Monday, May 13, 2013

Ode to the Tridosha: A Zoological Musing and Expression of Gratitude

May 3, 2013

While pondering the traits of the people I know and the ways their characteristics correspond with the pancha mahabhutas (Five Great Elements), images came to mind of different animals I've loved and admired since my formative years. So, in accordance with the tradition we see in the Vedic sciences of using animals and plants to represent or describe aspects of the human world (ie, the chakra system, hatha yoga asanam or postures, and even our pulse), I'd like to play with creating a vkrti "zoo" here, for your enjoyment as well as my own. ;)


"Ode to the Tri-Dosha"
by Katie Rosenthal, May 2013.


Large and strong, ferociously protective of their cubs and their territory, bears have the capacity to wreak havoc; yet, they are also seen as cuddly and sweet, and even charmingly innocent. From Teddy Bears to Winnie the Pooh to Yogi Bear (hm) to a great big "bear hug", there is something adorable about these furry forest and highland creatures, despite the stories of campers and hikers getting shred to bits by the large angry paws of a female bear with hungry cubs.

Kapha types are not very different: while earth and water create the murky-muddy kapha qualities of stagnation, attachment and coldness, there is also a welcome sense of security, safety, and even comfort in the embrace of a Mama or Papa Bear. These ocean-like mothers and mountain-esque fathers want their family and loved ones to stay close, allowing them to provide their nurturing care and create a home, a cave from which they can protect their clan from danger (mind you, the "danger" is sometimes simply change or loss, things that kapha-bears don't adapt to very well) - and of course, from hunger.

We should all be so lucky as to experience the love and community that Kaphas bring to their world, the nourishment and service they offer to those who manage to get 'stuck' in their orbit. Just be sure they get out of the house every once in a while. ;)

And for all you Kapha types out there, please remember that many of us need the strength and support -- and excellent cooking -- that only you can provide. Thank you for keeping us grounded and nurtured!


I believe that horses have been utilized by princes and warriors for their ability to run fast and endure much hardship, as much as for the dignity that a horse naturally demonstrates - an effect which I'm sure any king or soldier would want to be associated with. Even without decoration and armor, its muscular, upright stature and strongly defined facial features give the horse an air of nobility, and even of wisdom, a capacity for logic, or intelligence.

Indeed, our "middle of the road" Pitta is associated with the fiery attributes of a fierce strength and a powerful mind (sometimes a fierce mind and powerful strength!), and the ego-chakra quality of pride (for better and for worse). Though occasionally temperamental and impatient, a Pitta that has been won over will turn his or her burning flames into a hearth-like warmth and even a princely devotion, just as a 'tamed' horse will allow its preferred riders to be carried with ease along a tumultuous path. (Just don't prod a fiery horse's dignity by teasing it about being 'tamed' - or you may find a big hoof in your behind!)

The world needs Pitta types to keep it moving, to guide the transformation that must occur in order for living beings to grow and even to evolve. The pitta fire is what breaks down food into nutrients for our body, and what turns the information received from outside ourselves into an Intelligence within our Selves; yet this fire is the same that burns in irritation and explodes in anger. So it does behoove us (pun intended!) to seek a cooling balance to this heat in order to maintain a warm steady glow in our Pitta friends and associates.

Thank you, Pittas, for being the leaders and the change-makers, and for helping us make wise and logical decisions in an often confusing and chaotic world. What would we do without you??


Graceful and free, the butterfly seems to dance among the flowers and float along the cool spring breeze. Its lightness and agility inspire an excitement and awakening within us that we may associate with the blossoming of buds and the morning drops of dew. They're often sought and not easily caught; but when you get one to pause for a moment you'll certainly admire the butterfly's delicate wings and lithe structure.

Vatas embody the airiness we feel when observing a butterfly sipping sweet nectar from fresh blooms, and the anticipation that's stimulated by the appearance of these first signs of life after months of darkness and cold. In fact, Vata dosha is dominant in the spring time, when the winter's snow begins to melt and there is movement in the earth as well as the sky, a shift that we all experience as the seasons change and resting creatures return to life above ground, in the fresh air.

And much like many a butterfly, bird, or blossom, Vatas have the capacity to inspire, and to themselves create great visions and works of beauty. However, their dancing lightness can fly them a bit far from the earth, and allow them to become distracted and even seemingly removed from the 'reality' that the rest of us are experiencing. This is where Kapha friends can help ground (and feed!) their Vata loved ones, and Pitta friends can help with focus (gently, since a Vata can be as fragile as a butterfly's wing).

Vata types, please repeat to yourself that your out-of-the-box creativity, dynamism, and inspiration are a gift to the world. Thank you for bringing your much-needed levity, movement, and lightness to areas of heaviness, inertia, and darkness.


Please take advantage of this lovely spring day to appreciate all the qualities of all the people you know and love - and even (especially!) of those you don't know or love. In each person you encounter today, and for the next couple days (it is the start of the weekend...), take a step back from that interaction to absorb the fullness of this individual: give yourself a moment to pause and look deep inside that person as if you're looking at yourself. See in their eyes all of their joys and their worries, their strengths and their weaknesses, the people they love and depend on, and the people who love and depend on them.

In this moment of recognition, drink in their human-ness and their divinity: you'll see that we are all in a struggle, and more importantly, you'll see the True Nature, the beauty and capacity for love in each and every one of us. Then thank that person (doesn't have to be out loud) for giving you a reason to remember your own true self, reflected in them as if they were holding a mirror to our face.

Enjoy how good you'll feel when you do this!

With Love and Appreciation,


P.S. Leave a Comment below telling me what animals come to mind when you think of your friends, and which of the elements or doshas those animals represent to you... Let's build a big ol' Ayurvedic zoo!

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