Updated: May 13, 2021
The five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether create the foundation for understanding the doshas. Ayurveda is the sacred science of life, an ancient Indian medicinal practice that observes and assesses the individual self in relation to the elements. Ayurveda teaches us that we are a reflection of what we see in Nature, and in the universe, because we are constituted of Nature and of the universe.
The five elements are present in us, and all things, at all times. What changes is the balance of these elements in comparison to each other. These changes occur naturally with the rhythm of time and experience. Each time of day, each season, each phase of life brings forth a different dosha. Every food, herb, medicine, activity, etc also holds its unique qualities that can be expressed through reflection of the elements.
So What is a Dosha?
Doshas are the partnerships of two elements that take dominance over the other three at any given time. The doshas express the qualities of these dominant elements.
Vata is the state of elevated, or dominant, air and ether. Vata expresses qualities of wind. Vata is expressive, and is correlated with the heart and throat chakras - love and communication. Vata is the essence of the larger picture: we on earth all see the same space, breathe the same air, and dwell on the same planet. The divine Seer.
Pitta is the state of dominating fire contained by water. The qualities of water prevent fire from spreading and destroying, and fire is essential for transformation and action. Without fire, nothing can change. Pitta is associated with the sacral and solar plexus chakras - digestion of food, thought, and experience. The divine masculine.
Kapha is the state of ascended earth moved by water. Earth is stable, still, slow, nourishing, and heavy. Water’s lubricative, cleansing properties help earth from becoming stagnant, and move energy throughout the body. Kapha is connected to the root chakra and the sacral chakra - belonging, purpose, loyalty, and nurturing. The divine feminine.
Most people are dominant in one or two doshas. Less commonly, some people are tridoshic, meaning that all three doshas present equally in that person's Prakriti.
Prakriti & Vikriti
In Ayurveda, your doshic constitution is evaluated in two corresponding ways: Your Prakriti and Your Vikriti. Both of these evaluations use the same principles of elemental relationships through holistic exploration of your being.
Prakriti is your baseline constitution, or the constitution with which you were born. Your prakriti is evaluated by reflecting on patterns expressed throughout your entire life, whereas Your Vikriti is an evaluation of your current, present state.
Remember, we are always dancing with the elements.
How This Can Help You
You may recall from the Ayurveda for Postpartum post that conscious postpartum caregiving through an Ayurvedic lens considers the Prakriti and Vikriti of the postpartum woman. This awareness allows subtle adjustments to be made moment to moment and to anticipate the needs of the mother.
And. . . this wisdom is by no means limited to birth.
Consciousness around your own doshic constitution and present expression of the doshas allows you to continuously make embodied decisions that will support your movement towards your prakriti - the state at which YOU are most aligned. Awareness of your own prakriti, vikriti, and surrounding environment can guide your food, herbal support, body oils, and daily routine.
For example, a pitta-dominant woman in a hot climate will likely feel overwhelmed by warming spices that a vata or kapha dominant woman in a cooler climate would. Similarly, the pitta-dominant woman may favor a coconut oil abhyanga, whereas the coconut might be much too cooling or drying for a woman with a vata constitution.
This connection to yourself and the world is a wonderful symbiosis.
Determining your constitution
Determining your constitution involves exploration and analysis of your digestion, complexion, mindset, lifestyle habits, food and herb preferences and reactions, and other psychosomatic presentations of the elements throughout your daily life.
An ayurvedic practioner can give you an in-depth analysis of your Prakriti and Vikriti alongside suggestions for returning to a state of health and balance.
While this may be desired by some, you may feel more inclined to do this exploration intuitively, by building a loving relationship with each of the elements and noting how they are reflected within you at any given moment and which patterns occur throughout your life.
Alternatively, there are several Ayurvedic organizations that offer free quizzes to determine your Prakriti - the internal balances of the elements that is your unique baseline constitution.
Are you curious about conscious Ayurvedic postpartum care?
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Lynnea is a 2020 graduate of the Center for Sacred Window Studies, having aquired 200 hours of foundational studies on the topics of Ayurveda, Postpartum Care Foundations, Cooking for Postpartum, and Ayurvedic Touch for Postpartum. Lynnea is a lifelong student of nature, having spent much time outside in the beautiful Upper Michigan, consciously connecting with the elements. Lynnea is also a nurse, mother, and intuitive healer.