Ayurveda and Your Ideal Weight
Ayurveda is India’s traditional system of medicine that is based on living in harmony with the rhythms of nature. According to Ayurveda, there are three essential forces (doshas) that regulate all aspects of life, including the natural processes of your body, mind and emotions. These doshas are vata, made of the elements ether and air; pitta comprised of fire and water; and kapha consisting of water and earth. The doshas contain the qualities of their contributing elements.
“Know your doshic nature and you can identify your ideal weight; recognize your current doshic influences and you can maintain your ideal weight.”
VATA (Ether & Air)
If you have a dominate amount of vata dosha in your original nature, you are taller or shorter than average, tend to have a thin build and may have difficulty gaining weight. Your focus is usually on maintaining ‘enough’ weight. You typically have a light appetite and may forget to eat until you feel a bit dizzy, spacey or depleted of energy. Your cool and dry nature can lead to irregular digestion and elimination, as well as, less efficient absorption and assimilation of nutrients. True to your quick nature, your metabolism tends to be fast which contributes to your low body weight and lean structure.
PITTA (Fire & Water)
When pitta dosha leads your doshic combination, you tend to stay in a moderate range of suitable weight for your average height. The fire component of pitta gives you a good appetite, manifesting as ‘true hunger’, as you efficiently burn energy throughout your purposeful day. Irritability can soon follow your intense pitta hunger if you are not able to eat right away. Pitta digestion and elimination is very efficient and unproblematic unless pitta is excessive; then the heat of pitta can aggravate your digestive system. Your efficient metabolism helps to keep your weight steady and also supports your efforts to easily lose a few pounds if they start to add up.
KAPHA (Water & Earth)
If kapha dosha is a dominate contribution in your doshic makeup, you are taller or shorter than average, have a solid build or are full-figured and probably struggle with excess weight; gaining weight easily and finding it difficult to lose weight. As a kapha type you tend to be sensory oriented and may confuse the desire to eat with being hungry. The earth element of kapha contributes to a slow, but regular digestion and elimination, as well as a slow metabolism. Since food moves through your digestive system slowly, true hunger would naturally take longer to occur, yet your love for the taste of food and the emotional satisfaction of eating can keep you returning to the kitchen or snack machine.
Once you have determined your ideal weight, based on your doshic contributions, Ayurvedic practices can help you to maintain or regain your optimal weight.
Ayurveda teaches that balanced weight is achieved through awareness of the way that the qualities of the doshas affect you. It then explains that your lifestyle and dietary habits should create harmony among the doshas. When there is excess of any dosha, it can manifest as excess body weight.
Excess Body Weight and the Doshas
KAPHA: The water and earth dosha of kapha has heavy, dense, slow moving or static, cold, wet and oily qualities. Excess kapha slows metabolism, obstructs circulation, and accumulates surplus fat tissue and water. According to Ayurveda’s principal of ‘opposite actions create balance’, the qualities of light, clear, mobile, warm and dry should be employed to reduce the exaggerated characteristics of kapha that can manifest as excess weight.
Kapha reducing methods include:
Dietary: Eat a variety of warm, light and stimulating foods, using primarily pungent, bitter and astringent tastes – Avoid sweet, cold, oily, rich, heavy and excessively sour or salty foods – Have three easily digestible meals each day with the more complex meal at lunchtime – Reduce or eliminate snacks – Drink warm or room temperature liquids to thirst – Drink herbal teas that are warming, stimulating and cleansing
Activity: Sun Salutations at Dawn – Energizing Yoga – Active Dancing – Bicycling – Running – Brisk Hiking – Team Sports – Weight Training …Stimulating, Heat-Building, Vigorous, Strengthening
Daily Routines: Vigorous dry brush massage – Abhyanga (self-massage) using a light amount of warm oil, like almond oil – Breath of Fire – Walking meditation or breathing movement – Warm bath or shower with uplifting aromas – Energizing mantra or chanting…Be spontaneous and open to new experiences
PITTA: If the fire and water pitta dosha becomes in excess, it’s hot, wet, mobile, light and sharp qualities can encourage kapha to increase and accumulate in an attempt to balance pitta. This explains why Ayurveda teaches that there is not one method of weight management that works for everyone. If you were to use warming and stimulating foods, exercise and herbs to reduce the kapha weight caused by excess pitta, pitta would increase even more and kapha would increase accordingly. The appropriate methods to reduce pitta induced weight provide qualities that are cool, dry, stable and heavy.
Pitta reducing methods are:
Dietary: Eat cooling and cleansing foods, favoring those with sweet, bitter and astringent tastes – Avoid salty, sour, hot spicy, oily, and fermented foods, as well as stimulants – Have three regular meals with largest meal at lunchtime and frequent room temperature water throughout the day – Drink herbal teas that are calming, cleansing and cooling
Activity: Calming Yoga – Tai Chi – Walking – Expressive Dancing – Hiking – Swimming – Water, Winter and Indoor Sports – Double’s Tennis …Non-Competitive, Cooling, Grounding, and Centering
Daily Routines: Thorough dry brush massage – Abhyanga using a moderate amount of cool, sweet oil, like sunflower or coconut oil – Cooling Shitali breath (sipping breath in through mouth ) – Peace to All Beings meditation – Guided relaxation – Cool shower with calming aromas – Calming mantras – embrace serenity and calmness
VATA: If the ether and air vata dosha is in excess for an extended time, the vata qualities of cold, dry, light, quick and irregular movement can provoke kapha’s stabilizing ability to enter and accumulate as excess weight. The effective approach to decrease vata produced weight includes the qualities of warm, heavy, wet, slow and stable. The methods that reduce vata are used to help maintain a healthy weight for a vata types or to lose weight that stems from excess vata stimulus.
Vata reducing methods are:
Dietary: Eat warming, nourishing and comforting foods, with an emphasis on the tastes sweet, sour and salty – Avoid bitter, cold, fermented, and raw foods – Eat mostly cooked foods – Have small meals with regular snacks and warm or room temperature liquids – Drink herbal teas that are warming, grounding and nutritive
Activity: Balancing or Restorative Yoga – Tai Chi – Qi Gong – Walking – Swimming – Pilates – Ballet – Gardening …Slow, Rhythmic, Grounding, and Centering
Daily Routines: Light dry brush massage – Abhyanga using generous amounts of warm, sweet oil, like sesame oil – Alternate nostril breathing – Mindfulness meditation – Creative visualization – Warm baths with grounding aromas – Grounding Mantras – Spend time in Nature – Establish steady routines around eating and sleeping
Ayurveda teaches that in a state of doshic harmony you will experience the true health and happiness that result in your ideal weight.
Disclaimer: This article was written for educational purposes only and is based on the tradition of Ayurveda. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prescribe or heal any health condition or to replace standard medical treatment or advice.