What is your constitution?
More and more, people come up to me on the
street and ask me "what is my constitutioni?" Other
times, they ask "what is my dosha?" They mean the
same thing. According to Ayurvedai, the traditional medicine
from India, a person's constitution is the balance of the
three doshas (biological forces that govern the body) inherent
within an individual.
A person's constitution determines what a person is naturally
attracted to and what causes a person to become out of balance,
sick and diseased. Depending upon a person's constitution,
they may thrive as a vegetarian or need meat; they may thrive
on spicy foods or get burning indigestion. Our constitution
determines how we relate to the environment. The wise individual,
with this knowledge, creates an environment that is supportive
to who they are as a unique individual. Ayurveda teaches that
where there is harmony with our environment there is health,
where there is disharmony there is disease. The environment
consists of anything we experience through our five senses.
So, while many people agree that we are what we eat, Ayurveda
takes this a step further and teaches that we are what we
eat, smell, touch, hear and see. Thus, a Clinical Ayurvedic
Specialist (C.A.S.), trained at the California College of
Ayurveda, helps people to understand their constitution and
how to create a harmonious environment.
There are three basic constitutional types. However, everyone
is a unique mix of them. For each type, a different diet is
recommended as well as different forms of aroma, color, sound
and massage therapies. The three types are called Vata, Pitta
People of vata nature have a predominance of the qualities
cold, light, dry and mobile. They tend to become cold easily
and often prefer to wear a sweater or shawl even when others
are not cold. They are usually the last to turn on the air
conditioning and first to complain when a room is too cold.
They like to sleep with extra blankets. They are often of
lower body weight and this is reflected in their long narrow
bones. Many fashion models have a vata type of body with long
legs, long necks and long tapered fingers. People of vata
nature often experience dry skin, dry eyes and a dry colon
which causes a tendency toward constipation and gas. Their
mobile nature is seen in their fast speech patterns and chatty
nature. It can also be seen in their tendency to become scattered
and more easily overwhelmed. People of vata nature often have
a fragile, nervous disposition. Their challenges often revolve
around staying focused.
People of pitta nature are most often hot. They are likely
to be the first people to want to put on the air conditioner
and they are likely to kick off the covers on a warm night.
Because they have a greater amount of internal heat, it is
not unusual to see them wearing shorts in the cool fall or
spring weather while others are wearing a light sweater. Heat
often builds up in the intestines and leads to softer and
looser stools or diarrhea. Pitta people usually have moderate
body builds, not very heavy or very thin with good muscular
development. Their skin may be prone to red rashes or acne
and is often oily. People of pitta nature often have a clear
but sharp way of communicating. Their focused and direct language
and actions may irritate other people but they can be counted
on to get the job done. They most often have a passionate
and intense disposition. Their challenge revolves around a
lack of patience for those who are not as focused and directed
as they are.
People of kapha nature are most often heavy, cool, slow and
moist. Because of their heavy nature, they have a stocky body
build. This is not to say that people of kapha nature are
overweight. No, their natural body type is denser than others.
Their bones are shorter and thicker. Often their neck appears
to be sitting close to their shoulders and their fingers are
short and thick. What really identifies a person of kapha
nature is their slower, easy going nature. These people speak
and move slowly and are not likely to get upset. They often
have a sweet and gentle disposition. Their challenge however
revolves around getting motivated and lacking spontaneity.
Hence, once a person of kapha nature has made up their mind
they are not likely to change it.
So, what if a vata person lives with a pitta person? Basically,
the pitta person kicks the covers off while the vata person
is pulling them on and they may argue over the temperature
to set the thermostat. The pitta usually wins as a person
of pitta nature has a stronger more dominating personality.
There may also be challenges about being on time. People of
pitta nature really like to be on time and get irritable when
they are late. People of vata nature may want to be on time
but because they get distracted just can't seem to make it.
If a person of vata nature lives with a person of kapha nature,
the person with a kapha nature will usually watch the person
of vata nature move around fast in a nervous sort of way and
wonder what all the fuss is about. Meanwhile the person of
vata nature, who is easily excited, will wonder why their
partner is not as excited about life as they are. Neither
one of them is likely to fuss about time very much as vata
may be late because they get distracted and kapha tends to
be late because they move slowly. Both really annoy pitta.
If a person of pitta nature lives with an either a person
of vata or kapha nature, they are likely to be somewhat critical
of their partner for not being more like them. They may try
to convince their partner that something is wrong with them
and that they know what it is. People of pitta nature are
sure they are right.
If it seems like no matter what constitution you are you have
some physical and personality challenges, it's true. We all
do. I've yet to meet the perfectly, enlightened being of perfect
health and peace of mind. Ayurveda teaches that we are all
growing, learning and evolving, and that by understanding
our nature, we can evolve faster and learn to appreciate ourselves
and others - for each of us is unique. Self love, non-judgment,
compassion and unconditional love are the foundation of all
It's nice to know that each constitutional type has its unique
gifts. People of vata nature have the capacity for divine
enthusiasm and inspiration. They are often creative and in
touch with the subtle world in ways pitta and kapha can only
imagine. People of pitta nature have the capacity for clarity
of mind that allows them to become great leaders and teachers
of humanity. People of kapha nature can be a deep well of
love, gentle kindness and nurturance.
Indeed, we are all unique, and while there are three basic
energies, we are all a unique combination, and no two people
have ever been created alike. By understanding our constitution
we can choose proper foods to support us and colors, aromas
and sounds to surround ourselves with. Ayurveda teaches that
each person has the capacity for perfect health and peace
of mind. The journey to accomplish this is one that begins
with self understanding. With this knowledge and the support
of a teacher or practitioner, each person can begin to create
a lifestyle that creates harmony within.
Health is our natural state and is the end result of living
in harmony. Disease is the natural end result of living out
of harmony. Ayurveda is the path of re-establishing harmony
so that health can re-emerge. While people with all kinds
of conditions seek and are benefited by ayurvedic health care,
it must always be remembered, that it is nature that heals
and not the practitioner. It is the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialists
job to simply support nature as it works from within the patient.
Before deciding what your constitution is and changing your
diet or lifestyle, it is always best to consult with an Ayurvedic
health professional. A Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist will
help you determine what your constitution is, help you understand
the nature of any imbalances, and establish a plan to help
you get back into balance. Most importantly, a good practitioner
will coach you toward success in establishing your new, stress
* Dr. Marc Halpern, D.C.,C.A.S.,P.K.S.,
(Ayurvedacharya) is the founder and president of the California
College of Ayurveda. He is one of the pioneers of Ayurveda
in the West and is considered to be a pre-eminent practitioner
and teacher of Ayurveda in the United States. He is one of
the few Westerners ever recognized in both the United States
and in India as an authority on the subject of Ayurveda and
was awarded the All India Award for Best Ayurvedic Physician.
A pillar in the development of the profession in the United
States, he is the co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical
Association for which he served as Chairman of the National
Committee on Ayurvedic Education from its inception in 2000
until 2005. He is also a co-founder of the California Association
of Ayurvedic Medicine. A Doctor of Chiropractic with post-graduate
certification in Holistic Medicine, Dr. Halpern has studied
with many noted teachers from India and the United States.
Dr. Halpern is a contributing writer to several popular books
on Ayurveda and holistic medicine and has written two textbooks
on Ayurveda. He has published articles in almost every major
journal and magazine of Yoga or Ayurveda, and in 2005 was
interviewed by Mike Wallace on CBS's 60 Minutes. Dr. Halpern's
own remarkable story of personal healing was featured in the
national magazine Spirituality and Health. He has been quoted
in many major newspapers, including The New York Times and
The Los Angeles Times. In addition to his work with the California
College of Ayurveda, Dr. Halpern is a certified yoga instructor
and a regular teacher of Ayurveda at International Sivananda
Yoga Vedanta Centers worldwide.
If you are interested in Ayurveda and want to
learn more, please refer to http://www.ayurvedacollege.com
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