What’s my Dosha?

What’s my dosha? is a rather complex question, because every living creature is composed of all five elements and all three doshas– vata, pitta and kapha.  Each of the ayurvedic constitutions (doshas) have distinct attributes and responsibilities in the body. You cannot survive without them. This said, we are not one-third vata, one-third pitta and one-third kapha. There is an infinite number of doshic combinations and no two individuals are exactly the same.  We all have a unique balance that makes me, me and you, you. One’s essential nature is inherited from our parents and does not change.  This is Prakruti.

When we are healthy and balanced, we experience the favorable qualities of the doshas and our Prakruti is revealed. When we are imbalanced or sick, we experience Vikruti, the shadow or unfavourable qualities of the doshas.  Vikruti (imbalance state) can also be inherited from our parents and grandparents. Since we only treat vikurti in Ayurveda, what’s important to determine are what doshas are out of balance. Why? Because we don’t fix what ain’t broke!

Here’s how to tell when a dosha is out of balance:

VATA (air & space)

Vata character when balanced

•  Vibrant, lively, enthusiastic
•  Clear and alert mind – fast learner
•  Flexible
•  Adaptability
•  Imaginative, creative, artistic
•  Sensitive/ clairvoyant
•  Talkative, energetic, quick to respond
•  Social butterfly

What aggravates Vata 

•  Irregular routine – irregular meals & sleep
•  Staying up late
•  Multi-tasking & excessive mental work
•  Cold, dry weather
•  Bitter, astringent, pungent or cold food
•  Traveling, injury, trauma
* Bitter emotions like grief or astringent emotions like fear, aggravate Vata. 

When out of balance – Symptom –> Pain

•  Restless, unsettled, forgetfulness
•  Light interrupted sleep, insomnia
•  Tendency to overexert then crash
•  Fatigued, stiff, dryness
•  Anxious, worried, lonely, depressed, unstable
•  Underweight, malnutrition
•  Poor digestion, gas, bloating, constipation

Conditions: arthritis, dehydration, mental illness, anorexia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease

To balance Vata – Calm & soothe

•  Create routine for meals, work & sleep
•  Favour warmth & rest
•  Reduce stress, travel, disturbing sounds & loud music
•  Favour warm lubricating, nourishing food
•  Favour soft colors, calming music
•  Gentle flowing yoga & restorative poses
•  Guided meditation & rest

PITTA (Fire & water)

 Pitta character when balanced

•  Warm, loving, passionate, contented
•  Enjoys challenges, motivated
•  Strong digestion & immunity
•  Lustrous complexion
•  Good concentration
•  Articulate and precise speech
•  Courageous, bold
•  Sharp wit, intelligent, focused

What aggravates Pitta 

•  Excessive heat or exposure to the sun
•  Alcohol, smoking, drugs
•  Time pressure, deadlines, competition
•  Excessive activity – physical or mental
•  Too much spicy, sour or salty food
•  Skipping meals
* Sour emotions like envy or pungent emotions like anger, aggravate Pitta

When out of balance – Symptom à Inflammation

•  Demanding, aggressive, perfectionist
•  Tendency towards frustration, anger
•  Tendency towards skin irritation & infection
•  Extreme hunger, allergies
•  Prematurely gray hair /early hair loss

Conditions: ulcers, heart burn, IBS, OCD, high blood pressure, acne, liver issues, addiction, hypoglycaemia, auto-immune diseases
To balance Pitta – Refresh & release tension
 •  Reduce stimulants, spicy foods and pressure
•  Favour coolness, leisure, natural beauty, rest  & moderation
•  Favour sweet, bitter & astringent taste
•  Work on letting go of anger & cleanse blood
•  Gentle yoga in nature with some challenge
•  Mantra meditation & rest

KAPHA (earth & water) 

Kapha character when balanced 

•  Affectionate, compassionate
•  Nurturing, calm, relaxed
•  Forgiving, loyal, Emotionally steady
•  Good listener & good memory
•  Slow, methodical, reliable
•  Strong stamina
•  Natural resistance to sickness
•  Soft skin, melodious voice

What aggravates Kapha

•  Oversleeping
•  Overeating
•  Insufficient exercise
•  Too little variety in life
•  Heavy, unctuous foods
•  Too much sweet, sour or salty food
•  Cold, wet weather
* Sweet emotions like desire, or salty emotions like greed, aggravate Kapha.

When out of balance – Symptom –> Swelling

•  Complacent, dull, boring
•  Sluggish, lethargic, lazy, no ambition
•  Oily hair & skin
•  Coughing, phlegm, congestion
•  Slow digestion & metabolism
•  Heavy, overweight, emotional eater
•  Possessive, over attached, needy
•  Tendency to oversleep

Conditions: obesity, chronic fatigue, kidney issues, blocked arteries, diabetes, growths (tumors)

To balance Kapha – Motivate & encourage

•  Reduce sweets & heavy food
•  Regular exercise – daily
•  Favour stimulation, new experiences, variety
•  Sleep less, eat small meals & let go
•  Favour pungent, bitter & astringent taste.
•  Active, invigorating & stimulating yoga
•  Mantra meditation or walking meditation

Related Articles

What is Ayurveda?

10 Ways to Improve Digestion

Green Juices for Vata, Pitta & Kapha

Natural Remedies for Stomach Flu  (Kitchari recipe featured)


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Yoga Teacher Training Grads Leaving the Nest

I feel like a proud Mama. After two wonderful, full-on years, the students of my Advanced Student Teacher Apprenticeship Program (ASTAP) graduated this week. Each and every one of these graduates are strong teachers with a good sense of self. Their dedication to yoga, to each other and to the community fills me with joy.

Training yoga teachers is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve been doing it since 2007 and with each group, I learn so much. In teaching, it is not my intention to create carbon copies of myself, but rather to inspire students to integrate ideas and make them their own.


My ashtanga vinyasa based program includes a 20-hour independent study on a style or an area of yoga that has not been covered. The students research, attend outside lectures or classes and then give a presentation to their peers. This year, the topics were fantastically diverse:

Yoga for Belly Dancers – Susan Synder (professional Belly Dancer)
Therapeutic Yoga for Back Injuries – Gisele Seto (Budokan teacher & new YTT in yoga therapy)
Yoga for Less Stress – Susan Methe (Speech therapist)
Corporate Yoga – Jasmine Goyer (Marketing & PR Specialist)
Traditional Asthanga Yoga – Emilie Brunet (Student & Vegan Chef)
Yoga for Heart Patients – Bruce Chase-Dunn (Contractor & middle-aged Skateboarder)
Yoga for Happiness with Art – Wendy Tillett (Artist)
Kids Yoga – Catherine Kraus (Teacher & mother of three)
Restorative Yoga – Jenn Herring (Osteopathy student)
Yoga for a Healthy Menstrual Cycle – Kristianne Brunet (Student & environmentalist)


The ASTAP program not only trains students ‘How to teach’; it pushes them to develop a self-nourishing advanced yoga practice. (By ‘advanced’ I don’t mean one-arm handstands, but rather an intelligent practice that is based on their unique needs and intentions.) They learn how to modify the traditional ashtanga yoga sequence to their level of flexibility, strength and energy. This ultimately helps them further understand and adapt to the needs of their students.


These graduates are not virgin teachers either. Within a few months, they began teaching ‘karma yoga’ community classes in pairs. This allowed them to work together and slowly build their confidence. The grads say that organizing and leading community yoga was one of their favourite aspects of their training.


It’s a little bitter sweet to see these folks go. I have really enjoyed working with them. But alas, I am happy to know that my students are now teaching and inspiring others to lead healthier, balanced lives. It’s a new beginning!

My 2013 Teacher Training begins in January and will be co-led with the marvellous Jamie Lee, ashtanga yogi, kinesologist and visionary artist. The program will include more ayurveda, yoga nidra training and studies in sacred geometry.

For more information, visit the 2013 ASTAP site