Getting regular exercise is good for all of us. Moving our body in one way or another ensures we reap the benefits: stronger muscles, better balance, increased cardiovascular health, etc. But not every exercise is right for every body type. In Ayurvedic wisdom, it matters not only that we get exercise, but that we find the right exercise for our body type (dosha). If you’re not sure what your dosha is, you can take this quiz to get a feel.
People with vata dosha tend to be drawn to vigorous exercise that keeps them moving, such as aerobic activity or running. They crave a lot of change and variety, and never want to repeat the same class twice. They like to feel light and resist activities that keep them tied to one place.
As a result of performing vata exercises, vata people run the risk of further increasing the vata within them, setting them up for imbalance. They might initially come away from their workouts feeling great about the calories they burned, but also feeling ungrounded and unfocused. They tend to crash into exhaustion.
Vata types benefit from grounding exercises that keep them close to the floor/earth. They would benefit from weight training, getting outdoors, and exercises with repeated, steady routines (a repeated Vinyasa yoga sequence, for example).
Pitta dosha tends to join competitive teams and play active sports such as tennis, squash, football, etc. With the heat of their inner fire, they go all in with any sport they choose. They’re also generally good at most sports, so that’s a draw, too!
If you’re pitta dosha, you likely don’t need yet another area of competition in your life. This choice of exercise can leave you more aggravated, angry, and hot-tempered. Pittas eventually “burn out.”
An activity like tai chi or qigong would be a powerful counter-activity to keep the fire of your pitta in check. Another great option would be swimming—individually or in small groups—as the water is cooling and soothing for a pitta type. The key for pitta is to slow down and cool down, finding joy in the simple movements of life.
For kapha types, made up of water and earth, the tendency is often not to choose not to exercise at all! The water and earth in them tend to keep them grounded. If they do choose to exercise, they prefer a short walk or gentle stretching.
Without regular movement to keep the water and earth swirling, little to no improvement is seen, and the adversarial relationship with exercise continues. This creates a cycle in which the dosha continues to accumulate, which eventually causes disease.
Out of all the three types, kapha dosha could most benefit from (and has the stamina for) vigorous exercise. Working up a good sweat helps break things up and get them moving. It would be beneficial for kapha to join in-person classes (or even Zoom live classes) so they can feel the motivation of the others and use that to gently push their limits.
By employing Ayurvedic wisdom, along with an increased understanding about your dosha, you can use your exercise time to take care of your body while also harmonizing, healing, and balancing your constitution as a whole. Once you see results, you are more likely to continue exercising, setting up habits that can keep you healthy for life.