Pitta, Vata, Kapha: The three doshas, or energetic forces, that govern both the natural world and the human body. You might know your dosha and even understand some of the qualities that it endows. But how do you know if your doshas are truly balanced, or whether your experiencing doshic excess? What can you do to balance your dosha for a happy, healthy life? Below we explore each of the three doshas and the steps you can take to balance them.

The Vata Dosha

Vata is the energetic force of air and space. Governing movement and communication, vata regulates our elimination and nervous systems. This energetic force also influences our thoughts and emotions, which is why those of vata constitution are both cerebral and emotional. Vata types are typically fast moving, talkative, and excitable people. Though energetic and creative, vata is easily overwhelmed and prone to anxiety, sharp fluctuations in mood, and oscillating energy levels. Physically, vatas are thin with dry skin and a darker complexion.

Vata is characterized by dryness, roughness, speed, turbulence, coldness, and light. Those of vata constitution, or those with imbalanced vata, will experience these characteristics as excess that disturbs their sense of wellbeing. When vata is imbalanced, we fall prey to weight loss, physical pain, weakness, constipation, and fatigue. Our sleep may become more restless, or we may notice painful or sluggish digestion. Vata types often complain of coldness and dry, rough skin. Excess vata yields negative implications for the emotions as well. When vata is imbalanced, we experience nervousness, anxiety, racing thoughts, depression, loneliness, difficulty communicating, and mood swings.

Lifestyle Suggestions for Vata

Vata types are often drawn to rigorous physical activity as an outlet for their anxiety and restlessness. However, long, intense bouts of cardiovascular exercise are too stimulating for vata’s already over-stimulated system. Though vatas may enjoy bouts of intense exercise, they are bound to find themselves exhausted soon after. Instead, vata types should practice gentle forms of exercise like yoga and walking. Vatas also benefit from strength training, which will add muscle mass to balance their light, thin quality.

Vata types will benefit from a cool, stable lifestyle. Vatas typically crave constant change or adopt a stressful, faced-paced lifestyle. Like excessive exercise, excessive daily activity and change will upset vatas’ sensitive systems. Instead, vata types should seek stability and serenity in their home environments. They should take care to rest. If they have sleeping difficulties, they may benefit from soothing herbs and meditation. Self-care is important for everyone, but it is particularly vital for vata types. Vata may neglect their own needs in working hard at something, but they tend to crash after periods of intense exertion. Change, travel, movement, and chaos will quickly exhaust vata. Establishing personal time for pleasurable, relaxing activities is therefore a priority.

Dietary Suggestions for Vata

Because vata is cold and dry, vata types must eat warm, oily foods to balance their doshic excess. Vatas benefit from heavy, cooked foods like soups and stews that are high in fat. Ghee, butter, cream, and coconut oil will go a long way in soothing the body and facilitating digestion for vatas. They should nix cold drinks for herbal teas and warm beverages. Vata types should always include sour, salty, and sweet foods. They tend to tolerate root vegetables better than cruciferous vegetables or leafy greens, which are harder to digest. Green beans, onions, sweet potatoes, garlic, asparagus, beets, and carrots are particularly good for vata types. Cooking vegetables is absolutely essential for this dosha, which cannot tolerate them raw.

It is best for vata to avoid cold, bitter, or astringent foods. They should therefore ensure that they only eat fruit that has fully ripened. Vata should choose warm, soothing herbs like ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon over bitter or astringent ones. Though vata tends to tolerate oils and dairy very well, they should avoid red meat. They should also steer clear of candy and coffee, which can be over-stimulating, as well as most grains.

The Pitta Dosha

Like vatas, pittas are quite intellectual. However, they are more grounded and focused than creative, distractible vata. Pitta is the dosha of fire and water, and quite the force to be reckoned with. Pitta is passionate, outspoken, fiery, and logical at its best, and blunt, angry, impatient, and jealous at its worst. Characterized by heat, lightness, intensity, pungency, sharpness, and acidity, pittas have a lot of energy. Physiologically, the pitta dosha governs digestion and metabolism, so pittas tend to boast strong digestion and regularity.

Lifestyle Suggestions for Pitta

Physiologically, pittas are often prone to excess and should seek to establish moderation in their lives. Oftentimes they overeat, particularly salty, sour, and spicy foods that can aggravate their pitta energy. Typically mesomorphs of strong stature, they are also prone to excessive exercise, which aggravates the dosha instead of balancing it. Pittas should strive for balance by being mindful of portion sizes and practicing gentle exercise. Swimming, Pilates, and yoga are great for pitta, as is meditation.

Pitta types should also work to balance their fiery mental energy. Pittas are quick to anger and compulsivity and tend to blame others for their problems. Imbalanced pitta is typically associated with inflammatory conditions like skin irritation and indigestion, as well as ulcers and heartburn. It is also conducive to irrational jealousy and even rage. Taking personal time to keep perspective and evaluate emotions is incredibly therapeutic for pitta. Engaging in soothing, mentally engaging activities like painting or puzzles can also help pittas keep their cool. Pittas can work to keep cool in a more literal sense by avoiding humid climates and consuming plenty of water, which can even their moods.

Dietary Suggestions for Pitta

Pittas should strive for moderation in their diets as well. Cold or hot foods are too extreme for pitta types, who should opt for warm or cool foods instead. They benefit from foods that are neither too heavy nor too light, like cooked grains and vegetables. They should nix heavier, heat-forming foods like meat, fried food, nuts, and egg yolks. Olive, sunflower, and grapeseed oils are better for pitta than almond, corn, sesame, or coconut oils. Pitta types should also replace spicy or sour foods with bitter, sweet, and astringent foods. Unlike vata, pitta can handle raw fruits and vegetables, which cool their internal heat. Herbs like cilantro, dill, fennel, mint, turmeric, cumin, and black pepper also balance their fiery energy.

The Kapha Dosha

Kapha is the energetic force of earth and water. As such, it governs immunity and bodily structure and is considered heavy, slow, stable, cold, soft, solid, and oily. Kaphas tend to be strong, heavy individuals that easily store water and fat. They are calm, steady, and loving. Though they don’t move quickly like vata, they have remarkable endurance. However, they are also prone to lethargy. Kapha types boast sound sleep, radiant skin, strong digestion, physical strength, and stable moods. Excess kapha can cause water retention, weight gain, fatigue, respiratory complications, and depression.

Lifestyle Suggestions for Kapha

Mentally and emotionally, kaphas tend to be very healthy. They are compassionate and joyous but still gentle, patient, and stable. They enjoy introverted activities like music, reading, and relaxing, and typically get more than enough sleep. However, kaphas need to be very conscious of how they govern their social lives. Prone to attachment and loathing of conflict, kaphas oftentimes have difficulty letting go of the past or confronting issues in their lives. To balance their dosha, kaphas must consciously speak out even when it is uncomfortable and cut ties that are no longer serving them.

Kaphas are good at relaxing—sometimes a little too good. Kaphas should avoid napping during the day and try to wake with the sun every morning. Oversleeping only exacerbates their lethargy. They should also engage in energetic activities like cardiovascular exercise and interval training. Kaphas will benefit from choosing a profession that keeps them on their feet throughout the day and should walk instead of driving whenever possible. So long as kapha works to keep moving, they can avoid falling into a cycle of lethargy.

Dietary Suggestions for Kapha

Kaphas are prone to overeating and should avoid the sweet, heavy foods that might trigger bingeing. Candy, salty foods, or fried food are not good for kapha types. They should avoid all sugar and dairy, as well as cold food and drinks. Warm, light, dry food is better for kapha types. These include plenty of fruits and vegetables, either raw or steamed. Dry cooking is great for kaphas because it balances their oily nature. They also benefit from consuming spicy food, although they should limit other heat-forming foods like cooked grains and meat. They should also limit particularly sugar fruits like dates, figs, bananas, and mangos.

Kaphas stand to benefit from fasting more than any other dosha. Unlike vata, which should only fast on heavy, nourishing foods, kaphas can engage in liquid fasts for a few days at a time. They also benefit from consuming herbal teas and broths—warm, light foods that may not be substantial enough for the other two doshas.