Understanding Your Vata-Pitta 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-pitta type, your constitution is predominated by vata and pitta, and you probably have a lot in common with other vata-pitta 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 pitta 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 rather slight skeletal frame and you may have long limbs, narrower shoulders and hips, and somewhat prominent joints. Your musculature is lean and may be wiry. Your weight is generally steady, and if anything, you may tend to be a bit underweight. Your face may be long, heart-shaped, or a combination of the two, with facial features that are sharp and angular, and eyes that are small to medium in size. Your skin is probably rather thin and transparent and may tend toward being either a bit dry or a bit oily. Your hair is likely fine and somewhat thin and may be either curly or straight, oily or dry. You likely prefer a warmer, sunnier climate because you tend to have poor circulation, and no matter where you live, your hands and feet may remain consistently cold.
Personality: Mental and Emotional Tendencies
Your friends would probably describe you as fun-loving, passionate, and intense. You are generally intelligent, ambitious, creative, and full of new ideas. You almost certainly love travel and adventure. You also love to learn, have a fiery passion for the things that most interest you, and are both keenly insightful and highly capable of holding a big vision. There’s no doubt about it: when you have a vision, you are a go-getter, and you know how to get things done. In part due to these character traits, you may find that you often over-extend or over-commit yourself, which can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, high-strung, or depleted. Therefore, it is important that you balance your fervent outputs with time to relax and rejuvenate. Ultimately, your intensity drives you, but you also have a healthy enthusiasm for life that allows you to enjoy yourself along the way—as long as you take time to do so. When it comes to wealth, you probably make money rather easily, but you may find saving a bit more of a struggle due your impulsive streak, and your appreciation for luxuries.
Your natural digestive strength allows you to eat as you please for the most part, though there are probably some foods or dietary habits that you have learned do not particularly agree with you, and you may not always make eating a top priority. If you don’t already do so, a focus on eating three square meals daily would likely serve you well. You probably often multi-task while eating, rush through your meals, and chew less thoroughly than is ideal, so slowing down and offering your full attention to each meal would be highly beneficial for you. When you are healthy, your bowels likely move fairly regularly and your stools tend to be naturally well-formed. When aggravated or stressed, your digestive system may tend toward constipation or diarrhea, or both.
Energy Levels, Stamina, and Sleep
Your light, quick body and your competitive nature keep you active and on the move. In all likelihood, you have an abundance of energy and ambition to offer the things that you care about—to the point that you probably have a difficult time saying no when asked to take on more. That said, you are apt to overestimate your reserves of strength and stamina (which are probably not what you would like them to be) and so you do have a propensity to overexert yourself. Inevitably, this requires that you devote time to rest and recuperation. The best way to balance your active, mobile lifestyle is by embracing as many grounding, stabilizing influences as you can—including a sense of routine, which you may resist.
In all likelihood, you are a light sleeper, you may sometimes struggle with insomnia, and even when you sleep well, you probably sleep fewer hours than most—seven hours or less, on average. That said, your body may actually require more sleep than you realize, so learning to honor your need for rest will support your overall health and well-being. You may sleep hot or cold, but you likely have a clear tendency toward one or the other and take proactive steps to maintain an appropriate sleeping temperature. However you sleep, you generally wake up alert and fresh each morning—excited to greet a new day and get moving, wanting to make best use of your time. At night, you may find that you are either exhausted, or that you can tap into a renewed sense of focus and energy, but you probably sleep better if you retire early and rise early.
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 pitta, 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, two qualities that are very similar, 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 Pitta Are Light
Lightness often manifests as a small and trim physique, relatively easeful digestion, light-heartedness, creativity, a bright and alert mind, a magnetic or charismatic personality, and a well-developed sense of spirituality. In excess, it can cause a flighty ungroundedness, lack of emotional security, insomnia, light-headedness, excess upward moving energy (think headaches or baldness), low blood sugar, and inadequate nourishment.
Vata Is Mobile; Pitta Is Spreading
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 spreading quality is a more passive form of mobility. It can manifest as charisma and charm, spreading influence, and may lead to exceptional achievement, broad recognition, and even fame. In excess, it is often behind a spreading rash and the capacity to create a toxic emotional environment.
Vata Is Cold; Pitta Is Hot
The cold quality may make you more sensitive to cold temperatures than others and give you consistently cold hands and feet. In excess, it can compromise digestive strength, create feelings of isolation and loneliness, and cause constriction in the body.
The hot quality creates a healthy blush in the cheeks, a naturally strong digestive fire, the capacity to stay warm in cold conditions, and gives the personality passion. In excess, it can manifest as skin rashes and breakouts, burning sensations, inflammatory disorders, excess acidity, and hot emotions like anger and rage.
Vata Is Dry and Rough; Pitta Is Oily
The dry and rough qualities allow our organs and tissues to appropriately absorb nutrients and also break down and eliminate what they don’t need. In excess, these qualities can cause dry skin, constipation, rough movement in the joints, carelessness, a characteristic 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, receive nourishment, and offer love. In excess, it can lead to oily skin and hair, acne, excess mucus, or an especially manipulative (think slippery) personality.
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.
Pitta Is Sharp
A sharp mind is characteristically inquisitive, penetrating, quick, and highly capable of mastery. Sharpness is also behind decisiveness, discernment, a strong appetite, penetrating digestive capacity (that easily breaks down ingested food), and sharp vision—whether literal, figurative, or both. In excess, it can lead to a short temper, sharp words, the capacity to judge one’s self and others harshly, and sharp hunger.
Pitta Is Liquid
The liquid quality supports proper salivation, healthy digestive juices, an appropriate capacity to sweat, and fluidity of movement throughout the digestive tract, blood, joints, and body. In excess, liquidity can dilute the digestive fire, cause bleeding gums, bleeding disorders in general, a tendency to bruise easily, and excessive sweat.