Back to School: The 3 Types of Learners

Back to School: The 3 Types of Learners

Students everywhere can see the end of their summer breaks, and school is fast approaching. Anticipating days spent back in school, some struggle with the thought of long days in the classroom and evenings of homework, while others eagerly await being reunited with friends and hitting the books.

However the student in your life feels about school, Ayurveda can make learning a more enjoyable process.

The first place to start is to understand that your student's natural constitution, or their unique combination of vata, pitta, and kapha, inherently affects how they learn. If they don't yet know their constitution, they can take our dosha quiz, then keep reading to find the best tips for all learners. At a glance, here's what we'll cover: 


students running through door

Creative and Mobile Vata Learners

Vata students typically display creativity and flexibility. They love being exposed to all sorts of new things, though they may have a tough time actually completing any one of the hundred projects they start.

Vata students don't always fit the mold and may get themselves in trouble because they can be talkers and are always moving around. They may be labeled as hyper or as having difficulty with focusing and paying attention (especially if vata is out of balance).

A vata mind is always racing with a million ideas, and daydreaming is often the subject it enjoys most.

If you have a vata student in your life, try some of these Ayurvedic tips:

  • Nurture the creative energy. They need an outlet to express their vata nature. This may be in the form of after-school activities, arts and crafts classes, or weekend projects. If possible, look for teachers that use alternative teaching methods instead of the traditional setting where the teacher talks and the student sits and listens.
  • Establish a routine. Vata stays in better balance when a consistent, nurturing routine is in place. Having a set time to wake up and go to bed really helps keep the unfocused part of vata in check. Vata doesn't like routine and may even rebel, so make sure there are plenty of other places where these students get to express their ideas and choices.
  • Eat a solid breakfast and dinner (and lunch if possible). Vata is grounded by warm, cooked, nourishing foods. If lunch is difficult to control, make breakfast and dinner count. Use a little oil or ghee (clarified butter) in your cooking as it adds to vata's stability. A vata child may also need a healthy snack when they get home or before bed if your family eats an early dinner. Avoid dry, rough, cold, and light foods.
  • Do a daily massage with oil. A daily oil massage in the morning before showering can work wonders! Daily Massage Oil is a great choice for this nourishing practice. But if your schedule doesn't allow for this, at least rub oil on the soles of the feet (and the scalp if you are willing) for a few minutes every night before bed.
  • Get proper rest. The brain, nervous system, and body need time to process and rejuvenate. Appropriate sleep leaves you refreshed and energized in the morning. For sound sleep, massage the feet and scalp with oil before bed, take a warm bath, or drink a glass of warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg.


girl reading a book

Sharp and Driven Pitta Learners

Pitta students bring a sharp mind and laser focus to their studies. 

Pitta is able to get to the heart of the matter and digest it quickly.

Often self-motivated and driven, a pitta student frequently seems to learn effortlessly and picks up new information with ease.

Imbalanced pitta, though, can make a student overly critical and competitive. Pitta students may derive a tremendous amount of self-worth from achievement and be self-judgmental when they feel unsuccessful or make mistakes.

Help your pitta student find balance and enjoyment with some of the following tips:

  • Learn for the sake of learning. Achievement often drives pitta students, and they can get into the mode of studying hard to get good grades. Remind your pitta student to enjoy learning. Have them turn some of their attention to reading or learning a skill or art that doesn't lead to a grade or a competition.
  • Grow from mistakes. Pitta students can easily beat themselves up if they perceive lack of success. Help them by starting to define success in terms of effort—did they give 100%? And then teach them to take mistakes as terrific opportunities to learn and grow. Traditional wisdom says that if you are afraid to make mistakes, you'll never truly push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and you'll end up limiting your own growth.
  • Find “sweet” friends. One's company can make all the difference, and pitta is soothed by sweetness. If one is constantly surrounded by competitive people, they will live by the pressure of competition. If one is instead surrounded by people who focus on excellence, not just beating the next guy, they will learn cooperation and a win-win mentality.
  • Eat three square meals. Pitta people need fuel to energize their sharp minds, and if there is a strong digestive fire that is left unfed, it could create excessive pitta qualities. Warm oatmeal or pancakes can be a nourishing start to the day, or try a date shake if you need something quick. A solid lunch and dinner are also an important part of keeping their strong digestion satisfied. Stay away from spicy, sour, and fermented foods to keep pitta balanced.
  • Stay cool and hydrated. Staying hydrated is important, and if your student tends to get overheated, try adding a little mint to their water or have them drink some natural coconut water in the warmer months.
  • Get proper rest. Pitta always tries to do too much, and it is of utmost importance to give the body and mind time to recuperate. Taking a moment every day to practice self-massage with Daily Massage Oil can be a great way to pause in the morning and check in with the body. A nice massage to the soles of the feet and scalp with Brahmi Oil can make a soothing bedtime ritual.


woman taking notes at a desk

Steady and Patient Kapha Learners

Kapha students are often great learners, but they may need to apply more effort. A kapha student takes time to learn and must study ardently. Once they understand a concept, though, it is likely to stick with them for a long time.

Slow and steady is the name of the game.

Balanced kapha can excel in subjects that require patience and analysis.

The problem is that kapha's natural tendencies often become an obstacle to putting in this needed effort, and lethargy or boredom quickly jump into the picture. A kapha student often needs some external motivation.

For the kapha student in your life, consider some of these invigorating tips:

  • Exercise in the morning and afternoon. While it may already be tough enough to get the kapha student ready on time in the morning, working in a little exercise can really tackle lethargy and sluggishness and prepare your kapha student for class. Using this technique in the afternoon can also bring focus and attention to homework. To motivate your kapha, make it fun!
  • Eat light, and spice up the food. Kapha should really learn to listen to the appetite and eat when hungry. Keep the food light and refreshing; heavy foods will only add to the lethargy. Sweets and chips can be a treat—only a small part of the meal. And whenever possible, add some digestive spices like cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger
  • Consider a neti pot. When used regularly, a neti pot, also called a nasal rinse cup, can help to keep the nasal passages and sinuses clean and clear. Kapha students can greatly benefit from this practice, as it increases their ability to learn and think clearly.
  • Keep kapha engaged. Push kapha students to find what they like and really strive for excellence. They may need an occasional reminder to keep them going. Motivate them with rewards that are not related to food; praise their effort, use fun activities as a reward, and don't let things become routine or monotonous.

Herbal Support for All Learners

The following herbal supplements are balancing to all doshas and can benefit students of all ages. If your student is a child, we recommend first touching base with your practitioner before starting a new herbal supplement.

Brahmi. Also known as gotu kola, brahmi can balance all three doshas. The leaves look like a cerebellum, a nod to its affinity for the brain, and it has been traditionally used to support a healthy brain and nervous system.

Mental Clarity. Combining brahmi with other well-known herbs for the brain and nervous system, Mental Clarity tablets support all aspects of cognitive and mental performance, including memory and concentration.

Focus liquid extract. Focus liquid extract is made with a non-alcoholic base and is a favorite of students and learners of all ages. As the name infers, it supports concentration while it also supports cognitive function during stress.  

Chyavanprash. This herbal jam nourishes and rejuvenates the body and mind and supports a healthy immune system so your student can stay healthy, engaged, and focused on learning.

No matter what age, we are all designed to keep learning and growing. Understanding your constitution and how to work with it can make the process fun and stimulating. Best wishes for the beginning of the school year!

About the Author

Premal Patel, MD

Premal Patel, MD, is a Family Practice physician who has also studied Ayurveda and Acupuncture. She serves on faculty for the Ayurvedic Institute and...

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