An Introduction to Pitta Dosha
by Eva Dusch
Are you an overachiever with a penchant for success? Or a perfectionist who likes to be in control always? Chances are high you are of the Pitta type, one of the three primary constitutions (or body types) in the Ayurvedic system. Pitta types have a fire burning within that brings passion and a strong appetite - not just for food but for life.
Pitta? If this doesn’t sound anything familiar to you, perhaps it would be best to first read our article about the three doshas of Ayurveda, for a short introduction about the Ayurvedic doshas and the five elements. Otherwise, hop on the Ayurvedic wellness wagon and perhaps you will understand a bit more about yourself and the people around you.
The qualities of Pitta
In Ayurvedic medicine, Pitta is the dosha responsible for heat, transformation, and metabolism. This dosha governs the fire element within us, that which gets us to wake up in the morning and be active. Compared to Vata and Kapha that are cold and cool, Pitta is the only one with a warm characteristic. But it's when this fire is in excess that we need to take care. Instead of burning our energy too fast -like a match that explodes- we can learn how to burn our flame at a steady pace.
Pitta people usually have fair and irritable skin with perhaps freckles and prone to rashes, pimples and other skin conditions. They usually have many moles, early wrinkling and easily suffer from sunburns. Their eyes may be hazel, green or electric blue in colour with an intense fire (you feel that gaze?) and radiate energy in all directions. The shape of the nose is sharp and the tip tends to be reddish. The hair is thin, silky, red or brownish and there is a tendency toward premature greying of hair and hair loss.
These people are medium of height, slender and the body frame may be delicate. They gain weight evenly or on the bottom half. They show a medium prominence of veins and muscle tendons. Their bones are not as prominent as skinny Vata types and their muscle development is moderate. They love intense workouts -pretty sure we can count many Pitta faces in Ashtanga and Vinyasa classes- and a good sweat and often refuse to accept their limits.
Their metabolism is very strong so Pitta people enjoy eating a lot. Being hangry is real. You know this if you’re a Pitta, and you know this even better if you live with a Pitta. Their active mind really calms down after a good feed. They have a natural craving for sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and enjoy cold drinks to cool themselves down. And also, they love their stimulants. They cannot go without their coffee and often even overuse it to maintain their high levels of energy expenditure. It won’t easily affect their sleep quality though, which is often medium and uninterrupted. They usually remember their dreams that are often passionate or otherwise intense and often involve heat, light or other energy.
Increased Pitta Dosha can manifest in different ways depending on each individual person. There could be increased heat, sour taste in the mouth, yellow discolouration for instance in the eyes or skin, skin rashes, diarrhoea, heartburn, high blood pressure, fainting.
“Pitta governs digestion, heat, visual perception, hunger, thirst, radiance, complexion, understanding, intelligence, courage and the softness of the body” – Ashtanga Hridaya
The fire element explains their fiery nature and includes passion, discipline and leadership. Pitta personalities have a good power of comprehension, they can be seen as bright and sharp-minded which makes them good public speakers and leaders. It’s their goal-oriented focus, perfectionism and endless drive that helps them achieve what they want but also pushes them beyond borders. Especially when working in an environment where you constantly feel the urge to prove yourself and everything is a competition. They hold themselves (and others) to really high standards and rather break than bend. In relationships, it can turn into unspoken battles like ‘who’s more clever’ or constantly defending yourself. Control freak? They probably hate to admit it, but tick that box too.
When out of balance, these types become a short-tempered, impatient, irrational, workaholic, and quick to be angry. Hate, anger and jealousy can be part of their emotional traits. The ego takes over and wants to be fed all the time while the heart gets shushed.
“They have a good immune system and do not generally fall sick - unless they work too much! They tend to suffer more from frustration or overwork than from physical illness.” - Atreya Smith
Pitta season and (life) cycles
Ayurveda also believes the days and seasons are ruled by the elements. During late spring and summer, the fire element is at its peak and most tangible for all of us. The many hours of sun increased dryness and intense heat. In Pitta season we come out from hiding, ready to mingle and play. We want to taste all the flavours of life, which is why we all like to travel during this time. Similarly, midday is Pitta’s primetime, when the sun is at its peak - just as our appetite. Our digestive fire burns bright, which makes it best for consuming the biggest meal of the day. Pitta also dominates from the age of twenty to sixty, the period in life in which we need the fire element the most for exploring the world and creating our life and home and developing our career.
How to handle a Pitta imbalance?
When trying to align ourselves with our true nature and the changing seasons, we need to keep in mind the Ayurvedic principles of ‘like increases like’ and ‘opposites balance’. This means balancing the intensity of Pitta and bringing in the opposite qualities (soft, fresh, cool, flexible, fun) - especially in summer. A cool and calm approach will be needed.
Access your sense of humour! Stay away from the overachieving and over seriousness. You can still be very successful and goal-oriented while having a good laugh. It’s all about the attitude that we bring into it. You can be soft yet strong, sharp yet open-minded. Same goes for your yoga practice. Enjoy your ashtanga or vinyasa practise and notice how it feels when it comes from a sattvic place of grace and humility instead of pushing yourself and always going for the extreme. See if you can enjoy the playfulness and put a smile upon your face.
This is how you balance your Pitta throughout this summer + our teacher Tory Raven Hyndman created this beautiful Spotify list to help you stay fresh and calm during this playful season.
Note: Your Prakriti (your basic constitution) and Vikruti (current state of health) can only be accurately worked out by a Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor). At Delight, we offer personal Ayurvedic nutrition & lifestyle consults.
‘Prakriti’ by Robert E. Svoboda
‘Ayurveda, the Science of Self-healing: A Practical Guide: Science of Self-healing’ by Vasant Lad
It’s when we look beyond the gross outer layers of life that we find our way to the more subtle layers that can shift your whole being and perspective on life. That’s how it felt when Eva encountered the path of Ayurveda. After years of practising yoga and meditation, it was the cherry on the cake. The foundation she was looking for, that connects everything. No matter where you go. After working for years as a writer and freelance journalist, she took a big break in 2016 to travel the world. She went to all corners of the planet, living in New Zealand and South America for a while. As unstable and challenging the circumstances sometimes were, it was through yoga and Ayurveda that she found stability, balance, and inner peace. Something she brought back home with her when she returned to Amsterdam in the spring of 2019. That same year, she started her journey with the Delight Academy to deepen her knowledge, skills, and experience in the field of Ayurveda. Her motivation to become an Ayurvedic Practitioner is to help people reconnect with their bodies and inner knowing again. Encouraging them to take their health into their own hands, using nutrition, awareness, and balance as tools. She believes in conscious, healthy, and joyful living inspired by the beauty and depth of Ayurvedic wisdom and holistic philosophies. Photo credit: Kiki Reijners