Tag Archives: Dosha

What are different body types in Ayurveda

When we hear the words “my body type” in the West, we often think only of physical characteristics. You may have heard of people categorizing themselves into apple, pear, or hourglass shapes based on fat distribution. Alternatively, you might’ve heard about people calling themselves ectomorphs, mesomorphs, or endomorphs, based on their bodily composition.

Body types in Ayurveda are more holistic. In Ayurveda, the mind leads the body. Your body type is a reflection of both your mental, emotional and physical characteristics. There is no single “right way to be” —we each have unique strengths and weaknesses, and we have to work with our individual systems. 

With that context, let’s take a deeper look at different body types in Ayurveda.

How does Ayurveda approach body type?

Our Ayurvedic type is made up of both our physical and mental attributes, which are characterized roughly by doshas and gunas. Let’s do a quick review of doshas before going ahead (read more background here). 

Doshas, very roughly, are variables that can influence your physical and psychological nature. Ayurveda characterizes people based on both bodily and mental doshas, all of which we exhibit in different proportions. Let’s focus on the bodily doshas here: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. 

Each person has a different proportion of these three doshas. There are three buckets of combinations, so you could either be:

  • Single dosha: Vata, Pitta, or Kapha
  • Dual dosha (with one dominant): Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha or Pitta-Kapha
  • Tri-doshic: All three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, in equal proportions.

Your steady-state proportion of these doshas, called your swabhav, is set at birth and does not change over time. If your doshas become unbalanced from your individual steady state, you may run into health issues.

It is critical to know both your swabhav dosha combination and how you are unbalanced from it. Your swabhav combination may be Pitta type, for example, but you may have health issues if you exhibit an overdominance of Vata. 

My Body Type in Ayurveda- Vata, Pitta, Kapha

Ayurvedic Body Type

Vata dosha body type constitution

Balanced: If you have predominant Vata dosha, you might have a tall, wiry frame, prominent, cracking bones, low weight, dry skin, and thin hair. You may also have a varied appetite, be sensitive to the cold, and require less sleep. 

A balanced Vata individual is often a talkative, creative, quick learner who takes initiative and is adaptable to change. 

Imbalanced: When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, you may experience tinnitus, arthritis, rheumatism, or digestive issues like constipation. Mentally, you may exhibit anxiety, impulsiveness, nervousness, insomnia, or excessive dreaming. You may find it difficult to complete tasks. Vata dosha imbalance has the greatest potential to lead to various disease conditions.

Pitta dosha body type constitution

Balance: If you have a predominant Pitta dosha, you may exhibit a medium build, moderate weight, good musculature, good hunger, and moderate sleep. You could also experience prematurely graying hair and profuse sweating. 

A balanced Pitta individual is goal-oriented, with a sharp mind, good judgment, and courage to take on the world. 

Imbalanced: If you have excessive Pitta, you may experience hair loss, gastric issues, irritable bowels, and inflammation. You also may have skin diseases such as acne. Behaviorally, you may have a sharp temperament. 

Kapha dosha body type constitution

Balanced: If you have predominant Kapha dosha, you may have a wide body frame and be stocky, big, tall, and strong. You may have oily or smooth soft skin, a generous appetite and be prone to heavy sleep. 

When Kapha is optimal, it is associated with compassion, a calm demeanor, and a steady mind. The Kapha body type in Ayurveda, when balanced, is generally the strongest and has the highest immunity levels. 

Imbalanced: If you have excessive Kapha, you may experience accumulation of fat, which could lead to obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, and lethargy. Excess Kapha is also associated with pulmonary diseases and chest/throat diseases and an attachment to material objects.

Different Body Types in Ayurveda: Vata Pitta Kapha

Let us take a deeper look at the characteristics of each dosha, which will help us better understand each of these body types.

The elements and qualities of the bodily doshas

In Ayurveda, we are a manifestation of consciousness and the five core elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. Each dosha has a predominance of two of these elements. 

Ayurveda also describes a set of twenty opposing qualities. Each dosha is associated with a different set of these qualities.

Twenty Qualities in Ayurveda

Heavy <> Light

Slow <>  Fast

Cold <> Hot

Oily <> Dry

Smooth <> Rough

Solid <> Liquid

Soft <> Hard

Stable <> Unstable

Small (subtle) <> Big (gross)

Non-slimy <> Slimy

Clear <> Cloudy

Element Qualities
Vata Space and Air Dry, cold, light, subtle, coarse, rough, mobile, clear
Pitta Fire and Water Slightly oily, hot, light, sharp, mobile, liquid
Kapha Water and Earth  Oily, cold, heavy, soft, slimy, slow/dull, stable
Dosha -elements and qualities

Elements in the Vata dosha emphasize mobility 

The Vata dosha is made up of space and air. Space characterizes free flow, and air characterizes mobility and instability. This dosha relates to the atmosphere and breath. It’s also associated with touch and sound. 

Vata impacts our body’s input, output, and transport mechanisms, like breathing or digesting. It plays a role in muscle contraction, joint movement, and hormone signaling, so it’s also associated with our nervous system. The mobility in the Vata dosha also plays a role in migrating diseases from one part of the body to another. 

This ancient Sanskrit sloka captures the qualities of Vata:

Sanskrit Sloka AH-Su

The Vata dosha has properties of dryness, lightness, coldness, roughness, subtleness and movement.

Elements in the Pitta dosha emphasize energy

The Pitta dosha is made of combination of fire (heat) and water (liquidity from bile or body heat). Pitta symbolizes the Sun and relates closely to vision. 

The pitta dosha impacts bodily metabolism and transformation, like the breakdown of food through digestive enzymes or processing of emotions. It maintains vision, controls body temperature, and gives the skin luster. It is associated with the endocrine system. 

This ancient Sanskrit sloka captures the qualities of Pitta:

Sanskrit sloka-AH-Su

The Pitta dosha has the quality of being oily, piercing, hot, light, odorous, fluid, and radiating movement and liquidity. 

Elements in the Kapha dosha emphasize stability

Kapha is primarily made up of the elements of water (fluidity) and earth (mass). Kapha symbolizes the Moon and is strongly associated with the sense of taste and smell.

Kapha impacts the assimilation, storage, and energy input mechanisms in the body, like the creation of tissues or assimilation of fat. Kapha controls our libido, lubricates our joints, and impacts growth, immunity and resistance. 

This ancient Sanskrit sloka captures the qualities of Kapha:

Sanskrit sloka-AH-Su

The Kapha dosha has qualities of oily, cold, heavy, mild, viscous, smooth, clear, slimy like phlegm, jelly like, stability and immobility. 

How to balance your doshas in Ayurveda

You may experience excesses of one dosha when you expose yourself to too much food or environments with the same qualities as that dosha. You may have excess Pitta, e.g., if you eat too much spicy, inflammatory food, in a hot, angry environment.

To counter these excesses and balance your doshas, you can try to expose yourself to food and environments with opposing qualities. (This is just like when you apply cool water or ice to help heal burns!) In the example above, if you have excess Pitta, you might have too much heat. You can counter this using mint, ghee, or calming meditation.

If you have excessive Vata, you may have too much dryness, coolness, and mobility. You can counter these through oil massage, warm fluids, and breathwork.

If you have excessive Kapha, you may have a slow, dull digestion. You can counter this with warm spices, exercise, and light meals. You will also benefit from fasting.

When we suffer from disbalances in all three of our doshas, the line of treatment is a complicated topic left to Ayurvedic practitioners. 

Simple advice for balancing your doshas

Health is simpler than we might think. Following some simple steps can go a long way with dosha balance. You can practice mental calm through breathwork and meditation. You can reduce or eliminate processed food from your diet. Follow your natural circadian rhythm, listen to your body’s signals, and eat seasonally in line with nature’s offerings. 

Remember, no one diet regime, plant, herb, or food alone is a magic pill. You might be looking for the one magic food they can add to their diet when in reality, you might benefit much more from removing one or two harmful foods or behaviors from your daily routine.

At the end of the day, remember to celebrate the uniqueness of your mind and body.

To learn more, you can subscribe to our newsletter or write me a note at rajat@ayurkula.org. I offer workshops as well as deeper content on the above, we analyze our doshas and find our paths to wellness.

DISCLAIMER

All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.

Can Your Dosha Change, and What are Doshas in Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic health practices that originated in ancient India. We at Ayurkula believe that Ayurveda, in conjunction with modern-day science, has a great deal to teach us. In this blog post, we’ll be exploring the different doshas in Ayurveda, and answer the question: can your dosha change, and how?

Ayurveda and modern science

At Ayurkula, we like to think of Ayurveda as a simplified model that helps us to understand something incredibly complex: human health and wellness. Like all models, it’s not perfect, but it can be a powerful system for helping you optimize your health when used in conjunction with modern science.

Modern science has vastly improved our ability to treat diseases, but it often focuses on treating acute disease rather than preventing illness. Ayurveda, on the other hand, focuses on holistic health and the prevention of illness by making choices that will improve our mental and physical health. 

The Ayurvedic approach is very individualized. Many Ayurvedic foods or plants have been marketed as “superfoods” for everyone, whereas in traditional Ayurveda their use is recommended for some but discouraged for others. A practitioner will seek to understand your individual baseline health state and recommend interventions that balance your deviations from that baseline. This is where doshas come in. 

Before we get into the ways your doshas can change, let’s review what they are in the first place. Doshas are one of the most important concepts in an Ayurvedic framework: the three doshas, Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha.

Let’s dive into one of the most important concepts in an Ayurvedic framework: the three doshas, Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha.

Let’s spice it up

What are doshas in Ayurveda?

In Ayurveda, people are said to be made up of three different doshas, which can very roughly be understood as variables that characterize our physical and psychological nature. 

There are three doshas: Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. We exhibit doshas in different proportions. Each has beneficial qualities when in line with our steady state, and detrimental qualities when it is out of balance from our steady state. 

Ayurveda asks two main questions: (1) what is your individual baseline dosha, or constitution (your natural state), and (2) how are you out of balance from it?

Your individual’s baseline constitution, called your swabhav, is determined at conception and does not generally change. However our swabhav is generally fully manifested and discernible best in our youthful state. Your swabhav is made up of your ratios of physical and mental attributes, which are called doshas and gunas. Here, we’ll focus on doshas.

As we go through our lives, we deviate from our steady state. Our proportion of doshas changes with age, season, and even time of day. Pronounced deviations manifest as physiological or psychological disturbances, which we call vikritti

Depending on your specific constitution, you may benefit from exposing yourself to more or less of certain foods or environments. In fact, science is increasingly corroborating that food can affect people in different ways, for example causing blood sugar spikes in some, but not others.

The different types of doshas in Ayurveda

Each person has a different proportion of each dosha. There can be at least seven combinations depending on the dosha dominance: Vatta, Pitta, Kapha, Vatta-Pitta, Vatta-Kapha, Pitta-Kapha, and Vatta-Pitta-Kapha. 

In fact Vatta, Pitta and Kapha can be associated with both physiological and behavioral characteristics. They also are associated with particular disease conditions when they are out of balance from someone’s steady state. 

Aum

It is critical to know both your swabhav dosha combination and your current deviations from it. Your swabhav combination may broadly be Pitta type, for example, but you may be currently exhibiting an overdominance of Vatta. 

Vatta Ayurveda type:

Vatta is associated with properties of air, water, coolness, dryness, and light. Vata impacts the input/output and transport mechanisms in the body, such as breathing or transporting digested food through our intestines.

  • Body constitution: Tall, prominent bones, low weight, dry skin, thin hair, variable 

hunger, less sleep

  • Behavior: Creative, grounded, quick, adaptable 
  • In extreme: Anxiety, nervousness, arthritis, insomnia

Pitta Ayurveda type:

Pitta is associated with the properties of fire, water, heat, slight oiliness, light, and sharpness. Pitta impacts transformation in the body, for example the breakdown of food through bile or the processing of emotions.

  • Body constitution: Medium build, moderate weight, good musculature, good hunger, moderate sleep
  • Behavior: Goal-oriented, sharp mind, courageous
  • In extreme: Quick/sharp anger, temperamental, gastric issues, inflammation

Kapha Ayurveda type:

Kapha is associated with the properties of earth, water, cold, oiliness, heaviness, softness, slowness, and stability. Kapha impacts the assimilation, storage, and energy input mechanisms in the body, like the creation of the body structure or the assimilation of fat.

  • Body constitution: stocky or big and tall, heavy, oily or smooth skin, a generous appetite, heavy sleep
  • Behavior: calm, steady mind, loving and compassionate
  • In extreme: Diabetes, sleep apnea, lethargy, excess attachment

Can your dosha change?

Your swabhav, or ideal balance, of your dosha doesn’t not change, but you can deviate from it. It is like an idealized weight range for our health—we each have our own ideal range depending on various factors including gender, age, genetics, and individual circumstance, but we can deviate from it. 

These deviations happen as our underlying doshas change from our swabhav, or baseline state, on the basis of two reasons.

One reason for fluctuation is natural processes that don’t normally cause disease, such as age, season, or time of day. Youth, summertime, and mid-afternoon are all associated with the Pitta dosha, for example. The body is able to automatically adjust to these fluctuations and maintain a state of dynamic equilibrium.

A second reason that your doshas can change are lifestyle and environmental influences, which often result in disease. If we eat too much inflammatory food or sleep too little at night, we may risk disease as the body fails to achieve dynamic equilibrium. The lifestyle and environmental driven extreme influences on doshas are captured in this Sanskrit shloka:

Lifestyle and environmental influences

Lifestyle and environmental influences which lead to insufficient, wrong, or excessive utilization of time, and sense organs including mind and speech are responsible for dosha imbalance leading to disease. Whereas balanced utilization leads to a healthy state.

The natural reasons your dosha can change

It is logical that we are closely intertwined with our environment. In fact, in 2017, the Nobel prize in medicine went to research on the consequences of not synchronizing our actions with our circadian rhythms, which can include both daily and seasonal change.

This Sanskrit sloka from the Ashtanga Hridayam, from around 500 AD, captures this point:

Circadian and age driven dosha changes

The day to day variations in physiology denoted by Vatta, Pitta, Kapha are referred to here and are noted to be predominantly present in the last, middle and first stages of day, night, meals and life.

The chart below exhibits how doshas can vary with time of day, season, and age. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Can your dosha change?

Your dosha can change throughout the day

Different doshas are prominent in different parts of the day. Kapha dominates during the early morning (6-10am) and early evening (6-10pm). Kapha connotes stability, so early morning before sunrise would be an ideal time to sit down to meditate. To counterbalance Kapha and add heat as you transition to your day, you may want to have warm teas at these times as well. 

Pitta dominates in mid-day (10am-2pm) and midnight (10pm-2am). Since Pitta helps spark our digestive fire, the heaviest meal of the day should ideally be reserved for noon, when your Pitta is highest. 

Vatta is dominant in the afternoon (2pm-6pm) and late night to early morning (2am-6am). Vatta connotes mobility, making the afternoon a good time for a workout. 

Your dosha changes with the seasons

Spring and winter are Kapha dominant, summer is Pitta dominant, and the windy Fall is Vatta dominant. Generally, Ayurveda advises people to follow a lifestyle in tune with the seasons. 

Someone with a Pitta overdominance may have to work harder in the summertime to get back to balance. Seasonal cooling foods like mint, cucumber, or fennel may be used to counter gastric issues resulting from excess Pitta. Conversely, you can include seasonal heating herbs like cinnamon and cloves in the winter to counter cool Kapha.

Your dosha changes with age

A natural progression in dominance of doshas occurs as we grow up. The growing body of a child has a natural Kapha dominance, since the Kapha dosha is assimilative in nature and contributes to growth. In contrast, our youth is dominated by the Pitta dosha, which connotes transformation and action. Finally, old age is dominated by Vata and gradual disintegration as the body slowly dries and withers away like a fall leaf. 

How do you keep your doshas in balance?

Ordinarily, you don’t have to do much. Given natural processes like time of day or season, your body is capable of maintaining a dynamic equilibrium. Just follow natural circadian rhythm, listen to your body signals, and eat seasonally in line with nature’s offerings. 

That said, some general practices are helpful regardless of your dosha type. These would include eating at the right time, not overcooking or overprocessing food, avoiding complex food mixtures, and keeping food simple. They would also include gentle deep breathwork and basic meditation practice.

When your doshas are out of balance, the first thing to do is to try to remove the root cause of imbalance. Removing negative inputs (whether food or mental stimuli) is more important than adding any additional supplements. Both grazing on TikTok and snacking on chips are unhelpful, since it is important to periodically create an empty peaceful mind as well as an empty relaxed stomach! You may also try to counterbalance using inputs of opposing food qualities, tastes and impact.

For example, someone with a baseline swabhav of Pitta, but who is exhibiting an excess amount of Vatta, may alter their diet to reduce cold water, raw vegetables, and excess mental stimuli and increase peppers, warm food, heavier whole grains, and fat. We will go deeper into how to balance your doshas in a future post.

We are complicated!

So far, we’ve gone through the different doshas in Ayurveda and discussed whether your dosha can change. But what you’ve read so far is a very, very simplified version of the truth. Many factors influence our dosha balance, including our mind, our digestive capacity (agni), and our gut (koshta). 

To make a prognosis on any given individual, a seasoned practitioner would evaluate the ratios of her doshas and gunas, assess her digestive fire (agni), and examine her bones ( asthi), tissues (dhatu) and toxins (mala). 

The important thing is for us to take the first steps towards removing white noise and being able to listen to our body’s signals to make lifestyle changes towards wellness. Ayurveda does not seek to be a practitioner driven and administered approach, rather it is a self driven realization of health.

To learn more, sign up for our newsletter or write me a note at rajat@ayurkula.org. I offer workshops as well as deeper content on the above.

DISCLAIMER

All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.