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Balancing the Doshas: Through Yoga, Chakras, and the Diet

It is a common goal for the highly stressed and busy human race these days to find balance and peace in life.  We constantly struggle with weight, diet, lack of proper exercise, emotional highs and lows, burn out with work or family, and simply not enough time to take care of, or even pay attention to, ourselves.  Through yoga, proper diet and exercise, as well as working energetically using the chakras, we can balance ourselves, balance our doshas, and in that balance will come peace.


The Doshas

In Ayurveda, which means “The Science of Life”, everything is categorized by three psychophysical constitutional types, known in Sanskrit as “doshas”, or mind-body types.  Each of our cells has all of the doshas; but for most of us, one or two of these types will be found to be most dominant.  The goal is to find the delicate state of balance within it all. 

The three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Each dosha has several differentiating qualities or “gunas”; and each has a specific location (seat), as well as corresponding chakra(s).  Vata means “wind”.  Pitta means “bile”.  Kapha means “mucous or phlegm”.  When any one of these becomes excessive in any particular area, it is then considered to be in a state of imbalance.  To be able to come back to balance is the key to having the life in balance.  Mental, emotional, and physical imbalances contribute to the imbalances of each dosha, since every cell that makes us up has all three.  Let’s get a picture of what the three doshas look like.


Vata’s main qualities are light, cold, rough, dry, moving, irregular, subtle, quick, imaginative, spontaneous, resilient, exhilarated, sensitive, infectiously happy, and talkative.  Vata is the leader of the other doshas and its seat is located in the colon.  Vata corresponds with the throat and heart chakras.  Vata needs to keep moist and warm, and to plan a little, have a routine.  It is most important to balance Vata to keep the others in tact, but also to slow down and take time out from the craziness that Vata experiences by being the leader.

Pitta’s main qualities are hot, sharp, light, moist, slightly oily, sour-smelling, fluid, intellectual, confident, impatient, joyous, jealous, outspoken, combative, ambitious, and brave.  The seat of Pitta is located in the small intestine.  The solar chakra is the correlating chakra for Pitta.  Pitta needs to practice letting go and not pushing so hard at everything.  Pitta needs to cool down from being so hot and sharp all of the time.


Kapha qualities are heavy, cold, oily, sweet, steady, slow, soft, sticky, dull, smooth, calm, enduring, sympathetic, relaxed, nurturing, stable, courageous, forgiving, and loving.  The chest is the seat of Kapha.  The chakras which relate to Kapha are the sacral and root chakras.  Kapha needs to get up and out and do things, exercise, eat lighter, dryer foods, and take some risks to bring them a little out of that comfort zone.  Kapha needs motivation. 


The work is in discovering yourself within this model and working toward that balance.  Living a balanced life is a great path to aspire to.  There are many, many things involved in that.  By balancing just the diet and energy centers to keep the doshas in balance, a profound thing can happen:  The mental, emotional and physical state begin to improve, sometimes immediately.  As the balanced diet begins to improve other trouble areas, balancing the chakras begins working with the emotional and mental state to get to the point where it’s second nature to want to improve the physical aspects and move on to balance the whole self.

Looking more closely at the doshas, we can see that each one masters a specific force in general which ranges from the most subtle to the grossest of functions. It is important for everyone to do their best to balance all doshas. 

Vata, which is the leader of the other doshas, controls the function of all movement in the body.  This includes the movement of prana (life force), thoughts, eyes, breath, waste (elimination), fluids, blood flow and circulation, muscles, and anything else which moves.  Vata’s most important function is to control the central nervous system.  Bringing Vata back into balance often cures symptoms that defy any other treatment. 

Pitta controls metabolism.  In Pitta types, there is a theme of intensity and the digestive fire is strong.  Every cell in the body relies on Pitta dosha to regulate its intake of pure food, water, and air.  Toxins of all types show up quickly as Pitta imbalance—physically and emotionally.  Pitta gives us our instinct for moderation and purity, qualities that are vital to health. 

Kapha controls the moist tissues of the body, hence, imbalance usually showing up in the mucous membranes.  This type tends to hold on to everything:  words, money, possessions, energy, fat, food.  When out of balance, Kapha types become stubborn, dull, lethargic, and lazy.  Kapha dosha gives us a sense of inner security and steadiness, an essential aspect of a healthy person.

Included in this paper are guidelines for determining your Prakruti (basic constitution), as well as for determining your Vikruti (present state).  Also included, is a daily routine, a few pages discussing the Elements and the Doshas, food guidelines for the basic constitutional types and proper food combining.  These are simply for reference, a starting point to give you the basics guidelines.


The Chakras

Chakras are energy centers or wheels pertaining to certain areas in your body.  Each and every cell has every chakra, but—like the doshas, one ore more can often be found to be more dominant than some of the others.  There are seven chakras:  the Root, Sacral, Fire, Heart, Throat, Third Eye, and Crown.  As you can see in the pictures below, there are different colors, shapes, and a distinct number of petals to each energy center or chakra symbol. 

The first chakra is symbolized by a crimson lotus with four petals.  Within the lotus is a square which representing the element of earth.  The Root chakra or “Muladhara” meaning “root support” in Sanskrit is located near the perineum, the base of the spine.  The seed sound is Lam.  The energies of this chakra associate with the will to live, physical energy, adrenal glands, sense of smell, our basic needs, the right to be here, to have, grounding, stillness, security, stability, and survival.  The associated body parts are our legs, feet, bones, large intestine, and teeth.  The nature of the Kapha dosha is influenced by Muladhara chakra due the earth element. 

The Root chakra is where it all begins.  The basic issues of the first chakra are the body, foundation, survival, roots, grounding, nourishment, trust, health, home, family, and prosperity.  The time in life during which the sacral chakra develops is from the 2nd trimester of pregnancy to 12 months of age.  The tasks are physical growth (a kapha task), motor development, and bonding.  The needs and issues that develop are trust, nourishment, safety, and our right to be here.  The child develops the first bit of “ego” or sense of self at this point, as for the first 5-6 months, there is no concept of a separate self; consciousness is almost entirely body-oriented.  The state of both the mother and the environment become, literally, the child’s first experience of self.  If the mother is nurturing, warm, and attentive, and the environment is accommodating, comfortable, and caring, then the child will experience it this way.   The energy flowing through us is then warm, positive and inspiring.  If the mother is angry, harsh or cold and the environment is painful and upsetting, then the child’s very first experience of life self has a negative energy.  This programming provides the basic building block of all future development and this is why the first chakra issues show up in all of the other chakras that follow.  This chakra deals with our physical identity, the orientation of self-preservation, fear and the purpose of foundation.  The traumas and abuses related to this chakra are birth trauma, abandonment, physical neglect, poor physical bonding with the mother, malnourishment, feeding difficulties, major illness or surgery, physical abuse/violent environment, enema abuse, inherited traumas – parents’ survival fears (ie – war or holocaust survivors, poverty conditions, etc). 

Deficiencies related are disconnection from body, notably underweight, fearful, anxious, restless, can’t settle, poor focus and discipline, financial difficulty, poor boundaries, chronic disorganization.  Related excess is obesity, overeating, hoarding, material fixation, greed, sluggishness, laziness, tired, fear of change, addiction to security, rigid boundaries.  First chakra physical malfunctions are disorders of the bowel, anus, and large intestine; disorders of the solid parts of the body:  bones, teeth; issues with legs, feet, knees, base of spine, buttocks; eating disorders; frequent illness (can be deficient and/or excessive). 

Balanced characteristics of this chakra are good health, vitality, feeling well grounded, comfortable in body, having a sense of trust in the world, feeling of safety and security, the ability to relax and be still, stability, prosperity, right livelihood.  Some first chakra healing strategies are as follows:  reconnect with the body, physical activity (aerobics, running, weights, dance), lots of touch, massage, bioenergetic grounding, yoga, look at earliest childhood relationship to mother, reclaim the right to be here.  Affirmations for the Muladhara (root) chakra are “It is safe for me to be here”, “The earth supports me and meets my needs”, “I love my body and trust its wisdom”, “I am immersed in abundance”, “I’m here and I’m real”.  Just like with the Vata dosha being the ruler of the other doshas, the first chakra is the root of all the chakras.

The second chakra is symbolized by a carmine or orange lotus with six petals.  Within the petals is the shape of a crescent moon which represents the element of water.  The seed sound is Vam.  Our desire, sexuality, procreative needs, sexual energy, giving and receiving of physical, mental, and spiritual pleasure, feelings, and love for the opposite sex are associated to the Sacral chakra or “Svadhisthana” meaning “sweetness” in Sanskrit.  It is located near the lower abdomen and sacral plexus.  The body parts which Svadhisthana chakra associate to are the womb, genitals, kidney, bladder, and circulatory system.  The Kapha dosha is also influenced by this chakra and its element of water. 


The purpose in the second chakra is movement and connection.  It deals with our physical identity and orientation of self-gratification, as well as guilt.  The developmental stage is 6 months and 2 years of age.  Sensate exploration of the world and locomotion are the tasks being developed.  The Sacral chakra is associated with our right to feel and have pleasure.  When balanced, the characteristics of this chakra include graceful movement, emotional intelligence, the ability to experience pleasure, nurturance of the self and others, the ability to change and healthy boundaries.  


The basic issues of the second chakra are change, movement, flow, sensation, pleasure, emotion, need, desire, the Shadow, guilt, duality, and sexuality.  The traumas and abuses the second chakra deals with are sexual abuse (covert or overt), emotional abuse, volatile situations, neglect, coldness, rejection, denial of a child’s feeling state, lack of mirroring, enmeshment, emotional manipulation, overuse of playpen or restricting normal movement, religious or moral severity (anti-pleasure), physical abuse, alcoholic families, inherited issues – parents who have not worked out their own issues around sexuality; untreated incest cases. 


When there are deficiencies of the second chakra, they are found to be in the nature of rigidity in the body and attitudes, frigidity, fear of sex, poor social skills, denial of pleasure, excessive boundaries, fear of change, lack of desire, passion, and excitement.  The excesses are sexual acting out, sexual addiction, pleasure addiction, excessively strong emotions (hysteria, bipolar mood swings, crisis junkies), excessively sensitive; emotionally, poor boundaries, invasion of others, seductive manipulation, emotional dependency, obsessive attachment.  The manifestation of physical malfunctions include disorders of the reproductive organs; spleen; urinary system; menstrual difficulties; sexual dysfunction:  impotence, premature ejaculation, frigidity, non-orgasmic; low back pain, knee trouble, lack of flexibility; deadened senses, loss of appetite for food, sex, life.  Things that can assist in the healing process of the Svadhisthana chakra are movement therapy, emotional release or containments as appropriate, inner child work, boundary work, 12-step programs for addictions, assign healthy pleasures, develop sensate intelligence.  Some affirmations to use in relation are “I deserve pleasure in my life”, “I absorb information from my feelings”, “I embrace and celebrate my sexuality”, “My sexuality is sacred”, “I move easily and effortlessly”, “Life is pleasurable”.

The third chakra is symbolized by an inverted yellow triangle seated within ten lotus petals.  It is called the Solar Plexus/Fire chakra or “Manipura” meaning “lustrous gem” in Sanskrit.  As fire is triangular in shape, so is the third chakra, representing the fire element  Its energies are located between the navel and solar plexus, resonating with our will, assertiveness, power, laughter, joy, and anger. 

The fourth chakra is symbolized by a green, twelve petal lotus and has a six-pointed star.  The Heart chakra, called “Anahata” in Sanskrit, is located around the heart and deals with our sense of compassion and love. 

The fifth chakra, the “throat” chakra, is our means of communication and creativity, located at the throat.  This chakra symbol has sixteen lotus petals, is blue in color, and shows a triangle symbolizing fire pointing down with a circle inside of it.  Any use of this chakra takes a bit of energy.  For people with open throat chakras, they tend to talk a lot.  To balance this energy one who is overly talkative with words lacking meaning or necessity, simply choosing words sparingly and carefully is a good practice.

The sixth chakra is located between the bridge of the nose and the eyebrows , the “Third Eye” (as you may have heard it referred to) whose function is seeing and intuition.  There are two lotus petals and a triangle seated inside of it.

The seventh chakra, also known as the “Crown” chakra, is located at the top of the head and its function is understanding.  This chakra is a the lotus of a thousand petals, opening us to the spiritual, astral realm.  It has been said that the master of the seventh chakra is one who has reached enlightenment.

**Some of the information provided above comes from two book sources:  "Wheels of Life" by Anodea Judith and "Hands of Light" by Barbara Ann Brennan.  If you are interested in the chakras or energy work, these books are essential to have in your library.


A Balanced Diet

What foods should I cut out?  What foods should I eat more of?  What diet should I go on?  When should I eat? How much should I eat?  Should I skip a meal?  Should I eat more?  Can I eat this with this?  How can I make my favorite food work for me?  How much will I have to change or give up what I like?

These are all questions that go through our heads.  In the end, there is no “One-size-fits-all” diet and what is “good” for one person is not good for another.  It is important to address diet uniquely for each person, in their current state.  Just like we say in yoga, “It depends”.  That is the answer to the above questions.  It depends on where you are at in your life now, where you want to be, where you need to be, how you are feeling today, what has carried over from yesterday or what you might be planning for tomorrow.  You must meet your body where it’s at….at THIS moment, every time.  On any given day you could have an imbalance of a certain dosha, and, as foods are directly related to balanced or imbalanced doshas, you need to make sure you are getting what you need.  If you are having trouble digesting or eliminating, maybe the digestive fire is low (pitta is low) or even out or maybe your vata is low slowing movement down.  This would mean that kapha is high, pitta or vata are low, and something needs to be balanced in them.  Maybe the pitta dosha needs a little something to “spice up” or awaken the fire. Maybe the Vata dosha needs a little more oil to get things moving.  Maybe the Kapha dosha needs a little drying out or shaking up.  No matter what it is, a balanced diet specific to your type/type combination is a great way to improve health:  emotionally, mentally, and physically.

We’ve talked about the six tastes previously: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, and Astringent.  We’ve talked about the qualities, or gunas:  Heavy or Light, Dry or Oily, Hot or Cold. 

The things that Aggravate Vata are pungent, bitter, astringent, light, dry, cold.  Those that balance Vata are sweet, sour, salty, heavy, oily, and hot.  If you are primarily Vata and are feeling dry, constipated, your joints popping a lot, you have cracked hands or itching skin, then it’s a good sign you need more oils or fat in your diet. You can get oil through massage, as well as in food.  Use sesame oil or mahanarayan oil and massage it over the whole body several times a week.  Vata should choose hot food over cold at every meal, if given the choice.  Vata should drink warm water or hot tea throughout the day.  They should also avoid dry and low-fat foods (change your snacking habits Vata!!)

The things that aggravate Pitta are pungent, sour, salty, hot, light, and oily.  Those which balance Pitta are sweet, bitter, astringent, cold, heavy, dry.  If you are primarily Pitta, and are feeling overheated or overly aggressive, look at your spicy food and red meat intake, your time in the sun, if you are getting enough cool and refreshing foods or what climate you are in, as well as food additives or non-organic food intake.  Remember, Pitta is very sensitive to artificial or impure anything.  Pitta should eat cool, refreshing foods, especially in the summer.  Pitta is strong, efficient digestion and can usually eat a little of everything and be just fine.  Milk and Ice cream are good for Pitta doshas, where pickles, yogurt, sour cream and cheese should be avoided.  The fat in red meat should be avoided by Pitta, and if you are not a vegetarian Pitta dosha, make sure your diet includes plenty of milk, grains, and vegetables.

The things that aggravate Kapha are sweet, sour, salty, heavy, oily, and cold.  Those that balance Kapha are pungent, bitter, astringent, light, dry, and hot.  If you are primarily Kapha and you are feeling heavy or bloated and overly oily, try looking at your salt intake or how much deep-fried food you intake.  Salt, if overused, causes fluid retention in many Kapha types.  Deep-fried foods are heavy themselves and oily in the wrong ways.  Some sauces and dairy are very heavy and oily which can cause congestion and weight gain, as well as excessive oil in the skin and hair.  Kapha predominant doshic diets should include light foods, raw fruits and vegetables, and smaller lighter meals at breakfast and dinner.  Choose grilled fish instead of tuna salad or hot apple pie instead of ice cream.  Kapha types should use dry cooking methods like baking, broiling, grilling, and sautéing.  Spicy foods are great for Kapha types, including eye-watering spicy Mexican or Indian foods.  Out of balance, Kapha overindulges in dairy products. With butter, ice cream and cheese being the worst, since they make your system colder and more congested.

If you find that you struggle with deciding what your type is, it may be a two-type constitution.  You can follow these guidelines, or consult an Ayurvedic doctor to determine your constitution.  For example, if you are primarily Vata, but Pitta is a close second, then you would want to follow a vata balancing or vata-pacifying diet, avoiding Pitta aggravating foods.  Find the place of balance between the two.  Notice where you are at and where you want to be. 

Over our lifetimes, we change often and find that our imbalances change with the season and the moon as well as with the climate and time of our life.  We can change with the seasons and throughout our lives, what we eat and our exercise and what we wear to help bring things into balance so that we don’t feel the dryness of fall or the heat of summer as much.  If we continue to strive for balance throughout each natural change of our environment, we will feel much better and find that not only are we happier, but we are practicing our own personal preventative medicine so that we will stay healthy.

Balancing the Chakras

The "sahasrara chakra" or the seventh chakra is located at the crown of the head and is associated with the pineal gland. It is the source of divine energy and self realization. When blocked, it makes us egoistic, disconnected and dull. When open, the ego gives way to compassion and a connection to the supreme power. At this instant the energy reverses and radiates brilliance. We experience enlightenment.
To Balance:  Violet to White, Uranus, Gold, No Sound, to know, fasting, sattva, amethyst/diamond

The "ajana chakra" or the sixth chakra, which also seats the third eye, is located above or between the eye brows, affects our receptivity and is associated with the pituitary gland. When blocked we experience vision problems, headaches, feelings of separation, fogginess and dizziness. When open we see a deep connection to all things, it stimulates clairvoyance. We develop the ability to witness the world without judgment or attachment to the outcome.
To Balance:  Indigo, Jupiter/Neptune, Silver, Om, I see, Entheogens, Sattva, Lapis Lazuli/quartz/star sapphire

The "vishuddha chakra" or the fifth chakra is located in the throat and neck area. When obstructed or blocked it may lead to communication problems, hearing and speech disabilities, sore throats, and difficulty in expression of feelings. When open, we become a channel of truth, and nothing holds back our expression.
To Balance:  Bright Blue, Mercury, Mercury, Ham, I speak, fruits, Rajas, celestite/turquoise/aquamarine

The "anahata chakra" or the fourth chakra is associated with the heart and the thymus. Located in the mid-chest area, it is also the centre which joins the higher and the lower chakras. When this centre is restricted, it can cause cardiac problems, loneliness, isolation, hatred, and aloofness.
When open, we experience unconditional love, and we have the ability to see the past and our memories as an opportunity to heal. Our challenges are lessons and we experience a sense of connectedness to all things.
To Balance:  Green, Venus, copper, Lam, I love, no specific food, Rajas or Sattva, Emerald/tourmaline/jade/rose quartz

The "manipura chakra" or the third chakra is located on the solar plexus, in the lower thoracic area and the diaphragm. It is connected energetically to the functioning of the adrenals, pancreas, responsible for regulating blood sugar. When blocked, we experience digestive, gastric problems, lust for power, we become overbearing, pushy and egocentric. When open, we attune our will to the will of God.
To Balance:  Yellow, Mars & Sun, Iron, Ram, I can, Starches, Rajas, Amber/topaz/yellow citrine/rutilated quartz

The "svadhishana chakra" or the second chakra represents our creative energy and is associated with our reproductive organs. It is our sexual energy. This wheel vibrates from the pubic bone and expresses itself through our creative will. When blocked, may lead to lack of purpose, impotence, frigidity, cystitis, confusion, restlessness, fantasies, jealousy, guilt.
When open, we can experience our creativity, approaching every challenge in a positive manner. We open to understand our sexuality.
To Balance:  Orange, Moon, Tin, Vam, I feel, Liquids, Tamas, Carnelian/moonstone/coral

The "muladhara chakra" or the first chakra resonates in men between the genitals and the anus. In women the force resonates from the cervix of the uterus.
When blocked, may cause constipation, hemorrhoids, lower back pain, sciatica, fear, sciatica, instability, loss of power.
To Balance:  Red, Saturn/Earth, Lead, Lam, I have, Proteins/meats, Tamas, Lodestone/ruby/garnet/bloodstone

To balance the chakras, there are several books with exercises for charging and awakening the chakras.  Once you’ve experienced these exercises and become familiar with how they feel and the effects, you can begin to work on balancing each chakra, depending on your intention.  As mentioned above, each chakra can be open in a balanced way, too open and overactive, or blocked, sometimes even closed, must be approached uniquely for each person. 

For example, someone whose throat chakra was too open and overactive may talk too much, sharing too much, say angry and hostile things, or express other emotions in a negative way.  If the throat chakra was closed or blocked that person may not be able to express their self, may not be able to share at all.  If someone wanted to balance this chakra, a good way to start would be to chant a peaceful chant, like Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, or simply chant Ham or feel the vibration of the sound Eee.  One could also wear a celestite, turquoise or aquamarine necklace or pendant.  Eating fruit can also activate or balance this chakra.

There are many ways to balance the chakras, with gems or incense, with food or movement, sound or touch, color therapy, art therapy, in tune with the corresponding body parts or organs associated with that chakra.  To see some of the things you can use to balance your chakras, look for the “To Balance“ note, above.  This list shows, respectively, the associated color for the chakra, the planets, metal, sound, corresponding verb, foods, gunas, and minerals or stones that can assist in balancing each chakra. Look for the book Chakras for beginners or Wheels of Life to start out in understanding the basics if you are not familiar or need to refresh.  The Wheels of Life book will do that and more if you want to get a deeper look at your energy.


The Relationship between Chakras and Doshas

Due to the earth element of Kapha and the Sacral chakra, Kapha’s basic energy sustains everything; the principal foundation on which our existence is built.

Always a work in progress.......

Author: Rebecca Robbins
*Note: This article was composed by me, after two initial years of research (ongoing, now four years of research) about how yoga, ayurveda and specific aspects of each are interconnected. I have utilized many books in my research and compiled this article based on my findings. I have also added information to this article from verbal teachings received from numerous teachers over the years. Feel free to use my research to further your research. I'm all about sharing. :)

Copyright © 2006 - Rebecca Robbins