If you have made it to this course you are probably familiar with the term Dosha, it’s probably something that you’ve used, done a quiz on or maybe you have a more intimate awareness of.
The most important thing to be aware of is the meaning of the word Dosha it means simply fault ‘that which continuously goes out of balance.’
They are known as bodily humours that exist within our environment, within our food, within nature, within conversation, within movement, within ideas much like the Maha Gunas, Doshas come in to the body and affect the way that we live.
When we talk about our Doshic makeup we are talking about two things: the first thing is Prakruti which is your natural state of being, the energetic makeup or constitution that you were born with (Prakruti is also inexchangably used as a term for pure nature and sometimes as an extension of Brahman in most Vedic texts). Prakruti is influenced by; everything down to how your mother was feeling the day that you were conceived, her mood when she first thought that she might someday become a mother, the food that she eats, the conversation that she has and the same for your father as well as where you were born, the season in which you were conceived/born and the energetic make-up of your parents.
Sometimes within the yoga community conversations around Doshas can go something like this “I’m such a Vata” “That’s so Pitta” etc. and the problem with this is that we do not ever want to associate our identity with a fault. I also want to note that undertaking online quizzes to determine your Prakruti will always be incorrect. You will be answering the questions from how you’re feeling now and therefore the conclusion that you get, will conversely be infact your Vikruti.
Vikruti meaning your current state of imbalance or disequilibrium.
Working with the Doshas is much like sitting on a seesaw, we do one thing to balance one energetic element and the other ones will become stronger in its place. It is constant, it is not something that we do, fix and forget about - it will always be a part of your life once you begin acknowledging these forces.
However working with the Doshas is actually incredibly simple, what can be in fact a very complex system (especially at the level of disease) at the level of preservation and prevention is quite simple there are two very important concepts that you will need to grasp with this work which are:
This concept means that if you are experiencing one particular energy overwhelmingly you will need to find opposing type qualities in order to balance it (this will become more clear as we go on.)
Such a simple phrase that becomes very, very intricate when we begin to examine it within our daily behaviour. For example if we are feeling down, depressed, overweight, we find it more difficult to move our body, we eat heavying foods and this of course is making sure that we remain out of balance.
The idea here is to begin determining what is your conscious awareness and what is these bodily humours taking over or manipulating said awareness. The only way that we can begin to separate these thought channels is through spending more time in a state of pure awareness ie. cultivating your connection to this awareness through mantra meditation and Yogic movment. Some New-Age thinkers refer to this unhelpful/continuing imbalance mode of thinking as the Shadow - which can also be a beneficial way of approaching your healthy decision making.
One of my teachers Vāmadeva Śāstrī talks of the Doshas in this way:
To learn Ayurveda, one must understand and memorize the nature, attributes, location, function, states of excess and deficiency and factors of derangement of each of the Doshas. Once we have done this, Ayurveda becomes simple and easy to understand as all else in it derives from this.
The Ayurvedic term Dosha, means what darkens, spoils or causes things to decay (from the Sanskrit root “dush,” to spoil), as when out of balance the Doshas bring about disease. “Dosha” in its broader and non‑medical sense means “stain, fault and twilight or sunset”. The Doshas have a positive value in the body also, as when in balance they serve to support all tissues and organic functions.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha correspond primarily to the elements of air, fire and water. As the active or mobile (rajasic side) of the five elements they determine life processes of growth and decay. They develop the biological potentials inherent in the elements. They serve as a basis for the workings of the sense organs and organs of action, which take form and function through them.
For some of us this new way of associating with the bodily humours might be surprising - especially being a Yoga teacher or avid student.
If you've been wondering how to work with the Doshas in an individual way and work out what's best for you please get in touch for a one-on-one session.
I CANNOT STRESS MORE IMPORTANTLY - do NOT use online What's my Dosha? quizzes These will generally give you the opposite information to what will be helpful.
With that out of the way let’s get into the bodily humours - meaning the energies that are also prevalent in all things and at particular times and for particular reasons come into and assume the body and mind.
We are made up of these elements or energies however for most of us circumstance, lifestyle and even mindset can effect their distribution throughout the being which results in us becoming out of balance.
Elements of air + ether
Creativity, movement, quickness, change, flexibility, multi-tasking, dry, crunchy, expressive, fluid.
A bird picked up in wind, blowing through treetops under the setting sun.
Elements of earth + water
Heavy, grounded, earthy, loyal, compassionate, nurturing, unctuous, dependable, high stamina.
The solid wall of a tidal wave, glistening and omnipotent.
Elements of fire + water
Temper, anger, competitiveness, drive, impetus, heat, passion, fast moving, skilled, quick witted, intelligent.
The crackle and whip of a fire under starlight.
(The PDF below provides you with a method of enquiry for establishing your own current Doshic play and Module Three will move into how we can work with these energies as teachers and students.)
ETHICS + YOGA
I felt it important and calling to include in this course a retouching on the ethics of Yoga, it is often something bypassed or barely noted in Yoga teacher trainings. We must understand that if we’re going to be teachers and students these are our starting points and I highly suggest checking in with these (journalling practice in PDF below) every single day as a form of deeper embodiment and self-awareness (small ‘s’ intentionally there!).
The Yamas and Niyamas are the ethical structures that we work within when we’re embarking upon the Yogic path the Yamas can be explained as our social restraints or the way that we need to act in order to behave kindly and in a way that is beneficial to our greater community. The Niyamas on the other hand are more internal, they can be explained as self-disciplines or things that we need to work with in order to cultivate the best state of being with ourselves.
tapas - purification through discipline, i reference this as what i need to do, my to-do list and what i need to have energy for.
santosha - contentment
saucha - purity, also sweetness
svadhyaya - self-enquiry, self-awareness, self-study and self-led study (this course is an act of svadhyaya)
ishvara pranidhana - devotion - to yourself, your work, your goddesses or gods, to nature
ahimsa - non-harming, non-violence, kindness
satya - truth, but in a kind and conscious way - white lies to avoid hurting someone are okay, speaking your truth in full knowledge that it could hurt someone is not satya
asteya - non-stealing
aparigraha - non-grasping, non-possessiveness, non-hoarding and therefore, gratitude for what is, already.
brahmacharya - the rightful distribution of energy which will result in the maintenance of vitality.
THE VITAL ESSENCES
A simple and often not talked about element within Yogic thought is the notion of Vital Essences. There are many of these within nature - Soma for instance is the energy that helps specific herbs to be metabolised medicinally. We also have Vital Essences that move and function within our physical being and mind .
This course, all (properly practiced ie. not Bikram or heated yoga) yoga and all Ayurvedic ritual is focussed on either preserving or cultivating more of these.
The three main essences are:
Master life force, animates, governs higher consciousness. Helped with pranayama breathwork, movement, joyfulness and nourishing, healthy, natural whole foods.
The simplest way to think about Prana is thinking of boiling broccoli - there is a brief moment when the broccoli is just cooked and it releases a brighter green colour, this is the cultivation of prana And this should be when you eat it too!
Prana is hindered by stress, stagnation, disease, depression, lack of movement.
Intellectual digestive fire - relates to discipline, determination, the unfolding of higher consciousness states, interrelated to the Yama Tapas (which we will learn about later in the course).
A way to think of Tejas is when you’re very clear, determined and on-point with your work. You feel so healthy and aware that your ideas are all brilliant and you have excellent decision making/problem solving ability. I think of Tejas as intellectual capacity.
We reduce Tejas when we become sluggish with engaging with our intellect, when we stop wanting to learn or grow. A couch potato is a good image of someone really lacking in Tejas.
Interrelated to the traditional chinese medicine idea of Jing, it is our vibrance, juiciness, radiance, can be seen in chubby cherub faces, we’re born with 8 golden drops and these are depleted over lifestyle and responsibilities (we give 1 to each baby that we have as women).
Ojas is the ultimate sweetness, its that feeling of being well lubricated, strong, young, bright and radiant. Ojas is a master force and the most important thing to be aware of (that most Yoga teachers do not know) is that Prana REQUIRES Ojas in order to move within the body and the Koshas (aka. The aura).
Holy foods like honey, ghee, along with other particular foods like dates, almonds, water chestnuts promote Ojas. And like Jing rest, proper relaxation, time away from screens, routine, calmness and balancing your hormones will help to preserve Ojas. In contrast to this overworking, unrealistic expectations of yourself and your time, spending your energy on things you don’t enjoy, pushing, hustling and over stretching energetically, late nights, alcohol, drugs will all deplete Ojas.