What Are the Doshas, and Why Are They Important?

doshas

 

Originally written for Yogahub.ie 

What Are the Doshas??

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Some of us may have a vague inclination as to what the 3 doshas are, however it’s rare we get the opportunity to delve deeper into our individual constitution. In this series of blog posts we hope to help you understand further what it means to be a Vata, Pitta, or Kapha type, and also what this means in terms of your daily habits, tendencies, and unique composition.

The Doshas and Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine holds that each of the three doshas is a dominant force of energy which circulates the body and determines our physiological activity. Each Vata, Pitta, and Kapha manifest themselves differently in terms of our temperment, physical constitution, and general disposition, while also determining extremity of various physical and mental disorders.

Human Condition

In his book ‘Yoga and Ayurveda‘ David Frawley outlines how our entire life and perception of existence is based upon the interplay (or ‘dance’) of the three doshas. He explains that Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are in constant motion with our internal and external environment, ensuring our continued engagement with the world around us.
Our conditions of health, disease, growth and ageing all occur as a result of or in relation to certain movements or dominance of our doshas – elements of which are present in everyone. While one dosha is always dominant in each individual, we each contain elements of all three, and it is the relationship and dynamics of co-habitation of these doshas within us that keeps us moving, keeping awareness and change within constant reach.

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Once a Vata, Always a Vata??

Ayurveda defines people as either Vata, Pitta or Kapha according to the dominant traits of each which are present in the body, many of which occur as the result of prolonged habits, altering bodily constitution over time to mean the individual is inclined towards one dosha. It is with this understanding of the individual composition that we can understand how the dominant dosha of an individual can alter over time, and will not necessarily remain the same forever.

The Doshas and Yoga

In terms of yoga, the correct assessment of a persons’ dosha can help to ensure correct practice and outline the personalized type or style of yoga and movement which will ensure their practice provides optimal results. For instance a slow Yin or Hatha practice is often preferable for those of dominant Vata dosha, to balance their excitable, energetic and unpredictable nature. Whether mental, physical, or emotional, a yogi’s dosha relates directly back to their engagement with the elements of the world around them, and is also important in Ayurveda when determining which treatments will best suit a patient.

Balancing Our Doshas

Balancing our doshas is key to ensuring the avoidance of excesses which can result in unbalanced mental and physical constitution, and ayurvedic medicine is concerned with treatments to re-balance these upsets in stability within an individual. It’s fascinating to consider oneself in relation to the doshas and to research about what best suits our own particular type, learning how to improve elements of our physical and mental composition through ayurvedic principles, of which diet plays a large (but not solely responsible) role.

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Good and Bad

While all three doshas have strengths and positive attributes, they each also have their weaknesses, and it is through gaining a deeper understanding of these that we can enforce further measures within our own lives to achieve balance. Whether through diet, forms of physical exercise, mental stimulation or lifestyle factors, it is important to address our individual constitution according to our own needs and nobody else’s.
There are several online tests (linked below) which you can take to determine your current dominant dosha, (we’d recommend taking more than one to ensure consistent results), and over the next few weeks on the blog we’ll be outlining particular elements of each Vata, Pitta, and Kapha which will help you gain a more thorough understanding of them.

Links:

What’s My Dosha Quiz
Discover Your Dosha
Banyan Botanicals Prakriti Quiz
Yoga Journal’s What’s Your Dosha

 

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The Importance of Establishing Trust Whilst Travelling

The Importance of Establishing Trust Whilst Travelling

 

 ‘If fear is holding you back just remember that in general, places are safer and people are kinder than you may expect. Discovering this is one of the beautiful benefits of travelling’ – Justin Alexander

“Be careful. Mind yourself. Take care. Be safe.”
Anyone who’s embarked on a journey further than the corner shop or into town for the day has heard the warnings.
What if you get robbed? Knocked down? Attacked? What if you don’t understand what they’re saying?

Travelling places you directly in the firing line to be stifled and stagnated by these often irrational fears – yet also to conquer them. To experience humanity in all it’s confusing and miscommunicative glory, and for once, to let go and trust it.

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Finding and attending sunrise yoga sessions overlooking the Himalayas, meditating on the mountaintop at Tushita, jamming with local and Israeli musicians at Jolly’s and in tiny cafés and bars hidden away down windy paths in the mountains, and some of the best and cheapest monk-made vegetarian food at Tibetan and Indian restaurants where nobody actually speaks any English….2 years ago these things would have seemed impossible and terrifying for me.

I’ve experienced the anxieties, and I’ve now learned to surrender to the language barriers and embrace my fellow humans as the kindred souls they are. As a solo female traveller in particular, the warnings I received about India were enough to make me doubt my decision the entire flight over here. While an element of common sense is required in navigating unfamiliar soil and encountering cultures and people unaccustomed to communicating with pale-skinned, ginger women, in general, my experience here has been altogether more comfortable than the warnings had led me to expect – something which has left me ashamed of my paranoid actions (or lack thereof) on more than one occasion.

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Building bridges

Having become so used to this typically Irish paranoia, self-consciousness, and disinclination to trust ourselves or others we have come to adopt as the norm, I only realise now how much I was limiting myself in denying the natural inclination and need all humans possess to communicate and be open with one another. Given that communication leads to understanding, and understanding lies at the root of any harmonious relationship – be it mind and body, our relationship with ourselves, with friends, family, food – every aspect of our lives, it follows that the initial first step to reach out and interact with another human is often the most daunting, yet rewarding action we can take.
In the travelling/backpacking scene (in Asia, anyway) it may seem easier to speak to and make new acquaintances as everyone seems in the same boat – all secretly sipping beers or coffees in the underlying hope that the attractive guy across the bar will make the first move and ask you to accompany him to see the temple tomorrow (*swoon*).
We need to stop assuming.
We need to take action for ourselves, be more assertive and attentive to our own needs in the moment, and trust whatever natural direction we receive, be it from the kind stranger who just returned a 10 rupee note you dropped by accident, or the vague gestures of locals towards a forest path with not a word of English to accompany their directions. 9 times out of ten you will find their intentions to be genuine and heartfelt, even if their initial scowls or frowny faces may suggest otherwise. Some cultural differences will never change. It’s a shame that I still sometimes feel the apprehension before trusting the directions or unprovoked aid of a local on the street, but I’ve learned finally to open up and trust their lack of agenda for what it is – honesty.

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New friends and good food…

Travelling has helped me see that people aren’t so bad, really.
Discovering the kindness and hospitality of the Indian and Tibetan people I’ve encountered during my short time here has been fulfilling and heartwarming, and part of the reason I’m so reluctant to leave. While I have been careful not to walk too far alone at night or to concern myself with any ‘dodgy’ looking characters, I’ve found it’s the times when I’ve opened my mouth and made the first greeting, comment, or question to a fellow traveller or local that I have been rewarded with a flicker or flame or warmth and friendship – sometimes lasting no longer than a cup of chai, sometimes a whole week of meeting up for yoga classes, activities, or meals. Climbing mountains with new acquaintances and not being afraid to show your true self or embrace your lack of umbrella in a downpour at the Taj Mahal during monsoon season is about as freeing and grounding an experience as any I can hope to ever have again.

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An Irish & an Indian climb a mountain…

After all, aren’t we all just doing our best to keep going? Keep meeting, discovering, and moving onwards to the next destination, even if it’s just down the road? In my experience you are 10 times more likely to encounter kindness than nasty or dangerous behaviour whilst on the road, and discovering the importance of trust and my capacity to remain calm in these situations has already led me to several places and friendships with people and places I never would have experienced had I remained in my ‘safe’ bubble of a hostel room. While an element of self-awareness and common sense is also necessary, the key is to find a balance between overly-analysing the outcome of potential interactions and ultimately ruining them for yourself before they ever happen, and just going with them without thinking. I’ve come to a peaceful middleground where both sides are now available to me, and now just appreciate that I have the opportunity to experience it all.

 

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Bhagsu Waterfall, Dharamsala

 

 

 

On the Importance of Roots…

On The Importance of Roots… (and not the hair kind!)

 I recently had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend who moved away when we were both very young. Our families remained in contact, and as a result so did we through the years, seeing each other at staggered and unpredictable intervals every six or seven months when our parents decided it was time for a catch-up. Even though our lives naturally took different routes and twists that nobody could have anticipated, we remained solid friends, the advent of the likes of e-mail, Bebo and MSN in our early teens enabling us to stay in more regular and consistent contact, albeit rarely face-to-face. As such we now have the privilege of being able to introduce one another with the title of ‘one of my oldest friends’; a phrase I had previously never used, having thought it a cheesy and overly-emotive phrase reserved for American TV shows and chick flicks.

This time, however, after an absence of over a (fairly turbulent) year with only the odd Facebook or Snapchat message allowing us insight into the others’ busy and ever-changing life, it really hit home for me that this person has known me my entire life. Not only that, but she has stuck with me, an ever-present comfort for me to contact should the need arise, even if that contact consisted purely of a name on a screen. Although we share none of the same friends anymore, and live completely different lives from the days we played knick-knack on the neighbours around the corner, there is something extremely reassuring in the knowledge that there is always someone there to talk to that will give honest and objective opinions about things that are going on in your life, sit down and listen, even if it no longer has anything to do with them.

Going back to your roots and re-connecting with old friends, places, or even family you haven’t seen for a while really can help change the way you look at things. For me, it succeeded in bringing me back and reminding me of how I looked at certain things when I was younger – how easy things seemed, how little panic is actually necessary in dealing with situations I tend to make bigger deals out of than is required. The 5-year-old Jenny did not care how many calories she ate in one sitting. She was just happy to be sitting there eating them. It made no difference to her what she looked like leaving the house – she was just happy to be going somewhere.
In returning to this childlike state of thinking, sinking below the heightened sense of responsibility, anxiety and guilt that comes automatically with being an adult, there was such a freedom and respite that after we said our goodbyes I genuinely felt like I was floating on a sugar-buzz from the bags of sherbert flying-saucers and 10-pennys mixes we used to get in the shop down the road.

 For anyone struggling at the moment to find themselves, or to establish a firm foundation on which to build and take the next step from in your life, I urge you to first take a step backwards and look at where you’ve come from; who you’ve grown from – that little boy or girl who got excited at the mere thought of a trip to the cinema or playground, not needing to think into it or worry about the implications of such actions. Not needing to worry about what people would say if they did or didn’t go to the party that night; not needing to explain and absorb mountains of guilt and apologise for making mistakes.
Because it was natural; the next step forward, and the lead-on from the previous day at school to get up and go again in the morning. We didn’t question it, or dwell too long on the negatives – generally by lunchtime I was happy to see a packet of Iced Gems and carton of Ribena in front of me, and that was that. The simplicity of it astounded me to remember, but moreso the realisation that in reality there is no reason for us to not be able to access that purity again. The only difference is that we now have responsibilities, ‘expections’ to live up to that really have been placed there by ourselves, and a society that questions our purpose with every new acquaintance and shake of the hand enquiring a ‘polite’ “So what is it you do??”
Usually this question is not put out of any genuine interest or agenda whatsoever, and serves as a filler of a line that begs a concrete answer with each new encounter. Heaven forbid you respond with a semi-confident ‘I write’, or ‘I play music’ that has taken you years to get up the courage to undertake as a lifestyle– you’d be lucky to get an awkward nod of the head and an ‘oh, fairplay!’

What I’m trying to say is that meeting up with my old friend and talking as if it hadn’t been almost 2 years since we’d seen each other genuinely felt like the last few years of confusion and uncertainty in the post-college floundering to tread water and establish myself as a human being hadn’t happened. It reminded me that I’ve been me all along. I’ve been that child who ran to the shops to get another 50p bouncy ball from the machine outside Super Valu and chased it around the garden for the rest of the evening – I just stopped enjoying the little things about taking the trip there; the excitement of wondering which one would come out, and the delight when it bounced higher than I’d ever made it go before.
It reminded me that no matter where you go, who you meet, what friend-groups you become a part of, what sector you’re in or division or new team you play for, countries you travel to and time spent alone in strange new places, you will always appreciate that strong base of the first friends, family and experiences that shaped you as a child, where you ground your first roots and started to learn to stand tall by yourself.

It doesn’t matter if things got a little bit lost and mixed up along the way – some trees go years without any noticable growth or change. Each layer is built around the previous one, and is merely a reflection of what is actually contained inside. The reason your true self was so easy to access and embody as a child is because there were less layers to peel back to reach it. As we grow and become more accustomed to the world, people, relationships, habits and experiences around us, these layers become thicker, more complicated, and ultimately harder to see and retreat back through. In knowing now that this inner strength still exists as strong as ever, with all these new layers which I see now are there to protect instead of mask it, there is a potential and energy so exciting that I can barely contain myself.

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