Ayurvedic body types

World-renowned Ayurvedic expert and author, Maya Tiwari, describes the concept of the three body types in Ayurveda

By Maya Tiwari, ayurvedic expert

Ayurvedic ancients provide guidelines to help us identify our constitutional nature. These guidelines help us to live wisely on earth while safeguarding our health. From the three doshas -- vata, pitta, and kapha – seven body types were originally identified. However, our body type that is determined at birth by our genetic and karmic memory is our constitutional nature, or our prakriti. This prakriti is derived from the particular combinations and permutations of the five elements in the sperm and ovum that exist during conception.

The human constitution or our prakriti is comprised of all three doshas. Every individual has within himself, the dynamic forces of vata, pitta, and kapha. And the difference between individuals is the degree to which the three doshas interact with one another within each body type. A person’s constitution as determined at birth by genetics should be maintained throughout the person’s lifetime within a reasonable ebb and flow of the prakriti, which must be understood as a flowing entity, rather than static.

Originally, Ayurveda defined seven body types: vata, pitta, kapha, sama, vata-kapha, vata-pitta and pitta-kapha. However, it is seldom that any person is influenced by one dosha alone. A combination of body types or dual prakriti is far more common, so you have vata-kapha, vata-pitta or pitta-kapha. Further combinations are of course possible, depending on which of the two doshas is more dominant.

Therapies in ayurveda address the three main doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha, not a specific body type.
In general, vata denotes air and space; pitta stands for fire and water; kapha for water and earth; and sama is a balance of all three doshas.

However, most people would be of dual prakriti, so you have:

  • Vata/pitta or air and space with fire and water as subordinates.
  • Vata/kapha or air and space with water and earth as subordinates.
  • Pitta/kapha or fire and water with water and earth as subordinates.

You should also remember that vata is nurtured by the elements of fire, water and earth. Pitta is nurtured by the elements of water, air, space, and earth. Finally, kapha is nurtured by the elements of fire, air, and space.

To start an ayurvedic regimen, you must first determine your body type. Once you have determined your body type, start making the necessary changes in your diet and daily activities and do recommended cleaning sadhanas regularly according to your ayurvedic guide. When you do this, you will slowly move towards your true constitutional nature or prakriti.

Maya Tiwari is the author of Ayurveda: Secrets of Healing (MLBD)

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