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Recently, I started studying Ayurveda. It is a ‘science of life’ that encompasses all aspects of well-being, from breathing to digestion. It traces back 5,000 years ago to the Indus Valley where the Vedas*, or oldest Ayurvedic scriptures, were found. This information was passed down via sutras*, or memorized chants.

There are 4 Vedas. The first is for that which governs the universe- Agni, Soma and Indra (sun, moon, wind). These ‘great beings’ govern activities in us (2)- pitta*, kappa* and vata*, respectively. Pitta, kappa, and vata are doshas* (3), and while we are all made up of a little bit of each dosha, some doshas govern us more than others. The last Veda is Ayurveda, which contains a series of practices according to our primary dosha (or doshas).

Different doshas are present at different parts of the day and cause different changes in your body according to the season. You are a “microcosm of what’s going on in your environment”. The also includes the environment we choose to put our bodies into. When the environment is abused, how can we be healthy? Similarly, the food that we put in our body is very important in Ayurveda. When our food has been “packaged, chilled and reheated”, our immune system and mind are not able to operate at top capacity. Ayurveda interventions can remove our body of toxins.

Dinacharya* is a lifestyle recommendation for your dosha. You’ll want to find a good checklist or survey to help you determine your primary and secondary doshas. I recommend the Banyan Botanicals quiz. Your dosha is a balance of the four elements (earth, water, fire, air), but the diet of your parents and the hereditary habits also contribute. All at times, you try to stabilize your health- when all doshas are in a state of balance, but every person’s balance is unique, according to their constitution* or primary doshas.

The first dosha is Vata, composed of half air and half ether (energy). It moves everything in the body (nerves, heart, digestion). Its characteristics are light, dry, coolness, and roughness. It is associated with astringency and saltiness (which becomes important for the diet). When Vata is balanced, one thinks clear and moves more easily. Folks with the primary dosha of Vata tend to be slim, with small eyes, and dry hair.

The second dosha is Pitta, composed of mostly fire, with a bit of water. It mainly governs enzymes, digestion, appetite and hormone reactions. Its characteristics are hot, liquid, and oily. It is associated with pungent and sour flavors. Pittas have a sharp intellect and strong appetites. They are medium builds with freckles, light eyes, and slightly oily hair.

The third dosha is Kapha, composed of equal parts water and earth. Kapha is the body’s lubrication (joints, spinal fluid, etc.). Its characteristics are hard, sticky, slow, heavy, and cold. The tastes are sweet, sour and salty. Kappas are laid-back, with pale skin and a slow metabolism, capable of heavy work.

Take the quiz to find out which dosha you are.

4 Tips for Getting Started with Ayurveda

1. Read Ayurveda for Dummies.
2. Eat meals according to your doshas.
3. Complete a cleanse to balance your doshas.
4. Do yoga.