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Ayurveda: “What’s a ‘dosha’ and what are the 20 Qualities?”

Ayurveda Series and Dosha Balancing

Ayurveda is a time-tested, holistic healing practice from India where each person’s health concerns and goals are evaluated based on an individual basis. It focuses on longevity, rejuvenation, self-realization, and liberation.

Ayurveda empowers you to become one with your health by recommending personalized diet, lifestyle, exercise, yoga, pranayama, meditation, herbs, and bodywork choices that are best for your dosha, your stage of life and the season.

Your Individual Constitution

Your individual constitution is established upon conception and consists of lifelong qualities like height, eye, and hair color as well as your innate personality traits; these are the foundations which to strive toward to balance your dosha. Temporary changes like gaining or losing weight, feeling nervous or irritable, developing a cold or flu, etc. are examples of when your constitution is out of balance.

Your Dosha

There are three different energies which you are comprised and they are called ‘doshas’:

  • Vata dosha – air & space
  • Pitta dosha – fire & water
  • Kapha dosha – earth & water

To get a greater understanding of your dosha, take a look at the list below and consider the characteristics that you identify with. Add the number of marks under Vata dosha, Pitta dosha, and Kapha dosha to discover your predominant dosha. Most of us will have one dominant dosha, some will have two or more, and all of us will have some of each.

Ayurveda Doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha
Image Credit: Omar Lopez via Unsplash.

Vata Characteristics

  • Thin frame and weight
  • Small, active eyes
  • Dry, rough or thin skin
  • Dry, brittle or frizzy hair
  • Prominent joints that have a tendency to crack
  • Light sleeper
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Prefers warm environments
  • Respond to stress with anxiety and fear
  • Excitable, creative and enjoys change

Pitta Characteristics

  • Medium frame and weight, defined muscles
  • Deep set, moderately sized eyes
  • Warm skin with moles and freckles
  • Fine hair with a tendency toward early graying
  • Flexible joints
  • Sound sleeper that needs less than eight hours to feel rested
  • Warm body temperature
  • Prefers cool environments
  • Anger, irritability, judgment
  • Intelligence, willpower, acceptance   

Kapha Characteristics

  • Large, round, sturdy frame
  • Full, soft eyes
  • Thick, smooth skin
  • An abundance of thick, oily hair
  • Large, well-padded joints
  • Deep sleeper, slow to wake in the morning
  • Tolerates a wide variety of temperatures
  • Prefers warm, dry environments
  • Sluggish, stubborn, prone to depression
  • Easy going, compassionate, likes to support others

Balance the Qualities of Your Dosha

Now that you have a greater understanding of your dosha, let’s discuss their qualities and how to balance them. Ayurveda says, “like increases like.” Therefore, increasing the qualities of a particular dosha will increase that dosha in your mind, body, and spirit. Please refer to the charts below.

To balance your dosha, you must consider the opposite quality. For example, if your predominant dosha is Vata, you will have more of the air and space elements in your mind, body, and spirit. This can cause physical manifestations like dry, rough skin and physiological hinderances like light, interrupted sleep.

You can balance the dry, rough skin and light interrupted sleep qualities by introducing their opposite qualities. For example, when it comes to dry, rough skin, the opposite quality of dry is oily and the opposite quality of rough is smooth. Thus, to balance these qualities, you can add healthy, doshic specific oils to your diet and lifestyle. In addition, the oils themselves have different qualities. A doshic specific oil for Vata is sesame oil because it’s heating and will bring warmth to your body.

Dosha Ayurveda 20 Qualities Jen Armstrong
Image Credit: Jen Armstrong

If your predominant dosha is Pitta, you will have more of the fire and water elements in your mind, body, and spirit. You may find yourself becoming irritable, angry, or judgmental. These types of thoughts are considered sharp, hot, and mobile. Thus, if you slow down, cool the mind-body, and introduce more stability to your life, you can balance those Pitta inspired emotions. For example, introducing a morning routine will help you slow down and create stability. During the routine, you could practice sitali pranayama which is a breathing technique that cools the body and cultivates calm thoughts. Afterward, you may be naturally drawn into meditation, which can promote spacious, loving thoughts.

If your predominant dosha is Kapha, you will have more of the earth and water elements in your mind, body, and spirit. You can become sluggish, stubborn and have a tendency toward depression. These types of emotions are heavy, stable (static), and slow (dull). To promote their opposites, you should introduce light, mobile, and sharp qualities to your diet and lifestyle. For example, eating whole, freshly cooked foods that include plenty of veggies, seasoned with heating spices will balance the earth and water elements.  


Vata Dosha Pitta Dosha Kapha Dosha
Dry Hot Cold
Light Light Dense
Cold Sharp (penetrating) Stable (static)
Mobile Oily Slow (dull)
Rough Liquid Soft
Subtle Oily
Clear Cloudy (sticky)
Smooth (slimy)

Opposite (Balancing) Qualities

Dry Oily
Hot Cold
Heavy Light
Dense Liquid
Sharp (penetrating) Slow (dull)
Rough Smooth (slimy)
Mobile Stable (static)
Soft Hard
Subtle Gross
Clear Cloudy (sticky)

Step-by-step with Ayurveda

Ayurveda Dosha 20 Qualities
Image Credit: Bruno Nascimento via Unsplash.

The beauty of Ayurveda is that it touches all aspects of our lives. This information can help guide you, moment-to-moment, throughout each season and during every stage of your life.

All material provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Direct consultation of a qualified Ayurvedic Health Counselor should be sought for any specific questions or issues.


Jaclyn Andrews
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