• Dr. Patty Hlava

Empower Yourself with the Elements

How do you know what you need to thrive in any given moment? With so many self-help strategies and diet plans out there, it can be difficult to see through the noise to know what is right for you. Ayurveda has the guide to help you take the guessing game out of your self-care.


It’s pretty common to feel like we’re living on the outside of the world these days. It’s easy to forget that you are made of the same elements as the natural world outside our windows. Much like each tree has its shape and form, you have a unique blueprint that makes you who you are in appearance, behavior tendencies, emotions, and even energy. 

You can look to the five elements of space (ether), air, fire, water, and earth to better understand your physiology and our connection to the world around you. This understanding gives you all you need to customize your self-care and respond to your body’s unique needs as they arise! How cool is that?


Ayurveda, a system of preventative medicine, tells us that the five elements are the building blocks of life. These five elements are present in all living things, including you. The five elements come together in pairs to form the three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.

The doshas are within you, just as they are within the earth, the food you eat, and the environment around you. The doshas are a way in which you are both connected to--and a part of the world. 

At the same time, the unique way in which the doshas are present within you creates your unique constellation of being. It’s like your elemental DNA. It’s this unique balance of the doshas that makes each of us who we are as individual beings--and helps us understand why some self-care or diet strategies may work great for your best friend--but don’t work for you. 


Knowing the language of the doshas is like having a secret key that decodes the mystery of self-care and self-empowerment. When you understand the natural energies of your body and the world around you, making choices that support how you want to feel becomes much more manageable!

What’s a Dosha?

The doshas are three primary energies:


  • Vata: air and space 

  • Pitta: fire with a little water

  • Kapha: water and earth


From an Ayurveda view, these are the building blocks of life. They live within every one of us (and all living things) in differing ratios. One way to experience all of the doshas is to breathe. As you exhale, place your hand in front of your mouth, and you will feel all three doshas:

  • The air moving from your mouth into the space around your hand is Vata.

  • The heat in your breath is the heat of pitta.

  • The moisture that you feel as the breath lands on your hand is Kapha. 


The different ratio of the doshas within you is referred to as your constitution (or Prakruti). Like your DNA, it has subtle unique characteristics that make up your physiology. Your constitution is a one-of-a-kind balance and distribution of the doshas in your body.

Knowing your constitution lets you generally know how your body operates. It can give you great insight into what foods will be best suited for you, as well as what general illnesses you might have a latent predisposition toward. Knowing your constitution can help you tailor a self-care routine that is absolutely perfect for you. 

How does knowing your constitution give us such great information? It’s by understanding the qualities of each of the doshas. Let’s take a brief look at each:


VATA

Vata Dosha is an energy of the blend of the air and space (also referred to as ether) elements. Think of the wind as it moves through space. It’s tough to hold on to, it doesn’t have a physical structure, and it moves. It also moves other things around.


Think about the fall winds that move the dry, brittle leaves around. That is the energy of vata. 

In our physiology, vata is responsible for everything that moves. It’s energy governs:

  • Cell division

  • Circulation/blood flow

  • Central nervous system

  • Joint mobility

  • Thoughts across the mind

  • Elimination of waste 

If you have high vata in your constitution, you likely have a smaller frame, are cold easily. You may have smaller eyes and features.

PITTA:

Pitta Dosha is an energy of the blend of the fire and water elements. Think of fire: it’s hot, it’s sharp, and it spreads. It’s a powerful force that transforms things. When met with fire, wood becomes ash; ice becomes water, water becomes steam. When met with the transformative fire of pitta in your body, food becomes energy, information becomes knowledge, and ideas become action.


Think of the summer sun that lights up and heats the longest days of the year.

In our physiology, pitta is responsible for transformation. It’s energy governs:

  • Digestion & assimilation

  • Metabolic transformation

  • Assimilation of mental experiences

  • Hormones

  • Body temperature

  • Vision

  • Skin 

If you have high pitta in your constitution, you likely have a medium frame with an athletic build and piercing eyes. You may have more freckles, a reddish complexion, and reddish or fair hair.

KAPHA

Ka = Water

Pha = to Flourish

Kapha Dosha is an energy of the blend of the water and earth elements. Think of water. Kapha energy is a fluid, steady, and life-giving force. It’s all about nourishment. Kapha is the energy that nurtures all of the organs and tissues in the body. Just as water provides life, kapha is the energy that allows for growth and repair to occur. Its secondary element of earth gives us structure, containment, and cohesion--it holds us together. Kapha energy is our stamina and our faith. 

If you have kapha is dominant in your constitution, you likely have a larger frame, excellent stamina, with round and soft joints. You may have large, compassionate eyes and strong listening skills.


In our physiology, kapha is responsible for structure and lubrication. It’s energy governs:


  • Plasma and lymph

  • Lubrication of the synovial joints

  • Mucous membranes, including the mucous lining in the stomach

  • Long-term memory

  • Growth in childhood & adolescence

  • Softness in the body

The roles that the doshas play in your is dynamic. They are always moving and responding to the time of day, the season, the weather, stress, and your actions. As you get to know the doshas and how they show up, you will become more aware of just how connected you are to the outside world. The cycles of the day and the seasons move through your body just as they do through the year. 


Understanding the doshas also invites you into a more empowered relationship with your health and wellbeing. They can serve as an excellent guide to help you uncover links between your habits and how you feel and guide you toward practices that help you find your center, regardless of what is happening in the world around you.




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