Managing a Pitta Constitution

Managing a Pitta Constitution

The Qualities of Pitta

“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 constitution (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, skin imbalances, or perhaps the quality of 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 spreading redness in the skin.
  • The liquid quality may manifest as excess sweating. When combined with the hot quality, it can also present as an acidic, burning sensation in the stomach.

Decreasing or Balancing Pitta

Like Increases Like

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 daily and enjoy hot, spicy food. At the end of the week you suffer from red, irritated skin, uncomfortable digestion, and you 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 a naturally sweet taste is wheat; of bitter and astringent (which are often coupled), many leafy greens and herbs.

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 constitution, 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 the best.

For example, 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.”

If a dosha increases in our bodies, Ayurveda suggests that we decrease it in order to regain balance. 

To do so, we want to incorporate substances which decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities. For example, if excess mental wrestling 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.

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, drinks, environments, colors, smells, and lifestyles.

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.

Using Diet to Balance Pitta

A pitta individual does well with 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, caffeine, 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 Ayurvedic herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle and can be incredibly supportive in promoting overall health.

Brahmi, bhringaraj and guduchi are three of the primary herbs used to remove excess pitta from the body and maintain balance. All of these herbs can be found in our Healthy Pitta herbal tablets.

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 “going with the flow” rather than using your will to force the flow.

When it comes to exercise, cold weather sports like skiing and ice skating are great for pitta, as are water sports like swimming or rowing. Early morning exercise is best. 

It is easy for the pitta individual to feel that if they just work long and hard enough, they can control everything. It is this quality, on a global scale, that allows human beings to think nothing of controlling or manipulating nature to bend to our will. This works well if it is a balanced approach, such as predicting nasty weather and thereby being empowered to prepare for it. 

An extreme example of this outlook gone out of control in a very unhealthy way would be that of a dictator attempting genocide in an effort to align global 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 medicines 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 relax and 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 our pitta-pacifying yoga 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.

Now What?

Knowing our prakriti is useful because it increases awareness of our natural strengths and challenges. It helps us 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, or state of balance). 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.


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