Health Tips for Kapha, Pitta, and Vata Doshas
Now that you know which dosha (or combination of doshas) your body has, you can pinpoint even further exactly how your body works and responds. If you need a recap, remember that doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body. Important stuff to keep track of!
It’s thanks to Ayurveda that we have knowledge of the doshas. It is a holistic science of health, focusing on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began about 5,000 – 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the “science or knowledge of life”: Ayurveda.
It’s a sharp contrast to modern medicine, as in Ayurveda, every individual is unique and there is no diet or lifestyle routine that works for everyone. Modern doctors, as you probably well know, simply look at the symptoms and prescribe the same pill to everyone. In Ayurveda, prevention is key. Ayurveda focuses on providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain physical and emotional health.
As you continue thinking about your doshas, remember that food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. Try to follow the diet and lifestyle routine that fits your mind/body constitution. Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two dominate. Various Dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes (i.e. Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold, and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types). Generally these are considered to be characteristics of each mind/body type. Here are the three doshas, and the characteristics associated with each:
- Vata Dosha
The energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
Creativity and vitality
Out of Balance:
Fear and anxiety
The third dosha, Vata, tends to be the most slender of the three body types. Vata people can actually find it difficult to gain weight. Physically, Vata individuals are thin with prominent bony structures; tend to be cold all the time; have dry skin and hair; and have little muscle tone. Mentally, they learn fast and forget fast, enjoy change, and are very creative. Emotionally, Vata types are excitable, enthusiastic, but can become easily anxious.
Out of balance, Vata individuals can have poor digestion with lots of bloating and constipation. They can have dry nasal passages and easily catch colds during the fall and winter. They can also easily develop insomnia and fatigue. To help with the digestion, there is an herbal supplement, Triphala, which is a lifesaver for people with a Vata imbalance. To prevent dry nasal passages and fight off colds, Vata individuals can use a sesame oil nasal spray – you just spray 1-2 sprays in each nostril in the mornings. To fight off insomnia, a regular routine is critical, which, of course, Vata individuals tend to resist. Nonetheless, they should be waking up at the same time, eating lunch at the same time, and going to bed at the same time. Additionally, Vata types will benefit from a warm, spiced milk drink at bedtime.
The dietary recommendations for Vata individuals are to avoid dry/crunchy foods, carbonated beverages, and cold/raw vegetables. Their ideal diet consists of warm, cooked, soupy foods; cooked cereals; nuts; cooked vegetables; and hot milk. Also, ghee, which is clarified butter, is particularly good for Vata individuals.
Creative; quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget; Slender; Tall and a fast walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.
General Health Tips:
Maintain regular habits, try to eat and sleep at the same time every night. Get enough rest and choose foods that are warm, cooked, nourishing, and easy to digest. Sweet berries, fruits, small beans, rice, and all nuts and dairy products are good choices for Vata types. Exercise intensity should be moderate. A more meditative yoga, Tai chi, walking, and swimming are all good. Avoid strenuous and frantic activities.
- Pitta Dosha
Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.
Contentment and intelligence
Out of Valance:
Ulcers and anger
Pitta individuals are typically of medium build. Physically, they have good muscle tone; have a tendency to always feel warm; have premature graying hair or balding; have reddish complexions; enjoy high energy levels; and have really strong digestion – they can eat almost anything. Mentally, they are extremely intelligent, focused, ambitious people. Emotionally, they are passionate about life, have a tendency to be perfectionists, and can become easily irritated.
Out of balance, Pitta types can experience excessive anger, suffer from inflammatory conditions (such as headaches and rashes), encounter digestive problems (such as acid reflux, diarrhea and ulcers), and become over-stressed, workaholics. To help with the inflammation, Pitta individuals can do a quick coconut oil massage to the scalp and feet for 5 minutes before getting into the shower. To prevent the digestive problems, they can drink a mixture of a quarter-cup of aloe vera juice with a half-cup of pomegranate juice in the morning on an empty stomach. To help take the “edge off” at work and fight off stress in these worker bees, they should eat a teaspoon of rose petal jam – it can be taken alone or with toast. The rose petal jam is sweet and calming.
In terms of their diet, Pitta people should avoid hot spices, alcohol, coffee, vinegar, and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. Of course, these are typically their favorite foods! They should eat sweet juicy fruits such as mangos and melons. They should also include lots of cooling vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, kale and lettuce, in their diet.
Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; Aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance; Competitive, enjoy challenges; Passionate and romantic; Strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal; When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry; Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily; Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired; Perspire a lot; Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian; Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger; Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, dry or burning eyes.
General Health Tips:
It’s important for Pittas to keep cool by avoiding overexposure to direct sunlight and fried and spicy foods. Avoid alcohol and tobacco, overworking, and overheating. When aggravated, susceptible to feeling negative emotions like hostility, hatred, intolerance, and jealousy. Choose fresh vegetables and fruits that are watery and sweet, especially cherries, mangoes, cucumbers, water melon, and avocado. Have lots of salads with dark greens such as arugula, dandelions, and kale. Avoid conflicts. Cultivate the virtues of honesty, morality, kindness, generosity, and self-control.
- Kapha Dosha
Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.
Out of balance:
Can lead to insecurity and envy
Kapha is typically the largest of the body types. Physically, they have wide hips/shoulders; thick wavy hair; good physical stamina. Mentally, Kapha types tend to me slow to learn, but they have great memories. Emotionally, they tend to be very loyal, stable, and reliable – they are often referred to as the “rocks” in a relationship.
Out of balance, Kapha individuals have a tendency towards sinus congestion, poor circulation, and sluggish digestion that can easily lead to obesity. To help improve circulation, they can do a stimulating dry body massage, called garshana, performed with raw silk gloves – you can use a loofah sponge as a substitute. The massage helps get rid of excess water weight and is a natural cure for cellulite. Exercise is also critical to keep Kapha people in balance; if you have a Kapha body type, you have to get up and move!
To combat the congestion, Kapha types can add garlic to their diet or take garlic supplements. To help boost metabolism, Kapha individuals can use the herbal supplement guggul, which is a plant that is closely related to myrrh. The dose of guggul is typically 75mg-150mg a day.
Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Tend to be possessive and hold on to things. Don’t like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
General Health Tips:
It’s important to be active on a daily basis as Kapha types are prone to sluggishness, depression, and being overweight. Getting out of the house and actively seeking new experiences is also recommended. Be receptive to useful change, be intentional in implementing life-enhancing actions. Choose foods that are light, warm, and spicy. Tea with dried ginger and lemon is a great pick-me-up for Kaphas. Avoid heavy oily and processed sugars, which are detrimental to Kaphas. Use lots of spices such as black pepper, ginger, cumin, chili and lots of bitter dark greens.
Seeking deep healing? The Ayurvedic Abhyanga is the self-massage for you
An “Abhyanga” is a massage using oil, according to the Ayurvedic tradition. Ayurveda, in case you’ve missed it, is a 5000 year old traditional Hindu healing system that takes into account the constitution, or “dosha” of each individual. It balances the body accordingly, using diet, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga and yogic breathing, massage and other detox rituals. Essentially, it’s one of the oldest, most respected holistic healing systems.
The Abhyanga practice is a special wellness ritual that you can do daily. According to the Chopra Center website, it’s extremely valuable to practice on yourself regularly, “When stimulated through therapeutic touch or massage, the skin releases a pharmacy of healing chemicals that have health-promoting effects on the physiology. In addition to feeling good, regular massage and loving touch detoxifies the body’s tissues, increases circulation, calms the mind, and enhances immune function.
“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.”
Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89, “Giving yourself a daily self-abhy with aromatherapy massage oils is a deeply healing and deeply enjoyable ayurvedic practice that activates the body’s inner pharmacy and slows the aging process. Depending upon your unique mind-body type (dosha), your massage technique can be gentle or more vigorous.”
So, what are the benefits, exactly? Doing an Abhyanga can:
- Increase the softness and healthy glow of the skin
- Flush toxins from the lymphatic system
- Decreases Vata (autoimmune illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Polymositis are considered Vata imbalances and self massage is extremely beneficial for calming symptoms)
- Strengthens the Dhatus (the body’s tissues in accordance to the Ayurvedic texts) and helps tone muscles
- Increases strength and stamina
- Improves vision
- Promotes healthy sleep
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Promotes flexibility
- Release healthy endorphins which, in turn, help balance hormones, an especially important practice for women
Best Dosha Practices
Before you go diving in, there is one essential key to examine first. You must know your dosha; as Ayurveda is a holistic, individual-based system, “one size fits all” is definitely not the practice. You can take a quick dosha quiz here, and then figure out the best Abhyanga practice based on your body type.
Vata types require a warming oil like sesame or almond. For your body type, it’s best to do an Abhyanga 2-3 times a week. Vata is a cold and dry Dosha, so warm oil is very nourishing in balancing your systems. It helps lubricate the dry skin and protect the joints as well. Mahanarayan oil and Dhanvantaram are two classical oils used in Ayurveda to help alleviate the inflammation and stiffness of joints. A light to medium pressure should be used.
A hotter Dosha than Vata, Pitta types need a cooling type oil in order to balance, so coconut and olive oils are an excellent choice. Medium pressure should be used when massaging. Many Pitta types have inflammatory skin issues. Ayurveda has some specific oils for use on specific ailments.
Kapha is another Dosha that requires a warming oil. Use mustard and sunflower; both are excellent choices. Sesame is also a very good choice, particularly if you live in a cooler climate. Medium to heavy pressure is recommended and best for Kapha types, which will let the oil deeply penetrate as it should.
Now you’re ready to go! Here are the steps you will need to take for your Abhyanga:
- Begin by running some hot water over the bottle to gently warm the oil; warm oil is best to work with on your body.
- You can use a loofah or body brush to dry brush the entire body.
- Pour a tablespoon of warm oil onto your scalp and vigorously work in the oil.
- Using your fingertips, vigorously massage your head and scalp with small circular strokes, as if you are shampooing.
- Move to your face and ears, massaging more gently.
- Using an open hand to create friction, massage both the front and back of the neck.
- Vigorously massage your arms, using a circular motion at the shoulders and elbows, and back-and-forth motions on the upper arms and forearms. Massage in the direction of the hair follicles, allowing the oil to cover the body evenly.
- When performing Abhyanga on the joints, use a circular motion.
- When massaging your chest and stomach, use a gentle circular motion and a straight up-and-down motion over the breastbone.
- After applying a bit of oil to both hands, gently reach around to the back and spine and massage them as well as you can without straining. Start at the base of the spine and work upwards in a long, continuous stroke. You can also have a partner help you with this part.
- Vigorously massage your legs as you did your arms, using circular motions at the ankles and knees, back-and-forth motions on the long parts.
- After massaging your legs, spend extra time on your feet. The feet contain many important Marmas (pressure points in accordance to the principles of Ayurveda). Using the open part of your hand, massage vigorously back and forth over the soles of the feet. When massaging the feet, be sure to apply the oil to the entire foot, taking care to get in between the toes.
- After the application of oil, sit quietly for 5-15 minutes to allow the oil to be properly absorbed by your skin. During this time you may choose to meditate, as it’s a good time set apart for relaxed spiritual practice. Keeping a thin, almost imperceptible film of oil on the body is considered very beneficial for toning the skin and warming the muscles throughout the day. Or, you can take a shower once the oils have absorbed.