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Ayurvedic Body Types

There are two distinct, yet inter-related, classifications of a person in Ayurveda. The first relates to the body, and the second to the mind. Your nature is determined by this combination of body and mind types, and is known as your prakriti. Prakriti means “nature”. When referring to the theory of creation, it is the unmanifested nature of cosmic matter. When referring to humans, prakriti means the unique physical and psychological nature displayed.

Knowing your dosha and guna provides you with an understanding of your basic physical and psychological nature, and helps you tailor a personal diet and lifestyle that maintains optimum health and peace of mind. Each person has a unique dosha with unique nutritional needs. Establishing your dosha enables you determine suitable diets, exercise and lifestyles to maintain balance. This is the key to maintaining health.

Definition of dosha

It is difficult to translate the precise meaning of dosha. It is often translated as “biological type” or physical constitution. This definition allows a simple and easy understanding of the concept. However, the original definition of dosha is more complex. In Sanskrit, dosha is defined as “doosyati iti doshah.” The literal meaning of this is “that which contaminates is called dosha.” So doshas may be considered the pathogenic factors, or disease-causing agents in the body. Imbalance of vata, pitta and kapha doshas cause disease in the body.

Dosha only refers to the three biological energies of vata, pitta and kapha. As an imbalance of these elemental combinations is the direct cause of physical disease, they are the prime disease causing factors (the “contaminants”). Secondary factors in the disease process, like body tissues (dhatus), toxins (ama) and waste materials (malas) are actually the product of, or dependent upon, an imbalance in the doshas.

The Body Types - Prakriti

Knowing your prakriti helps you to tailor a personal diet and lifestyle that can prevent disease and physical disorders, and obtain peace of mind. It provides you with an understanding of your basic physical and psychological nature, and how to keep it in balance with your surroundings. This is the key to maintaining health.

Every human usually has varying degrees of vata, pitta and kapha. The doshas are usually not present in equal proportions. In most people there is a natural uneven distribution. Very rarely, a person may have a completely even distribution of doshas.

Although we each have characteristics of vata, pitta or kapha to different degrees, one of these elemental natures will dominate and that is the “main” dosha. The secondary dosha is the one present in the next highest proportion. Every dosha type or combination is acknowledged in Ayurveda, which lists seven separate physical constitution types based on the basic three:

  • vata
  • pitta
  • kapha
  • vata-pitta
  • vata-kapha
  • pitta-kapha
  • vata-pitta-kapha

Vata Type

People with a predominant vata dosha display physical and emotional characteristics linked to the elemental qualities of space/akasha and air/vayu. They are very active - mobile, restless and energetic. They have fast metabolisms, so are often thin with little muscle development and protruding joints that may make cracking noises. Their skin is dry, rough and thin with visible veins.

Pitta Type

People with a pitta dosha display an inherent fire/agni elemental character. They are of medium build, with greater muscular development than that displayed by vata. Their skin is soft and warm, and they have a lot of body heat and often perspire excessively. Their hair is thin and often reddish or blond, and they may experience premature graying, baldness or excessive hair loss. Their skin flushes easily and they often have many freckles and moles. Their skin develops acne, rashes, bruises or sunburn easily.

Kapha Type

People with a predominant kapha dosha tend to have a heavy and solid, or large build. They are often overweight, gain weight easily and have high muscle development (plump and round). Their skin is thick, smooth and moist with few wrinkles. Their complexion is usually clear, fair or pale, and hair is oily, thick and wavy. Their teeth are strong, white and well formed.

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