Maybe she’s born with it (what’s her dosha) no not maybe definitely.
It was a dreary Monday morning in Scarsdale after a long weekend of overindulging and suddenly, in the middle of my 7am Barry’s Boot Camp Class, it hit me. Some people are born with brains, some people are born with an affinity towards a particular career in the arts or sciences and able to excel at it.
Some people are incredible public speakers while others who try fail miserably. Some people are athletic and within that subset others are amazing/ elite athletes. Some people are beautiful (I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but come on, we all know some people are simply beautiful) and others have to work at it. Everyone has a different dosha. Some are Vatas, Pittas or Kaphas (see below). And of course, some are tall and some are- well, let’s just say vertically challenged!
It’s so obvious but for some reason for my whole life I thought (regardless of our dosha) we were all born with the same ability to lose or gain weight and to build or lose muscle. I knew there were 3,500 calories in a pound and could use fitness monitors to calculate the calories I burned during a workout.
I assumed it was simple math- if I compared those calories to the ones I ate, created a deficit then- viola! poof- weight loss. Of course the little tricks (like no fat in the 80’s or low/no carbs) could help speed up the process. Magazines and newspapers made it seem that simple. “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days, whittle your middle, etc. Everyone is selling the dream. But really, my dosha type is making it so much harder to lose weigh than the next guy (or gal).
I constantly beat myself up- If I just ate less and/or worked out harder I could have the body that my favorite fitness instructor or friend had. Could I change my dosha and somehow become a Vata (see below)? I assumed my neighbors were thinner because they worked out harder or ate less- they found the perfect balance to make it work. I’d ask them all inquisitively- searching for the holy grail of weight loss- “how do you lose weight and/or stay thin”?
Extrapolating that others are somehow better or smarter than me because they figured out how to balance food and exercise to get that perfect figure. So this morning when my beautiful, perfect Boot Camp instructor announced that some of her perfection was genetic – it hit me like a ton of bricks. All my studying about weight set points and Ayurvedic doshas started to sink in. Now I know I’m not to blame- I’m working damn hard- The blame is on my dosha and good old Mother Nature.
Those of you that know me, understand that I am not one that sees the glass half empty. I am a positive, incredibly motivated and hard worker. I have traits of all the doshas. I am by no means saying that we should take the attitude of “oh well- this is my body type, nothing to do about it”- I’m saying, work hard- really hard, eat well- really well and then, GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK. Love yourself, treat yourself like a friend and stop criticizing yourself. I’m trying to do a one week- no negative self talk- challenge. The goal is to look in the mirror and focus on what I like about myself and not on my flaws. Join me!!
Also, understanding your Ayurvedic dosha will help incredibly with foods, exercises and other life choices. These doshas are not hokey (as my family thinks they might be)- they have spanned over 5,000 years and are worth investigating. My yoga teacher, Colleen Lila can tell you much more about it if you are interested.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha, oh my.
Taken from banyanbotanicals.com
In Ayurveda, there are three basic types of energy, universal principles known as the doshas. In many ways, the doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—are the building blocks of the material world. All three of them can be found in everyone and everything, but in different proportions. They combine to create different climates, different foods, different species, and even different individuals within the same species. In fact, the particular ratio of vata, pitta, and kapha within each of us has a significant influence on our individual physical, mental, and emotional character traits. But let’s begin with a closer look at each of the three doshas.
Vata Dosha (Wind Energy)
Vata Dosha is predominantly composed of the space and air elements. From a qualitative perspective, vata is dry, light, cold, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear. It is the subtle energy of movement and is therefore often associated with wind. Vata is linked to creativity and flexibility; it governs all movement—the flow of breath, the pulsation of the heart, all muscle contractions, tissue movements, cellular mobility—and communication throughout the mind and nervous system.
Pitta Dosha (Fire Energy)
Pitta Dosha is principally made up of the fire and water elements and is an amalgamation of the hot, sharp, light, liquid, oily, and subtle qualities. Pitta is neither mobile nor stable, but spreads—much as the warmth of a fire permeates its surroundings, or as water flows in the direction dictated by the terrain. Pitta is closely related to intelligence, understanding, digestion, and transformation; it governs nutrition and metabolism, body temperature, and the light of understanding.
Kapha Dosha (Water Energy)
Kapha Dosha is composed primarily of the earth and water elements. It is heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, soft, dense, stable, gross, and cloudy. Kapha lends structure and solidity to all things; it provides the cohesiveness needed to maintain a particular form. Kapha also hydrates all cells and systems, lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, maintains immunity and protects the tissues. Kapha is often associated with water energy, and with love and compassion.
Each of us has a unique combination of vata, pitta, and kapha dosha’s within us that is unequivocally our own. According to Ayurveda, our constitutions are established at conception, cemented at birth, and remain stable throughout our lives, serving as a personal reference point for optimal health and informing who we are at the most fundamental levels. If you do not know your Ayurvedic constitution, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments below. There will be a quiz on my site to help you- coming soon!
Though imbalances may disturb our systems, our constitutions remain unchanged, influencing every aspect of the mind and body—our physiology, our physique, our likes and dislikes, our tendencies and habits, our mental and emotional states, as well as our vulnerabilities toward imbalance and disease. Throughout our lives, our bodies continually self-regulate, attempting to maintain (or realign with) this natural state of equilibrium. In fact, optimal health is achieved when our systems can return to and maintain the specific ratio of vata, pitta, and kapha doshas that we were born with. But no two constitutions are exactly the same, so your constitution represents perfect equilibrium for you and you alone, and any deviation from this harmonious relationship between vata, pitta, kapha in your mind body organism will result in imbalance.
Vata, pitta, and kapha doshas are each essential to our physiology in some way, so no one dosha is better than, or superior to, any other. Each of them has a very specific set of functional roles to play in the body. That said, when the doshas are out of balance, they can wreak havoc on our health. Imbalances can be caused by stress, emotional trauma, as well as poor diet and lifestyle choices. In most cases, these disturbances cause an increase in one or more of the doshas, upsetting the natural state of internal equilibrium represented by one’s constitution.
When the doshas become aggravated, each of them disrupts the body in its own way. Therefore, vata, pitta, and kapha are each associated with a particular set of health challenges, and tendencies toward disease. While we are all susceptible to an excess in any of the three doshas, we also tend to be somewhat predisposed to imbalances in our predominant doshas. In other words, vata-pitta predominant individuals will usually tend toward vata and pitta imbalances before kapha imbalances. If you are just becoming familiar with how the doshas affect your day to day life, this awareness can be very helpful.
The Doshas in Your Life
The doshas can be a wonderful personal tool—both for understanding the natural strengths and vulnerabilities determined by your constitution, and for recognizing and correcting any imbalances that might be affecting your health. As you are reading through the descriptions of vata, pitta, and kapha below, keep in mind that your constitution undoubtedly includes all three doshas. This being the case, you may see elements of each dosha that you identify with and others that are less relevant. This is to be expected. Pay attention to what does resonate, knowing that it is one of the ways that a particular dosha is manifesting in your life right now—either in a healthy, balanced way, or as an imbalance of some kind.
Physical Characteristics of Vata
Vata Dosha individuals are typically very tall (or sometimes very short), very thin, and are often underweight. They tend to have protruding joints and irregular features. Vata-type eyes are small, narrow, dull, and often itchy.1 Their skin is typically grayish, dry, dark, cold, and rough. Their hair—usually in scant amounts—tends to be wiry, dry and dull in appearance. Vata types have difficulty sweating and their movements can be awkward and gangly.
The Vata Mind
Vata Dosha types are enthusiastic, vibrant, and quick to learn, but also have very poor memory retention. They are often very creative, flexible, mature, spiritually perceptive and mentally disciplined.1 Vata types make excellent counselors or teachers and are happiest when surrounded by the beauty of nature.1 The vata nervous system is usually on alert and vata types can be highly sensitive to sounds. The vata mind tends to be restless, and even a bit scattered. That said, vata types often have profound spiritual potential and can be extremely sensitive and attuned to subtle energies.1
Vata Lifestyle Habits
Vata Dosha types resist conforming to cultural norms, and are very often misunderstood.1 Others often see them as mutable or inconsistent and while there is an inherent mobility in their nature, flexibility is one of vata’s assets.1 Vata types are short on stamina and need to be careful not to over-extend themselves; they do well to intersperse their active, mobile lives with periods of rest. They thrive when they have a consistent routine, with time for self-nurturing activities on a daily basis. Vata types have a heightened sense of touch and a refined appreciation for beauty. For exercise, vata types do not need intense exertion, but rather slow, mindful movement like gentle yoga, walking, tai chi, or a relaxed swim.1
Vata Appetite and Digestion
Vata Dosha types tend to have a somewhat irregular appetite and delicate digestion. They cannot usually tolerate gaseous foods and often tend toward constipation. Still, vata types benefit from eating three full meals daily to nourish their wiry frames. They do best with foods that are nourishing in nature—heavy, grounding, oily, moist, well-cooked, spiced with warming herbs, and served hot.
Vata Sleep and Energy Cycles
Vata Dosha individuals often have a very hard time falling asleep and tend to sleep the fewest hours of anyone, averaging four to six hours per night and often sleeping on their left sides.1 Their sleep tends to be disturbed when vata is predominant in the atmosphere, from 2 a.m. – 6 a.m., so vata types do best to retire early. Vata individuals often feel their energy disperse or scatter in the mid-afternoon, around 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., and may benefit from a nap during this time.1
Typical Manifestations of Vata Imbalance
When vata is out of balance in the mind, it often manifests as increased anxiety, fear, indecisiveness, restlessness, insomnia, panic attacks, paranoia, or mental instability. Excess vata can dry out the tissues—especially the mouth, skin, joints, and colon—leading to dry skin, dandruff, arthritis, gas, bloating, and constipation. Disturbed vata can also cause coldness, constriction, impaired circulation, and wasting as well as a great number of neuromuscular symptoms—stiffness, numbness, tingling, tremors, spasms, or intense physical pain.1
Physical Characteristics of Pitta
Pitta individuals typically have toned, athletic bodies, are of medium height, medium build, and they tend to gain weight evenly.1 Their eyes tend to be hazel, green, or light brown, are of medium size, are sensitive to light, and may require corrective lenses. Pitta type skin is often yellowish or reddish, sensitive, and may be prone to freckles, rash, and sunburn. Pitta individuals usually have straight, reddish hair and are susceptible to premature greying or baldness as well. The pitta voice is sharp and penetrating.1
The Pitta Mind
The pitta dosha individual is usually quite competitive, success-oriented, and driven. Their pursuits are supported by an innate intelligence, sense of vision, precision, and a natural ability to organize and lead.1 Pitta types are usually courageous, persistent, and energetic but can also be very judgmental and hot-headed (i.e., one may lose one’s temper rather suddenly). Pitta types make great administrators, scholars, scientists, teachers, designers and architects.1 They also enjoy occupying center stage, like to be in control, and often accomplish spectacular things, but they can easily overlook the value of diversity—instead wanting others to approach things exactly as they would.1 The pitta mind also harbors a great capacity for achieving balance, for living in harmony with the universe. Pitta is closely associated with the sense of sight and pitta types are deeply soothed by visual beauty.
Pitta Lifestyle Habits
Pitta dosha individuals are often quite irritated by heat and usually prefer cool temperatures and climates. They tend to be intensely focused and they are the pioneers and innovators among us.1 But the ambitious nature of pitta individuals can easily go unchecked, often at the expense of their physical and emotional needs. As a result, pitta types have to consciously slow down and pace themselves in order to maintain balance. Pitta individuals are natural athletes and are drawn to intense physical activities, but they have to guard against pushing too hard and also ensure that their aggression isn’t driven by unresolved anger.
Pitta Appetite and Digestion
Pitta dosha types usually have a voracious appetite and can eat large and filling meals. They often crave hot, spicy, intoxicating foods and beverages, but they also love cooling foods and cold drinks.1 Pitta types tend to have looser stools and a stronger digestive fire than vata and kapha types. They generally do best with foods that are sweet, cooling, and flavored with non-heating herbs such as cilantro, coriander, fennel, or dill. Pitta types thrive on foods like legumes, fresh dairy products, basmati rice, and cucumbers. On the other hand, they do best to avoid overly oily, spicy, or fried foods.
Pitta Sleep and Energy Cycles
Pitta dosha individuals typically sleep around six to eight hours per night, are prone to violent or disturbing dreams, and often sleep square on their backs.1 Pitta is predominant in the atmosphere from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m., so pitta types tend to be night owls. However, they do best to retire at a reasonable hour (by or shortly after 10 p.m.) in order to get adequate rest. Otherwise, their minds can become very active and they may not feel tired for many hours.
Typical Manifestations of Pitta Imbalance
When the pitta dosha is out of balance in the mind, it often manifests as irritability, anger, rage, criticism, arrogance, and overall discontent. Imbalanced pitta can also cause excessive thirst, excessive heat, heartburn, acid indigestion, ulcers, diarrhea, weight loss, rashes, itching, hives, irritation of the eyes, bleeding disorders, inflammation, and jaundice.2
Physical Characteristics of Kapha
The kapha body is physically strong, compact and wide—with large thighs, hips, buttocks, and chest—and tends to be perpetually overweight.1 Kapha types typically have large, attractive eyes that are blue or black in color. Their skin is fair, cool and often gleaming. Kapha hair is thick, luxurious, and abundant, usually blond or black, and wavy.1 Kapha individuals tend to over-produce mucus and other milky secretions, and their voices are soft—often blocked by excess mucus.1 Kapha types are very graceful, have a natural, erotic sensuality about them, and are usually very fertile.1
The Kapha Mind
Kapha doshas are generally complacent, calm, grounded, nurturing and loving. The Kapha personality is stoic, even-tempered, reliable, and often a cohesive force in the community.1 Kapha types are natural teachers, parents, healers, chefs, accountants, and technicians.1 They also tend to appreciate dance, poetry, and music.1 Kapha types move through the world at a slow and methodical pace and are genuinely concerned with the welfare of others. They are very committed to and protective of family and they tend to create a home environment that is nurturing and sustaining for those around them.1 They can be quite attached to the material world and tend to accumulate possessions. The kapha mind finds it very difficult to distinguish between items that are truly necessary and those that are a luxury, so kapha types are also prone to hoarding things.1
Kapha Lifestyle Habits
Kapha dosha individuals tend to love heat and they suffer in cold, damp climates. Kapha types radiate solidity and equilibrium, so much so that vata and pitta types are often replenished simply by being in their presence. Kapha types are very hard working but generally prefer to lay low, even to the point of laziness. Because of their tendency toward lethargy, kapha types do best to commit to a non-sedentary life, following a strict schedule that keeps them moving. Among all the doshas, kapha types can endure and benefit from the most intense forms of exercise. Ideally, a kapha type would rise before 6 a.m., take a shower, and have a solid workout before breakfast.1
Kapha Appetite and Digestion
Kapha dosha types are ruled by the senses of taste and smell; they love to eat—especially rich, indulgent foods and sweets. They have a tendency to consume more than their metabolism can process, they gain weight easily, and they tend to have regular elimination. Kapha individuals do best to have a light breakfast (or skip it altogether), eat their main meal at lunch, and have a light dinner relatively early in the evening. They can benefit from limiting whole grains and starches, eating lots of vegetables, favoring light, warm, and spicy foods, and emphasizing variety and presentation over quantity in their diets.
Kapha Sleep and Energy Cycles
Kapha dosha individuals can sleep for very long hours, usually on their stomachs or in the fetal position.1 They typically sleep for eight to twelve hours per night and can easily indulge in more sleep than they really need. Ideally, kapha types would will themselves to sleep only about seven hours per night.1 If a kapha individual sleeps past 6 a.m.—when kapha becomes predominant in the atmosphere—they may find it incredibly difficult to get out of bed, and may experience a lasting sense of heaviness and lethargy throughout the day. Therefore, kapha individuals do better to rise before 6 a.m.
Typical Manifestations of Kapha Imbalance
Excess kapha in the mind tends to cause attachment, stubbornness, possessiveness, greed, lethargy, depression, and melancholy.3 Behavioral signs of a kapha imbalance include overeating, over-indulging in sleep, hoarding, and even anorexia.2, 3 On the more physical level, kapha imbalances include a depressed metabolism, a sense of heaviness, weight gain or obesity, loss of strength and power, excess mucus, and fatty accumulations in the arteries.2
I have determined that my dosha is Kapha pushing Pitta. Amazingly, so many of the above characteristics are spot on for me. This is why when I remembered the images below, I realized that “a calorie” does not mean the same to me as it does to others. “Just taking the stairs” is not going to turn me into Courtney Cox. I hope my new found reality will help me to be less critical of myself. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an invitation to eat anything and to stop exercising. It is more of a wake up call that certain foods and workouts are better for me than others. It also comes with the realization that I should embrace strong and curvey because skinny will likely ever happen!
I guess I should invest in some “Strong is the new skinny” tees.
As a trainer, I hope to inspire others to look inside of themselves and pull out their personal best. I’ve learned a lot of tools that yoga offers to change ones mindset. Simply changing how you breathe can reduce stress and anxiety. I hope you will join me in becoming the best possible you that you can be.
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