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Pinpointing your ayurvedic personality traits, much like honing in on your Myers-Briggs results and your astrological sign, can bring a lot of clarity and mindfulness into your life. It can shed light on loftier, more loaded questions, like why you made certain decisions in life. But on a day-to-day level, it can also offer insight into how to stay grounded during your work week.
There are three ayurvedic doshas—kapha, pitta, and vata—which take into consideration the five elements (water, air, earth, fire, and ether). To break down these three ayurvedic personality types and use them to identify how we can bring a sense of calm and well-being into our space at home, we consulted Laura Coburn, director of serenity at the Inns of Aurora. Coburn offers a popular selection of wellness programs at Inns of Aurora, from tea-blending workshops to ayurvedic consultations to yoga classes, in order to help her guests find balance and a greater understanding of themselves.
As we get into defining how each ayurvedic dosha could find zen in their home, she clarifies, “People think zen is pleasure. But I would contend that zen would come from ease and balance.”
Defining the Doshas
First, Ayurvedic doshas are essentially the elements and traits each person tends toward. Doshas can also be referred to as “imbalances,” simply because they reflect what you need to work on to find the most success. Some of these tendencies are a result of your general nature, while others might be a reflection of your current phase of life. “They are a person’s tendencies toward certain elements in nature, which are inherent in their physical and mental makeup,” says Coburn.
Typically, Coburn says, people have a dominant and secondary dosha. However, for the purpose of creating a more zen space at home, Coburn recommends identifying what your more prominent dosha is right now, and then work on “creating an environment to support it.”
Breaking Down Your Ayurvedic Personality
Elements: Water, Earth
As a kapha, you are inherently grounded and sturdy—“down to earth,” as some might say. Coburn says someone who identifies as kapha is all about deliberate action. You’re a natural caregiver and someone who loves to give counsel and are “loving, loyal, and slow to anger.”
Coburn says kaphas are thick-skinned, good at making lists and compartmentalizing, and “from a personality standpoint, you’re that person who has a lot of slow-burning energy.”
During periods of stress, a kapha might struggle “to grip and hang on to (normalcy), and their slow to anger quality can turn to slow to forgive.”
Elements: Fire, Water
Pittas are engaging and lively. “You have a tendency to be very witty and funny and sharp-minded,” says Coburn. She would also describe pittas as driven, decisive, and charismatic.
While at their best, pittas are engaging and dynamic, when feeling imbalanced, that tendency can turn toward being “sharp-tongued or cutting.” While a pitta’s decisiveness is one of their best qualities, “you can be a little obsessive in your quest to finish what you’re working on,” says Coburn. Usually competitive, pitta-identifying people like to win.
Elements: Air, Ether
Vatas are the creatives. “I think of them as poets and writers and singers,” says Coburn. “They have a tendency toward dance, performance, and art.”
But Coburn says they are also the ayurvedic personality type most likely to lose their keys or start projects without ever finishing them. “They can be the life of the party if they remember when the party is and where,” laughs Coburn.
While vatas are very comfortable being mobile, when imbalanced, they'll feel ungrounded and without control.
What Each Personality Type Needs to Find Zen in Their Home
First and foremost, a kapha-leaning person needs to keep their apartment clutter-free, because they have the tendency to accumulate.
You also need to bring bright colors and scents into your space. Coburn recommends diffusing citrus scents, whether that means adding lemon oil to a diffuser or burning a grapefruit-scented candle.
“They may be drawn to earthy scents but that won't counteract their tendencies as much,” says Coburn.
In terms of decor coloring, you need to avoid the drab at all costs. You don’t want to bog your space down with grays or browns as a kapha. You need to introduce spurts of blues, greens, or even a brighter orange or yellow element.
In terms of setting yourself up for daily success, these water and earth signs need air. Coburn suggests taking a brisk walk whenever possible. She also stresses that because kaphas tend to be more sedentary, they need to “create a space where they can move. They need to try to break a sweat everyday for their health.”
Where to start: Try a Sweet Grapefruit Soy Candle (PF Candle Co., $20) and an Indigo Lumbar Pillow (Parachute, $68).
When optimizing their space, pittas need a little sweetness to counteract their fiery tendencies. Coburn suggests diffusing a sweeter scent; perhaps a candle with floral notes or even diffusing a “grounding scent,” like lavender or geranium.
As a decor piece on their kitchen tables, pittas would do well with a “bowl of cherries or some beautiful soft flowers,” says Coburn.
More than anything, Coburn wants a pitta-tending person to introduce soft, more comforting design pieces into their space, like a particularly luxurious blanket and throw pillows. She also suggests a small mood board for your work space or even the fridge where you can do a daily gratitude practice, simply writing down three things you’re grateful for. Coburn says pittas will benefit specifically from the “visual reminder” of gratitude.
Where to start: With Diptyque’s Paris en Fleur Candle (Diptyque, $74).
Coburn says she wants a “clear and light space” for the vatas, because across the board, for all personality types, order can help bring comfort. She also suggests vatas hang a calendar and treat themselves to a nice agenda book. The way pittas may need a visual gratitude reminder, vatas need a visual organization reminder. She says that “writing (down) the various things they want to accomplish each week will be grounding for them.”
In terms of introducing color into their space, vatas should tend toward grounding earth tones, like a dove gray. Once they've established a base of earthy colors, she encourages vatas to add some warmth with deep red or other jewel tones.
Coburn says vatas “need to feel enveloped,” so optimizing their space is all about creating warmth, organization, and comfort. She thinks a succulent garden would be particularly valuable for vatas because it introduces earth and water—two things vatas desperately need.
Where to Start: With a Twisted Rib Cashmere Throw in Camel Heather (Garnet Hill, $299) and The Sill's Low Light Potted Plants Monthly Subscription (The Sill, $35/month).
Those looking for more resources and information about optimizing their ayurvedic doshas can visit Banyan Botanicals to take their quiz on identifying your ayurvedic dosha. And to learn more from director of serenity Laura Coburn, tune into her weekly Facebook Live sessions on the Inns of Aurora Facebook page, every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. EST.