in your diet.
Note that this is not necessarily a green light to eat refined sugary foods and drinks. The naturally sweet taste that is found in many grains, squashes, natural sweeteners, and fruits is most appropriate and effective for balancing pitta.
Herbal Support to Balance Pitta
Using herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle and be incredibly supportive in promoting overall health.
Climate and Lifestyle to Balance Pitta
The ideal environment for a pitta individual is cool and dry, such as a cool mountain climate. Sweet scents, melodic music, and sweet emotions are also wonderful for pitta.
A daily, 10–20 minute, gentle self-massage with warm sunflower oil or Pitta Massage Oil will cool the heat of pitta and support you in surrendering and “going with the flow” rather than using your will to force the flow.
It is easy for the pitta individual to feel that if they just works long and hard enough, they can control everything.
This work ethic is beneficial to a certain point, but can also get out of control and lead to such extreme examples as a dictator controlling a population in an attempt to align reality with their own personal view of how things should be.
On a more personal scale, this tendency may lead us to strive for control and personal domination in our relationships or career, or we may allow our rampant personal ambition to drive us into eventual mental or physical “burnout.”
One of the best things for pitta is surrender. If you can develop a gentle faith in—or relationship with—a divine power or natural force that you believe can do a fine job of orchestrating personal and universal life, then you can take all that pressure off yourself.
For this reason, it is beneficial for a pitta individual to enjoy regular meditation. (And really enjoy it—not just do it as if it is another task they need to master).
Yoga for Pitta Types
The practice of yoga goes hand in hand with Ayurveda. Visit the pitta-pacifying yoga section on our website for information on how to customize your yoga practice to cool the body, calm the mind, and help balance excess pitta.
Famous Pitta Examples
Madonna: Sharp businesswoman. World-famous. Ambitious. Moderate build.
Bill Gates. Sharply intelligent. His fame has spread everywhere, even beyond his own professional sphere. Ambitious. Balding.
Knowing our prakriti is useful because it increases awareness of our natural strengths and challenges. It helps us to understand and embrace our unique nature and provides a positive first step towards understanding our health.
The second step is to understand if and how we have strayed from our natural, healthy constitution. In Ayurveda, we determine this by comparing our prakriti (natural constitution) with our vikriti (current condition).
If you have not already, take the dosha quiz to determine your current state of balance and get started on your path to optimal well-being.
The above information was written by Dr. Claudia Welch for the exclusive use of Banyan Botanicals. The information is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without the written permission of Dr. Claudia Welch and Banyan Botanicals.
The above prakriti test and results are intended as a convenient tool to provide practical information on your Ayurvedic constitutional type. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. In addition, it should be noted that while this information should be considered highly useful it is not meant to replace the skilled constitutional analysis of a professionally trained Ayurvedic Physician.