Managing a Vata-Kapha Constitution
Ayurveda recognizes the uniqueness of every single human being, and uses the three doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha to understand our individual needs. While some people are predominant in just one of the doshas, it’s helpful to remember that everyone is made up of all three. In fact, many people experience two or even three primary doshas within themselves.
Being a vata-kapha type means that two doshas are predominant in your prakriti, or constitution, and these will likely be in a dynamic dance depending on the seasons, your lifestyle habits, and any external influences.
It is usually best to manage a dual dosha prakriti according to the season. In general, as a vata-kapha, follow a vata-balancing regimen during the fall seasons and winter seasons, during the change of seasons, and especially when the weather is cold, dry, and windy.
Follow a kapha-balancing regimen during the winter and spring and especially when the weather is cool and damp. You can also take our dosha quiz at any time to see which dosha most needs your attention.
“Tatra ruksho laghu sheetah, khara sukshmaschalo nilah”
The qualities of Vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile. — Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana I:11
This Sanskrit line lists the main qualities of vata and provides a key to understanding what it means to have a predominantly vata prakriti.
The main qualities of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile. So, having a vata-predominant prakriti means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional, and physical make up.
As you become familiar with the doshas, you can get a feel for how these qualities manifest. A vata-predominant individual's strengths and weaknesses both reflect these qualities.
- In excess, the dry and rough qualities may manifest themselves as dry or brittle skin, lips, hair, nails, or bones, as feeling “dry” emotionally, or having a dry sense of humor.
- The “light” quality may give you a lanky physique, but excess lightness may manifest as being underweight, having insufficient muscle mass, light bones, difficulty sleeping, or feeling “spacey” or insecure.
- The cold quality of vata may lead you to feel cold more easily than others around you, experience cold hands and feet, and crave a feeling of warmth.
- The subtle quality may express itself as being sensitive, highly intuitive, creative, and having an active fantasy life.
- The mobile quality may lead to a healthy ability to “multi-task” or, in excess, to scattered attention, a fidgety tendency, restlessness, and nervousness. It may also manifest as extremes; as in being very tall or very short or being drastically different weights at different times in your life.
Decreasing or Balancing Vata
Like Increases Like
A basic tenet of Ayurveda is “like increases like.” Therefore, increasing the inherent qualities of vata will increase vata in your body, mind, and spirit.
For example, because vata is inherently cool—cool weather, cool foods, the cool seasons, and even cool emotions can increase vata. Likewise, dry seasons, foods, environments, or emotions will increase the dry quality and thereby increase vata.
Example: You are a vata individual. One of the qualities of vata is dryness. You live in a dry climate, like a desert, and you regularly snack on dry crackers. This added dryness adds to the dry quality of vata, which you already have plenty of. This usually increases vata and can lead to dry conditions like dry skin, anxiousness, or brittle nails.
Tastes That Increase and Decrease Vata
Along with the main qualities of vata, it is also helpful to know those tastes that increase and decrease vata.
- Pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes increase vata by increasing its drying and cooling qualities. An example of the pungent taste is chili peppers. Bitter and astringent tastes are common in most leafy greens and many herbs.
- The sweet, sour, and salty tastes decrease vata by bringing moisture, bulk, and warmth to the body, which are opposite qualities to those of vata. An example of a naturally sweet taste is wheat; of sour: pickles; of salty: seaweed.
Using Opposites to Maintain Balance
Each of us has a unique proportion of the three doshas in our prakritis. Ayurveda teaches us that if a dosha increases beyond its original, natural proportion for our unique constitution, it fosters an environment where disease can flourish.
It is common for our predominant dosha (vata, pitta, or kapha) to increase more quickly than other doshas because we tend to perpetuate what we know best.
For example, if your dominant dosha is vata, you will naturally incline towards a life filled with activity, due to the mobile quality of vata. However, if you are too active, you are likely to eventually aggravate vata and thereby exhaust the nervous system.
To do this, we want to inorpporate things that decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities to it. For example, if vata has increased due to excess activity, a quiet, calm environment can be the perfect solution. If it has increased due to excess dryness, wetness provides the needed balance. Too much cold? Use heat.
One of the wonderfully practical aspects of Ayurveda is that anything can be used to restore healthy balance because everything that exists has a quality. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, foods, colors, drinks, environments, smells, and lifestyles.
Qualities opposite to vata are moist, grounding, warming, smooth, oily, and stabilizing. It is therefore best for vata individuals to seek out physical and emotional environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities.
Dietary Support to Balance Vata
A vata individual does well to have warm, freshly cooked, nourishing, mushy foods like soups, stews, kitchari, and one-pot-meals.
Because of the inherent light quality in vata, you may think that heavy foods would nicely balance that quality but actually too much heavy food—or just too much food at a sitting—is too heavy for the lightness of the vata digestive system.
Because the sweet, sour, and salty tastes decrease vata, these tastes should be predominant in your diet.
When selecting sweet foods, note that naturally sweet foods like many grains, squashes, and most fruits are appropriate, but processed foods high in refined sugars are not at all balancing for vata.
Refined sugars merely offer a quick burst of energy, followed by a “crash,” a pattern that is already a hallmark feature of vata, and one that the vata individual does well to avoid.
Herbal Support to Balance Vata
Using herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle and can be incredibly supportive in promoting overall health.
Ashwagandha, shatavari and vidari kanda are three of the primary herbs used to remove excess vata from the body and maintain balance. All of these herbs can be found in our Healthy Vata herbal tablets.
Climate and Lifestyle to Balance Vata
The ideal environment for a vata individual is warm and wet, like Hawaii. Sweet scents, sweet music, sweet experiences, and sweet emotions are also wonderful for vata.
The mobile quality of vata can drive vata-types to do a thousand things at one time. This can lead to exhaustion of the nervous system, which in turn causes emotional and physical restlessness and eventual “dis-ease.”
While a daily routine can feel contrary to your nature, it can be extremely beneficial for you to incorporate into your life.
To balance vata, it's helpful to go to bed and rise at the same time every day, as well as taking time for meditation, gentle yoga, or other strengthening exercise that is easy on the joints. Also try eating regular meals, chewing them thoroughly, and taking a breath before moving on to your next activity.
Yoga for Vata Types
The practice of yoga goes hand in hand with Ayurveda. Visit the vata-pacifying yoga section on our website for information on how to customize your yoga practice to help calm the mind, settle the nervous system, and keep vata balanced.
Famous Vata Examples
Christy Turlington. Lanky. Moves around a lot. Very tall. Angular face.
Mick Jagger. Jumps around. Creative. Lanky. Disproportionate features.
“Snigdhah shita gururmandah shlakshno mritsnah sthirah kaphah”
Kapha is unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static. — Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana I:12
This Sanskrit line lists the main qualities of kapha and provides a key to understanding what it means to have a predominantly kapha prakriti.
The kapha personality and characteristics will reflect kapha’s earthy qualities—unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and stable. It is also dense, cloudy, and viscous. So, having a kapha-predominant prakriti means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional, and physical make up.
Here are some ways you may find these qualities reflected in both your strengths and weaknesses.
- The unctuous quality can allow for smooth joint function but, if pronounced, can lead to excess buildup of bodily fluids.
- The cool quality may manifest as cool skin and a laid-back, cool temperament.
- Heaviness may manifest as a large, sturdy, grounded physical and emotional constitution and, in excess, as being overweight or experiencing a subjective feeling of heaviness in the mind.
- Slowness may manifest as a slow gait or a slow, steady pace that you can maintain. In excess, you may get stuck in a pattern that may not healthy and supportive for you.
- Softness can manifest as a soft heart that is easily empathic. Another manifestation of this quality is having soft skin.
- Stability can be an asset that friends, family, and colleagues probably recognize and perhaps lean on, but in excess could become stubbornness or sluggishness. You could become so stable that you are disinclined toward any physical activity.
- Density can manifest as good stamina and strong, well-formed muscles and bones. This enables the kapha constitution to withstand vigorous exercise. This quality is also responsible for dense, luxurious hair.
Decreasing or Balancing Kapha
Like Increases Like
As discussed above, a basic tenet of Ayurveda is “like increases like.” Therefore, increasing the inherent qualities of kapha will increase kapha in your body, mind, and spirit.
For example, because kapha is inherently cool, heavy, and wet—cold weather, heavy foods, or wet seasons tend to increase kapha. Knowing this can help identify which lifestyle choices, foods, or environments will bring balance to your constitution.
Example: You are a kapha individual. Kapha is heavy, dense, wet, cold, and static. If you eat a large bowl of ice cream (heavy, dense, wet, and cold,) at night (cold) in winter in Vermont (cold, wet), you can be sure that kapha will increase in your system. The next morning you may find yourself with a cold, having gained a pound or two (the increase of heavy and dense), and less likely to move than ever (static).
Tastes That Increase and Decrease Kapha
Along with the main qualities of kapha, it is also helpful to know those tastes that increase or decrease kapha.
- Sweet, sour, and salty tastes increase kapha by increasing bulk and moisture in the body and mind, and by perpetuating the qualities of kapha. An example of the naturally sweet taste is wheat; of sour: a pickle; of salty: salt.
- The pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes traditionally decrease kapha by drying the body and providing the opposite qualities to those of kapha. An example of the pungent taste is chili pepper; of bitter and astringent (which are often coupled): many leafy greens and many herbs.
Using Opposites to Maintain Balance
If your dominant dosha is kapha, its quality of slowness quality may lead you to be naturally inclined toward calming activities. In excess, this slow quality may lead to stagnation.
To regain healthy balance, we want to incorporate substances which decrease the excess kapha by providing the opposite qualities.
For example, if kapha has increased due to excess stagnation in your life, activity is the solution. If it has increased due to excess coolness, you can use heat to bring balance. Too much heaviness? Use lightness.
Qualities opposite to kapha are predominantly warm, dry, light, and active. It is therefore best for kapha individuals to seek out physical and emotional environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities.
Dietary Support to Balance Kapha
Because of the slow, heavy qualities of kapha, this dosha type can tend to have a sluggish digestive capacity and a slower metabolism. They usually don’t have a ravenous appetite but can experience heaviness after meals.
A kapha individual does well to have a moderate amount of warming, light, freshly cooked foods to maintain balance and support healthy digestion.
Because pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes decrease kapha, these tastes should be predominant in your diet.
Herbal Support to Balance Kapha
Using herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle and can be incredibly supportive in maintaining overall health.
Climate and Lifestyle to Balance Kapha
Although kapha may be able to tolerate a wide variety of temperatures, the ideal environment is a warm and dry one. Active sports like jogging, hiking, biking, or competitive sports, especially in the morning, are best. These activities will get the blood moving and the heart pumping, helping to keep kapha motivated and light.
Aromatic, invigorating, or heating scents, and light and lively music are also wonderful for kapha. A vigorous, daily, 10–20 minute self-massage with warm sesame oil or Kapha Massage Oil will help keep kapha from becoming stagnant.
One of the best medicines for kapha is activity. It is well worth the effort for the kapha individual to find that golden key to what motivates them. For example, if you have a difficult time motivating yourself to exercise regularly, you could enter a local bike race. This may give you just that extra push and you may be surprised by how much you enjoy yourself.
Yoga for Kapha Types
The practice of yoga goes hand in hand with Ayurveda. Visit the kapha-pacifying yoga section on our website for information on how to customize your yoga practice to warm your body, lift your spirits, and help keep kapha balanced.
Famous Kapha Examples
Oprah Winfrey: Large, luminescent eyes and frame. Compassionate. Generous.
Luciano Pavarotti: Deep, resonant voice. Large frame.
Knowing our prakriti is useful because it increases awareness of our natural strengths and challenges. It helps us to understand and embrace our unique nature and provides a positive first step towards understanding our health.
The second step is to understand if and how we have strayed from our natural, healthy constitution. In Ayurveda, we determine this by comparing our prakriti (natural constitution) with our vikriti (current condition).
If you have not already, take the dosha quiz to determine your current state of balance and get started on your path to optimal well-being.
The above information was written by Dr. Claudia Welch for the exclusive use of Banyan Botanicals. The information is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without the written permission of Dr. Claudia Welch and Banyan Botanicals.
The above prakriti test and results are intended as a convenient tool to provide practical information on your Ayurvedic constitutional type. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. In addition, it should be noted that while this information should be considered highly useful it is not meant to replace the skilled constitutional analysis of a professionally trained Ayurvedic Physician.