When you are sitting by a stream of gushing water, absorbed in it, it can be hard to realize this simple fact of life—we are that. We are made up of water and the other five elements that exist in nature. This understanding forms the baseline of Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old science of wellness and longevity; a science so precise that when your pulse is examined by an Ayurveda doctor, he/she can tell you not just about the imbalances at the root of existing diseases but can share in elaborate detail specific qualities about your body type, behavior, and conditions you may be predisposed to.
The science of Ayurveda is all about creating balance—balance between the body, mind, and spirit, and balance between the tridosha (three doshas) that take from the five elements in nature. It does this by first identifying the prakruti or nature of an individual. Secondly, it examines the existing dosha imbalances. Lastly, Ayurveda provides a roadmap to an individual to live a healthy, perfectly balanced life using specific herbs, holistic cleanses and detox treatments, personalized diet that is aligned with one’s unique dosha constitution.
Your Ayurvedic body type, or constitution, is at the heart of Ayurveda’s approach to well-being. Knowing your constitution allows you to maximize your quality of life, health, and happiness by following the recommendations for food and lifestyle for each constitution.
Ayurveda is a personalized school of medicine where there is no one size fits all when it comes to wellness and treatments. Ayurveda uses an ancient and time tested tool for diagnosis of imbalances in the body called the Nadi Pariksha, or pulse diagnosis.
An Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis with an expert is the best way to recognize one’s constitution. It can help determine what your dosha dominance is and what are the current vikritis, or dosha imbalances. Pulse diagnosis in Ayurveda is different and runs much deeper than the Western method of pulse examination. In Ayurveda, it includes examination of an individual’s state of body, mind, and spirit as a whole. It meaningfully examines not just the pulse rate, rhythm, and volume but also observes the flow, amplitude, force, and consistency. It is based on the knowledge that symptoms manifest in the pulse before they manifest in the affected part of the body and that severe aggravation of doshas leads to illnesses in the body. For example, the effect of an imbalance in your blood can be detected much earlier in your pulse.
We discuss here general characteristics of body types of each dosha to help familiarize readers with general tendencies. So read on to acquaint yourself with the main constitutions and the self-discovery that is the joy of Ayurveda.
THE GOOD LIFE (For Your Type)
Ayurveda means the science of longevity; it is the science of how to live a long, healthy life. “Ayu” is the life span we spend with the body. The spirit is immortal—it can be with the body or without it, but the union of body, mind and spirit—how long that combination stays, that time span is called ayu. How to live that time happily and in good health is the knowledge of Ayurveda. So how do we live this way?
In this respect, Ayurveda says there are four aspects:
- What is good for the body
- What is unhealthy
- What makes us happy
- What makes us sad
It is like driving a car in that once you know the rules of the road, you can drive safely. And it is the same with life also, once you know these four aspects.
For that we need to know the body and mind. The body is made of five elements, space, air, fire water and earth. Physiologically, these elements function as three bio-dynamic forces, called vata, pitta and kapha. These are called variously dhatus, substances, dosha, or prakriti, our natural constitution.
What is the importance of knowing you Ayurvedic body type?
The five elements (Panchamahabhutas) combine to form three basic bio energies, or doshas- kapha,vata and pitta. These three subtle elements govern all our life functions, personality traits and the mind-body complex that define us as individuals. Each of these doshas has specific traits. The pitta dosha is made up of the fire and water element and it primarily governs digestion. The vata dosha is the air element and is the force behind all types of movements in the body. The kapha dosha is the earth element and provides moisture to the skin and lubrication to joints. It is the grounding dosha. Usually in a person, two of three doshas dominate.
Those who are born with more of the space and air element have a vata constitution. Vata constitution is governed by the features of space and air. Generally, a vata person will be very thin, more talkative, restless; they typically have a lower body weight, dry skin, brittle nails, thin hair, and small, slightly sunken eyes. While walking, their joints may make sounds. In terms of climate, they tend to prefer warm or hot weather; they may have trouble tolerating the cold. They have a hard time gaining weight, so they tend to be thin with a low weight.
Vata is located in the abdomen below the navel; including the colon, pelvis, pelvic organs besides thighs, skin, ears, nervous system, and lungs. It is responsible for movement in the body and mind. Sensory impulses, breath, excretion, speech, and pumping of blood are some of its main functions. It also ignites agni, the digestive fire in the body.
Signs of Vata Imbalance
- Dryness and roughness of skin
- Too much weight loss. Emaciation happens.
- Irregular bowel movement or constipation
- Pain in bones, joints
- Fear and restlessness
- Abnormal pulse rate
- Preference for hot environment and surroundings
Diseases Caused by Vata Imbalance
Imbalance of this dosha can cause irregularity in functioning of bowel movements, nervous system, disorders in muscles and joints, etc. Here are some of the disorders that vata imbalance can cause:
- Loose teeth
- Facial Paralysis
- Acute stress
- Tonic and Clonic Seizures
- Earache and hearing disorders
- Stiff legs
- Cramps in calf muscles
- Stiffness in the neck
Remedies for Balancing Vita
- Get to bed before 10:oo pm and rise by 6:00 am
- Maintain a daily routine with regular times for eating, sleeping, and working (dinacharya)
- Drink warm beverages and eat freshly prepared, warm, whole foods.
- Eat foods that are naturally sweet, sour, and salty in taste.
- Use generous amounts of high-quality oils or ghee and warming spices like ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cumin in your daily diet
- Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and chocolate
- Incorporate a regular exercise routine into your week
- Vata-reducing herbs and remedies
Next are pitta people, those who are born with hotter constitutions, containing more of the fire element. A pitta person is generally active, good looking, a perfectionist, dynamic, intelligent and also short tempered. They may have leadership qualities, a moderate build, a smart personality, a sharp nose, and their eyes will also be sharp, sometimes offset with a slight pinkish tint. Due to the unfortunate ease with which a pitta person gets imbalanced, hair loss and early greying are common. They are generally slightly warm to the touch with rosy lips and pink nails with a slight curve.
Though a combination of fire and water, it is more dominant with fire element. It is intensified during summers. The seat of pitta in the body is small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, gallbladder, blood, sweat glands, sub-cutaneous fat, eyes, and skin.
It is responsible for stability in the body and mind. It regulates body heat, digestion, lightens the appetite, absorption, assimilation, gives vitality, and the ability to understand. It nourishes the body by carrying amino acids and enzymes which are important for digestion of food. It also keeps neurotransmitters and neuropeptides which are responsible for thinking.
It augments understanding and intelligence, if in balance. If out of balance, it gives room for host of negative emotions.
Signs of Pitta Imbalance
Excessive heat marked by desire for cold things
Yellow coloration of the skin
Increased anger and agitation
Excessive thirst and hunger
Increased tendency of being a perfectionist
Bitter taste in the mouth
Diseases Due to Pitta Imbalance
- Peptic ulcers, inflammation of the stomach or esophagus, if the imbalance is allowed to persist for too long
- Skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis
- Acid Reflux Tendonitis
- Bad breath
- Redness of the skin
- Low blood sugar
Remedies for Balancing Pitta
- Maintain a daily routine with regular times for eating, sleeping, and working (dinacharya)
- Use ghee, or clarified butter, in your cooking.
- Drink 4—5 litres of warm or room temperature water every day
- Keep company with people who are happy and positive
- Meditation is the key to the happy mind. It helps controlling emotions like anger, irritability, among others. A few minutes meditation twice a day is recommended. Sahaj Samadhi meditation of the Art of Living helps significantly in managing Pitta aggravation.
Moderately difficult yogasanas can pacify Pitta by increasing the blood circulation and detoxifying the body.
Spend time in nature—be with plants, walk on the grass, walk by the lakeside, and moon gaze to bring peace to the mind.
Kapha indicates a preponderance of the water and earth element. People with this kapha constitution are generally cool, calm, lazy, cheerful, stocky (if not overweight). If assigned a task, they never complete the task in time. Actually, Ayurveda says that because a kapha person is the least bothered, happiest type of person on the whole planet, the best constitution is kapha. They’re cheerful all the time! Other qualities include a thick build, thick, dark hair, big eyes with white around, and prominent, shiny, white teeth. The skin may also be thick, moist, and a little cool to the touch. As a personality type, while they tend to accumulate stuff, they also have a sharing streak that moves them to service for society.
Location of Kapha is in bones, muscles, and tendons. It acts as the ‘binding agent’ to keep the cells together. It keeps the body moist. It lubricates joints, moisturizes the skin, and maintains immunity. In balance, kapha is synonymous to love, calmness, and forgiveness. If out of balance it can be the cause of negative emotions like greed and jealousy. Kapha personalities have good appetite and low digestive ability which makes them put on weight. Kapha personalities live an easy-going life and prefer to maintain the status quo. They are peaceful and balanced. They are sensitive. If they experience injustice with them or others, they tend to slip into depression. Lack of routine, lethargy, no exercise, irregular sleeping time, heavy food, eating frequently, and intake of too much dairy are some of the reasons which can cause the imbalance.
Signs of Kapha Imbalance
- Respiratory disorders
- Sweet taste in the mouth
- Hardening of blood vessels
- Loss of appetite
- Disorders of the joints
Remedies for Kapha Imbalance
Foods that are astringent, spicy, and bitter tastes are conducive for keeping kapha under check. Dry and warm food helps too.
Keeping the body active is a must for kapha personalities. It ensures that they do not slip into lethargy and inertia.
Regular practice of yoga helps keeping the energy high, keeping toxins away and the body active.
The controlled and long breath taken during Pranayama keeps the mind calm and increases the health of lungs.
Avoid sleep during the day which can increase kapha.
These are the three main Ayurvedic body types, though mixes also appear—pitta-kapha, pitta-vata, vata-kapha, and saamya, one whose constitution contains all of the five elements in equal ratios.
Constitution is what we are born with. When we eat the proper food and follow the lifestyle that suits our Ayurvedic body type, we have better chances of staying fit, healthy and happy for a long time.