Identifying our dosha or body type

Why is it important to be able to identify our body type or dosha? What are the characteristics of each and how can we keep them in balance?

dosha types Warrior 2

In the second of his interviews for our Seasonal Cleanse with Ayurveda and Yoga program, John Immel dives into the doshas – Kapha, Pitta and Vata (members can watch the full talk below). This summary outlines the main points of the interview, explaining how identifying our dosha or body type can give us a better understanding of ourselves so that we can recognise when things are out of kilter and learn how to bring them back to balance.

To find out what your dominant dosha is, take this quiz.

Class thumbnail image for Lecture 2 Doshas and body types

Understanding our body type or dosha

According to Ayurveda, there are 3 body types – Kapha, Pitta and Vata – which not only offer us insights into our own personality, psychology and physical characteristics but also give us a better understanding of others too.

The doshas act as a kind of ‘survival strategy’ to inform us how we use energy and respond to threat – they are, in short, a metabolic foundation for our body type. It’s important to remember that all of us have a certain amount of each dosha within us but the ratio of these tells us which one (or two) are dominant. Knowing this allows us to tailor the foods we eat to keep ourselves in balance and prevent us from getting ill.

It’s important to remember that all of us have a certain amount of each dosha within us but the ratio of these tells us which one (or two) are dominant. ​

Metabolic characteristics of the doshas

John uses the following animals to help symbolise the characteristics of each dosha:

  • Vata = bumblebee – constantly searching and on the move
  • Pitta = tiger – lounges and then ‘attacks’, quickly uses a lot of energy; sharp and smart
  • Kapha = elephant – slow moving, affectionate in nature, patient

Psychology of doshas

Vata-types are always searching – be this for something inspiring, beautiful or creative. They can sometimes get a little hyperactive and have trouble sticking with things. Musicians and travellers are often Vata-dominant. Pitta people are usually problem solvers. They tend to be very efficient, focused, smart, intelligent individuals, Pitta-types often end up as leaders. Those with a Kapha-dominant dosha are usually patient, loving, energy-savers. They will let other people do the worrying! Kapha people love security so often need a bit of inspiration and motivation. Kapha types will often end up in government jobs (civil servant or teacher) as constant change can make them nervous.

Physical attributes of the doshas

According to Ayurveda, the function of Vata is movement. People with a Vata-dominant dosha are often small and thin as they’re constantly burning energy. They may have thinner hair and a pale or ‘greyer’ complexion. Pitta is about transformation – be this related to processing food or thought. Pitta-types are efficient in their use of energy and are often of average, medium build with a good colouring. Kapha is all about growth – a slow but gradual process. Kapha-types are often slower moving and fuller figured with thick, luxurious hair and a smooth, creamy complexion. Kapha is often seen as the most ‘desirable’ dosha as it has stability and longevity.

Dosha imbalances

When out of balance Vata-types are liable to suffer from conditions of deficiency. They may have dry skin or experience bloating or constipation, indicating that they don’t have enough fluid in their system to process their food properly. They tend to suffer easily from the cold. Pitta-types may suffer from highly reactive conditions such as skin rashes, fever, inflammation or allergies, whilst Kapha-body types may experience conditions of excess, such as mucus in their nasal passages, low metabolism, oily skin, or slow digestion.

Rebalancing doshas

Constantly-searching Vatas need to replenish themselves with fluids, massage their body and eat more fat and oil. Vata-types benefit from establishing strong, slow routines. Over-thinking Pitta people benefit from ‘getting out of their heads’. They also need to avoid highly stimulating spicy foods and coffee, and instead favour bitter, sweeter foods. Slower-moving Kapha-types need to shake things up a bit physically and food-wise it’s better for them to avoid wheat, dairy, sugar and instead go for bitter, spicy foods.

Fluctuating doshas

Along with acknowledging that we cannot be neatly divided into categories and that we all have certain elements of each dosha within us, it’s also interesting to note that our dosha may change throughout the course of our life. So, rather than over-focusing on which dosha we are, it’s helpful to instead consider where we are on the spectrum so that we can try and maintain a sense of equilibrium and balance. 

More in this series:

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This is taken from the Seasonal Cleanse with Ayurveda and Yoga program. A two-week programavailable to all EkhartYoga members with talks on Ayurveda, a 5 day cleanse and 7 yoga classes tailored to your dosha.

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Kirsty TomlinsonKirsty moved to the Netherlands from the UK to work for EkhartYoga in 2015. She's trained with Esther Ekhart and Julie Martin, and done many courses in meditation, mindfulness and Yoga Nidra. Kirsty previously worked in publishing, graphic design and recruitment. Her role at EkhartYoga focuses on copywriting, editing and content creation.