In the Eastern tradition, yoga practitioners take a holistic approach to wellness.
It encompasses the physical (yoga), diet, and meditation. While meditation and yoga have taken off in many places around the world, Western yogis often forget the importance of diet.
Unlike many health trends, the goal of eating a sattvic diet is not purely about weight loss but to maintain a state of sattva (meaning harmony and goodness).
Composed of natural, seasonal foods, a sattvic diet will support the modern yogi’s physical practice and fortify the body against illness—bringing harmony to mind, body, and spirit.
While all yogis can follow the general principles of a sattvic diet, each body is different.
So how can you know what nutrition your body really needs?
To follow a more personalized yogic diet, you’ll need to know your Ayurvedic mind-body type.
In Ayurvedic philosophy, the universe (and everything within it) is understood to be composed of five great elements, or the Pancha Mahabhuta. These elements are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Based upon the five elements are three life forces, or Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. They exist in all of us at varying levels, defining our physical, mental, and emotional characteristics.
Characteristics of Vata (air and ether) types
Vata is the force of movement that governs circulation, the breath, our nervous systems, and all physical motion in the body. Much like the wind, Vata is dry, light, cold, subtle, and mobile in nature.
People with a Vata-dominant constitution tend to be creative, expressive, enthusiastic, flexible, and sometimes superficial. They are often slim and either taller or shorter than most. Vata types are known for being fast talkers and rapid learners—although they tend to forget new information just as quickly.
When their constitution is imbalanced, it can lead to problems such as dry skin and hair, anxiety, insomnia, cold hands and feet, and difficulty with focusing or decision making. A diet to bring Vata into balance should include foods with opposing qualities—warm, heavy, and moist, such as cooked whole grains, steamed vegetables, hot spiced milk, and ginger.
Characteristics of Pitta (fire and water) types
Pitta embodies transformative energy and is linked to intelligence, digestion, and body temperature. The qualities associated with Pitta are oily, sharp, hot, fleshy, and spreading—a state between mobility and stability.
Those with a dominant Pitta mind-body type are warm, highly focused, competitive, and straightforward. Often they have athletic builds and get hot easily. They are passionate, grasp situations quickly, and are thought to have strong leadership skills.
When Pitta types are out of balance, they become judgmental, irritable, and experience high blood pressure. They can be prone to digestive, liver, and spleen issues, as well as skin problems and inflammation. Raw vegetables, mild spices such as cinnamon and turmeric, and avoiding oily foods help restore equilibrium.
Characteristics of Kapha (water and earth) types
Kapha represents the force of cohesion and stability: solid, cool, moist, and heavy. With water being the primary element of this Dosha, Kapha is responsible for skin moisture, joint lubrication, and protecting the body’s immunity.
Kapha types are loyal, forgiving, and good at saving money. Physically they have strong builds and heavy bone structures, with a tendency to gain weight when out of balance. Those with a dominant Kapha constitution are calm and tranquil, preferring familiar surroundings, and can be resistant to change.
Imbalance in Kapha types manifests itself through lack of motivation, weight gain, weakness in the lungs and sinuses, and an increased chance of developing diabetes. Dry, light, and warm food help bring Kapha into balance—a yogic diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, lighter grains such as quinoa, warming spices, and little dairy is recommended.
Eating for your dosha:
To provide personalized care, Ayurvedic doctors must first determine your mind-body type—meaning the composition of Tridosha unique to every individual.
As well as the balance of your Doshas, naturopaths consider age, gender, lifestyle, and other personal information. Based on this knowledge, they can recommend a personal diet plan adapted to the constitution of your Doshas.