Understanding Your Vata-Kapha Constitution
According to Ayurveda, your constitution is established at conception, cemented at birth, and remains constant over the course of your lifetime. It influences your physiology, your physique, your likes and dislikes, your tendencies and habits, your mental and emotional character, as well as your vulnerabilities toward imbalance and disease. It is defined by the particular combination of vata, pitta, and kapha that you were born with, and it represents your body’s natural state of equilibrium. Because your constitution serves as your blueprint for optimal health, understanding it—with the help of curiosity and self-awareness—can be truly enlightening. Our intention here is to introduce you to your constitution and to give you some of the tools necessary to court a deeper understanding over time.
It’s important to know that we all have all three doshas in our constitutions: vata, pitta, and kapha. But the ratio between them—the specific quantitative and qualitative relationship between the three—is entirely unique to you. That said, as a vata-kapha type, your constitution is predominated by vata and kapha, and you probably have a lot in common with other vata-kapha types who share that core distinction.
What Ayurveda Knows About You
While there is undoubtedly no one quite like you out there, it is remarkable how accurate Ayurveda can be in predicting who we are—based simply on the broad strokes of our constitutions. As you read through this introduction, and start to piece together the ways in which vata and kapha have shaped your constitution, you will probably begin to see your particular strengths and vulnerabilities more clearly. And as your understanding of your constitution expands, your capacity to use these insights to your advantage will also improve. Below are a number of traits that you can likely attribute to your constitution.
Please keep in mind that distinguishing physical characteristics should always be considered within the context of your ethnicity. For example, traits like eye color, skin color, or hair type are assessed in comparison to others with a similar heritage.
You probably have a moderately-sized skeletal frame, with medium bones and lean musculature, but you are more than likely tall, and your weight may tend to fluctuate a bit. Your face is a blend of kapha’s characteristic roundness, and vata’s length and angularity. Your eyes are probably medium in size, and may be uniquely captivating. Your skin probably tends to be neither oily nor dry, and neither dark nor fair in tone, but somewhere in between in both cases—with moderate thickness. Your hair may be course, moderately thick, and most likely has at least a few curls. Your body tends to feel a bit cool most of the time, so you almost certainly enjoy the sun and prefer a warmer climate.
Personality: Mental and Emotional Tendencies
You are generally a creative, visionary type—always full of new ideas—but your imaginative capacity is helpfully grounded by your calm demeanor and steady mind, giving you an especially unique combination of traits. You are most likely also gentle, loving, tolerant, and sensitive. And when you care about something, you probably approach it with quite a bit of zeal. When it comes to wealth, you probably make and save money with ease, even if you have an impulsive streak. Although the different aspects of your constitution have the capacity to temper one another, their opposing needs and tendencies may sometimes be confusing to you, so staying attuned to your body, and learning to listen to its changing needs is particularly important for you.
You very likely have a somewhat muted appetite, and while you may enjoy food, or even see your creativity come alive in the kitchen, your digestion is probably a bit finicky. If you don’t already do so, a focus on eating three square meals daily would likely serve you well because it would establish a sense of routine, support appropriate time for digestion between meals, and prevent mindless snacking. Your bowels may be a bit dry or sluggish, with relatively firm stools. This may sometimes interfere with the regularity of your elimination and, at times, even cause constipation.
Energy Levels, Stamina, and Sleep
In general, vata is rather delicate and has limited reserves of strength and stamina, while kapha is incredibly stable and needs stimulation. So for you, it is important to strike a balance between appropriate levels of activity and adequate rest and relaxation—learning to honor every aspect of who you are. In fact, you may tend to fluctuate between an active, mobile approach to life, and a reliable need to slow down, rest, and recharge. Your healthy enthusiasm for life, travel, and adventure has likely left you aware of a tendency to overexert yourself, despite having moderate endurance. Similarly, your capacity to focus may be dismally unpredictable—impressive at times, and highly distractible at others.
Your sleep—both in terms of quality and quantity—is likely moderate, but you probably do best when you retire by about 10 p.m. and wake up around 6 a.m., before the sluggishness of the morning weighs you down. You likely prefer a softer bed with adequate covers to stay nice and warm while sleeping. That said, the kapha in you may allow you to sleep anywhere, when necessary.
The Qualitative Nature of Your Predominant Doshas
Does this sound like you? It’s astonishing how helpful the doshas can be in making sense of both our strengths and our weaknesses. In this next section, we hope to ground your understanding even further by exploring the primary qualities of both vata and kapha, how they can impact the physiology and the mind, and how they can either support or challenge your health—depending on whether they are balanced or aggravated.
As you will see, your two predominant doshas have one quality in common, several that oppose one another energetically, and a couple that apply only to one of the two doshas. As you read through this section, you may begin to notice some of the ways in which each quality manifests in your system, giving you a glimpse into some of the more subtle aspects of your particular constitution. In time, it is precisely this type of deepening self-awareness that can inform your understanding of how best to promote optimal health and balance in your life.
Both Vata and Kapha Are Cool
The cold quality may mean that your skin is most often cool to the touch—especially your hands and feet—and you are probably more sensitive to cold temperatures than others, but it also gives you the capacity to access a cool-headed and calm demeanor. In excess, this quality can compromise digestive strength, cool one’s passion and inspiration, or even lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Vata Is Light; Kapha Is Heavy
Lightness often manifests as a thin or lanky physique, access to creativity, and well-developed spirituality. In excess, it can cause a flighty ungroundedness, lack of emotional security, insomnia, deteriorating bones or muscles, and the condition of being underweight.
The heavy quality provides substance, lending a certain grounded, real, relatable, and embodied quality to the personality. In excess, it causes inertia, lethargy, weight gain, and feelings of being overburdened, weighed down, or depressed.
Vata Is Dry; Kapha Is Oily
The dry quality allows our organs and tissues to remain separate where appropriate (without undue friction), and also effectively absorb nutrients. In excess, it can cause dry skin, constipation, under-lubricated joints, a certain rigidity in the mind or body, and brittle hair, nails, or bones.
Oiliness makes for naturally soft and lubricated skin, smooth movement in the joints, and it bolsters our capacities to relax, accept nourishment, and give or receive love. In excess, it can lead to oily skin and hair, acne, excess mucus, or an especially manipulative (think slippery) personality.
Vata Is Rough; Kapha Is Smooth
The rough quality supports our bodies in simplifying nutrients and making them biologically useful, and also in breaking down waste so that it can be eliminated. In excess, it can cause rough skin, gas and bloating, rough movement in the joints, and carelessness or clumsiness.
The smooth quality tends to make the skin, hair, and physical body smooth and soft, while supporting smooth movement in the joints, graceful movement of the body, and a soft, gentle, and loving personality. When aggravated, the smooth quality can cause water retention and excessive adipose tissue.
Vata Is Mobile; Kapha Is Stable
The mobile quality supports effective movement, communication, and action. In excess, it can cause instability and restlessness in the mind or body, compromise our ability to focus, trigger anxiety, and cause fidgeting or tremors.
The stable quality provides a distinct steadiness of mind and body, good balance, and is deeply appreciated by those who are naturally more reactive or flighty. In excess, the stable quality can lead to inactivity, stubbornness, or stagnation.
Vata Is Subtle
The subtle quality allows for substances to penetrate deep into the cells, and for ideas or emotions to infiltrate the deepest layers of consciousness. It allows for a more meaningful experience of life. In excess, it can leave us feeling aloof, ungrounded, or disconnected from reality.
Kapha Is Slow
The slow quality creates a level of deliberate intentionality and purpose, and the capacity to pace one’s self appropriately. It allows us to be fully present, while creating depth, meaning, and connection. In excess, this quality can lead to a dull appetite, sluggish digestion, excessively slow movement or speech, a dull or uninspired mind, resistance to change, and boredom.