For the last five years I have been deepening my yoga practice and learning more through my teacher training courses. Alongside this, I began to study and practice Ayurveda, in particular Ayurvedic Nutrition. This is an ancient Indian system of medicine which runs parallel to yoga. Ayurveda body type analysis is used to characterise individuals according to body type and personality traits. Ayurvedic nutrition involves eating to maintain balance for your particular constitution.
Your Ayurveda body type is described in terms of three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosha relates to a combination of the elements of air, water, fire, earth and ether. As a result, each dosha has specific qualities. This leads to recognizable characteristics in body and mind. Take a look at the image below for a visual representation of the three doshas.
Ayurveda body types in detail
Vata dosha dominant
Qualities: light, dry, erratic, cold, spacey
Physical characteristics: petite frame, struggles to gain weight, drier skin and hair, pointed features, crooked teeth, runs cold and rarely sweats
Mental/emotional characteristics: nervous energy, creative, spontaneous, flighty, distracted
Common imbalances: anxiety, constipation, asthma, restlessness, poor circulation, joint issues
Pitta dosha dominant
Qualities: hot, oily, fiery, sharp, quick, pungent
Physical characteristics: medium frame, muscular, runs hot, strong digestion and metabolism, oily skin and hair, freckles and moles, sweats a lot
Mental/emotional characteristics: ambitious, driven, intelligent, passionate
Common imbalance symptoms: acne, rashes, heartburn, inflammation, excess heat, irritability
Kapha dosha dominant
Qualities: cold, damp, slow, earthy, dense
Physical characteristics: larger frame, gain weight easily, soft skin, thick hair, large eyes, straight teeth
Mental/emotional characteristics: steady, reliable, loyal, caring, compassionate
Common imbalance symptoms: lethargy, depression, loneliness, weight gain, excess mucus, sluggish digestion, emotional eating
We are all made up of all three doshas in different combinations but it is typical to have one or two dominant doshas. Does one particularly stand out for you and describe you to the T? Maybe you relate to one in your physical body and a different one in your mental and emotional bodies? Or perhaps you feel that you have a balance between all three doshas. This is known in Ayurveda is tri-doshic and although it is less common it does sometimes occur.
Note that this is a very simplified description of the three Ayurveda body types. If you are interested, you can take an Ayurveda body type quiz to help you identify which doshas are dominant in your physical and mental characteristics. I also recommend this book as a good introduction to Ayurveda with some practical lifestyle tips and Ayurvedic remedies.
Ayurveda body type imbalances
Ayurveda describes all disease as a state of imbalance between the body, mind, spirit and the natural environment. Living out of sync with your Ayurveda body type can lead to dysfunction or disease. We are born with a particular balance of the doshas which is known as our Prakruti. The lifestyle that we choose and the changing external environment can disrupt this natural balance. The combination of the doshas in your current state is known as your Vikruti. Ideally, you want your current state to match your natural balance.
There are two ways you might fall out balance with your natural state:
1. Imbalance in primary dosha
The first is by following a lifestyle or living in an environment that aggravates your dominant dosha. For example, assume your Ayurveda body type is vata dominant. If the climate you live in is also high in vata qualities (cold, dry, light, erratic) then you might start to experience vata-related symptoms such as anxiety, chills, dry skin and hair.
If your Ayurveda body type is already pitta dominant and you consume a diet high in pitta qualities (hot, oily, fiery), you might suffer from pitta-related conditions such as heartburn or excessive anger. You can avoid this by adopting a lifestyle which pacifies your dominant dosha to maintain balance.
2. Imbalance in non-dominant doshas
The second is if your lifestyle causes an imbalance in any of your non-dominant doshas. For example, my Ayurveda body type at birth was a dominant pitta dosha. I am naturally quite athletic with a medium build, I gain muscle easily and have a strong digestion and metabolism. Typically I am driven, enthusiastic and a logical thinker.
However, at different times in my life, I have experienced imbalances in both vata and kapha doshas due to diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors. In both case I needed to follow a pitta promoting lifestyle to regain my natural balance. Again, this can be avoiding by understanding your natural Ayurveda body type and adopting a lifestyle which supports this balance of the doshas.
Ayurvedic nutrition involves eating a specific diet to regain or maintain a healthy balance. All foods have qualities which relate to the three doshas. Vata foods are those which are cold, rough, dry or light. Pitta foods are hot, oily, spicy or pungent. Kapha foods are dense, heavy cool or moist. The imbalance symptoms described earlier occur when you eat a diet that is out of line with your Ayurveda body type and the environment that you live in.
Instinctively, we already know this. As the seasons change, if we are listening to our bodies we feel inclined to also change our diets accordingly. In the summer we crave light and cooling foods to balance the hot, pitta energy. As the autumn arrives bringing chilly temperatures and vata energy in the form of wind, we crave hearty soups and stews to keep us warm and hydrated. In the late winter and spring, we might notice that too many kapha qualities foods such as dairy or sweets increase mucus and we turn towards pitta stimulating spices to ease congestion.
As part of my nutrition consultations I always consider your Ayurvedic body type and current constitution when creating your personalised nutrition plan. I do not believe in one-size fits all nutrition! I believe in connecting to your intuition, becoming mindful of how the foods you eat impact your body and making conscious food choices to maintain balance. There is something extremely empowering about learning what, when and how to eat to suit your unique constitution.
Awareness and understanding bring power. Ayurveda helps us to realise our connection to the natural world around us and see that we too are made up of the five elements of earth, water, fire, earth and ether. It acknowledges (as in yoga) that we are not just physical beings in a material body but that we also have energetic, mental and spiritual bodies that make up our overall sense of being.
You don’t need to be “spiritual” per se to practice and experience the benefits of Ayurvedic lifestyle and nutrition practices. But in my opinion is does give a much more interesting way to look at food than as an equation of calories and macros.
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.
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