Ayurvedic Doshas 101
Part III: PITTA DOSHA
The second dosha on our list to explore is the Pitta Dosha. This is the FIERY constitutional type. As with ANY of the doshas, Pittas have their strong and weak points, and they can appear one way when in balance, and another when out.
The natural elements underpinning the Pitta Dosha are FIRE and WATER. However, when we think of Pittas, we typically think of the fire element. Pittas may even have red hair, or may be prematurely graying, whitening or have thinning hair, due to the strong degree of heat in the body.
Pitta types typically are more moderate than Vatas in their body type. While Vatas may appear wispy and ethereal, the Pitta types often appear athletic, strong, with toned muscles. They typically have a more moderate body frame (right in the middle of the Vata and Kapha types, which we will get to next time).
Overall, because Ayurveda looks at the strength of the agni (digestive fire) in the patient quite significantly, it is important to note that of all the doshas, Pittas have the strongest digestive system. They are usually able to digest things very well, and efficiently, when in balance. This efficiency of the digestive system – and the metabolism – lends itself to the Pitta body type not retaining excess weight – even sometimes in spite of overeating, as the digestive fire is so high and efficient.
Pitta types are the most likely of all the doshas to be irritable and cranky when not fed, and so it is important for Pitta types to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. The body uses this food effectively, so when balanced, it will not lead to weight gain.
When out of balance, however, Pittas tend to experience digestive upset. This could be in the form of gastric reflux, ulcers, pain in the digestive tract, heart burn, gall bladder or liver pain or inflammation, loose stools, burning stools, diarrhea, insatiable thirst and/ or hunger, excessive urination, burning urination, excessive or night sweating, etc.
When in balance, Pittas can have a luminous quality to the skin, with natural warmth radiating from within. However, Pittas may experience problems with their skin when out of balance, including rashes, acne, break outs, eczema, psoriasis, vitiligo.
Pittas may typically have very bright eyes, of a blue or green hue. There is a natural fire in the eyes which animates them, and Pittas can have this in spades, with truly dazzling eye, lit from within like a torch. When out of balance, this natural light will appear put out or muddied.
In general, Pitta types are the sort that when they walk into a room, the room lights up. They are often the center of attention – and if they’re not, they may get a bit irritated, and may attempt to divert attention back to themselves. They might be the “light” or “LIFE” of the party. They tend to be very attractive overall: physically and energetically.
Typically, Pittas are dynamic, energetic, driven, motivated individuals when in balance. They usually have a lot of things on the go at once, and many balls that they are juggling to make it all work. They might be quite well organized in order to accommodate all the demands and amount of motivation required by a Pitta life.
Pittas can often be entrepreneurs, and they may be highly successful in their chosen careers. They are also risk takers – not as afraid of “getting burned” as others may be – when other types may be more cautious, Pittas can often source the inner courage to try new things, push ahead, and carry things through.
Pittas may be quite direct in their approach, AND in their communication, so don’t take it personally if you feel “stung” by a Pitta! They may barely even know what they’ve said before they are on to dealing with the next task/ hurdle/ mountain at hand! In fact, Pittas can be so focused and directed on one thing, that they don’t even know if there has been a casualty along the way. So it may take some patience to deal with this side of the Pitta personality (something which is often lacking in Pitta types themselves – patience!), but in the end, well worth the effort, as the natural passion that accompanies the Pitta personality is really something to treasure. And if you are a Pitta with the tendency to burn others, it is sometimes a good idea to, rather than let the fire drive you to a foregone conclusion, take a moment, breathe, and consider possible alternative approaches and their consequences before blazing the trail ahead.
Pittas may have excessive perfectionist tendencies that become quite extreme when out of balance. They may also be easily irritated judgmental, and critical, of self and others, when out of balance. If you find this in yourself or in a significant other in your life, look below for some tips on how to balance.
Fire is a tricky element to deal with. Many people are afraid of fire and may try to bury their own within them, for fear of hurting others. This is not necessarily healthy. When the fire goes out, we have a lack of self confidence and self esteem. So fire, as any element, needs its expression. Otherwise, it may end up in explosion!
If you are a Pitta type (or ANY type, really), the best is to find ways of expressing your fire energy along the way, so that it does not create debilitating, maiming explosions, or show up as passive OR overt aggression. As with any element, it needs to be honored for the power that it has. When we don’t honor the potency of an element, it creates imbalance.
Some great ways to honor the fire and express along the way are with creative or artistic expression through the creative arts: singing, dancing, painting, sculpture making, pottery, etc. Even exercising in general is a good way for the Pitta type to “blow off some steam” – to sweat! and get rid of some excess heat!
To the other, opposite extreme, rather than dealing with an excess of fire, Pitta types may suffer when their inner fire is out. Then they may experience lack of direction, lack of motivation, even depression. It is important that they re-ignite the inner flame – that source of their creativity, passion, motivation and drive.
When the inner fire is out, or compromised, in the Pitta type, it is important to bring in activities that light the inner fire. As far as yoga asana goes, it could be helpful to do a lot of heat-building sun salutes (and if you practice Ashtanga yoga, go particularly for Sun Salute B!). In the Ashtanga system, the vinyasas in between postures can help to create fire. Even holding postures for a long period of time and help to build tapas, and can create a lot of heat and fire in the body.
As far as pranayama goes, to bring in more heat, maybe engage in more kapalabhati (best under direction and guidance of an established teacher) or bastrika. If the fire needs to be calmed, the classic exercises would be shitali and ujjayi pranayama – again, best to seek guidance from a teacher before just changing or starting a new program.
Pittas have a naturally fiery intellect, and so may also need to reconnect with their intellectual light. It may help to pick up a new novel, or piece of literature on a subject they have been meaning to learn about, or even to embark on a whole new course of study.
Finally, as far as Pitta balancing foods go, to decrease Pitta, it would be best to take in cooling foods – both in type and in temperature. Avoid spices (this is the “pungent” taste, which increases Pitta, which includes: hot spices, chili peppers, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, etc). Raw foods are naturally cooling and will decrease Pitta. It is good to take some cooked foods, as well, such as cooked vegetables, which will be naturally cooling. Dairy foods could be cooling, but it depends on how your body deals with dairy – if it has trouble digesting dairy, then avoid. Fermented dairy, such as yogurt, could be especially helpful. You could try finishing up a meal with a raw honey lassi, as the sweet taste is also good for helping to balance excess Pitta. Try to eat your meals in peace, and in an unemotional surrounding – if there is something really “getting your goat” at the moment, try to remove thinking about that or having it around you during your meal times. Set aside some time for meditation and reflection. Find ways to have creative and self expression in a constructive, safe way, get the lead out in some physical exercise, stimulate the mind, and you can re-balance that fiery Pitta dosha.