The ancient medical science, Ayurveda, has given to the world a wonderful model that enables every individual to live in perfect harmony with their unique nature. This is the understanding that every individual is a unique identity and possesses a unique constitution or body type-called Prakriti in Sanskrit.
By enhancing your awareness of your constitution, you can structure your diet and activities to suit your individual needs. This in turn frees you from the mass confusion regarding which approach to health is best.
We are constantly bombarded with an excess of sensory stimuli regarding what is or is not healthy. But if you know your own unique nature, you can peacefully follow a holistic tailor-made lifestyle that fosters balance and acceptance.
Prakriti determined at time of conception
Your Ayurvedic body type is the inherent tendencies and characteristics woven through your genetic code.
At the moment of conception, the inherent attributes of the sperm and ovum unite to give rise to the blueprint of your body type.
These attributes are determined by the ratio of doshas in the constitution of the mother and father, as well as the season in which conception takes place, the intention/state of mind and general well-being of the parents.
This is why Ayurveda emphasises again and again the importance of planned conception, stressing the need for both mother and father to undergo treatment to cleanse any toxins and balance the three doshas so that they do not pass on inherited imbalances to the foetus.
After the conception takes place, the nourishment reaching the baby from the mother and internal environment of the womb will determine the strength and balance of the new child’s constitution. If the mother lives in a way that fosters well-being, the baby will be born with a strong, healthy constitution with a natural resistance to disease.
If the pregnant mother indulges in foods and activities that give rise to toxins and imbalance, the babe will be born with a weaker immune system and will have more health challenges.
What are doshas?
Doshas are the great elemental forces, or bodily intelligences, that govern all our psycho-physiological functions, structures and tendencies.
The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha
The doshas are composed of the 5 great elements that form our world:
Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether
Vata is composed of air and ether, so it is a light wind-like principle. It has a drying influence, changes rapidly and can bring irregularity and chaos when provoked.
Pitta is composed of fire and water. It is a hot and intense principle, bringing a sharp, penetrating and warming influence to that which it contacts.
Kapha is composed of water and earth. Like mud, it is sticky, cool and damp. It is slow and does not change easily. It has a cohesive and lubricating action.
Every individual is born with a unique ration of these three great forces. Your response to any situation, your natural preferences and your physical features are the result of the dosha’s influence in your body and mind.
We shall now explore the manner in which these three doshas manifest as part of one’s body type or Prakriti.
If one is born with a dominance of Vata, the qualities of this dosha will influence the temperament, anatomy and physiology. Due to the dry quality, the individual will always be prone to dry hair, dry skin, dry eyes and a dry colon which leads to a natural tendency towards constipation. Due to Vata’s changeable nature, the individual will have variable appetite, variable digestion, variable energy levels, they will quickly change their mind and therefore will have difficulty completing anything.
Due to Vata’s light attribute, the Vata type will always sleep very lightly, their body frame will be very light and it will be hard for them to gain weight.
Vata’s cold quality will make this individual hate cold weather. Vata types are sun worshippers. They can suffer from cold hands and feet and may have weak immunity.
The expansive nature of the ether element in Vata will make the Vata type very open-minded, creative and visionary, but they may also become spacey, ungrounded and anxious more easily than the other types.
Vata people are flexible in their thinking but they find it difficult to be organised. Their homes and offices are usually cluttered and chaotic, though they will have a mysterious order to the chaos.
They tend to talk and think fast. Just as the wind moves very fast, so a Vata type is generally always on the go. Even when sitting still you can often see some body part twitching rapidly.
They remember very quickly and forget just as quickly.
When they make some money, their initial impulse is to spend it.
A balanced Vata is a wonderful, creative and enthusiastic individual that initiates positive change in their environment.
When Pitta’s influence is strongest in an individual, the intensity of fire is clearly apparent. The eyes are generally intense and piercing, their intellect is sharp and their speech is cutting, concise and straight to the point.
Due to the liquid, oily nature of Pitta, their skin and hair is usually on the oily side and they tend towards loose bowel movements.
Pitta is hot and sharp, so the The Pitta person’s appetite is generally very intense, digestion is strong, and energy levels are usually fairly high.
Pitta people have the fiery ambition to take the lead in any endeavour, they often have a drive for success that can lead to unsustainable work patterns if they are not careful.
Pitta people are sensitive to heat, they usually burn easily in the sun and hot humid weather aggravates them. The pitta dominant individual may be quick to anger, they become red and flushed easily, and they are prone to rashes, acne and inflammation.
The frame of the Pitta type is moderate, they gain muscle easily and they like to show off their physique, their wealth and their intelligence. The hair may be straight, fine and a bright colour like blonde or red.
A pitta person can easily become hyper-critical and hyper-organised. Homes and offices are systematically arranged, colour coded, alphabetically ordered and painfully clean. In extreme situations, anyone or anything that introduces a slight bit of disorganised spontaneity can be the trigger to ignite the full fury of a Pitta temper tantrum.
They learn well, have fairly good memories and save money to purchase showy, expensive items that increase their prestige.
A balanced Pitta is a motivated, joyful and intelligent individual that brings dynamism and focus to any endeavour.
When one is born on this earth with a Kapha dominant constitution, the slow, sticky, cool nature of water and earth is clearly visible. The Kapha individual talks slow, walks slow, eats slow, thinks slowly and gets ready to go anywhere very slowly, which will send a Vata into panic and a Pitta into a rage. Their appetite tends to be low, though they love eating, digestion and elimination are also slow.
They love to sit around and do nothing at all.
The Kapha person is blessed with a stable, compassionate and grounded nature. They have large, solid bone structures, beautiful large eyes and thick lustrous hair.
Due to the heavy nature of Kapha, this type will gain weight very easily and lose it with great effort. They may feel heavy after meals. This heaviness can also accumulate in the mind and nervous system and cause melancholy, greed, cloudy perception, and even depression if balancing measures are not taken.
Due to the cold, sticky qualities, Kapha individuals tend towards winter colds and excessive mucous production.
The Kapha individual loves to love and can easily become attached and sentimental. They have excellent long-term memories, like the elephant which is a Kapha type of animal.
They save money extremely well.
A balanced Kapha is a rock of support that brings stability and nurturing to every life they touch.
The natural attributes of each type give them a certain vulnerability to those ailments that possess the same inherent attributes.
A Vata type, who is already dry, cold, and variable in nature, can easily be prone to poor circulation, dry skin conditions, constipation and brittle hair and nails. Mentally a Vata out of balance will become anxious, fearful, worried and have difficulty in sleeping.
A Pitta type who is naturally hot, intense and sharp, will have a tendency towards inflammation, rashes, skin diseases like psoriasis, hot flushes, burning sensations, and excessive acid secretions. Mentally an imbalanced Pitta will become angry, uptight, judgemental, irritable and even violent.
A Kapha type, who is inherently slow, moist and heavy, will be more likely to develop excess mucous, weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol and lung congestion. Mentally an out of balnce kapha will become lethargic, depressed, and dull with little motivation.
Knowing your body type enables you to take precautionary measures to safeguard yourself from the ailments your constitution is more prone to.
And how can you prevent these tendencies from developing? By balancing the doshas through a diet and lifestyle suited to your unique body type, you can stop the seeds of disease tendencies from germinating. To live in harmony with your in-born nature, your Prakriti, means to employ daily regimes that consistently keep your doshas in a state of equilibrium.
For a Vata type, this means cultivating those qualities that are less prominent in their make-up.
Warm foods and beverages, soothing and calming sensory stimuli, adequate time for rest and rejuvenation, warm oil internally and externally and a nourishing, grounding diet all play a role in bringing out the best in a Vata type.
The main key for Vata is Regularity: maintaining a regular routine to counter the chaotic, variable tendencies in the Vata dosha, while still nurturing their creative instinct. And this is very challenging to this constitution as the Vata dosha naturally pulls one towards constant change.
But it is by adopting those measures that involve discipline and consistency that the Vata type will discover a more fulfilling quality of life.
For the Pitta individual, the focus should be on cooling, calming surroundings, soothing and cooling foods and enough leisure activities to counter the intense Pitta drive to work and succeed.
The key for the Pitta is Moderation: They need to learn to breathe more, take life more easily and enjoy the simple joys of life while honouring their natural need to shine.
For the Kapha individual, the focus needs to be on stimulating and engaging environments, physical activity, psychological challenges and enough healthy stress to keep them on their toes and out of their comfort zone. The diet should be warm, light and heating.
The key for the Kapha type is Stimulation and Variety: They must learn to break out of their need for methodical routine and try new things to keep them alert and engaged, while honouring their inherent slow and grounded temperament.
We are not trying to change the natural characteristics of these body types, but simply to keep any excesses in check and allow for the positive, unique expression of balance to come to the fore.
Bi-Doshic and Tri-Doshic types.
At this point, you may have already related a few different doshic attributes to your self or your loved ones. The truth is we all are born with all three doshas, but the ratio of these doshas is responsible for our constitution.
Most people are bi-doshic, which means they have one primary dosha, and one secondary dosha that is slightly less pronounced or manifested than the primary dosha.
For example, a Pitta Vata type may be motivated, head-strong and ambitious with piercing eyes but at the same time they will display certain Vata attributes like a very thin body frame and a tendency towards constipation.
The truth is that as many people as there are in this world, there are the same number of constitutions.
This is because the attributes inherent in the doshas may manifest in the body and mind in a myriad of ways.
So everyone truly is unique and requires a totally unique approach to achieve their unique expression of complete wellness.
There is also one rare type known as tri-doshic, which is when all three doshas are present in the genetic code in an equal proportion. This can be the most balanced, healthiest constitution, but it can also be the most dangerous, as the individual may be pre-disposed to the disease tendencies of all three body types.
Some of you may already know your Ayurvedic type through an analysis by an Ayurvedic Consultant, Practitioner or Doctor.
If you have gained your self-knowledge by filling out one of the readily-available dosha quizzes, please know your outcome may not be correct.
The problem is people often write down their imbalance rather than their actual constitution. Many of us have lived with an excess of a dosha for so long that we identify with it and think it is who we are.
So when filling out a dosha quiz, try and think of your natural tendencies over your whole life, going back to childhood and teenage years, rather than your acquired characteristics that may have emerged in the last 10 years or so.
Click here to take the dosha quiz on the Planet Ayurveda website, the Ayurvedic health centre in NZ directed by my mentor, Dr. S. Ajit.
Please keep in mind, it often takes the hand of an experienced Ayurvedic physician to carefully uncover the layers of coping mechanisms to reveal the true, real nature of the individual waiting under the surface.
May your journey into the heart of Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, bring you closer to that essential nature that unites us all.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant