According to Ayurveda, everything in existence is made up of five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether / Space. These five elements are expressed as three Dosha types: Vata corresponds to Ether & Air, Pitta corresponds to Fire & Water, and Kapha corresponds to Earth & Water. Each person has a unique combination of Doshas from birth. This is referred to as your constitution.
It’s important to note that the word Dosha in Sanskrit translates to the English word “fault,” meaning a crack or point of weakness where you might go out of balance. By knowing your dominant Dosha and constitution, you can more easily identify where and when you fall out of balance. You can also quickly and efficiently coax yourself back into balance by enjoying Dosha balancing foods, exercise and activities.
Those with a Vata constitution had air and ether predominantly present during their birth. Vata is responsible for the body’s energy, movement and nerve impulses, which manifests as breath, circulation, elimination, and flow of thoughts. Vata corresponds to the following:
Cold, light, clear, airy, dry
Creativity, generosity, enthusiasm, vitality
Physically small or thin, dry hair, small, darting eyes, rough or brittle nails, thin skin and irregularities with their teeth
Variable appetite and moderate metabolism
Do not sweat heavily
Tend to sleep lightly and can be disturbed easily
Temperament and memory
Quick to understand, but easily forget, little willpower, nervous, low confidence
When balanced, Vata types are enthusiastic, light, creative, alert, quick-witted, active and open to new experiences.
When out of balance, Vatas will become forgetful and anxious with problems of insomnia, constipation, gas, bloating, dry and/or rough skin, headache, back and/or joint pain, and cold hands and feet.
Since Vatas need to balance their cold, light, airy and dry qualities, they need to eat foods that are warm, heavy, dense, and moist. They also tend to require sweet, sour, and salty foods. It’s important for Vatas to avoid alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and stress. They also need to keep a consistent, daily routine with regular bedtimes and meals, moderate exercise, and meditation. Vata types should also try to stay in warm, humid, quiet, safe, and comfortable environments.
Pitta is governed by fire and water and is responsible for transformation and regulates metabolism, body temperature, digestion, and intelligence. Pitta is essential for the digestive and endocrine system of the body. Pitta corresponds to the following:
Hot, light, fluid, clear, sharp
Ambitious, good concentration, confident, courageous, intelligent
Medium frame with strong build, moderate prominence of veins, thin hair, sharp eyes, soft nails and sharp nose
Strong metabolism and strong appetite with good digestion
Sleep for a medium duration, generally uninterrupted
Temperament and memory
Intelligent, good comprehension, quick to anger and get attached easily
When balanced, Pitta types are content and well-structured with strong digestion, good vision, sharp intellect, and radiant skin.
When out of balance, Pittas can become angry or hot-headed and may experience acid indigestion, diarrhea, gastritis, stomach and intestinal ulcers, fever, hot flashes, infections, rashes, acne, eczema and liver infections.
Since Pittas need to bring balance to their hot, fluid, and sharp qualities, they need to eat cool, dry, and mild foods. They also tend to require sweet, bitter, and astringent foods. It’s also important that Pitta types practice moderation, take time for play and laughter, spend time in nature (especially around bodies of water) and enjoy exercise (but avoid extreme workouts or competition). Pitta types should also avoid sources of heat (e.g. mid-day sun) and stay in cool, well-ventilated environments.
Kaphas’ prominent energies are water and earth. Kapha is essential for structure and fluidity, and manifests as weight, growth, strength, tissue lubrication, and formation. Kapha corresponds to the following:
Cold, wet, heavy, cloudy, static
Caring, compassionate, tender, faithful, grounded
Developed bodies and sometimes overweight, broad chest, soft, dark and wavy hair, large eyes and teeth
Regular appetite with slow digestions
Sound, prolonged periods of sleep
Temperament and memory
Sometimes slow to comprehend, but good memory
When balanced, Kapha types are lovable, strong, patient, loyal, supportive, stable and calm.
When out of balance, Kaphas may become greedy, lethargic and depressed and may suffer from obesity, diabetes, respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis, and swelling and tumors. They may also become resistant to change and hang on to things and people after they are no longer necessary.
Since Kaphas need to balance their moist, soft, and heavy qualities, they need to eat light, dry and fiery foods. They also tend to benefit from eating astringent, bitter and pungent foods. In addition, it’s important for Kaphas to wake up before 6 a.m., take their main meal at noon and exercise regularly and vigorously. Because Kaphas tend to cling to their routine, they need variety and new experiences. They also benefit from dry, warm environments.
Most of Us are More than One Type
While we’ve spoken of body types as though everyone is just one, the reality is that people often have combinations of these types. In that sense, the “body type” discussion is more a matter of making generalizations. A combination of two Dosha is called Dwandwaja. Tridoshaja is a combination of three Doshas. Ekadoshaja, which is more rare, is the term for those exhibiting a single Dosha type.
With a combination of all these additional types, there are a more complex array of types that are best determined by an Ayurvedic wellness specialist. Such a specialist can also help you determine the best foods and activities for your body type.