How to Know if You Have a Dosha Imbalance (& what to do about it)
Once you learn about Doshas, it can be really confusing. One of the biggest points of confusion is "wait, is that my dosha or my imbalance?"
Your dosha is called your prakriti - meaning your true nature. For me, I'm Pitta dominant, but also relatively high in Kapha. I'm a really low Vata naturally. This makes a ton of sense for me because I can remember as a kid, most of the things I remember about myself pointed to Pitta with some Kapha mixed in. Those are the things that have been true my whole life. When you find balance, you'll return back to your natural ratio between Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
But then vikriti comes along. Vikriti means "your current state of imbalance." Imbalance here means you have TOO much. I'm really sensitive when the seasons change, so in any given season, I'm probably feeling imbalance symptoms of one dosha. Throughout my whole life, I've never had Vata symptoms. But in the past few years, in the fall, if I were to look at a description of each, I'd think I was Vata. Why? Because while my true nature contains very little Vata, I'm experiencing a temporary, short-term excess of Vata in my body. It'll come and it'll go as my vikriti, but my prakriti - my true nature - will always be the same. I'm always going to have a little extra fire in me, even when my Pitta isn't excessive. Just because it's how I'm wired.
How do I know if I have an excess?
For the most part, any uncomfortable symptom you're experiencing regularly over the past few weeks or months (or even years) is likely an excess of a dosha. Check the lists below to see common symptoms of imbalance in each dosha. Give yourself one point for each sentence that's true or mostly true for you.
1. I have been feeling nervous, fearful, anxious or frantic.
2. I fidget a lot. I sometimes get twitches, tics, or spasms in my body.
3. My skin is dry and easily chapped.
4. I have been suffering from dry, hard stools, constipation, gas or bloating.
5. I feel I am thin or underweight.
6. I really do not tolerate the wind and cold well.
7. I do not like loud noises.
8. My sleep has been light, interrupted, restless or disturbed.
9. I feel scattered, spacey and have difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
10. I am prone to overthinking and worrying.
1. I have had red, inflamed or burning skin – perhaps acne, a rash, cold sores or fever blisters.
2. There is acute inflammation in my body or joints.
3. I have acid reflux, heartburn, acid indigestion or a gastric/peptic ulcer.
4. I feel uncomfortable if I miss a meal.
5. I have been having loose or frequent stools (more than twice per day).
6. I have been feeling uncomfortably warm or hot.
7. I have been feeling frustrated, irritable or angry.
8. I can be easily judgmental, impatient or critical.
9. My eyes have been red, bloodshot or sensitive to light.
10. I expect perfection of myself or others.
1. I have excess mucus in my body or sinus/lung congestion.
2. I have a white coating on my tongue, especially when I wake up.
3. My bowel movements are slow, sluggish or feel incomplete.
4. I am at a heavier weight than feels natural for my body frame.
5. It is difficult for me to wake up in the mornings, even if I sleep deeply for 8-10 hours.
6. I have been feeling slow, foggy, dull, or lethargic, or I experience a sense of heaviness in my body.
7. In the morning, I sometimes cough up mucus or my congestion is at its worst.
8. I have a deep, wet cough that produces a lot of mucus.
9. It is hard for to me to change. My friends and family may remark that I am stubborn, or complacent.
10. I am prone to eating in excess during times of stress or high emotions. Especially sweet, dense foods.
What to do if you find some excess of a particular dosha?
There are many ways you can bring balance to your body for each dosha. Some are related to your food, your lifestyle, your yoga asana, and even your daily routine. The important thing to know is that Ayurveda doesn't need you to make any big shifts. In many cases, you can just add one or two things that can make a big difference in how you feel.
When we think about balancing, Ayurveda heals through opposite therapy. In Ayurveda, we say like attracts like. Meaning Pittas are often drawn to activities with the same hot and sharp qualities they have themselves (like hot yoga), and Vatas are drawn to cool, moist and dense foods in times of stress (like sweets or ice cream!). Kaphas often are drawn to careers that require them to be really grounded and strong, like counselors, health care workers or blue collar workers. Like attracts like.
However, in Ayurveda, like also increases like. Kaphas like grounded, stable things but if we get SO heavy that we can't get up and going. Pittas like all the heat, but too much of it means they burn out. So that's where opposite therapy comes in!
Opposite Therapy in Ayurveda
Each dosha is described by a few different characteristics that align with their elements. Here's an easy example - Pitta is hot, so to balance it, we want to add things that are cool. Each dosha has a few characteristics that describe its elements. Read below to see more examples of opposite therapy in the doshas.
Kapha (i.e. earth and water) is cool, moist, heavy, oily, sticky, static and soft. To reduce Kapha when it's in excess, we'll favor things with the opposite qualities - warm, dry, light, clear, mobile and rough.
Pitta (like fire and water) is hot, oily, sharp, light, moving, liquid and acidic. To reduce Pitta when it's excessive, we'll favor things that are cool, dry, dull, heavy, static and alkaline.
Vata (like air and space) is cold, dry, rough, light, mobile, and subtle. To reduce Vata when it's too much, we'll favor things that are warm, moist, soft, heavy, static and gross.
Things that balance each dosha
Food, yoga and lifestyle are all ways that we can take in elements that reduce excess doshas. See below to learn how you can reduce each dosha!
Foods: Vata is reduced when you cut back on dry, crunchy, cold foods (yes, salad, I'm looking at you). Even if you still have salad, maybe you could add cooked veggies or quinoa to it. Or make a salad with fewer greens and more root veggies. One of the best things Vata can eat is soup/stews (the warm, moist qualities really help!). Pasta in moderation is actually good for Vatas too. If you eat legumes, soak them first so they're more digestable. Sweet food is good for Vatas, so don't feel bad about having a brownie here and there! Drink warm lemon water as soon as you wake up to get your digestion moving.
Yoga: If you are trying to reduce Vata, try doing a slow flow or restorative practice. Avoid backbends and big inversions, and try more forward folds and twists. Crocodile Pose is your best friend! Sun salutations can help you warm the body too, and big standing poses help you ground.
For more info, see my post on Ayurvedic Asana!
Lifestyle: Containment is helpful for Vatas! Try wearing a scarf on chilly days! Oil self massage is also really helpful for Vatas to help them ground. Incorporate a meditation practice to help bring stillness to the body, and a relaxation practice to help with stress and anxiety.
Foods: Pitta needs foods that cool. So Pittas, if you're consuming more hot sauce than the average person, try to add in some cooling foods along with it. Some ideas are adding in cilantro, mint, basil or lime. Cucumber and watermelon are really cooling too. You might not need that stuff every day, just on the days you're feeling it the most. Dairy and sweet foods are also pretty good for Pitta, and they digest most grains and legumes well.
Yoga: Reducing Pitta includes lots of side bends, forward folds and twists! Unfortunately, you might want to skip hot yoga on your Pitta-est days since that won't reduce your Pitta. Pitta will do really well with slow-flow yoga once or twice a week, or even just non-heated vinyasa.
Lifestyle: The more pittas can chill out, the better. If you have to schedule it to make it happen, do that! Watch a funny movie, wear blue, green and purple clothes. A relaxation practice will help Pittas reduce the tension they carry in their bodies and minds. Pittas also can benefit from a 20 minute nap a day to help them blow off steam.
See more ideas for Pitta at my post on staying cool in the summer!
Foods: Kapha needs foods and activities that are stimulating. Spices are Kapha's best friend! Stimulating spices include cinnamon, cumin, ginger, tumeric, pepper, etc. Kaphas are going to need lighter and dryer foods in their day. It doesn't mean Kaphas should switch to a salad-only diet, but adding a side of greens or even a couple leafs of spinach to their sandwich or soup can really help them break up the Kapha overload. Dry foods like potatoes, pomegranates and legumes are helpful. Sour foods like lemon and other citrus, vinegar, etc. are all helpful!
Yoga: include plenty of movement! Backbends and inversions are going to be the most helpful for Kapha. Even in gentler practices, you can incorporate small backbends and supported inversions.
Lifestyle: Kaphas can find a huge difference by waking up before 6am and practicing yoga. Tongue scraping is also a hugely beneficial practice for Kaphas as well as using a neti pot and dry brushing. Journaling is helpful for Kaphas because they tend to hold so many emotions and feelings.
For more, keep checking my blog and Instagram for more info and tips for each dosha!