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.