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AYURVEDIC EXERCISE PRINCIPLES FOR VATA, PITTA & KAPHA

According to Ayurveda, exercise is an integral aspect to keeping the body healthy. However, within this, Ayurveda also looks at the type of exercise that is most attuned to the individual’s constitution, and what the individual needs for (regaining) balance. Too little or too much exercise, as well as the wrong form etc. can have negative effects on health and wellbeing.

Active or passive form of exercise: Exercise can take different forms. Active can be in the form of pilates, or team sports, whereas passive can be receiving a massage. Yoga can also be a form of both.

Form/type of exercise: Be this vigorous, meditative, breathing exercises, individual or team orientated.

What form of benefit is needed? What is the effect that is being sought from the form of exercise in terms of maintaining/res-establishing doshic balance and wellbeing.

What psychological effect is required? Is the exercise needed to help balance the mind, calm anxiety, help with depression, and/or reduce stress levels, etc.

Amount of exercise needed: Ayurvedic principles state that one should not exercise more than to 50% of their capacity. Exercise is of no benefit if it leaves one exhausted or depleted.

Illness of the individual: Exercise needs to be adjusted to the level fo health of the individual.

Age of the individual: Ayurveda sees that children should only begin strenuous levels of exercise beginning at puberty; those over 60 should do mild forms of exercise.

Strength of the individual: The physical and mental strength of an individual needs to be taken into account as to the exercise undertaken.

We present below, a general overview of exercise for each Dosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), however the above factors need needs to be taken into account.

Should you have any queries or need support in establishing an Ayurvedically balanced exercise program for yourself, please visit our Yoga as a Therapy page.


General exercise guidelines for Vata types:

  • Mild and regular exercise are most beneficial for Vata types. Gentle yoga (not Hot or Ashtanga). Tai Chi, or walking is most suitable. These are also good forms of exercise as they allow for contemplation, promote equanimity and are not taxing on the skeletal system.
  • Rhythmic exercise is more balancing than aerobic forms of exercise.
  • Excessive vigorous exercise can exhaust the body, which disturbs Vata by dehydrating the tissues.
  • Vata types can also have the tendency to be addicted to vigorous exercise, as it can help them to feel light and more energised, but can actually be quite detrimental for Vata types.
  • Vata types can also be involved in running or jogging, but these practices tend to put too much pressure on joints, which for Vata types can inherently be weak. This can lead to early degeneration of joint structures.
  • Examples of types of sports that can be good for Vata include: low impact flow dance, ballet, bike riding (touring), bowling, canoeing, cricket, dance, golf, hiking, horse riding, tai chi, moderate stretching, swimming, walking, mild yoga asana, mild weight training.
  • At the end of the exercise, the individual should feel warm, nurtured and calm and in no way exhausted – noting the point above regarding vigorous exercise than can leave an individual feeling light and energised – but this will lead to an imbalance (which needs to be avoided).


General exercise guidelines for Pitta types:

  • Exercise for Pitta types needs to be moderate and not overly overheating.
  • Pitta types need to be aware of a tendency for being overly competitive, so team sports which facilitate cooperation, or self-competitive activities are most suited.
  • Swimming (and all water sports) can be one of the most beneficial sports, as water is naturally cooling to Pitta.
  • Avoid sports during the heat of the day in summer. Prefer early morning exercise or late in the afternoon.
  • Pitta types need to be aware that they can easily dehydrate when exercising, so they need the most water intake when exercising.
  • Examples of types of sports that can be good for Pitta include: basketball, netball, team sports, cycling, golf, hiking, skating, rowing, martial arts, mountain bike riding, tennis, sailing, soccer, water skiing, water sports and Yoga asana.
  • At the end of the exercise, the individual should feel satisfied, tired and yet in no way too hot or exhausted.


General exercise guidelines for Kapha types:

  • For Kapha individuals, daily exercise is essential for stimulation, heating qualities and the drying and lightening effect that exercise has. This works to balance against the natural Kapha cool, moist, heavy and static qualities.
  • In many ways Kapha types need encouragement and motivation behind them to develop up an exercise habit. For them exercise can be hard to get into, but once there, they can find it immensely satisfying.
  • Exercising with coaches, friends or family members can be of great benefit.
  • Strenuous and/or aerobic routines are best for Kapha types, such as strong forms of Yoga and martial arts.
  • Water sports are generally not ideal for Kapha, due to the quality of water. However, competitive water sports are an exception to this in general.
  • After exercise, the individual should feel light, energetic, motivated and warm.

If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.

GETTING TO KNOW THE CHARACTERISTICS OF KAPHA DOSHA

Kapha dosha encompasses the elements of Water and Earth and is considered as the dosha of binding, form and structure. Kapha dosha provides stability, grounding, and stamina while Vata and Pitta are more associated with movement. Kapha helps one feel grounded, calm, content, and compassionate, gives us the ability to taste our food, builds and nourishes body tissues, lubricates joints and mucosal linings, and protects the physical systems of the body.


The Physical attributes of KAPHA types

  • Well developed bodies
  • Strong tendency to carry excess weight
  • Chest expanded and broad
  • Veins and tendons not obvious
  • Muscle development good
  • Excellent muscle tone
  • Naturally coordinated
  • Rarely feel hungry after exercise
  • Wide hips and shoulders – store energy
  • Complexion fair and bright
  • Skin soft, lustrous and oily
  • Skin pale
  • Skin is cool, but not cold
  • Hair thick, dark, soft and wavy
  • Hair dark brown/chocolatey and thick and slightly wavy (borders on coarse)
  • Eyes generally very attractive
  • Eyes large and liquid – blue or milk chocolateJoints well lubricated & deep set
  • Eyes dense and black or blue
  • White of eye generally very white
  • Teeth large, gleaming; rarely need attention
  • Tongue rarely coated when healthy
  • Fingers and toes short/squarish
  • Nails strong, large and symmetrical; can be thick and pale in colour
  • With moderate exercise can keep moderate weight
  • Gain weight easily and specifically on the lower body parts
  • Enjoys sun and burn after overexposure
  • Rarely have cold hands/feet
  • May have a few freckles
  • Oily smooth and thick skin
  • Moderate body hair
  • Lips full and moist
  • Sweat moderately, even in climatic extremes


The Physiological attributes of KAPHA

  • Regular appetite
  • Digestion relatively slow
  • Tend to move slowly
  • Craves pungent, bitter, astringent foods
  • Perspiration moderate
  • Generally happy, healthy and peaceful
  • Appetite moderate and stable
  • Can go the whole day on juice alone
  • Can easily skip breakfast
  • Bowels regular – 1/day
  • Stools well-formed, rarely hard
  • Stools soft and may be pale in colour
  • Evacuation is slow
  • When constipated, respond to medium strength laxatives
  • Effortless and regular menstruation
  • Average amount of menstrual blood
  • Imbalance can add mucus to menstrual blood
  • Period cramps are mild and dull
  • Prone to water retention
  • PMS: water retention, bloating, swollen breasts, vaginal itches, slow digestion and lethargy
  • Not greatly disturbed by any climate but prefer warm weather and low humidity
  • Enjoy sex but are not fascinated by it
  • Can be aroused but remain passionate for a long period of time
  • Sleep soundly and prolonged
  • Drop of to sleep easily and wake rested and alert
  • Gladly sleep many hours at a time
  • Rarely have trouble sleeping
  • Dreams are cool, calm, quiet, uneventful
  • Do not bother to remember their dreams unless the dreams are intensely emotional
  • Speak slowly and cautiously
  • Don’t volunteer much information
  • Tone is lower in pitch than Vata or Pitta
  • Like to avoid confrontation
  • Strong disinterest in change
  • Predominantly calm and quiet; steady and serious
  • Enjoy home and family
  • Stable personalities
  • Study each subject carefully before committing to anything
  • Innately more compassionate than Vata or Pitta
  • Think in emotions and ‘feel’ connection between words and forms
  • Manage well and are good managers but not leaders or theorists
  • Slower to learn but once learned, never forget
  • Once angered, never forget a slight
  • Can dig themselves into ruts
  • Not motivated to exercise until they start to exercise


The Psychological attributes of KAPHA

  • Tolerant, calm, forgiving
  • Greed, attachment, possessiveness, envy
  • Tend to be wealthy
  • Good at holding onto their money
  • Withdraw when confronted
  • Can procrastinate when under pressure
  • Express through thought and emotion
  • Very loyal
  • Are ‘in it for the long term’


How to recognise a KAPHA imbalance

  • Excess mucous in the respiratory system and in stools
  • Thick, white coating (ama) on the tongue
  • Infrequent and sluggish bowel movements (e.g. consistently not having a bowel movement every day)
  • Emotional eating
  • High body weight, difficulty losing weight and easily gains
  • Difficulty waking in the morning and from naps
  • Feeling slow, foggy, dull, lethargic, or heavy in mind and/or body
  • Feeling overly attached and possessive of people, things, or experiences
  • Stubbornness, complacency
  • Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, enlarged prostate


What factors imbalance KAPHA dosha

  • Foods and beverages that are sweet (sugar, grains, dried fruits, dairy), and salty tasting
  • Foods that are heavy and oily
  • Cold foods
  • Over-intake of liquid foods
  • Dairy products
  • Not chewing food properly, gulping food, eating while talking, eating while standing or walking, eating while driving, talking excessively during meals
  • Eating meals at irregular times
  • Eating on a full stomach or before the previous meal is digested
  • Overeating
  • Eating just after strenuous exercise
  • Exercising (strenuous) too soon after eating
  • Oversleeping
  • Going to bed late (i.e. after 10pm)
  • Obstructions to bodily channels
  • Lack of or under exercise
  • Lack of sexual activity
  • Any excessive (or lack thereof) activity, where there is not enough balance (work/sleep/activity/exercise/relaxation/social/creativity). This also includes excessive screen time, use of electronic devices, excessive inactivity/stagnant lifestyle, and lack of mental and physical stimulation/challenges.
  • Indulgence in suppression of emotions/any emotion
  • Late Winter and early Spring
  • Morning and evening
  • Rainy and cloudy weather

What balances KAPHA dosha
The ‘qualities’ or characteristics of Kapha are oily, heavy, cold, dull, stable, slow, soft, smooth, dense gross and cloudy, sweet, sour and salty in taste. Therefore, the opposite of these qualities will help bring Kapha back into balance.

  • Fun, varied, enlivening, stamina focussed and orientated activities.
  • Light, warm/hot, sharp, hard, pungent, liquid, subtle, clear foods with bitter, astringent and pungent tastes.
  • Foods, medicinal herbs and Ayurvedic bodywork therapies that have the qualities as listed above.
  • Avoidance of the above listed diet/lifestyle factors that aggravate Kapha, and work on elements/factors that rebalance Kapha during Kapha times of day and Kapha season of year.


Qualities of a balanced KAPHA
When in Balance, Kapha types are stable in temperament, have a good long-term memory, good strength and stamina, a healthy and robust physiology, are team players, are reliable and enjoy sound sleep, are compassionate, loving, nurturing and affectionate.

 

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