Here's How to Exercise According to Your Dosha
As we continue to brace the chilly winter weather, it becomes more important than ever to maintain a regular exercise practice. Especially in winter, it can become easier to put off exercise; in addition, with greater time spent indoors, we may find ourselves even less physically active than usual. During Kapha season, our bodies and spirits are susceptible to feelings of weightedness, stagnation and lethargy. The energizing effects of exercise on our health and minds make it an excellent resource for countering Kapha-induced imbalances.
It’s important to recognize that, while we are all susceptible to imbalance, Ayurveda posits that we experience and treat imbalance in different ways depending on our individual composition and circumstances. We are each constituted by a unique combination of the three doshas, with one of them being our dominant dosha. In Ayurveda, these doshas represent different combinations of the five central elements: ether, earth, fire, water and air. Vata represents ether and air; pitta represents fire and water; and kapha represents water and earth. Each dosha has distinctive physical and qualitative characteristics. It is thus important to take the specific tendencies of our doshas into account in order to redress our imbalances.
Here’s a breakdown of different exercises that are most suitable for each dosha. If you’re not sure what your dominant dosha is, check out our dosha quiz to get an idea of which one might best reflect your constitution.
Vata: Stay Simple, Steady and Grounded
Given Vata’s combination of air and ether, Vatas are often quick-moving, light, airy and cool. They can be susceptible to dryness and digestive disturbances like gas or bloating. They are typically thin in constitution and lose weight easily. Given Vata’s tendency toward fast-paced mobility, it might feel natural for Vatas to pursue exercises like running and cycling. However, it’s actually important to counterbalance these tendencies with exercises that are grounding, regular and steady. The most important thing for Vatas is to establish a regular rhythm and to not overexert oneself—instead, pursue more gentle, slow exercises that can target strength and agility.
Grounding Exercises for Vatas:
- Lunges & Squats
Pitta: Cool Down and Slow Down
Pitta, governed by fire and water, tends to be energized, fiery, highly-motivated and ambitious. They tend to be warmer, and they have strong digestive systems and a strong appetite. Given their intense nature, Pittas are drawn to more challenging or exerting exercises like crossfit, cycling and boot camps. But as Sahara Rose writes in mindbodygreen, “Hardcore exercise will actually cause adrenal fatigue and an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. Even though they love dripping in sweat, they really need the opposite of that.”
Pittas should counteract their tendencies toward over-exertion by engaging in exercises that are moderate, cooling and calming. Pittas should also avoid exercises that exacerbate their fiery nature, such as hot yoga or exercise that takes place in a hot room or during a hot time of the day.
Slow, Cooling Exercises for Pittas:
- Casual tennis, basketball, etc.
- Water polo
Kapha: Get Moving and Sweating
Kapha, ruled by water and earth, tends toward stability, groundedness, heaviness and stasis. These reliable types tend to gain weight easily and may experience lethargy and sluggishness when out of balance. It thus becomes even more important for Kaphas, more than the other doshas, to counter these tendencies with active, high-impact, invigorating exercises.
Those who have not yet established a regular exercise routine can start off with simpler activities like walking or hiking. As opposed to Vatas, who need routine and rhythm, Kaphas can also vary their exercises to keep things motivating and fun. Also, given Kapha’s stronger and sturdier constitution, they can endure more strenuous exercises. The most important thing for Kaphas is to pursue activities that really get the heart pumping and the body sweating.
Energizing, Invigorating Exercises for Kaphas:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Running or jogging
- Brisk walking
- Hot yoga
Regardless of which exercises you decide to take up, it’s important to remember to check in with your body and to keep everything in moderation. When we listen closely, our bodies tell us important knowledge about our health and what we can and cannot handle. Keep trying out different routines until you find one that feels just right!