What does "Ayurveda" mean? The answer involves an ancient tradition with origins of some 3,000 years ago. The basic definition of the word means "balance of life." In Sanskrit (the sacred language of India and yoga), ayu means "life" and veda means "balance." This translates to a complete system of health for the mind, body and spirit.
Ayurveda says that there are five elements of nature (earth, water, fire, air and space) and that each of these co-exists within every living being. Of these five elements, three predominate. This is what makes up a person's dosha (dah-sha). For me, the easiest way to understand any concept is to see a real-life example. Here are descriptions of three people and their characteristics (representing the three different doshas governing health and energy). It is important to understand that each person holds all three doshas, with one being predominate.
Starting from the ground up, with the earth element: my girlfriend is a typical kapha. She has a large, solid body frame, and is slow, steady, mellow and grounded, as you would think of an Earth element. Blessed with a sweet, affectionate nature, she loves to hug. Kaphas are known to many as "Mother Earth." They are typically lethargic and tend to struggle with weight gain. Our personalities go well together. We balance each other. She is calming kapha and I am quick-moving vata. For my kapha friend, basic things such as picking up the pace with a brisk walk, increasing her digestive fire with ginger tea or spicy foods, or varying the daily routine keep her in balance.
Next is the pita dosha. My husband comes first to my mind as a classic pita. He is analytical, driven, and a perfectionist with an incredible work ethic. He has a medium frame with eyes that are always taking things in, thinking, analyzing, processing. He is good with numbers and has a head for business. He is quick to anger but generously forgiving and honest. He uses music or a cooling swim as a means of balancing his fire.