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

What’s a ‘dosha’ and what are the 20 Qualities

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 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.


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.


  • 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


  • 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   


  • 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


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, and body. 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 and body. This can cause physical manifestations like dry, rough skin and psychological hinderances like interrupted sleep.

If you have dry, rough skin and experience interrupted sleep, you can balance these qualities by introducing their opposites. For example, when it comes to dry, rough skin the opposite quality of dry is oily and the opposite quality of rough is smooth. Along the same lines, interrupted sleep is considered light and also mobile. To bring balance to these qualities, you would want to introduce heaviness and stability into your diet and lifestyle. Giving yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage, called abhyanga is a lovely way to balance all of these qualities. In addition, Vata tends to run cold so using an oil that is heating, like sesame oil, is the most beneficial.

If your predominant dosha is Pitta, you will have more fire and water elements in your mind and body. When out of balance, you may find yourself becoming impatient, angry, and have a tendency toward heartburn. These manifestations have mobile, hot and sharp qualities. To bring balance, welcome their opposites into your diet and lifestyle. For example, introducing self-care into your morning routine will help slow things down and create more stability. The breathing technique, sitali pranayama is an effective way to cool your mind and body.

If your predominant dosha is Kapha

If your predominant dosha is Kapha, you will have more earth and water elements in your mind and body. When out of balance, you can become stubborn, have a tendency toward depression and become congested. These manifestations have qualities that 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 activate the desired balancing qualities.   


Vata DoshaPitta DoshaKapha Dosha
ColdSharp (penetrating)Stable (static)
MobileOilySlow (dull)
ClearCloudy (sticky)
Smooth (slimy)


Sharp (penetrating)Slow (dull)
RoughSmooth (slimy)
MobileStable (static)
ClearCloudy (sticky)


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.

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