Your Dosha type should affect the type of cardio exercise routine you choose as part of your Ayurvedic lifestyle. According to Ayurvedic principles, just about everything in our life is medicine, and conversely, just about everything in our life can be poison. It is said in Ayurveda that if you have strong Agni – digestion – you can turn poison into nectar, but if you have weak Agni, you can turn nectar into poison. Food is nectar or poison, relationships are nectar or poison, movement is nectar or poison. What determines which way it falls? Your conscious choices made based upon the state of your Dosha determines what heals or harms. (Check this blog post if you aren’t familiar with Doshas or need to type your Dosha.)
Exercise has been an important part of the ayurvedic routine for thousands of years. It gets rid of heaviness and stiffness in the body because it burns Ama – digestive impurities – and creates more flexibility, lightness, smoothness and easiness. Other benefits include enhanced firmness, endurance, and ability to do work. It pacifies all three Doshas, and creates balance when suitable for the body type and season. It improves digestion, and if done properly, it dissolves impurities in the tissues. Exercise enhances immunity and capacity for food. It banishes fatigue, stops early aging, and retards weight gain.
However, not all exercise is created equal. In fact, the type of exercise you need is totally dependent on your Doshas — both your Prakriti, the Doshic combination you were born with, and your Vikruti, the Doshic combination you have today according to your diet and lifestyle.
In general, Vata types need less exercise, so lighter activities such as walking are best. Pitta types need moderate amounts — swimming and skiing, for example — and Kapha types need more intense exercise, such as jogging and aerobics, in order to stay in balance. Altering your exercise program for the seasons is also important. If you want to increase your exercise, winter and spring are the best times. In hot weather, you should decrease exertion and stay out of the hot sun. As for age, children have more capacity for exercise and elderly people need less, although daily exercise is essential at any age.
Exercise for the Vata Dosha
Vatas are naturally high in energy and love to move. They enjoy cardio, dance, running, spinning and anything else that allows them to move – fast.
Because Vatas are drawn to fast, sweaty cardio sessions, it’s best to counter-balance that quickness with some slow, steady strength training. Vatas have a hard time gaining muscle mass and need to pay particular attention to building their bones and muscles to prevent bone-density issues in the future. Slow and steady strength-training sessions, walking, hiking, light cycling, gentle paddle board or canoeing, and yin or slow flow yoga in a warm studio are excellent for Vatas.
Exercise for the Pitta Dosha
Pittas are natural athletes. They have strong staminas and love to work their muscles to the max. They are drawn to boot-camps, boxing, Crossfit and anything else that pushes their bodies’ limits. They put muscle on easily and love the results they get. “Feel the burn” is a Pitta mantra.
However, not all that intense exercise is recommended. Pittas should counter-balance their naturally competitive energy with non-competitive, relaxing workouts. Water sports like swimming, kayaking, surfing and paddle boarding are balancing and cooling for Pittas. Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are good as well. Pilates is another great exercise for Pittas because it works muscles but at the same time is therapeutic and relaxing. If Pittas do boot-camps, it is recommended to meditate and ground afterward.
It’s also crucial for Vatas and Pittas to take rest days. Pittas and Vatas like to go, go, go and often forget to schedule in down-time. Muscles cannot develop if they are always working hard. Plan two days off during the week, focusing on stretching. Foam rolling is a great option to knead out deep knots, which Pittas often have.
Exercise for the Kapha Dosha
Kaphas are more sedentary by nature and have a tough time getting into an exercise routine. However, once they start moving, they actually begin to love it because it stimulates their minds and bodies, counter-balancing their heavy energy. Kaphas have the greatest endurance of all the Doshas, and can tolerate the longest duration of exercise.
Kaphas should focus on building up a sweat. In Ayurveda, sweat is the removal of fat. Therefore, by sweating everyday, the body’s fat-storage is being minimzed. Kaphas naturally store fat more easily than the other Doshas, so sweat is medicine for them.
Kaphas should avoid excess strength-training if trying to lose weight because it will actually make them heavier. Kaphas may be drawn to slow, steady weight-lifting and shy away from cardio, but it’s really the opposite that they need. A good recommendation for Kaphas high intensity interval training. Running (especially long distance), biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and dancing are excellent cardio activities for Kaphas. Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga are good forms of yoga to practice.
About the Author
Rochelle Barcellona is an animal-loving, family-and-friends-embracing, yoga-meditation-and-ayurveda-teaching, happy red-headed yogi who owns Nourish Mind Body & Spirit in Northern California. You may learn more about Rochelle here. Rochelle may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 916-353-5200.
(Photo of Rochelle courtesy of Bella Barcellona Photography.)