Dosha, say what? Humors, colors, doshas: The power of personality


Recently I was in a staff meeting that involved a discussion regarding the impact of personality types on interpersonal relationships.  You may recall  sixteen personality types suggested by Meyers Briggs research (MBTI ®) such as ENFJ or ISFP.  Or perhaps you, like Cindi Lauper, see your True Color® shining through.  Galton (1884), and later Alport (1936) are associated with the five factor model which allowed them to survey and reliably identify personality dimensions. Understanding personality and associated traits has been relevant for thousands of years.  Hippocrates understood the importance of personality and its impact on health and medicine.  Whether you are sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic, body fluids and elements are associated with your personality type according to his theories.  This got me thinking of the relative constant of personality and the importance of understanding my own so I can better relate to other living beings.

What piqued my interest in the power of personality?  Yoga, believe it or not.  Yoga philosophy involves an understanding of energetic forces, biological humors, personality types, what have you, in the form of doshas.  Ancient Ayurveda, a 5000+ year old medicinal system of India, depicts these three mind/body characteristics as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Similar to Hippocrates’s humors, doshas are based around the elements:  in Ayurveda these are earth, wind, fire, air, and aether/space.  The elements combine to form all things, and energetic characteristics of the elements ebb and flow to form the doshas.

Once I became aware of this perspective, I was intrigued and immediately wanted to know my dominant dosha.  I found there were several methods of discovery.  First, an Ayruvedic practitioner studied my pulse, tongue, and skin.  Then, the part I was excited about…the dosha quiz (click to take yours)!  I remember personality quizzes in magazines as a teenager; this was no different.  I thought the answer would be a surprise, as if I hadn’t been living with my personality my entire life.  Just as with other personality quizzes, there are gray areas in most people.  Having a primary dosha doesn’t suggest that other dosha characteristics are void in your personality, but it offers a picture of dominant traits at this moment in time.  So, what is my dosha?  Pitta (primary) and Kapha (secondary).  But what does that mean?  Pitta translates to “what cooks” or “that which digests”.  Pitta is formed by water and fire and those with strong pitta are often intelligent, intense, assertive, and orderly.  When out of balance, they are aggressive and pushy.  Ha!  I thought, that is totally me!!  My kapha traits are “like fluid” and composed of earth and water.  This dosha is often a balancer and includes traits of stability, loyalty, resistance to change.  Want to know more about doshas?  Vata--air + aether, Pitta--fire + water, Kapha--earth + water .  And take the quiz!

Gaining this insight offered me a little more confidence in my personality; I already identified with being sensitive, organized, passionate, and assertive.  But it also offers me a warning as to how this particular dosha type can become imbalanced and create too much heat (the elements) in the body and mind--and pushy ensues.  Thus, I believe it beckons me to remain true to my personality.  If I compromise who I am repeatedly it is unlikely I will be able to accept other personality traits that run on a different track than my own.  Accepting myself allows me to accept others; we all know that… easier said than done.  Practicing acceptance is the challenge…namaste as you become one with the cult of personality (shout out to Living Colur).


true colors


About Author

Rebecca Allen

Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator Wellness

Rebecca E. Allen is passionate about helping others develop and nurture practices of well-being.   She earned her BS in Sociology and MA in Exercise and Sport Science and holds fitness certifications from ACE, AFAA,, IFTA, and Tai Chi for Health Institute.  She is a Medical Exercise Specialist and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 500 RYT. Rebecca enjoys long walks in the woods with her husband, Chip Davis.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks, Rebecca! I had never read much about this, and your article was really fascinating. Now I have more reading to do... Your sister in Pitta-Kapha-hood, Diane. =)

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