The Four Stages of Life
Yoga and Ayurveda divide human life into four stages of twenty five years each. Each stage has its appropriate behavior and activity that is the same for everyone.
Stage of life Behavior Period Activity
1. Birth – 25 years Student Kapha Kama
2. 25 – 50 years Householder Pitta Artha
3. 50 – 75 years Hermitage Pitta/Vata Dharma
4. 75 – 100 years Renunciation Vata Moksha
1. Childhood to early adulthood is the learning stage of life. This is time of learning and discipline that goes with it. At this time we are seeking Kama or enjoyment, gaining experience about the world around us. This is the period of life dominated by Kapha, the formative force. As children are producing new tissues, they also will produce more mucus as a by-product. For this reason kids – no matter what their Prakriti (inborn constitution) is – mainly have diseases of excess mucus (cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, sore throat, earaches, etc.) which are Kapha diseases in Ayurveda. They need a lot of sleep and have a high capacity for learning. Children also show such Kapha qualities as contentment, possessiveness, and dependence.
2. The second stage of life is the main period for earning a livelihood and raising a family. It’s the householder phase. The primary obligations of this period are meeting one’s material needs. We are seeking Artha or wealth and are willing to sacrifice our enjoyment for this. The fiery force, Pitta, is dominating. At that time such Pitta characteristics as independence, ambition, confidence, and sociability are developed. Pitta imbalances like heartburn, acid stomach, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and hypertension also typically manifest during this period.
3. The late adult phase is called hermitage because in ancient times people left their homes and took up a small hermitage just outside the village, so that they could live in retirement but still were able to provide help and advice as needed. This stage marks the transition between Pitta and Vata. We are seeking Dharma, honor and truth, and the need for wealth gradually subsides. At this time we show characteristics of both Pitta and Vata qualities and imbalances.
4. The fourth stage of life, the renunciation, consists of preparing for death and the next life, or seeking to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death all together. We are seeking Moksha or liberation and naturally lose interest in the outer affairs of life. This stage is strongly dominated by Vata. That’s why old people often get dehydrated bodies, dry skin, brittle bones, poor digestion, and all kind of pains and aches and show such Vata characteristics as forgetfulness and fear.
As we see there are three different cycles manifesting in our life: daily cycles, seasonal cycles, and life cycles. All of them affect us no matter what our leading dosha is. During each time of day, each season, and each stage of our life, one of the doshas naturally accumulates to some degree in each individual. Knowing the cycles, we understand the full range of influences on our dosha, so it is possible to make the best choices for our lifestyle from moment to moment.
TODAY’S TIP: Recognizing the potential for doshic problem during different cycles help take steps beforehand to avoid them – such as eating certain foods, or doing certain yoga postures and breathing exercises.