For the Ask Dr. Sheila column, Dr. Sheila Patel, Chopra’s Chief Medical Officer, answers questions from our community. If you have a general question for Sheila around health and wellness, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and your question may be the one she answers next.
In this article, Dr. Sheila answers a question about vikruti, which means your current state of health or imbalance.
"If my natural constitution is one dosha, why do I have symptoms of imbalance in the other doshas? Is my dosha incorrect?”
This is a great question as it brings up an important point when it comes to our dosha constitution. When we assess prakruti, or the dosha constitution we are born with, we are looking at what our natural tendencies are, and will be, throughout our life. Our prakruti, or nature, doesn’t change. It’s like our unique fingerprint, or DNA. Our individual proportions of the doshas are what makes us unique. However, since we have all three of the doshas within our constitution, any of them can accumulate and get out of balance, which is our vikruti.
Imbalances, or symptoms, occur due to our daily choices or experiences. When we increase the qualities of a particular dosha, it will be expressed in our current experience in the moment. I always tell people that our nature doesn’t change, but how each of the doshas express themselves can change moment to moment.
It’s just like the weather—it can be cool in the morning and become hot in the middle of the day. We haven’t changed locations, but the conditions have changed such that the qualities we experience have changed, from cold to hot. Just like that, we don’t change our underlying nature or tendencies, but under certain circumstances, we may exhibit symptoms that come from an imbalance in any of the doshas.
Let’s look at an example. If your primary dosha is Pitta, under normal circumstances you may have a strong digestion and a focused mind. However, under certain conditions, like travel or times of major changes, you can experience an accumulation of Vata qualities and may experience irregular digestion and feel scattered in the mind. You don’t feel like “you.”. Your primary dosha hasn’t changed, but the dosha that is out of balance in the moment is Vata. When you then make choices to balance the Vata accumulation, like establishing a routine and eating warm cooked foods and drinks, your Vata imbalance is corrected, and you feel more like your “normal” Pitta self.
Here’s another example. If your primary dosha is Vata but you are feeling sluggish and have gained weight (even a few pounds), you don’t feel like yourself. Based on your current symptoms, you likely have an accumulation of Kapha. This may be from eating too many heavy, dense, and sweet foods, or not moving enough – things that can increase Kapha dosha. Or it may be due to cold, wet weather like in the springtime. When you start moving your body and eating some lighter foods with spices to aid digestion, you begin to balance the Kapha accumulation and will feel lighter and more like yourself.
This is like the principle of nature vs. nurture – we have a given nature, our prakruti, but depending on our circumstances and choices our expression of each dosha may change, our vikruti. We can accumulate qualities of any of the doshas and this affects how we look and feel, so we can have symptoms of imbalance in any of the doshas. It doesn’t mean our nature has changed, it simply means that something has taken us away from our natural state of balance and health.
One time that we can definitely feel the accumulation of a particular dosha is during various season changes. Since our physiology is connected to what is happening around us, it is common to accumulate qualities of the dominant dosha at different times of year, and we can feel it most as the season changes. For example, when the weather is hot and humid, all of us can experience a Pitta imbalance more easily, especially if that is your dominant dosha (or one of your dominant doshas). This can show up as irritability, heat rashes, headaches, or other manifestations of Pitta imbalance.
When we really get to know ourselves, we begin to understand what is our true nature and what is an accumulation, or excess, of a particular dosha. Understanding the qualities of all of the doshas helps us to identify what is out of balance, or what has accumulated, so we can make choices to bring ourselves back to balance. This is the beauty of Ayurveda. It empowers us to use our knowledge of ourselves to make the healthiest choices for our mind and body.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.