I stumbled across the concept of ayurvedic body types about a year ago when i was dealing with a number of health issues which was mainly caused by stress. I was loosing weight, feeling ungrounded and out of touch with my body, having trouble sleeping and my mind was over analyzing everything and constantly going into a spin. At this time I noticed that a good friend of mine who was also going through a stressful time was having different kinds of symptoms to stress. She was becoming impatient and pushing herself constantly to make something happen, suffering from skin rashes, craving spicy food and becoming wound up by very small things.By this time i was already reading a lot about natural health and ayurveda, and I was able to quickly see that we were showing symptoms of imbalance that is expected for our specific ayurvedic body type.
Ayurveda for those of you who don’t know, is the ancient medical system of India that has been around for over 5000 years. It looks at the patient at all three levels of being which includes the body, the mind and the soul. It is said in ayurveda that the mind and the body are strongly connected and an imbalance in one can cause illnesses in the other.
The entire system of ayurveda is based on the concept of Doshas. Ayurveda describes three types of doshas which can be compared to energies or qualities within the body. Each dosha is made up of a combination of the five elements which are ether, air, fire, water and earth. Vata dosha is made up of the elements ether and air, Pitta of fire and water and Kapha of earth and water. Each person has one or two of these qualities known as doshas within there constitution (mind & body).
At birth, each of us have a unique combination of the three doshas which is known in Sanskit as Prakruti. This is considered to be the balanced state of our body and the mind. Throughout life due to diet, lifestyle choices and the environment the balanced state changes and the changing state of the body and the mind is known as Vikruti. Each of the doshas can become too much or too little in the system causing a number of physical and mental illnesses.
An Ayurvedic doctor assess the Vikruti of a person and prescribes herbs, food, yoga postures, pranayam, spiritual practices, sounds etc to bring the body and the mind back into balance.
Having an understanding of the nature of our own constitution can be extremely beneficial for us. Why? It helps us quickly identify our physical and mental tendencies when we are out of balance and helps us bring ourselves back into balance. we can select food, exercise and other lifestyle choices which will help us bring our selves back into a healthy state. For instance one thing I realized was that too much salad is not good for a vata type of a person. Despite today’s society promoting salad as a healthy food for all, vata type of person can suffer vata aggravation if they go on salad only diet as this could increase the light and cold quality of vata dosha. Similarly, excess of physical activities like running and skiing may not be very good for this type of a person even though they may have a natural tendency towards these things.
An Ayurvedic doctor may use a very extensive questionnaire and a thorough physical examination to identify our unique body-mind constitution and our current state. But we can quickly get an idea of our general body type by knowing some main characteristics of each of the types. I myself has vata as the dominant dosha and pitta as second dominant and I very much can relate to the descriptions of these types. Below is a short description of each of the body types so you can see which one you might fit into.
This constitution is governed by the elements air and ether. A vata person can be identified by their thin and slender figures,long limbs, dry skin and hair, soft facial features and their nervous/energetic nature. They tend to have cooler body temperature and therefore most cannot stand cold weather. They have weak digestion and prefer to eat cold and light food which are similar to the qualities of vata dosha. Vata people have an intellectual air about them and most tend to wear glasses. They are generally very flexible, broad minded, have a vast knowledge base, love mental stimulation and love movement. They are the intellectual visionaries among us who are best in teacher or adviser roles. They are excellent with ideas and concepts but have difficulty remembering concrete facts. when balanced this type is very lively, exciting and can generate many new ideas. As vata governs the mind, these people have a high levels of mental activity and are very prone to anxiety. Their sleep is short and are prone to seeing dreams where they are falling. Their first thought when things are going wrong is “what did I do wrong?”. When out of balance, this type become overly analytically, anxious, escapist, loose their appetite, skin and hair become drier, body gets cooler and most loose touch with their bodies. They are very prone to neglecting their bodily needs as much time and energy goes into their mental activity. As a result many loose weight during stressful times.
This constitution is governed by the elements fire and water. The pitta type people are medium built, strong, have warm body temperature, sharp eyes and have a air of confidence about them. Many pittas have reddish skin and hair. They have excellent digestion as they have strong digestive fire known as agni. Therefore they can eat large amounts of food and not put on much weight. They prefer food that are sour and spicy.They sleep well but can be prone to violent and disturbing dreams when stressed. This type is very action oriented and have the energy to make things happen in the world. They set goals for themselves and work towards achieving them with unwavering passion. This type is very intelligent and has a very sharp and penetrating mind.They are also excellent at leading a team towards a common goal. Pittas are very lively in conversation and generally tend to be the larger than life personalities who are the center of attention. When stressed, their passion turns to anger, jealousy and aggression. Their first thought when things go wrong is “what did he/she do wrong?”. Their need for worldly achievement can intensify during stressful times which causes them to act rashly and even step on many toes. They can also become very sensitive to the sun and many develop skin rashes during stressful times. They are also prone to stomach upsets when stressed.
This constitution is governed by the elements earth and water.The Kaphas are the gentle and the steady. They tend to be physically big built and many tend to be overweight due to this body type’s tendency to retain more moisture and mucus in their systems than the other types. They have thick hair and skin. Everything they do is done slowly with precision. This type absorb new information the slowest,but once learned they never forget. They are quite methodical in their approach to things. They love their routines and many dislike change. Many stay in houses, relationships and jobs that have already severed their purpose just because they don’t like change. This type is very sentimental and are hoarders of things from the past. Kaphas are more sensory orientated than the other types and like to indulge in sensory pleasures. When in balance they are happy, compassionate, caring and kind people. Not much can throw them off of their calm nature. This type is mentally very stable and aren’t very prone to mental disorders, however their biggest issue is maintaining the health of their physical body. Their first thought when things go wrong is ” I can’t deal with this”. When out of balance, they become lazy and complacent. They can become very stubborn and would like to stay in the same place for long periods of time.They can also become sulky when upset and they struggle to get out of bad habits.
Ayurveda says that like increases like. Therefore, in order to treat an increase of a dosha, we have to develop the qualities of the other two doshas within our selves to bring the body back into balance. For example, a kapha person who has cold body temperature and have very low digestive power need to develop the qualities of the pitta dosha. This can be done through introducing warm and spicy foods in to their diet and doing activities that increase the heat within the body like walking, dancing and playing a sport. In addition, Ayurveda talks about various herbs that we can take in order to reduce the excess of any of the doshas in our system.
As our Vikruti changes throughout life, by understanding each of the doshas, we can select the right kinds of food and activities that can help us stay in balance.
In my later posts I will discuss some tips on how to keep each of the doshas in balance and the stress symptoms of each of the body types in more detail.
~Thanks for reading~