The five elements system is a simple tool to find balance in all aspects of life.
When they are in balance, these five elements would predominantly sustain life. But when they are out of balance they will create discomfort. This elemental unevenness in the body will show up as a dysfunctional expression of one of the qualities that are associated with the element in question. The elements are reflected in the five pranas, the chakras and many other yogic concepts.
In both our outer and inner environments, the quantity and balance of these five elements is continually shifting. It changes with the seasons, the weather, the time of day, and the stage of one’s life. For health, and often for sheer survival, we have to continuously accommodate ourselves to these changes, by means of altering what we eat, what we wear, where we live, etc. This is a balancing act – one of playing elements against each other.
When manifested in our body, they are referred to as Doshas.
The study of doshas is the study of the certain elements functioning in our own bodies. There are a total of three doshas. We are all a combination of these three doshas – though generally, one certain dosha is dominant in us. Knowing about our particular dosha make-up can give us insight into why we respond in certain ways to particular situations – and it can also help us improve ourselves and our reactions to life events.
- A person with a Vata constitution usually moves around a lot, and finds it difficult to remain still for long periods of time
- The basic tendency of the Vata type is spontaneous change, which can become unpredictable.
- Vata people easily become addicted to vigorous exercise, because it temporarily exhausts them and therefore slows down their whirlwind bodies and minds for a while.
- Mild, regular exercise, which incorporates a contemplative element, is best for vata people.
- Vata people require calming and warming yoga practices. Ideally, they should perform sitting postures everyday for increased stability. To calm vata, the practitioner should practice deep breathing, and meditate in these postures as well. Standing poses which strengthen the lower body are also particularly beneficial for vatas. Emphasize those standing poses that build strength, stability and calm.
Characteristics of Vata:
- Light, thin build
- Often either very short or very tall
- Creative and intuitive – often quite artistic
- Irregular hunger and digestion
- Insomnia or light, interrupted sleep
- Excitability, changing moods, emotionally erratic
- Tendency to get spaced out
- Enthusiastic, imaginative, often visionary
- Quick to grasp and quick to forget
- Tendency to worry
- Tires easily, and has tendency to over-eat
- Tendency towards constipation
- Erratic mental and physical energy
- Governs movement in the body-mind
- Pitta people like to excel and shine at what they do. This can sometimes inspire them to aggressively force their bodies and minds.
- They may take their high achievement mentality into yoga practice, where it is not appropriate. This can make them good at the technical side of yoga asanas, but in the process, they can lose the spiritual effect of the practice, which depends upon piece of mind.
- Pitta people are often overly ambitious, irritable or driven, and therefore cooling yoga practices for the mind and body are best for them.
- Pitta people are benefited by postures that aim to release tension from the mid- abdomen, the small intestine and the liver – such as cobra pose, boat pose, and fish pose. Forward bends are usually good for pitta because they bring more energy to the mid abdomen, and have a cooling and grounding effect if done in a gentle manner.
Characteristics of Pitta:
- Medium build, medium strength
- Strong digestion with good, sharp hunger
- Good overview qualities, so often good managers
- Tendency towards anger
- Impatience and irritability when under stress
- Fair, ruddy skin, often with moles and freckles
- Intolerance to sun and hot weather
- Strong, impressive voice (charismatic speakers)
- Regular mental energy
- Picks things up fairly quickly
- Remembers things well
- Regular meal habits
- Blond, light brown, or red hair – usually becomes bald or gray quicker
- Can be fiery, quick and impatient
- Kapha people usually tend toward a slow, steady and calm pace in life, which can easily lead to lethargy, laziness and excess body-weight. Kapha people actually need vigorous exercise, and it is acceptable for them to work the physical body to its limits.
- Because their bones and joints tend to be very solid and strong, vigorous exercise does not pose the same risk of injury compared to a vata person whose bones and joints can be very dry and brittle.
- Generally, kaphas should be encouraged to do stronger exercise than they like, and they usually need to be taught to challenge themselves.
- Standing poses in general are good for them, particularly when combined with movement and stretching. Flowing, continuous movement series are also particularly good for kapha. Back bends are also usually beneficial for kaphas because they open the chest and increase circulation to the head, where mucus tends to build up for them, blocking the senses and dulling the mind.
Characteristics of Kapha:
- Solid, powerful build
- Great physical strength and endurance
- Steady energy, slow and graceful action
- Slow to anger, relaxed personality
- Skin will be cool, oily, pale and soft
- Slow to grasp, yet never forgets
- Good sleep
- Tendency to obesity
- Affectionate, tolerant and forgiving
- Tendency to be possessive and lazy
- Also tend to be relaxed and deliberate, with possible imbalance of sluggishness, leading to tendency to be overweight
- Responsible for structure and stability in the body-mind
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