Ayurveda Life: Why You Should Know Your Ayurvedic Constitution
In honor of National Yoga Month, we are excited to bring you another post in a comprehensive series on the practice of Ayurveda. ‘Ayurveda Life’ will be a weekly series of posts from some of the most influential Ayurvedic authors and organizations. We are proud to partner with Banyan Botanicals and hope that you enjoy and share these posts with your communities.
“Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that developed together and repeatedly influenced each other throughout history. Yoga and Ayurveda work together to enhance their great benefits on all levels”.
“The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power…” ~ Dr. David Frawley
5,000 year old secrets and remedies… great for conversation, but how do they really relate to me? If you find yourself asking this question when it comes to Ayurveda, welcome to your tour map of Ayurveda, with insider tips on hot spots and must-sees, just for you.
You Are Here: Your Balanced and Imbalanced Constitutional States
The key to reading any map is first understanding where you are on the map. Only then can you understand where you would like to go and how to get there.
To understand where you are and where you want to go, Ayurveda uses your constitution. Your constitution is composed of your balanced state and imbalanced state.
- Your balanced state (Prakriti) is your unique healthy state of being, where you are meant to be when all systems are in check.
- Your imbalanced state (Vikriti) is where you are today, if there are systems that need some adjusting.
So what brings imbalance? Your health gets into little fender benders (and sometimes major accidents) from a variety of factors: your diet, lifestyle, emotions, toxins in the environment, etc. The key is to bring you back to YOUR balanced state, which is unique to you. Therefore, what “healthy” looks like for you may be quite different from what it looks like for your neighbor.
For a better idea of your balanced and imbalanced states, you can visit your local Ayurvedic practitioner, or learn more yourself with on online quiz of Prakriti (your original constitution) and Vikriti (your current imbalances).
The Road Signs: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha
There are three doshas that are the building blocks of your constitution. Just as you have to understand what different road signs mean in order to navigate, these 3 principles are the fundamentals on the Ayurvedic road to wellness: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata consists of the elements air and space, and has the qualities of being expansive, mobile, subtle, pervasive, clear, dry, light, cool and rough. Vata is movement. Any part or function of the body that involves space or requires movement involves Vata, including breathing, nerve impulses, bowel movements and walking. A Vata person usually has a long, slender frame; thin, pointed (or perhaps crooked) features; rough, dry skin, a raspy voice and a variable or light appetite.
Pitta, composed of fire and water, brings qualities such as being sharp, penetrating, hot, light, liquid, oily and mobile. When you think of Pitta, think transformation. Metabolism, digestion, body temperature regulation— these are all functions of Pitta. A Pitta person usually has a medium build, ambitious nature, prematurely thinning or graying hair, sharp features and a strong appetite.
Kapha consists of earth and water, and brings forth qualities such as being heavy, cold, dull, oily, smooth, dense, static, liquid, cloudy, hard and gross. Kapha’s principle function is structure and stability. Kapha forms the substance of the human body, from the skeleton and muscles to various organs and fatty molecules (lipids) that are vital for existence. A Kapha person usually has a larger frame, thick hair and skin, good long-term memory, a sustainable energy level and a steady pace and appetite.
You may be thinking, “It sounds like I have all three— Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.” And you are absolutely correct— you do! The uniqueness in your balanced constitution comes from what proportion of each you have. Most people are dominant in either one or two of the principles, and that’s why you may hear people say “I’m a Vata,” or “I’m a Pitta-Kapha.”
The understanding of your imbalanced state comes from knowing which of the three principles are aggravated or in excess. For example, excess Pitta may manifest for you with too much of the hot quality (heat in the digestive tract, inflammation in the skin, or a “hot head”), or too much of the sharp quality (a sharp tongue, or a sharp pain in your body).
Pick Your Road
Once you know what is imbalanced, the journey becomes about removing the offending cause and then treating with opposites. For example, if you have excess Vata, you may be experiencing excess of the dry quality (dry hair, brittle nails), or excess of the mobile quality (a mind that can’t be still). You would want to bring balance by first removing anything that is causing the excess dryness and mobility, and then incorporating moisture, oil, grounding and stillness—the opposite qualities from what you are experiencing.
The Hot-Spots and Must-Sees
On your road to well-being, you’ll find that Ayurveda has much to offer—things that will make the trip an enjoyable one and keep you moving in the right direction.
- Good Food Food is an essential part of any healing process. Start by choosing foods with qualities that bring harmony to your imbalances, and save the others for treats in small doses. If pitta is your imbalance, reduce the fiery foods–chilies and sour and fermented foods–and explore nature’s many other tastes.
- Yoga, Breath Work and Meditation The key to Ayurveda is that health comes from the integral harmony of Body, Mind and Spirit. Without calm awareness in your regimen, you will have difficulty reaching your destination.
- A Daily Routine One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is a daily routine that helps nourish and nurture you.
- Herbs and Supplements Ayurveda believes that your body has the capacity to renew and heal itself. Sometimes it just needs a little support and pushing. Herbs and supplements do just that.
- Cleansing and Rejuvenation Programs Impurities are bound to build up in our system. Cleansing and rejuvenation programs help remove the build-up before serious problems occur.
- Friends A road trip is always more fun if you can share it with good friends. As you journey toward wellness, share your benefits and tips with your friends, and see if you can get them to hop in the car—they will find better health, and you’ll find the company of a like-minded amigo.
Premal Patel, MD is the Wellness Director at Banyan Botanicals, a premier provider of organic Ayurvedic products. She is a board-certified Family Practice physician who has also studied Ayurveda and Acupuncture. She loves what Ayurveda has to offer and even uses it on her two golden retrievers. Premal teaches her clients how to find their own sense of health and well-being by understanding their unique Ayurvedic constitutions.