Central to Ayurveda is the concept of the 5 elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), all of which are present in the universe as well as in the human body – the human body, according to Ayurveda, is viewed as the microcosm of the macrocosm that is this universe.
These elements combine to form the constitutional makeup of our bodies – known as ‘doshas’ or bodily humors. These are Vata = Air & Ether, Pitta = Fire & Water and Kapha = Earth + Water.
There are qualities associated with each element, which determine the qualities of the Dosha. The qualities of fire are hot, light, dry and sharp. The qualities of water are heavy, cold and moist. Pitta dosha is predominantly made up of fire with a little bit of water, which imparts an oily quality.
Qualities of Pitta – Hot, Light, Sharp and Oily
Pitta is responsible for digestion, metabolism and energy production. It is all about transformation. Pitta not only helps digest our food but also helps ‘digest’ impressions in our minds. In our minds, the fire of Pitta gives us focus and discernment - our ability to tell fact from fiction.
Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Pitta dosha have a medium frame with good musculature. They have an angular shaped face and prominent cheekbones. They have medium sized but sharp features including deep-set piercing eyes. They typically have a rosy, toned glow to their skin and may have freckles or moles.
Functional characteristics: Pitta types have a strong appetite and strong digestion. They eliminate with ease and usually have 2 bowel movements a day. They sleep well – even if they are awakened, they can go back to sleep easily. Their speech pattern is sharp and direct. As they have a predominance of fire in their constitution, they have a low tolerance for warm weather.
When the Pitta dosha becomes imbalanced, they may become prone to ‘heated’ imbalances such as heartburn, hyperacidity, burning indigestion, heartburn, skin rashes, fever, liver disorders such as hepatitis or jaundice and inflammation.
Emotional Characteristics: Pitta types are intelligent, confident and courageous. They are ‘natural born leaders’ and very often, perfectionists. They are articulate, organized, focused and have a strong sense of discernment. They have a sharp wit and love a good debate.
When Pitta is imbalanced, one can become overly intense, angry, critical, aggressive and judgmental.
Ayurveda balances the doshas, using a simple yet powerful concept and that is the ‘principle of opposites’. In Ayurveda we treat the imbalance by bringing in treatment modalities (food, herbs, lifestyle practices) with the opposing qualities that the Dosha is presenting with.
In the case of Pitta imbalance, the main qualities that are in excess (or imbalanced) are hot, light and sharp. Hence we balance Pitta by incorporating cooling foods such as cucumbers, coconut and leafy greens, performing calming practices such as restorative yoga and practicing moderation in work and daily activities. Lastly, cultivating non-judgment is an important way to balance Pitta in the mind.
Sandhiya Ramaswamy CAS, PKS is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and an Ayurvedic chef. She is a faculty member at the California College of Ayurveda (CCA) and the Director of the Southern California Campus of CCA. Born and having lived in India, she has had a lifelong and intimate connection with Ayurvedic healing. Her practice Green Lotus Wellness www.greenlotuswellness.com is based in Dana Point, California.