Barbara Sinclair, All Exercise is Not Created Equal, Ayurveda

All Exercise Is Not Created Equal

According to Ayurveda, exercise is not a one-size-fits-all activity, and too much rigorous exercise can be just as harmful to the body as not enough. If you know anything at all about the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, it won’t be difficult to discern who’s likely getting too much exercise and who’s not getting enough.

Vata dosha loves movement

Think air. Those of us with a lot of Vata energy are usually enthusiastic about moving our bodies. We love to jump, dance, run around and are generally agile and coordinated.

All Exercise Is Not Created Equal

Exercise is usually a joyful activity for Vata’s. But for all of the enthusiasm we bring to exercise, Vata’s often don’t know when to quit. We easily overdue it and can find ourselves depleted rather than energized.

While talking about exercise in a workshop on Ayurveda, Dr. Vasant Lad said vehemently “Please! No running!” There was a chorus of groans from all the Vata’s and Pittas.

Good movement choices for Vata’s would be

  • Dance (regular or aerobic)
  • Easy bike riding (my favorite!)
  • Pilates, T’ai Chi, Qigong
  • Walking, which can calm excess Vata and put them into an almost meditative state
  • Gentle yoga

This is a little bit like The Three Bears. If Vata is the Baby Bear, then Pitta is the Mama Bear, with medium endurance.

Pittas are very competitive (think fire) and their drive can be stronger than their actual endurance. They love competitive sports because they love to win–but they equally hate to lose.

Pittas should be cautious and not let their anger get out of control when playing sports involving other people. Exercise for Pittas should be about releasing pent-up heat, not adding more to the already burning fire. It’s usually no problem motivating a Pitta to exercise.

Good choices for Pitta dosha would be

  • Walking or jogging (to burn off steam). Walks in the moonlight are particularly good for Pittas. Avoid exercising in the hot sun
  • Skiing and other cool winter sports
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Yoga that is cooling and non-competitive
  • Pilates, T’ai Chi, Qigong

And then there are our beloved Kapha-types (think earth) who are often content with no exercise at all. Papa Bear.

They have the most endurance of the three doshas and benefit greatly from an hour of daily rigorous exercise.

Like Vata, Kapha dosha is cold and people who have a lot of Kapha should avoid exercising outside when the weather is extremely cold or damp.

Kaphas hold onto a lot of water so working up a sweat is highly beneficial. Of all three doshas, Kaphas have the most difficulty with motivation so they do best with a structured exercise program such as a gym or personal trainer.

Best exercise choices for Kaphas

  • Weightlifting
  • Running or biking (Kaphas can go a great distance because of their endurance)
  • Aerobic dancing
  • More vigorous forms of yoga 

Morning Kapha time (6-10am) is the best time for all doshas to exercise.

It’s a slow-moving time so exercise will get our mind and body active and off to a good start for the day.

Because Vata is the dosha of air and movement, it is the one that can become out of balance the easiest, no matter what your predominant dosha is. So be cautious not to overdo any exercise.

Your body and mind should feel alert and invigorated–not exhausted and depleted.

Ayurveda recommends that we exercise to only 50% of our capacity! That should make a lot of people happy.

Of course, a great many of us are bi-doshic or tri-doshic. By listening to your body and following its signals, you should be able to find your balance. Click here to take a quiz to help figure out your Ayurvedic constitution.

In my own case, my Vata-Pitta constitution has taught me a lot about paying attention to these signals. My Vata loves to jump and dance and ride my bike. But all it took was a few scary instances on my bike when I ignored my body’s signal to slow down and found myself not only depleted but on the verge of heat stroke.

It was during the hot summer, and I was following behind my Kapha partner who, because of his endurance, could bike til the cows came home.

I was desperately trying to keep up with him. Vata’s don’t sweat much and I felt as though the heat had built up inside with nowhere to go. I’m now very cautious not to overdue any type of physical activity.

And Children Have Doshas Too! Keep this information in mind when it comes to sports your children are playing and be cautious about the intensity–especially if you have a little Vata.

So get out, get moving, but find some joy in whatever activity you choose. Maybe it’s flying on a trapeze. Maybe you like to hula-hoop or jump rope. Just remember to honor your dosha. Ayurveda is all about balance.

So…Sally O’Malley – a Vata or Pitta??? You decide and let me know!

Much love,



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