Understand Ayurveda Types

 Overview of Ayurveda

You have heard the words vata, pitta or kapha mentioned in magazine articles or titles, online or by celebrities talking about health.  Or perhaps seen it in books by Deepak Chopra as he was one of the first to popularize the Indian science of health and wellbeing known as Ayurveda.  The word "Ayurveda" means the science of life or wisdom of life.  It is a system that originated in ancient Indian thousand of years ago, to maintain health and wellbeing at the highest levels. It is a holistic system of health whose underlying principal is that we as human beings are made of the same elements or qualities as the natural world.  In Ayurveda those universal elements are:  earth, water, fire, air and space.  The three "doshas" or types are named: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Each type or dosha is believed to be composed of a combination of these five elements.

The Meaning of the Types or "Doshas"

What you need to know:  most people are dual types so one would see vata/pitta or kapha/pitta for example.  The first dosha listed is the primary one and the second in he pair is secondary (not as predominant in the person.)  You will probably be able to identify yourself from the simple descriptions but an Auruvedic practitioner can give a detailed analysis and treatment plan, lifestyle suggestions and herbs.  Or consult a good book on the subject to deepen your understanding.  The Ayurvedic system is becoming so popular in the west because a lot of it is self-care and maintaining balance.  One of the goals of Ayurveda is to maintain balance, and with some awareness, a person can make daily and seasonal adjustments to: diet, lifestyle that can help to support ones health.


Clouds to illustrate Vata in AyurvedaCredit: Viv Kala Williams

a pure vata type or primarily vata type is thought to be connected to the quality of “air” and “space.”  The beauty of the system is that the layperson can with their senses easily see and understand the correspondences.  For example when we think of air, we tend to think of “lightness,” and “movement,” right?  And in fact the qualities of a vata dominant persons body/mind would exhibit those qualities- fast moving thoughts, mobile etc.  To see how an imbalance might show in a vata person think again of the literal mixing of the qualities of that type.  So the mix of air and space in excess: a “spacey” “ungrounded” person with ideas that may not be at all realistic.  The positive expression in a vata (or any type manifesting it’s vata qualities) would be “imagination.”


Lightning to illustrate pitta type AyurvedaCredit: C. Clark Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)

a pure pitta type or pitta predominant is connected to the quality of fire and air.   So fire is the key to pitta.  Think hot in many ways, emotionally, body temperature,  dislike of heat as they are already hot.  To understand a negative display of unbalanced pitta think of fire and air gusting, “fanning the flames,” so hot temper.  A positive display of pitta qualities would be a “warm” personality,  dynamic and charismatic.


a Earth to illustrate Kapha type in Ayurvedamainly kapha type is a combination of “earth” and “water,” so again practically when we think of earth we tend to think of qualities like stability,  groundedness.   In the negative-the combination of earth and water mixed-we get mud.  So a negative quality of imbalanced kapha is difficulty motivating or acting.   The positive expression of kapha would include caring, nurturing: the way the earth nurtures a seed within itself.  So kapha types tend to (when healthy) be very nurturing and crave closeness and support.


So with a little study one can get the basics and begin to work with honing ones lifestyle to maintain health.  So Ayurveda uses a very different language than the western medical system, think metaphoric or poetic and yet as in above example very literal and yet quite sophisticated in it’s applications and remedies.