What is Ayurveda and How Does It Work

What is Ayurveda and how does it work?

Ayurveda has become a popular buzzword among health-conscious communities—a mysterious and trendy holistic healing hype. But Ayurveda is not new nor trendy: It is a lifestyle choice that was developed thousands of years ago. So what is Ayurveda, and how does it work to promote health and healing? With a few key foundational concepts, anyone can obtain and use the wisdom that is Ayurveda.

Article Topics

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a sister science of yoga. Both yoga and Ayurveda were developed in India thousands of years ago and are rooted in Vedic texts. While veda means “knowledge”, ayur means “life”. Therefore, Ayurveda literally translates from Sanskrit as life knowledge or wisdom. Today, Ayurveda has been modernized, not only in India, but also in the United States, where it has become a part of yogic practice.

An Ayurvedic lifestyle is comprised of principles and practices that will enhance health, with a focus on preventing and healing dis-ease. It’s important to recognize the term dis-ease not as pathological illness (disease) but rather that of a lack of ease. By forging a life knowledge of natural remedies—foods, herbs, rituals, etc.—alongside an understanding of natural rhythms, anyone can live an Ayurvedic lifestyle.

How Does Ayurveda Work?

To begin understanding how Ayurveda works, it is important to learn about Ayurvedic doshas. In the West, the term dosha has become a popular way to describe an individual’s energy that governs the body. However, a more appropriate term to use is prakriti, which is Sanskrit for “nature”. 

A prakriti is the natural composition of energy, the matter that makes up anything. To elaborate, each person has a natural constitution that affects health. Dosha comes from the Sanskrit term dosa, which translates to disease or fault. For simplicity, and because much information available to the West uses this term, we will use dosha to explain our constitutions.

What is Ayurvedic Body Type?

If you’re like most people and have taken a yoga or meditation class, your teacher has probably talked about Ayurveda. Ayurveda, or the system of traditional Indian medicine, has been used and studied for over 5,000 years. In fact, in Sanskrit, “ayur” translates to “life” and “veda” into “science,” making it the Science of Life and of Longevity. 

When I worked as a yoga teacher, we would invite Ayurveda practitioners to come to the studio and give talks about the proper foods for your body or oils for your skin. It’s a whole-body system and lest you believe that Ayurveda is quack science, the National Institutes for Health has done numerous studies on Ayurveda and the ayurvedic body type and has found that some of its theories ring true. 

What are Ayurveda Doshas?

When we think about our doshas, we must think about what energy is most prevalent in our bodies. The key objective in Ayurveda is to balance those energies. The three Ayurveda doshas are

  • Kapha
  • Pitta
  • Vata

A dosha is a bio-element in the body that can fluctuate depending on the seasons, diet and time of day. Each body is made of up the three different doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), with one dosha usually existing in a larger quantity than the other two. Practitioners don’t believe one dosha is better than another. They’re thought of, instead, as helpful in gaining insights into ourselves. 

Everyone’s’ life-energy consists of all three doshas, but each individual will be made up of different proportions of them. Some people can be mostly one, mostly two (with the third lacking), or tridoshic—a fairly equal balance of all three.

The most important step in understanding and using Ayurveda in your life is to identify and understand your dosha(s). The best method to determine this information is with an Ayurveda lifestyle consultation. Many consultants exist, especially in yogic and holistic health communities. However, to start, it is possible to begin learning about your dosha by taking an online quiz.

By the way, we thought we should note that there are great online yoga trainings that have a lot of this material covered as a part of the curriculum.  If interested, check out our recommendations for the best yoga alliance certification, those are the 200 hour courses, as well as online 300 hour yoga teacher training.

Doshas are sourced from the five states of matter: earth, water, air, fire, and ether (space). Kapha is a combination of earth and water; pitta is a combination of fire and water; and vata is a combination of air and ether. Each dosha has its presence in your body and governs different aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional composition, as well as overall health. Below are characteristics, attributes, and qualities of the doshas.

The Five Great Elements

And each dosha is made up of what are called the “Five Great Elements” or Maha Bhutas. The amount of the five great elements in every person’s doshas is different, which makes everyone unique and individual. 

  • Earth – Heavy, foundational, found in our teeth, nails and bones. It is also present in the annamayakosha, the physical sheath.
  • Water – Flowing and liquid, the water element is found in our blood, our lymphatic system, and the pranamayakosha, or energy sheath, which houses our energy and breath.
  • Fire – Heat, energy, metabolism, creation and transformation, the fire element is found in our digestive system. It regulates our body temperature and is present in our manomayakosha or mental-emotional sheath, made up of our thoughts, obsessions and emotions.
  • Air – Breath, oxygen, motion, found in our respiration system, nerve impulse movement and vijnanamayakosha or wisdom sheath.
  • Space – Omniscience, emptiness and expansiveness found in the space between our cells. It’s also found in the anandamayakosh, or bliss sheath, which consists of our innermost nature and universal intelligence.

What are the Three Ayurvedic Body Types?

Ayurveda practitioners call the three ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body types require different foods, different skin care, different psychological care to operate optimally. An ayurvedic practitioner can work with a patient to rebalance their doshas by prescribing a special diet, cleansing/detox, herbs, yoga/meditation, massage and specially formulated herbal tea. Remember, though, that the FDA does not require ayurvedic products to meet the same standards as drugs, and they aren’t certified effective or safe. Please do your research before ingesting any herbal supplement. 

What are elements in the three doshas?

  • Vata – Air and space
  • Pitta – Fire and water
  • Kapha – Water and earth

Read on as we go in-depth to describe the three doshas, discussing lifestyle recommendations, foods to eat or avoid, and activities for optimum physiological and psychological health. When following these recommendations you can maintain your dosha’s balance or even strive to balance your dosha. You’ll look better and feel better, and you may even discover new things about yourself.

The Ayurveda Doshas (Body Types) Explained?

What is a Vata body type?

The vata’s primary function is communication and all mind and body movement, including waste elimination, inhalation and exhalation, and thinking. Yes, the vata dosha does the big work, making it the “head” dosha. That means it is vital to make sure this dosha, among all doshas, is balanced. If not, the vata body can experience extreme issues.

  • This combination of air and ether has to do with vital body functions and the flow of the nervous system. Air and ether move energy, and so in the body, vata is the energy that moves breath, blood, and waste. Qualities include: dry, rough, quick, irregular, changeable, and cold.
  • Emotionally and mentally, individuals with a primary vata constitution are curious, creative, and dynamic. If balanced, they are inventive, flexible, and apt to take initiative. Excess vata can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and inability to cope with stress.

Physically, individuals with a primary vata constitution have a light and agile body, and exhibit qualities consistent with air: energetic, excitable, and dry/cool hair and skin. They are light sleepers. Excess vata can lead to fatigue, weakness, hypertension, weight loss, and digestive sensitivities.

What is a Kapha body type?

The Kapha is the watery dosha. It’s the nourisher and the element that perceives taste in the body. The kapha’s characteristics include lubrication, tenderness, coldness and heaviness. And, most importantly, the kapha brings cohesion to the body.

This combination of water and earth has to do with the body’s overall structure. Water and earth bind, and so in the body, kapha is the energy that binds cells, bones, muscle, and fat. Its purpose is to protect the body. Qualities include: oily, solid, heavy, slow, grounded, and cool.

  • Emotionally and mentally, individuals with a primary kapha constitution are loving, calm, and considerate. If balanced, they are loyal, consistent, and fun-loving. Excess kapha can lead to feelings of insecurity, attachment, and depression.
  • Physically, individuals with a primary kapha constitution are strong and exhibit qualities consistent with moisture: lubricated eyes, skin, and thick, healthy hair. If balanced, they have sound digestion and sleep patterns. Excess kapha can lead to issues with the lungs and weight.

What is a Pitta body type?

The passionate pitta is a mixture of fire and water, and the dosha is in charge of processing every substance that enters the body. The pitta controls the body’s vision and hearing. Pittas love sharp and pungent food; they have a fantastic digestion system. They also have strong sex drives. Because they are so intense, pittas don’t sleep very long; they do sleep soundly, however. Also, I think we’d all love to be pittas for their excellent complexion and their high amounts of energy.

This combination of fire and water has to do with the body’s digestion and production of energy (including metabolism). Fire and water burn and evaporate, and so in the body, pitta is the energy that transforms. Qualities include: penetrating, intense, light, fast, pungent, and hot.

  • Emotionally and mentally, individuals with a primary pitta constitution are passionate, and have a sharp intellect and focus. If balanced, they are great decision-makers, orators, and teachers. Excess pitta can lead to a hot temper and argumentative nature.
  • Physically, individuals with a primary pitta constitution have a medium body type and exhibit qualities consistent with heat: baldness or reddish hair, exuberance, strong sex drive, warm body temperature, and a strong appetite.  If balanced, they will have excellent digestion and polished skin.  Excess pitta can lead to inflammation, indigestion, ulcers, and skin rashes.

How Do I Balance My Dosha?

The primary goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to balance the presence of your energy and not accumulate an excess of one specific energy. It is worth noting that the energy of each season of the year and time of day is consistent with the three doshas. So while you can act in accordance with recommendations for your particular constitution, you will also need to take the season and time of day into consideration for optimal wellness and healing (see below for information about seasonal and daily routines).

How does Ayurveda heal? According to this life knowledge, like energy increases like energy and opposites cure. For example, if you are an individual with a primary pitta constitution, and you are experiencing hot flashes, indigestion, and inflammation (skin, joints, veins, etc.), then you will want to avoid spicy and pungent foods, like tomatoes and peppers. Or you will want to avoid hot exercises, like Ashtanga yoga or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Instead, you will most likely benefit from oily and cool foods, using coconut oil and aloe juice to chill your digestive fire. Additionally, you would want to engage in meditation and Yin yoga to keep you cool. Below is a more specific Ayurveda beginners guide for each dosha.

How Do I Balance My Vata Dosha?

The Unbalanced Vata

There are numerous systems that will be off if the vata body is unbalanced. For instance, dry skin, aching joints, fatigue, constipation, and difficulty gaining weight can all be characteristics of the vata body when care isn’t taken to maintain balance. Mentally, the unbalanced vata can find themselves worrying constantly. They may also exhibit agitation and restlessness. A vata without proper balance may also have significant insomnia and may find themselves easily fatigued. 

Balancing the vata body type

There’s no need to worry. With some simple food choices, lifestyle changes, and self-care, people can easily balance their vata dosha. Read on for a list of food choices for a balanced vata dosha.

Recommended Diet for Vata

Sweet foods pacify vata, but mind your intake. It is important for people with vata constitutions to eat larger quantities to keep up with their constant movement (but be mindful not to overeat).

  • Incorporate healthy fats and oils, like ghee and extra virgin olive oil, to aid digestion.
  • Eat rice and wheat, and eat less barley, corn, or rye.
  • Consume low-fat dairy. Warm milk is pacifying to vata.
  • Increase intake of nuts, cooked vegetables, and heavier fruits (bananas, avocados, coconut, and dry fruits)
  • Avoid beans, except for mung bean (an ayurvedic staple) and tofu.
  • Add warm spices to cooking, such as oregano, cardamom, basil, and thyme.
  • Avoid raw foods
  • Choose warm, cooked foods
  • Cook with oil
  • Choose heavy foods
  • Make recipes that are sweet, sour or salty
  • Avoid dry, cold food.
  • Avoid bitter-tasting food
  • Avoid caffeine
Lifestyle choices for vata
  • Try to stay warm
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Go to bed early
  • Establish a routine and following it daily
  • Avoid the cold weather and wind
  • Try to live in humid environment or have humidifier at home
  • Listen to classical music
  • Get gentle massages
  • Avoid air conditioning
  • Avoid strenuous activity and vigorous body work such as intense chiropractic sessions

As with wind (air and ether), excess vata can over stimulate energy movement. It is essential that individuals with excess vata work to negate the effects of their constant movement, which can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and unintended weight loss.

  • Slow down. Meditate or sit quietly, especially when feelings of mental, emotional, and physical speed affect your life.
  • Eat regular meals, in accordance with a vata pacifying diet.
  • Go to bed before 10 p.m., and do not sleep past 6 a.m.
  • Keep a consistent schedule or daily routine.
  • Avoid chilly places and be prepared in cold weather with a head covering and sweater.
  • Incorporate warming self-massages into your daily routine, with use of sesame or almond oil.
  • Adhere to an exercise regimen that limits excess vata.
  • Use warm colors, as well as sweet and heavy aromas to soothe. Calming music is also beneficial.
  • Be certain to eliminate body waste regularly. Add ginger tea to your diet.
Recommended Exercises for Vata

Adopt a light exercise routine with a focus on increasing flexibility and balance. Make certain not to push yourself too hard. Vatas easily fatigue and are prone to weight loss.

  • Optimal activities for vata include golf, tennis, talking, Tai Chi, yoga, dance, and light hiking/biking.
  • Grounding poses, such as Mountain pose and inversions are great for keeping vata stable and balanced.

Who is a vata?

We said above that the vata dosha is considered the head of the doshas. But let’s get to know who the vata person is. What are they like? Well, the vata is smart, very smart. And quick-minded. They are always moving, and they love new activities and adventures. When a vata is balanced, they are quite enthusiastic. And, don’t underestimate a vata’s creativity. They can make stunning art. It’s hard to forget a vata, but unfortunately, you can’t say the same for them. Vatas are very forgetful. But we can forgive them as they are so interesting and exciting, at least, when balanced. 

Vatas are also known to be thin, small-boned and agile. You’ll notice bursts of energy followed by sleepiness. Catnap, anyone? 

What is the unbalanced vata like?

It’s important to encourage the vatas in your life to remain balanced. When a vata is unbalanced, they can become miserable. They’ll exhibit worry and anxiety, which will lead to insomnia. They may blame themselves for problems that are not their fault. And, they can become overwhelmed with life.

As we said, vatas can have problems gaining weight; and they become distinctly pear-shaped when adding pounds. It’s crucial that they eat regularly, but an unbalanced vata will soon find themselves skipping meals and dropping pounds that they cannot afford to lose. That’s why ayurvedic practitioners suggest that a person with a dominant vata dosha establish routines for meals and for sleep. We cannot stress enough that consistency and stability are key to a vata’s health and well-being. When they ignore self-care, the vata will find themselves stressed and worried. 

Although vatas are always on the go, establishing a meditation practice will help them maintain balance and achieve a life of less stress. And, it’s advisable if a vata avoids overextending themselves. They can sap their energy quickly and detrimentally.

Physical activities for the vata

If you’re a vata, you’ll want to move all of the time. Well, here are some physical pursuits that are perfect for vatas:

  • Walking – Not running; walk a slow, steady pace
  • Hiking – Short nature walks
  • Tennis – only gentle games; no Wimbledon-level excitement
  • Biking – only on flat roads; no mountain-biking up hills
  • Dancing – Nothing that will get the vata out of breath
  • Aerobics – Short practices, only
  • Tai Chi
More vata characteristics

Trying to pin down who is a vata is quite difficult because vatas are always trying new things. You artist friend may be a vata, or perhaps your world traveling brother is a vata. They take many paths and they’re always moving. And not just moving. Vatas are so creative that they inspire others. They feel alive and they make others feel alive as well! And it’s not that they lack direction in life. It’s that they aren’t satisfied with following one path. They want to go down all of the paths. And they successfully do.

How Do I Balance My Kapha Dosha?

Kapha problems

People may think a Kapha person is boring as they’re very stable, but they also suffer from depression as they tend to show love and support to others and keep their problems to themselves. Hiding their problems can cause kaphas to become unbalanced and have colds, mucus and thyroid issues. Kaphas are also susceptible to weight gain, sluggishness, diabetes when they’re unbalanced, as they binge eat and neglect to exercise. Kaphas are said to resist moving. But, when a Kapha is balanced, they are very peaceful and authentic. 

Kapha lifestyle suggestions

For a Kapha to stay in balance, Yoga Journal recommends cooking with only small amounts of oils and fats because the kapha body is already oily. They also suggest that the kapha uses honey as a sweetener but not to cook with it. Light, dry warm foods are optimal for the kapha body type because the kapha can be watery, cold and heavy. Barley, rye, buckwheat, and dried fruit are great foods for to balance a kapha. But not only does the kapha benefit from warm, dry and light foods, they should also establish a meal routine and make sure that their meals are peaceful, without commotion. 

In terms of exercise, because the kapha can be unmotivated, ayurvedic practitioners suggest high-energy workouts that stimulate the body. But practitioners don’t just suggest lively exercise for a kapha. They also suggest exciting experiences that will stimulate the kapha mind; kaphas must not become stagnate. Further, practitioners suggest that kaphas keep themselves warm and dry, regardless of the weather outside.

If becoming a practitioner sounds interesting, learn more about a ayurvedic practitioner certification.

Connection to the earth

Kaphas need to remember to keep warm; temperate climates are best, as kaphas can have cold, clammy hands. They are very in tune with nature and are regarded as being Mother Earth.

What is a Kapha person?

Who is a kapha? The kapha is that friend who you tell all your problems to but who keeps their issues inside. They are the compassionate one in your group. Watch out as they sometimes try to people please, which can lead to a dosha imbalance. The kapha worker is the teacher, physical therapist, social worker, psychologist or nurse. They’re the helpers. However, your kapha friend may resist change and may also, as we said above, become depressed from keeping their problems inside. There is a big risk that they will have a tendency to eat their feelings, which could make them even more depressed. 

Kapha likes

Your typical kapha love listening to or playing music. They love dancing. And they greatly appreciate art. They’re epicureans, with good food quite important to them. Kaphas also like to surround themselves with luxuries; they’re always ready to treat themselves.

Kapha dislikes

Although kaphas a very capable workers, they hate to get up early. Not only that, they are very sensitive to cold weather, cold foods, etc. 

A kapha will be your friend for life. Just make sure they don’t act like door mats. They need to recognize their own worth. 

As with mud (water and earth), excess kapha can slow energy. It is essential that individuals with excess kapha work to negate its effect to balance their constitution, with the primary goal to provide and move energy.

  • Stimulate your body with regular exercise.
  • Seek warm and dry environments.
  • Engage in activities that stimulate your mind as well as your body.
  • Adhere to a diet and exercise routine that limits excess kapha.
  • Avoid clutter and congestion in your life.
  • Use vibrant music, and warm colors and aromas for stimulation (see Additional Suggestions section below).
  • Manage your sleep schedule by waking before 6 a.m. each day and avoiding naps.
  • Make sure to use a neti pot and dry brushing in your daily routine.

Recommended Exercises for Kapha

Pick an exercise routine that is warming and stimulating:

  • Ashtanga yoga and hot yoga practices are great methods to keep kapha moving. *
  • Breathing exercises, such as kapalabhati (skull-shining breath), that add stimulation and heat to your daily routine.

Recommended Diet for Kapha

Choose foods that are light, warming, and have limited moisture. A good kapha diet should keep these goals in mind:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Use warm spices (limiting salt).
  • Avoid dairy, nuts, and seeds.
  • Limit red meats and oily foods; try cooking with extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, or ghee.

How Do I Balance My Pitta Dosha?

What is a Pitta body type?

The passionate pitta is a mixture of fire and water, and the dosha is in charge of processing every substance that enters the body. The pitta controls the body’s vision and hearing. Pittas love sharp and pungent food; they have a fantastic digestion system. They also have strong sex drives. Because they are so intense, pittas don’t sleep very long; they do sleep soundly, however. Also, I think we’d all love to be pittas for their excellent complexion and their high amounts of energy.

The pitta physical build

Pittas are medium sized, athletic and have great muscle tone. 

Foods for pittas

Herbal teas are very helpful for pittas, rosehip, mint and chamomile teas being the best for a pitta constitution.  For optimum health, a pitta should eat legumes like lentils and chickpeas, and the seeds and oil from the sunflower.  Fruits and veggies for pitta include cranberries, melons, kale and broccoli.  Honey should be used moderately, practitioners advise. And a pitta should make a point of eating three meals a day for a well-functioning body and mind.

Foods to avoid 

Pittas can become unbalanced if they overeat certain foods, like vinegar, salted nuts, lemon or ginger tea, rye, hard cheese, and tomatoes, hot peppers, pickles and grapefruit.  Caution should be taken when eating sour, sharp and bitter foods. 

Healthy pitta lifestyle

To take care of the pitta’s complexion and their health, they need to stay away from alcohol, caffeine and spicy fried food. It’s a good idea to cool the pitta’s digestive tract, so cumin, coriander and fennel are a must.  Walking in nature instead of competitive sports is healthier for the pitta. And when outside, pittas have to be very careful not to sunburn, especially red headed pittas! Adding meditation and yoga is also helpful for a pitta.  To detoxify the pitta’s internal organs, drinking warn lemon water first thing in the morning is advisable.  And, before bed, a warm bath with peppermint, lavender and geranium oils will be beneficial in cooling the pitta’s nervous system.  And, reducing screen time is also beneficial for the pitta, as is journaling before bed.

Psychologically, the pitta is irritated easily.  They can be controlling and over-judgmental.  Their overheated tendencies can cause them to develop acne and rashes.  They may have trouble sleeping and suffer from acid reflux and loose bowels.  When they are balanced, pittas are natural born leaders.  Since they are so direct, a pitta may seem sharp or rude when talking.  Not so. They’re direct and they have no time to waste.  Even so, the pitta is a natural volunteer, and is popular when participating in social clubs. 

As with evaporation (fire and water), excess pitta simultaneously consumes and feeds energy (think water dropped on a hot pan).  It is essential that individuals with excess pitta work to negate the effects of their heat, working toward cooling and stabilizing their energy.

  • Balance priorities and rest.  Do not burn yourself out.
  • Keep a consistent eating schedule.  Both skipping meals and over-indulging will create excess digestive heat.
  • Adhere to diet and exercise that limit accumulation of excess pitta.
  • Don yourself with cool colors, enjoy cooling and sweet aromas, and listen to calming meditation music.
  • Take regular walks in nature, specifically spending time near bodies of water.  Moon bathe.
  • Incorporate laughter and joy into your day.
  • Use self-massage with cooling oils (coconut or olive) as a part of your daily routine.
Recommended Exercises for Pitta

Avoid exercise routines that will add excess heat to your body. While it is important to enjoy cardio workouts for health, keep your time in these activities to the bare minimum.

  • Swimming increases cardio, enhances muscle strength, and beats the heat.
  • Perform Moon Salutations that cool.
  • Yoga twists and bends release tension and lymph, which create heat.
  • Open the heart (think compassion and patience) with chest openers, such as Camel pose.
  • Meditate regularly and engage in Sitali Pranayama (cooling breath) to prevent and reduce heat.
Recommended Diet for Pitta

Choose foods that are pacifying to pitta, which are cooling, sweet, and bitter (yes, both!).

  • Avoid sour, salty, and pungent foods, and this includes dairy. Fermented foods may add more digestive fire than desired.
  • Limit intake of hot vegetables, like garlic, peppers, and onion.
  • Use honey and molasses as a natural sweetener, and indulge in sweet fruits, such as mangoes, melons, pineapples.
  • Avoid corn byproducts or brown rice, and increase intake of barley and oats.
  • Lubricate your system by cooking with oils and ghee.  Use cooling oils, like sunflower, coconut, or olive.  Avoid warming oils like corn, sesame, and almond.

What are some other doshas?

Ayurvedic practitioners have identified four other doshas. These doshas are noticed when a person may have two or even three dominant great elements. They are:

  • Pitta-Kapha – Natural leader but could have acne and cyclical weight gain and be overly judgmental.
  • Vata-Pitta – Hot headed, easily ticked off and distracted.
  • Vata-Kapha – Sluggish, cool to the touch, isolated, lonely.
  • Vata-Pitta-Kapha – The ultimate in health, well-being and happiness.

If a person is found to have two equal elements in their dosha, their dosha is said to be unbalanced. Practitioners can prescribe specific yoga movements, meditation, food or herbs to rebalance the body and the doshas. 


And, although having three equally balanced element sounds ideal, one with a Vata-Pitta-Kapha dosha can become out of balance by just eating the wrong foods or traveling excessively, and can then suffer from digestive disorders, anxiety or insomnia. An ayurvedic practitioner can suggest foods, spices and herbs to help Vata-Pitta-Kaphas rebalance themselves.

What Is Ayurvedic Diet?

In Ayurveda, food is medicine. Some foods aggravate and some pacify. It is important to choose an Ayurvedic diet that pacifies. You can choose tridoshic foods (foods that pacify all three doshas) or foods that negate or oppose the qualities of your specific dosha (i.e. kapha and vata should choose warming foods, while pitta should choose cooling). Here are some staples of an Ayurvedic diet:

Ghee is a mega food. Also known as clarified butter, it helps to fight inflammation, can improve digestion, and can enhance your immunity. Check out the many health benefits of ghee and how to make it.

Sesame oil is tridoshic. Although pitta should use it sparingly because of its warmth, and kapha should use it sparingly because of its heaviness, sesame oil works to pacify all doshas.

Yellow mung dal is a split lentil that makes many basic and essential ayurvedic dishes. Try this general moong dal recipe or kitchari.

Herbs are important in an Ayurvedic diet. You can use them in cooking as well as in teas.

A Note about Seasonal and Daily Routines:

It is important to live in accordance with the seasons and Sun. Each season and time of day bring us a combination of the five states of matter described earlier. By understanding the prominence of these elements during the year and day, you can limit any energy excess and dis-ease.

Kapha season exists during the coldest parts of winter to the earliest (think mud!) days of spring. Here is how best to balance kapha during this time of year:

  • Eat warm, dry foods. Early spring growth (dandelion, sprouts, and berries) are best for cleansing that winter sludge.
  • Stay active and moving, especially during the early hours of the day (kapaha time: 6 to 10 a.m.).
  • Incorporate activity into your daily routine that moves energy in the body: Neti pot, evening use of nasya (nasal) oil, and tongue scraping.

Pitta season exists from the drier stages of spring to the early signs of fall (just before the leaves dry and fall). Here is how best to balance pitta during this time of year:

  • Eat cool foods, such as cucumber and zucchini. Use mint and drink aloe juice.
  • Limit sun exposure, especially during pitta time (10 to 2 p.m.) Use cooling breath and peppermint essential oil, coconut oil, and aloe to cool down.
  • Practice Yin and restorative yoga, Moon bathe, and activate your cooling breath.

Vata season exists from the when the leaves dry and fall during autumn to the cold, windy phases of winter. Here is how best to balance vata during this time of year:

  • Eat warm, moist, well-cooked foods. Drink plenty of hot tea and cocoa. Chai is an excellent fall tea with lots of warming spices.
  • Restorative yoga and meditation are important during this season, as it also coincides with the hectic holidays.
  • Incorporate abhyanga (self-massage) into your daily routine, using thick, warm sesame oil. Enjoy warm baths.

The Importance of Daily Routines:

Because energy also shifts from kapha, pitta, and vata during the day (think the Sun’s movements and placement in the sky), it is important to take part in dinacharya or an Ayurveda routine. Use the knowledge you have about energy use and movement for each dosha, and act accordingly during each time of day:

  • Kapha time: 6 to 10 a.m. and p.m.
  • Pitta time: 10 to 2 a.m. and p.m.
  • Vata time: 2 to 6 a.m. and p.m.

Here are some tips to maximize your energy (stimulate, transform, or move):

  1. Wake early (kapha time) to move that energy.
  2. Cleanse in the morning: rub hands over face and body to clean aura; wash mouth, eyes, and face; eliminate body waste.
  3. Keep oral hygiene a priority throughout the day.
  4. Drink water first thing in the morning (warm or room temperature). Add lemon for gut health.
  5. Eliminate caffeine.
  6. Stick to a regular dietary and exercise schedule. Your body will thank you.
  7. Eat according to the Ayurveda Clock. Contrary to popular belief, lunch is the most important meal of the day (pitta is a hungry energy).
  8. Limit stimulation in the evenings, especially blue light and technology.
  9. Go to bed before 10 p.m. Create a relaxing pre-bed routine.
  10. Enjoy life.

NIH study affirms Ayurveda theory 

The National Institutes for Health’s studies have compared ayurvedic body descriptions in a patient to the patient’s medical descriptions and there have been found to be similarities. In fact, per a 2015 article at the NIH, “A growing body of research has reported patterns of blood chemistry, genetic expression, physiological states, and chronic diseases associated with each dosha type.” For instance, those people thought of having Kapha body types in Ayurveda, are found to have more risk factors for heart disease compared to Pitta or Vata body types. When Kapha body types are out of balance, they can gain weight; and in Western Medicine, it’s known that weight gain can lead to risk factors for heart disease.

Additional Suggestions:

Here is a list of warm/cool colors, as well as warm/cool aromas and essential oils for use in a diffuser or as perfume:

Warm Colors: These colors stimulate and intensify. They consist of oranges, reds, yellows, and combinations of those colors. Think Earth tones.

Cool Colors: These colors soothe and relax. They consist of blues, greens, light purple, and combinations of those colors. Think water.

Warm Aromas: These scents are typically associated with fall and winter. Examples include basil, patchouli, frankincense, orange, vanilla, and rose.

Cool Aromas: These scents are typically associated with spring and summer. Examples include jasmine, lavender, sandalwood, mint, and fennel.

Ayurveda for your best life

I listened to a lot of Ayurveda lectures when I worked as a yoga teacher and I find paying attention to your doshas can help you lead a happier and healthier life. In these troubled times, we all feel unbalanced and unmoored. Well, I suggested starting or restarting a yoga and meditation practice and adding on an ayurvedic focus to your life.

When your doshas are balanced, you may find that your life runs more smoothly. You may feel healthier, both mentally and physically. And you may find you have more energy. Plus, balanced doshas are said to contribute to healthier hair and skin. 

We explained the theory of ayurvedic body types in this article. And we talked about the dosha, or elements that determine your body type and can help you make lifestyle choices to maintain or increase your health. We discussed the three main ayurvedic body types and then described each one. We talked about the best food and drink for the three doshas. 

And we recommended activities for healthier complexion and better mental health. Plus, we described the key behavioral types and what type of career positions and typical for each dosha, i.e., leadership jobs or healthcare/mental care work.

Kapha is a very interesting dosha; we all have that kapha friend who is ready to listen to all of our problems. To that end, we went even deeper into the kapha dosha, describing characteristics such as their love of good food and beautiful art. 

But, not only are there the three main doshas, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about mixtures of doshas, which can be found in some people, and how that mixture can leave a body either well-balanced or out of balance.

And, lastly, we hope we’ve opened your eyes to the studies being done by NIH to investigate the ayurvedic body styles; instead of just focusing on Western medicine. 

We suggest you continue learning about your dosha. You may find that making even minor lifestyle changes reap great benefits.