“It is the opinion of the wise that if an action produces a bad result, now or later, one should not perform it”. Charaka Samhita, the earliest Ayurvedic text, 150BCE – 100CE
What have you learnt from observing the elements, their qualities and how you experience them? What did it reveal to you about yourself and about the changing seasons of life?
In this article we explore the Pitta Dosha in greater detail.
Pitta is made up of the fire and water elements. This contradictory combination is really complimentary. Pitta exists as water or oil in the body which protects the tissues from the destructive aspect fire. Pitta is the principle of transformation and heat so Pitta is responsible for all chemical and metabolic conversions in the body that create energy and heat. All Pitta’s processes involve digestion or cooking, including the cooking of thoughts into theories in the mind. It governs our mental digestion, our capacity to perceive reality and understand things as they are, our judgment, discrimination, willpower, enthusiasm and joy, competition and courage. In the body Pitta governs our appetite, digestion and metabolism of nutrients, thirst, body heat and colour, the luster of the skin, the shine of the hair and the light in the eyes. Its main site in the body is in the small intestines and is also found in the eyes, blood, sweat, glands, stomach and lymph.
Physically Pitta people tend to be medium build and weight, with attractive, well proportioned figures. Their eyes are medium size, shiny bright and can be sensitive to sunlight and irritants and become red easily. Their skin tends to be warm to the touch, sensitive to heat, sunlight and irritants and prone to rashes and pimples. Pitta types blush easily or flush with anger or from drinking alcohol. They sweat easily, even in cold weather and never seem to feel the cold. They have fine, often straight and oily hair which turns gray early. Pitta men often go bald at a young age. Pitta people have good appetites and love eating. They hate to miss meals and when hungry can be irritable and weak. Their digestion is good and their bowels efficient but if they get hot, agitated or angry or eat too many hot spicy or fried foods (which they love!) they can suffer from indigestion, heartburn or diarrhea. They are quite methodical, organised, they can be rather obsessive about time and tend to be perfectionists. Pitta types are naturally intelligent, quite fiery, they can be domineering, intolerant and don’t suffer fools gladly.
Hot weather, getting overheated by vigorous exercise, hot spicy food and red meats can all increase Pitta. If your Pitta is high you may feel hot, irritable, angry, overly critical and competitive and there is a tendency to be a workaholic. High Pitta causes inflammatory problems, skin conditions, excessive hunger and thirst, burning sensations in the body and difficulty sleeping.
The most important spiritual challenge for Pitta people is to learn how to transform their tendency for anger and irritability into a feeling of calm and love as well as expressing their emotions in a harmless non-judgmental way. To awaken and express unconditional love is the culmination of this spiritual challenge.
- Medium build and weight
- Regular features
- Smooth skin, often with moles and freckles which burns easily
- Good, regular appetite, but not prone to gaining weight easily
- Thin hair which falls out easily and goes grey early. Men are pone to baldness
- Profuse perspiration
- Highly intelligent
- Tendency to be irritable, angry, intolerant and judgmental
- Decisiveness and leadership qualities
- Dislikes intense heat, symptoms often worse in hot weather or if over heated
- Fast and decisive rhythms
HOW TO NOURISH AND BALANCE YOUR PERSONAL RHYTHMS
The Ayurvedic principle of ‘like increases like’ helps us nourish our individual rhythms and achieve balance in our lives.
According to this principle, we are nourished by the qualities that are not innate to our individual dosha. We should avoid the intake of things that are like our own qualities and increase the intake of things that are unlike our qualities.
Pitta Dosha is a combination of fire and water elements and is therefore nourished by ether, air and earth.
Pitta’s fast and decisive rhythms are balanced by qualities of moderation and calmness.
Pitta is aggravated by pungent, salty and sour flavours (as they increase heat), in the middle of a meal, at midday (10am – 2pm) and at midnight (10pm – 2am), by anger and irritation, repressed emotions, in summer, from adolescence to middle age, from excessive ambition, a hot and damp climate. Because like attracts like there is a natural tendency to be attracted to these!
As Pitta is hot, oily and intense it is aggravated by these tendencies. It is best balanced by their opposites – cooling, calm, loving, compassionate, moderation:
- Rise with the sun and go to bed by 10pm
- Plan activities ahead to avoid time pressure
- Maintain projects and activities that create ease
- Practice more compassionate meditation and uncompetitive yoga practices
- Eat wholesome, moderately cool or warm, substantial and calming foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent in flavour
- Avoid hot, spicy, oily, salty, fermented foods as well as the use of stimulants
- Cooling drinks – rose water, peppermint , coriander
- Avoid hot, humid and stressful environments
- Embrace serenity and calmness
- Calming massage with light oils – almond, coconut, sunflower
HOW TO BALANCE PITTA WITH YOGA
The practice of a creative sequence of asanas that stimulates you enough to feel alert yet not so stimulated as to become hot. Mild perspiration is good. You should feel the stretch in asana practice, but not the burn! In this way you feel warmed, not over stimulated. Pranayamas like Bhastrika (bellows breath using equal force on both inhalation and exhalation) are beneficial to gently stimulate heat in the naval and Sheetali (cooling breath) is useful to calm the mind and cool excessive heat in both body and mind.
In the previous article we looked at Vata Dosha. In the next article we will explore the Kapha Dosha which is a combination of the water and earth elements. Please continue to deepen your awareness of the elements and how they manifest in your body and mind!