What’s your dosha? Find out your ayurvedic constitution

Caucasian woman having Ayurveda shirodhara treatment in India

Ayurveda

Ayurveda, literally meaning the science or knowledge of life, is the ancient system of Indian natural medicine. One of the only systems of ancient medicine still widely practiced today, it can be traced back more than 3000 years to ancient scriptures written in Sanskrit.

Health from an ayurvedic perspective considers the whole person – mind, body and soul. Leading a healthy lifestyle to prevent disease whenever possible is the aim, but ayurveda can also treat many common health complaints when they do arise. Ayurvedic treatments are completely natural and work in harmony with the body.

A healthy ayurvedic lifestyle encompasses nutrition, yoga, breathing techniques, meditation, massage, daily routine and the environment in which we live. Natural medicines from herbs and plants and more specific treatments are also used.

Nutrition

Nutrition should bring both health and enjoyment and will vary depending on the constitutional type, as discussed below. Deprivation is not part of the philosophy and no foods are banned, but the idea is to only eat foods that will benefit your mind and body. This means avoiding foods with no beneficial nutrients or ‘dead foods’ such as highly processed or re-heated foods. The diet should be based on freshly cooked, living foods and be predominantly plant-based.

  • Food should always be fresh and of the best possible quality.
  • Eat in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, always sit down for meals and avoid reading, TV or stressful conversations during meals – this will optimise digestion.
  • Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly
  • The main meal of the day should be at lunchtime 12-2pm, dinner should be lighter and before 7pm if possible
  • Drink plenty of warm water throughout the day but avoid drinking with meals as this dilutes digestive juices and weakens digestion
  • Avoid or limit alcohol, coffee and fizzy drinks as much as possible
  • Avoid ice cold drinks and foods as these weaken the digestion

The Three Doshas

According to ayurveda, there are three body types or constitutions, known as the ‘doshas’. They are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, although most people are a combination of doshas, vata/pitta for example. Specific diet and lifestyle recommendations vary according to your dosha and health problems are often due to an imbalance of the doshas. When vata is too high for example, a person may suffer from anxiety and insomnia. The goal of ayurvedic treatments would then be to pacify vata in the body.

A qualified ayurvedic Doctor can determine which dosha you are using a variety of techniques such as observations, asking detailed questions and taking a special pulse reading. You may be able to get a good idea of which dosha(s) you are from the characteristics listed below.

vata

Vata Characteristics

  1. Slim or underweight
  2. Moves quickly
  3. Poor memory
  4. Often feel restless, anxious, unsettled
  5. Light or interrupted sleep
  6. Dry skin
  7. Easily fatigued
  8. Tendency to worry
  9. Like warm temperatures, feel the cold
  10. Irregular appetite and digestion

Recommendations: Stick to warm and cooked foods, avoid cold and raw foods. Sweet and salty foods are best with warming spices. Eat regularly throughout the day with snacks between meals. Avoid stimulants and cold temperatures. Keep to a regular routine, go to bed early and make time for rest and meditation.

pitta

Pitta Characteristics

  1. Medium build
  2. Moves at moderate pace
  3. Average memory
  4. Often get frustrated, angry, impatient
  5. Perfectionist, high achiever
  6. Normal skin, prone to rashes
  7. Good speaker, sharp intellect
  8. Often have red hair, freckles, liver-spots
  9. Do not tolerate hot temperatures
  10. Good appetite and digestion

Recommendations: Warm and cold meals, lightly cooked and raw foods. Favour sweet and bitter foods and avoid hot and spicy foods, and foods that cause acidity. Keep well hydrated. Avoid hot temperatures. Don’t overwork and allow for leisure time.

kapha

Kapha Characteristics

  1. Heavier build, or tendency to be overweight
  2. Moves slowly
  3. Good memory
  4. Often feel lethargic, heavy or dull
  5. Calm and balanced personality
  6. Can be possessive
  7. Sleep well, may sleep too much
  8. Oily skin
  9. Dislike damp, foggy or humid weather
  10. Slow metabolism, regular digestion

Recommendations: Warm, light meals with stimulating spices. Favour pungent, bitter, astringent foods. Eat smaller meals, plenty of soups, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Avoid heavy foods and dairy. Do not snack between meals. Don’t sleep too much as this increases lethargy, early to bed, early to rise. Take vigorous daily exercise and seek out new stimulating experiences.

asian woman practice yoga at morning

Morning Routine

The day begins with ‘purification’ processes, which start with teeth cleaning and tongue scraping immediately after rising to prevent toxins that have built up in the mouth overnight being swallowed. This is followed by drinking warm water with lemon and honey to naturally stimulate digestion. Self-massage with sesame oil is then advised prior to bathing, which is an extremely soothing and nurturing practice to adopt – even if you only have time at the weekends. Yoga stretches then wake up the body, followed by meditation to harmonise the mind. This is followed by a light breakfast, which will depend on your dosha. Examples of suitable breakfasts are:

  • Vata: Millet and oat pancakes with vanilla, nutmeg, pistachios and honey
  • Pitta : Porridge with cinnamon, cardamom, maple syrup and almonds
  • Kapha: Banana and kale smoothie with lime and cardamom

Ayurvedic Sleep Tea

This is a great natural sleep-inducing remedy that helps you get to sleep and aids deep, restful, nourishing sleep

  • 1-cup almond/oat milk
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • ¼ tsp vanilla powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp honey or coconut sugar

Serve warm

Masala tea and ingredients, horizontal

Ayurvedic Treatments

Treatments include many different types of massage, often carried out by 2 therapists involving synchronised movements on each side of the body. Whether or not you believe in their healing and rejuvenating powers, an ayurvedic massage is certainly a delight to experience. Different massage techniques will have varying health benefits, for example Kalari massage is an energising massage, which aims to restore the flow of energy in the body. Another hallmark treatment is Shirodhara where warm medicated oils are poured in a rhythmic motion across the forehead – this treatment relieves tension, stimulates lymphatic drainage and has a calming effect on the nervous system.