Understanding Your Tridoshic Constitution
According to Ayurveda, your constitution is established at conception, cemented at birth, and remains constant over the course of your lifetime. It influences your physiology, your physique, your likes and dislikes, your tendencies and habits, your mental and emotional character, as well as your vulnerabilities toward imbalance and disease. It is defined by the particular combination of vata, pitta, and kapha that you were born with, and it represents your body’s natural state of equilibrium. Because your constitution serves as your blueprint for optimal health, understanding it—with the help of curiosity and self-awareness—can be truly enlightening. Our intention here is to introduce you to your constitution and to give you some of the tools necessary to court a deeper understanding over time.
It’s important to know that we all have all three doshas in our constitutions: vata, pitta, and kapha. But the ratio between them—the specific quantitative and qualitative relationship between the three—is entirely unique to you. That said, as a tridoshic type, your constitution has relatively equal amounts of vata, pitta, and kapha and you probably have a lot in common with other tridoshic types who share that core distinction.
What Ayurveda Knows About You
While there is undoubtedly no one quite like you out there, it is remarkable how accurate Ayurveda can be in predicting who we are—based simply on the broad strokes of our constitutions. As you read through this introduction, and start to piece together the ways in which vata, pitta, and kapha have shaped your constitution, you will probably begin to see your particular strengths and vulnerabilities more clearly. And as your understanding of your constitution expands, your capacity to use these insights to your advantage will also improve. Below are a number of traits that you can likely attribute to your constitution.
Please keep in mind that distinguishing physical characteristics should always be considered within the context of your ethnicity. For example, traits like eye color, skin color, or hair type are assessed in comparison to others with a similar heritage.
You probably have a well-proportioned skeletal frame that is medium in size, much like your overall bone structure and build, but with exceptional strength and stamina. Your musculature is naturally lean but athletic, and your weight probably tends to remain fairly steady. Your face may include a combination of vata’s length and angularity, pitta’s heart-shape with sharp facial features, and kapha’s characteristic roundness. Your eyes are probably medium in size, bright, and captivating. Your skin and scalp usually enjoy adequate hydration, without being oily. Your hair is likely relatively soft, and moderate in both coarseness and abundance. You have well-lubricated joints, your body temperature tends to feel fairly neutral, and you can adapt to most climactic conditions with ease.
Personality: Mental and Emotional Tendencies
You are probably as quick-minded, intelligent, discerning, creative, and capable of holding a big vision, as you are insightful, articulate, steady, and wise. Similarly, you are likely both enthusiastic and ambitious, fun-loving and hard-working, strong-willed and compassionate—with an overall personality that is gentle, loving, and tolerant. When in balance, you are not easily ruffled by the world around you. You likely enjoy travel and adventure, intellectual challenges and problem solving, relaxation, authentic connection with others, and quiet personal time alike. These traits—combined with your grounded nature and impressive strength and stamina—make you all the more likely to succeed in the world. When it comes to wealth, you probably have the capacity to make and save money with relative ease. You are highly principled, wise, and are probably a natural leader.
You very likely have a steady appetite, very much enjoy food, and have a natural digestive strength that allows you to eat as you please for the most part. In fact, your creativity may very well come alive in the kitchen. That said, you probably have a rather attuned sense of the foods and dietary habits that support your vitality, as well as those that undermine it. When you are healthy, your bowels are likely regular and your stools well-formed. When aggravated or stressed, your digestive system may exhibit signs of dryness like gas, bloating, or constipation (vata), excess heat such as acid reflux, or diarrhea (pitta), or heavy sluggishness (kapha).
Energy Levels, Stamina, and Sleep
With the three doshas roughly equal, you are blessed with an enviably sturdy constitution and excellent overall health, which gives you a strong natural foundation of immunity, wellness, and vitality. In all likelihood, you have steady and lasting energy to offer the things that you care about. You are probably at your best when you maintain an appropriate level of physical activity while listening to your body and resisting any temptation to over-exert yourself. For you, the most important task is learning to recognize and honor your different needs in support of your long-term health.
When in balance, you sleep soundly and wake easily on your own. You probably require a moderate amount of sleep—six to eight hours, on average—and you may have found that your body prefers to retire early and wake early rather than stay up late at night.
The Qualitative Nature of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha
Does this sound like you? It’s astonishing how helpful the doshas can be in making sense of both our strengths and our weaknesses. In this next section, we hope to ground your understanding even further by exploring the primary qualities of vata, pitta, and kapha—how they impact the physiology and the mind, and how they can either support or challenge your health, depending on whether they are balanced or aggravated.
As you will see, the three doshas have some qualities in common, several that oppose one another energetically, and a couple that apply to only to one of the three doshas. As you read through this section, you may begin to notice some of the ways in which each quality manifests in your system, giving you a glimpse into some of the more subtle aspects of your particular constitution. In time, it is precisely this type of deepening self-awareness that can inform your understanding of how best to promote optimal health and balance in your life.
Both Vata and Pitta Are Light; Kapha Is Heavy
Lightness often manifests as a lean and trim physique, relatively easeful digestion, light-heartedness, creativity, a bright and alert mind, a magnetic or charismatic personality, and a well-developed sense of spirituality. In excess, it can cause a flighty ungroundedness, lack of emotional security, insomnia, light-headedness, excess upward moving energy (think headaches or baldness), low blood sugar, and inadequate nourishment.
The heavy quality provides substance, lending a certain grounded, real, relatable, and embodied quality to the personality. In excess, it causes inertia, lethargy, weight gain, and feelings of being overburdened, weighed down, or depressed.
Both Vata and Kapha Are Cool; Pitta Is Hot
The cold quality may leave the skin cool to the touch—especially the hands and feet—and make someone more sensitive to cold temperatures than others, but it also tends to impart a cool-headed and calm demeanor. In excess, this quality can compromise digestive strength, cool one’s passion and inspiration, or even lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The hot quality creates a healthy blush in the cheeks, a naturally strong digestive fire, the capacity to stay warm in cold conditions, and gives the personality passion. In excess, it can manifest as skin rashes and breakouts, burning sensations, inflammatory disorders, excess acidity, and hot emotions like anger and rage.
Both Pitta and Kapha Are Oily; Vata Is Dry
Oiliness makes for naturally soft and lubricated skin, smooth movement in the joints, and it bolsters our capacities to relax, accept nourishment, and give and receive love. In excess, it can lead to oily skin and hair, acne, excess mucus, or an especially manipulative (think slippery) personality.
The dry quality allows our organs and tissues to remain separate where appropriate (without undue friction), and also helps our bodies to absorb nutrients effectively. In excess, it can cause dry skin, constipation, under-lubricated joints, a certain rigidity in the mind or body, and brittle hair, nails, or bones.
Vata Is Mobile; Pitta Is Spreading; Kapha Is Stable
The mobile quality supports effective movement, communication, and action. In excess, it can cause instability and restlessness in the mind or body, compromise our ability to focus, trigger anxiety, and cause fidgeting or tremors.
The spreading quality can manifest as charisma and charm, the capacity for spreading influence, and may lead to exceptional achievement, broad recognition, and even fame. In excess, it is often behind a spreading rash, and the capacity to create a toxic emotional environment.
The stable quality provides a distinct steadiness of mind and body, good balance, and is deeply appreciated by those who are naturally more reactive or flighty. In excess, the stable quality can lead to inactivity, stubbornness, or stagnation.
Pitta Is Sharp; Kapha Is Slow (or Dull)
A sharp mind is characteristically inquisitive, penetrating, quick, and highly capable of mastery. Sharpness is also behind decisiveness, discernment, a strong appetite, penetrating digestive capacity (that easily breaks down ingested foods), and sharp vision—whether literal, figurative, or both. In excess, it can lead to a short temper, sharp words, the capacity to judge one’s self and others harshly, and sharp hunger.
The slow quality creates a level of deliberate intentionality and purpose, and the capacity to pace one’s self appropriately. It allows us to be fully present, while creating depth, meaning, and connection. In excess, this quality can lead to a dull appetite, sluggish digestion, excessively slow movement or speech, a dull or uninspired mind, resistance to change, and boredom.
Vata Is Rough; Kapha Is Smooth
The rough quality supports our bodies in simplifying nutrients and making them biologically useful, and also in breaking down waste so that it can be eliminated. In excess, it can cause rough skin, gas and bloating, rough movement in the joints, and carelessness or clumsiness.
The smooth quality tends to make the skin, hair, and physical body smooth and soft, while supporting smooth movement in the joints, graceful movement of the body, and a soft, gentle, and loving personality. When aggravated, the smooth quality can cause water retention and excessive adipose tissue.
Vata Is Subtle
The subtle quality allows for substances to penetrate deep into the cells, and for ideas or emotions to infiltrate the deepest layers of consciousness. It allows for a more meaningful experience of life. In excess, it can leave us feeling aloof, ungrounded, or disconnected from reality.
Pitta Is Liquid
The liquid quality supports proper salivation, healthy digestive juices, an appropriate capacity to sweat, and fluidity of movement throughout the digestive tract, blood, joints, and body. In excess, liquidity can dilute the digestive fire, cause bleeding gums, bleeding disorders in general, a tendency to bruise easily, and excessive sweat.