One of the major underpinnings of Thai yoga massage is its deep roots in Ayurvedic medicine. This Indian healing practice approaches health from a point of living in harmony with life and what is. The word itself, Ayurveda, is derived from two Sanskrit words meaning life (ayur) and knowledge (veda). By applying this life knowledge we can create harmony and restore optimal health. Ayurvedic principles can be applied to just about all facets of daily living, from diet and exercise to our mental and emotional habits. In Thai yoga massage for example, a person’s dosha (doe-sha) will determine the intensity and speed of their session.

A dosha refers to one of three primary energies that are believed to circulate through the body. We all have all these three energies coursing through our bodies, but one tends to dominate. This dominant energy is our natural, default dosha, which ultimately determines our overall temperament and constitution. According to Ayurvedic tradition, the universe is made up of five elements: earth, fire, water, ether and air. Everything in the universe, including our bodies, is made up of these five elements in various degrees. The tridoshas are the five elements represented in the body. Ether and air combine to create the vatta dosha or air principle. Fire and water form the pitta dosha or fire principle. And finally earth and water come together as the kapha dosha or water principle.

Since these energies are in constant flux, it’s important to understand the general characteristics of each dosha in order to restore balance. Too much of one energy for example, can create a particular set of symptoms while too little of another will create a different set of symptoms. Most of us will recognize elements of each dosha in ourselves but we all tend to lean more towards one.

Vatta: The elements of ether and air form the vatta dosha (air principle). Vatta types are active and energetic. They can lean towards nervousness and generally tend to avoid confrontation. Physically, they’re either short or very tall. Vatta energy creates movement in the body through the nervous system and energetic body. Most western type diseases come form an imbalance in vatta energy. Here are some other general characteristics of vatta types:

  • thin bodies
  • dark complexions
  • dry, rough, cracked skin
  • coarse hair
  • light sleepers
  • get cold easily
  • tire easily
  • quick thinkers
  • sensitive, alert
  • restless minds

Pitta: The elements of earth and water form the pitta dosha (fire principle). Pitta types are passionate and assertive. They can be warm and friendly but can also be very competitive. They tend to be of medium frame and moderate build. Pitta energy is responsible for circulation and relates heavily toward metabolism and digestion in the body. Other characteristics include:

  • medium, muscular bodies
  • reddish complexion
  • thin hair
  • moist skin
  • hot/sweaty body type
  • passionate
  • big appetites
  • detail oriented
  • easily angered
  • short tempered

Kapha: The elements of earth and water form the kapha dosha (water principle). Kapha types are stable and grounded individuals. They are generally calm and consistent and lean towards inactivity. Physically, they have heavyset bodies with a broad chest and shoulders. Kapha energy is very water-like and associated with the lymph, phlegm and moisture in the body. It’s known for binding and holding things together, physically and mentally. Here are some other key characteristics:

  • Strong, stout build
  • fair or pale complexion
  • smoothe or oily skin
  • lush, thick hair
  • slow digestion
  • sound sleepers
  • excellent stamina
  • patient and slow to anger
  • stable body & mind
  • happy & healthy

The doshas are often in one of three states:, balanced, over-active, or depleted. In order to create balance we must first determine which dosha we are and then tailor our lifestyle accordingly. Too much air or vatta energy can lead to mental, nervous or digestive disorders, low energy and weakness. An overabundance of fire or pitta energy can lead to inflammation or infection. An excess of water or kapha energy can lead to an over-production of mucus, edema, and being overweight. Pitta types for example can suffer from heartburn from an over-indulgence of spicy foods. Adding more alkaline-based foods such as broccoli, kale or other leafy greens can create balance. The important thing to remember is that like energies will create excess and opposing energies will restore balance.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.