Ayurvedic Medicine Part I: How Knowing Your Constitutional Type Can Help You Heal

Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India, which originated around 2,000 years ago.  Like Traditional Chinese Medicine, which originated around the same time, Ayurveda emphasizes re-establishing balance in the body through diet, exercise, herbal medicine, and physical medicine.

The central premise of Ayurvedic medicine is that good health exists when there is a balance between the three “doshas” called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  The doshas are bodily substance or humours.

Vata (wind) relates to the nervous system.  Its chief quality is dryness.

Pitta (bile) relates to digestion, metabolism and circulation.  Its chief quality is heat.

Kapha (phlegm) relates to the body fluids, mucous, and lubrication.  It is damp and heavy.

Your constitutional type, or dosha is determined by which of these humours or substances predominate.  Do you recognize yourself in one of these descriptions?

Vata: Thin and narrow in the shoulders and hips.  Dry skin and hair.  Sensitive to cold.  Poor circulation.  Loves warmth and sunshine.  Irregular and erratic diet and lifestyle.  Overeats then undereats.  Engages in a whirlwind of frenzied activity, then collapses from exhaustion.  Anxious with an overactive nervous system.  Creative, but has difficulty sticking to a routine and completing projects.  Light sleeper.  Tends towards constipation, bloating or irritable bowel.

Pitta:-Medium weight, build and endurance.  Irritable, impatient, competitive, and domineering.  Mentally sharp.  Able to focus intensely, set goals and complete whatever projects they start.  Sweats and/or flushes easily.  Bothered by heat.  Prone to inflammation, excessive bleeding/menstruation, hyperacidity and burning diarrhea.  Strong appetite, thirst and sex drive.  “Type A” personality.

Kapha: Broad, heavyset individuals.  Natural athletes, they have good endurance when exercising properly, but gain weight easily, especially when neglecting exercise.  Physical hunger isn’t as keenly felt as it is for Vatas and Pittas.  But, emotionally attached to food as comfort. Sleep soundly.  Tend toward complacency.  Averse to change.  Slow to react with an even temperament, but stubborn. Generally healthy as long as long as weight is kept in check.

Vata-Pitta: Slender to medium build. Limited tolerance of both heat and cold. Pitta makes them ravenous, but Vata ensures they’ll have trouble digesting large meals.  Ambitious and intense, but also anxious.  They can take on too much and become overwrought and short-fused.  They lack the stability of Kapha to ground them.

Vata-Kapha: Average to slightly overweight build.  They tend to have poor digestion, poor immunity, and suffer from “hypo” conditions due the lack of metabolic fire.  They often produce excessive mucus.  They can be emotionally oversensitive: jumping to conclusions and holding on to past hurts.

Pitta-Kapha: Kapha’s stability and cautiousness combined with Pitta’s adaptability and anger.  Physically sturdy, they are comfortable in a wide range of climates. Often successful, because they can constitutionally handle the confusion and constant change that characterize today’s world.  They can be arrogant:  combining Pitta’s overconfidence with Kapha’s smug self-satisfaction.