I want to share with you an Ayurvedic perspective on how your body type may influence your reaction and coping abilities when dealing with stress. Pronounced I-your-vay-duh, Ayurveda is the 5,000-year old comprehensive and preventive healthcare system of India. The teachings describe three main body types, or doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha – each having its own physical characteristics, mental traits and emotional tendencies. Each display appealing attributes when in-balance and unappealing qualities when out-of-balance.
Under stress, Vata people tend to worry, even when there is nothing to worry about. They fear they’ve done something wrong, and it was their fault the situation occurred. As their mind races with a plethora of thoughts, the “what-if” scenarios are triggered. Vata’s quick thinking can rapidly convert to anxiety, confusion and increased stress levels.
To de-stress, Vata types need to slow down and relax. Using a breathing technique while being aware of the body is one way. Simply follow the breath in and out as you feel the air on your skin, listen to the sounds around you, and notice what you see and smell. A regular meditation practice is also beneficial. I’ve noticed after many years of teaching meditation to my Vata clients, they have reported an overall reduction in their anxiety levels and an increase ability to let go of the stress.
Pittas may gravitate toward blaming others for the stressful situations they encounter. They may become irritable, aggressive and angry. Using criticism and judgement, they insist on doing things their way, the right way. As they take control of the situation and manage all the players involved, they believe they are eliminating the stress.
For Pitta types, the motto is stay cool. The body and emotions can tend to heat up, especially with stress. There is a breathing practice to cool the system down. Part your lips slightly and place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind the top teeth. Keep the teeth together softly and breath in slowly and gently through the mouth. Feel the coolness as your breath in. Then breath out through the nose. Continue for 5-10 breath cycles.
Kaphas are inclined to internalize their stress response. With their unhurried and steady nature, they are slow to respond. Remaining quiet about what’s going in inside of them, they don’t complain about feeling stressed. Keeping their emotions bottled up inside can result in having them become withdrawn leading to lethargy, sadness or depression.
When it comes to coping with stress, Kaphas need to change their source of comfort. Consuming sugary foods and snacks to soothe yourself can make you feel worse causing even more stress. The key for Kapha is to release the stress through a variety of physical activities. Make it fun and energizing. Ask a friend to join you to be your motivation and accountability partner.
Observing how Vata, Pitta, and Kapha types react to stress when they are out-of-balance can be very telling. Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar. Just picture this comedy of players.
OK. It’s a Saturday at 5 pm and you’re in a big box store at check-out with only 5 of the 15 registers open and 8-10 people waiting in each line. Vatas are antsy and anxious having to wait. They prefer to keep moving, as their eyes dart looking for a shorter line with their body on alert, ready to move on a second’s notice. The tendency of Pittas is to get irritated and angry at the lack of the store’s inefficiency. As a take charge type of person with growing anger, they may seek out management, share their constructive criticisms, and demand more registers to be opened. They usually succeed at creating some type of action. Kaphas usually show no outward signs of worry or upset, even though on the inside that may not be the case. Appearing calm patiently waiting their turn at check-out, they start eating the food they plan to buy and thumb through a magazine.
In my nurse coaching practice, clients learn that coping with stress based on their body type is essential in restoring and maintaining balance, health and wellbeing. As an Ayurveda educator, I encourage you to discover your body type and understand your basic nature traits. Be proactive and notice when you begin to react to the stressors that set you off. Stop the reactive progression of behaviors that trigger you going down the rabbit hole that can lead to panic, anger or withdrawal. Take a moment, breath and get centered. Then ask yourself, “Is this situation worth it?” If the answer is no, then find an alternative response. Stay balanced and centered.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor first before starting any new practices or health programs.