Body Types & ConstitutionThe three body types in Ayurveda, called doshas, are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In simplest terms Vata is cold and dry. Kapha is cold & wet (oily). Pitta is hot. Pitta normally occurs in combination with Vata or Kapha. Pitta-Vata is hot and dry. Pitta-Kapha is hot and wet. However, each dosha has several other biocharacteristics which you can see on each individual dosha page. For example, Vata is also mobile. The following diagram shows the biocharacteristics of the 3 doshas.
Everyone has some heat and moisture, so everyone has aspects of all 3 body types. Sometimes, asking "What dosha is causing my imbalance?" can yield more practical results than "What's my dosha?" Whenever one dosha is out of balance, it knocks all the others out of balance as well.
Your body type describes the general tendencies of your body. It is your constitution. If a person has a Vata body type, they have the gifts of Vata but also the tendency to get Vata type illnesses. These tendencies change throughout your life.
Your body type shows you how you store & use energy. Vata scatters or loses energy, Pitta manages it, and Kapha stores it. That's why Vata tends to be underweight and depleted, Pitta tends to be hot and focused, and Kapha tends to be overweight and congested.
Dosha affects your body physically, and mentally. Vata people tend to be hyperactive and inspired. Pitta people tend to be disciplined and logical. Kapha people tend to be couch potatoes, but nurturing. Dosha is just a broad approximation. The benefit of dosha is perspective, like looking at the forest instead of the trees. Every individual has a different constitution and perfect health is different for each person.
Buffering ChangeEvery day, your body must react to change. In Ayurveda, a disease is any change from "normal" in the body (homeostasis). Throughout the day, your body uses various mechanisms to buffer and protect itself from stressors. These mechanisms provide a healthy cushioning effect, but also cause physical changes that Ayurveda classifies as aggravated dosha. Doshas and qualities accumulate in the body until they begin to overwhelm tissues and cause symptoms. For example Vata has the quality of dryness and includes the mechanisms used to defend the body against the dryness. Forgetting to drink water, skipping a meal, and exercise also cause dryness and thus Vata to accumulate.
The natural changes required of the body to accommodate seasonal climate change leaves behind residues and accumulation of dosha which eventually weaken the body.
Balancing the DoshasA body in balance is a body in homeostasis. When the body is healthy it automatically repairs and protects itself. When doshas are aggravated or provoked, they stress the body and cause disease.
Dosha is an advanced concept. People new to Ayurveda should focus on balancing biocharacteristics first, then doshas. Under the biocharacteristic theory of medicine, you use opposite characteristics to create balance. If your body runs cold, Ayurveda recommends heating foods. In a consultation you'll learn techniques to find your state of perfect health.
Ayurveda uses lifestyle, diet and herbs to rebalance your body. A seasonal cleanse can balance doshas by removing buildup and accumulation. Tonifying therapies can strengthen deficiencies. Read more about each individual dosha to learn how to balance it. If you don't know your body type yet, take the quizzes on Joyful Belly to find out. If you do know your body type, start catering to its digestive needs by click one of the links below!
What is Vata?Vata is characterized by using up too much energy or resources, and is therefore catabolic. Vata literally means "wind", but is defined by an imbalance of dry, light, cold, rough, subtle and mobile biocharacteristics. Vata is easily stimulated and governs all movement, including muscles, nerve impulses, and thoughts. Vata is a subtle dosha that goes out of balance easily. Vata people often suffer from depletion of nutrients. Vata types may crave sweet, sour and salty taste as these are building and nourishing. Vata is best soothed by routine, warmth, good quality oils in their diet and on their skin. The Vata diet should consist of grounding foods like root vegetables, whole grains and animal products to ground their airy nature.
What is Vata Like?When in balance, Vata is creative, imaginative, vivacious, and outgoing. Vata folks are always up for an adventure and easily adapt to change. They enjoy being on the go, but need to be sure to take time to slow down and rest, as they tire easily and are prone to overstimulation. When Vata qualities are out of balance, individuals become anxious, scatterbrained, dehydrated, constipated, and exhausted. A Vata imbalance can leave you feeling and acting erratic and dispersed. According to Ayurveda, Vata is the element of ether and air in the body. Ether has a spacey quality and air has movement. Vata senses are hearing and touch.
In the Ayurvedic clock, Vata comes at the end of digestion, the end of the day, the end of the year, and the end of a person's life. Vata naturally increases during the following times:
Note that someone may be Vata in nature but not fit into this exact description. Whether a person is Vata Pitta dosha, or Vata Kapha dosha influences the way these traits prevail.
Common Vata Characteristics
Common Vata Symptoms
Common Vata Disorders
How to Balance Vata
Avoid These Foods
Avoid Food With These Vata Qualities
Vata Times of DayVata comes at the end of digestion, the end of the day, the end of the year, and the end of a person's life. Vata naturally increases during the following times:
Autumn - Vata gets high in the autumn due to cold, dry, and mobile qualities. Autumn is mobile because the weather is irregular and windy.
Before sunrise and sunset - In the late afternoon, before sunset, Vata is high because the body is weary and deficient from a long day's work. In the early morning before sunrise, Vata is high because the nervous system stimulates the body to wake up.
5-6 hours after a meal - Five to six hours after a meal, Vata rises when blood sugar levels dip and the body gets hungry.
After 50 - Vata is deficiency and the body becomes deficient in later years of life.
Vata Sites of the BodyColon - The body reabsorbs moisture from feces before elimination in the colon. When the body is dry it struggles to absorb more water, leading to dryness in the colon. The signs of dryness are gas and constipation.
Waist & Lower Half of the Body - When Vata is high, the body becomes more mobile and the mind more active. We tend to forget about the lower half of the body.
Bones - In Ayurveda, the colon is the site of mineral re-absorption. Mineral deficiencies show up as white spots on the nails, hair loss, or arthritis. Problems with bones, nails, and hair are due to high Vata.
Skin - When ama from the colon vitiates the blood, the kidneys try to eliminate the toxins through the urinary tract. The result is excess loss of fluids leading to dry skin. Vata is also the dosha of touch.
Ears - Ringing in the ears is due to high Vata. When the quality of the blood is poor due to ama, the sense organs get stimulated. The ears are especially sensitive. Many Vata people are musicians.
Mind - When Vata is high, the mind becomes stimulated, anxious, or afraid. Vata people often experience racing, disjointed thoughts. They are highly imaginative and quick to understand, but are also quick to forget.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.
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This is my second attempt to understand the Ayurvedic way of life. I get it. It seems like so much but I am now feeling it. Thank you. WOW.
At first I was a little skeptical since I work in traditional medicine, but the more I read I am amazed at how right on the description of my condition fits me!
Great article and easy to understand
Always very helpful. Understanding Ayurveda more and more everyday! Thank you.
Danita, consider making an appointment with one of our practitioners for a one on one consultation.
Sweet taste and heavy foods are balancing to both Vata and Pitta. Consider ordering one of our custom made Personal Body Books or getting a one on one consultation with one of our practitioners.