Originally published in The Chalkboard Mag on October 22, 2018.
GETTING FIT isn’t a formulaic process. The truth is every body needs a different approach, and while one friend might be getting toned AF at boot camp classes, it might have a totally different effect on you. The idea of tailoring wellness to your specific mind-body needs — and learning how to decoding what those are — is a central concept in ayurveda. We asked our ayurvedic contributor and best-selling author, Sahara Rose, to share some insight on how to find a workout routine that considers our bio-individuality. Take this quick quiz to determine your dosha, then get to sweating in a way that suits you best…
We all have that one friend who thrives in her hot yoga practice and the other friend who is a spinning fiend. But with all the different types of workouts out there, how can you know which is right for you? According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest health system, which I am an expert and author in, it depends on your dosha.
Ayurveda is based on the concept of bio-individuality: There is not one activity, diet, self-care practice or lifestyle suggestion that works for everyone. Ayurveda classifies all people, food and things into three doshas, or energy types. Take this quiz to find out yours! The doshas are Vata (air energy), Pitta (fire energy) and Kapha (earth energy).
As the author of the Eat Feel Fresh: A Contemporary Plant-based Ayurvedic Cookbook, I’m passionate about sharing this ancient holistic health with the modern world. One of the many ways Ayurveda has transformed my life is changing the way I exercise.
While writing my first book, Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, I was full of Pitta (fire). I was on a tight deadline with lots of stress and was drinking coffee multiple times a day (a big Ayurveda no). On top of that, I was going to intense boxing and spinning classes because I wanted more fire! My body broke out in hives, and I later learned I suffered from adrenal fatigue, making me tired in the days and wired at night. This is an example of the wrong exercise for your dosha and what it can do to you.
We are all a combination of the three doshas, but they can show up differently for us at different points of our lives. When you are in…
Vata state, you may be on-the-go, spacey or ungrounded.
Pitta state, you will be full of willpower and strength, often overexerting yourself.
Kapha state, you may feel tired, sluggish or heavy.
Exercising For Your Doshic State
Now, let me share with you the best exercises for your current doshic state.
VATA | When Vata is out of balance (too high), you will benefit from doing slow and steady strength training to build muscle and balance, and without burning the body out. Opt for TRX bands, medicine balls and other tools to help you develop strength and balance. A super quick workout is not a good idea because Vatas often don’t use correct form and will easily get injured. Slow and steady is the name of the game for Vatas. Take breaks between reps to let your body recover. Try doing arm curls on one leg leg to improve balance, which Vatas tend to lack in.
PITTA | When Pitta is out of balance, the body is full of stress. You may be operating from a fight or flight zone, triggering adrenal fatigue. Though you may feel like you absolutely need to get a good workout in, you are actually causing more harm to your body than good. The body needs rest and will not be able to fully create muscle when it doesn’t have the chance to heal. Often times, Pittas are addicted to exercise because they love the feeling of getting hot and sweaty, but it’s the opposite of what they need. They also often have fat reserves in their mid-section, which is caused by cortisol, the stress hormone.
KAPHA | When Kapha is out of balance, you may feel resistant to all types of exercise. You want to remain sedentary — the last thing you want to do are burpies while someone is yelling at you to go faster. Kaphas may have to bribe themselves to start working out at the beginning just to get themselves there. However, when you are going through a Kapha imbalance, it is the most important thing to exercise — this is the only way to get out of your Kapha rut.
I suggest doing something you love, like a Zumba class or pilates reformer, so you can commit to a regular practice. Once you have a solid exercise routine in place you can begin to add in more cardio exercise, particularly high-intensity interval training (I know, it’s the last thing you want to hear!). However, sweat is the antidote to a Kapha imbalance. Hot yoga is also great, as Kaphas tend to have cooler constitutions. Believe it or not, Kaphas actually have the highest endurance of all the doshas and can tolerate the longest duration of exercise. All it takes is getting over the mental hurdle!
Exercise is medicine and sometimes what you want to do is not always what is best for you. Try altering your routine to match with your current doshic needs and see how your body changes. It may be the very switch you’ve been waiting for!