Do you know your Ayurvedic body type? Here are some diet and lifestyle tips for maintaining dosha balance while travelling to a wide variety of destinations. By Dimple Jangda
While Ayurveda’s popularity as a healthcare life-science is making a strong comeback in the era of COVID-19, it’s important to remember its emphasis on disease prevention. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old science that allows you to personalise your diet and lifestyle based on age, body constitution, genetic factors, seasons, and geography, so you can live a disease-free life. Ayurveda emphasises that it is better to preserve the health of a healthy person than wait to cure the sickness of a sick body.
How can one do that? First, you need to identify your Ayurvedic body constitution, which is shaped at the time of being conceived and remains the same through your lifetime—much like your blood type. There are three biological building blocks or doshas: Kapha (earth and water), pitta (fire and water), and Vata (air and space) made up of the five natural elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. The combination of these three doshas and their dominance determines your unique body type.
Determining your dosha through the Prakritis
In Ayurveda, your body constitution determines not just your physicality but also your mental and emotional composition. For example, if earth and water are dominant, you are a kapha prakriti, which loosely translates to the endomorph body type in modern science. Here are the basic tenets of each prakriti:
- A kapha prakriti has a thick bone structure, tends to put on weight easily and struggles to lose weight, has stable emotional health and fixed lifestyle habits, but can be a social recluse. When kapha is out of balance, it leads to lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, and bronchial disorders.
- A pitta prakriti has the mesomorph body type, tends to gain and lose weight easily, has strong musculature and sharp features. When pitta is out of balance, there tend to be stomach issues like acid reflux; chronic hair loss; skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, acne, and urticaria; and discolouration of eyes and skin.
- A vata prakriti has a thin body frame and light bones, loses weight easily but struggles to put on weight, and has dry skin and frizzy hair. A vata imbalance leads to body pain; joint disorders like osteoporosis, arthritis, rheumatism; and colon health issues.
You can also be a dual body type like pitta-vata, pitta-kapha, vata-kapha, or a tri-dosha personality where all the three building blocks are equally dominant. Once you have identified your unique body type with the help of an expert, you must realign your diet with it. Your diet must be tailor-made to include foods that pacify and nourish your prakriti, instead of aggravating imbalances and diseases.
Travellers must also factor in seasonal changes, and the geographical and topographical conditions of their destinations. At beach destinations like Goa, Mauritius, and the Maldives, the air is humid and salty. You must eat locally produced sweet fruits and consume tender coconut water to keep your body hydrated, sweetened, and nourished to counteract the climate. You can have a lot of well-cooked grains and pulses, and mildly salty and mildly spicy foods. Include plenty of fresh fruits and steamed vegetables to keep your gut flora healthy.
If you are travelling to the mountains, such as the Himalayas, the air is thin and it’s easy to develop vata imbalances that can lead to rough and dry skin, frizzy hair, and sleep disorders. You must have heavy, grounding foods like sweet potato, white potato, and grains and pulses cooked in good fat oils and spices to keep your body moisturised, grounded, and warm. If you are travelling to European countries like Switzerland during spring, indulge in juicy vegetables and steamed salads of green leafy vegetables.
Around Christmas, in places with harsh climates like Scandinavian countries, where the sun sets early, your metabolic fire also gets compromised. This is because your metabolic fire directly corresponds to the position of the sun, and your body struggles to produce digestive juices post-sunset. If you are travelling for a white Christmas, you can indulge in fermented foods like cheese and mulled wine to improve your metabolic fire and prepare your body for a dinner feast! If you are travelling to warmer destinations like those in South India or South America, consume hydrating fruits and steamed salads, smaller portions of cooked meals. But most importantly, avoid having an excess of fermented foods in warm, tropical cities, as it can lead to digestion issues and acid reflux.
It’s also important to keep your vata balanced on long-distance flights. The air in an aircraft can lead to dry skin. Have warm foods like moong dal khichdi with a dollop of ghee before boarding the flight. Carry oil-based creams for your hands and face, massage your feet with warm sesame oil, and wear socks. These easy tricks prevent loss of moisture from your skin and vata imbalances, which can lead to severe jet lag.
Dimple Jangda is the founder of Prana Healthcare Centre and Prana Academy and a host of educational TV shows.