In Ayurveda, a dosha is a particular health type or functional energy that we possess. Individually, these doshas are known as Vata, Pitta or Kapha. In combination, they make up our innate constitution and have the ability to govern every function within the body-mind system.
While modern medicine is based on the structure of the body, “dis-ease” is not always evident in a body’s structure. Ayurveda is based on three energies that are functioning behind that structure or the “why” something is happening, its root cause.
The term ayurveda means the “science of life.” Its practice utilizes diet, herbs, bodywork, breathing and meditation in a holistic fashion for healing the body. Ayurveda teaches us how to harmonize ourselves with sunrise and sunset, the seasons of the year and the stages of life. Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences that grew up from the same root in ancient India.
Ayurveda recognizes that we all possess individual constitutional types or doshas in mind and body. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the specific doshas and the categories by which the science of ayurveda is designated. Someone’s dosha can be determined by their body type, their temperament or even by the kind of food, exercise and lifestyle they gravitate toward. Ayurveda can give us a better understanding of our unique nature.
As summer approaches and things begin to heat up, it’s a good time to consider the concept of Ayurveda and discover what the Pitta (fire) dosha has in store for us. The practice of ayurveda can help to alleviate any excess heat that we experience in these months because we all gravitate toward a specific dosha in certain seasons despite our natural inclination.
As summer approaches and things begin to heat up, it’s a good time to return to the concept of Ayurveda and discover what the Pitta (fire) dosha has in store for us.
If you are new to the sister science of yoga called Ayurveda, please look back to my Warm Up to Ayurveda post for an introduction to its principles and the doshas called vata, pitta & kapha.
Warmer temperatures tend to aggravate or even initiate a pitta constitution. In general, pitta types are fiery in nature and tend to exhibit the main characteristics of a strong metabolism, good appetite, oily skin and hair, irritability, intensity, and inflammation. Emotionally, when there is too much heat or passion in the system, pittas demonstrate anger and aggression. However, when balanced, the pitta constitution is capable of forming dynamic, focused and determined individuals.
Because pitta is the fiery or transformative force responsible for digestion, warmth and inflammation, the small intestine is its main site in the disease process. Therefore, pittas should watch their habits and attempt to balance their food choices (especially in the summer months).
Pittas tend to eat lots of food and get irritable if a meal is missed. They are drawn to hot, oily, and spicy foods which aggravate their already heated dispositions.
To balance the extreme inclinations in diet, pittas should take in more raw foods and salads (particularly in late spring and summer). In general, cooling, nutritive, lacto-vegetarian diets should be consumed. Sweeter oils such as sunflower, coconut and ghee oils are recommended. Spices that are balancing to pittas include: coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric. Herbs such as aloe gel/juice, shatavari and licorice are also good items to incorporate into the pitta diet.
Yoga is effective for pacifying the heat of a pitta. Specific practices should include postures to cool the head, calm the heart and relieve tension. Pittas should not push too hard in practice because it only increases their irritability. Heat and tension can be alleviated if the body and mind are kept cool and relaxed with asanas that generate openness and surrender.
To reduce excess pitta, yogis should practice in an effortless, non-goal oriented way, working at about 75% of capacity. Rest assured that when a pitta person practices effortlessly they will still be working harder than everyone else!
Begin a pitta-balancing yoga practice with a slow and easy form of Sun Salutation. Use the breath to monitor the level of work involved. Continue to employ breath awareness in seated forward bends, gentle back bends (focusing on extending the spine) and twists (which are very effective in reducing excess pitta). Limit time in positions that invert the head. Supported shoulderstand is most effective. A longer savasana may irritate this dosha so end practice with a short 5 minute Savasana (you can gradually lengthen it over time).
Pittas need to realize that they can use their powerful will to maintain a soft and gentle approach. When a pitta constitution is balanced properly, one should feel a sense of coolness, calmness, openness, patience and tolerance.