The 5,000-year-old healing science of Ayurveda recognizes three distinct personality types, or doshas -- vata, pitta and kapha – all of which are based on the five basic elements. Vata personalities, a combo of air and ether, tend to be creative and free-spirited. Pittas, mixing fire and water, are often fiery, intense, active and strong. Kaphas, a blend of water and earth, represent stability and compassion. You can be dominant in one dosha or any combination.
Those with a pitta-dominated personality type tend to be organized, logical and ambitious. A balanced pitta dosha shows alertness, intelligence and understanding. Whether or not your main dosha is pitta, you may suffer from a pitta imbalance, due to various internal or external factors. Since pitta relates to hormones and the digestive system, symptoms of a pitta imbalance may surface physically as heartburn or digestive difficulties and emotionally as anger, jealousy or impatience.
Exercise is a great way to offset a pitta imbalance, especially activities that are cooling for the body and mind and those that require focus, strength and speed. Some recommended exercises include competitive sports such as softball and tennis. Water and winter sports -- such as swimming, surfing, diving, rowing, downhill-skiing and snowboarding -- offer cooling choices. Try cool, calming exercises such as yoga, bicycling, rollerblading and long, leisure walks.
Sharp, quick pitta personalities can excel at strength and speed but may have trouble with endurance. Because a pitta person’s inherently fiery personality makes cold conditions easier to handle than if he were a vata or kapha, it’s best to exercise during the cooler part of the day and to get plenty of fresh air. Pitta types can sometimes stress out in exercises due to a competitive nature. While yoga suits pitta types, it’s best to avoid hot yoga practices such as bikram, where the room is preheated.
Instead of a heating yoga practice, choose a more flowing or a restorative practice to cool, calm and relax, according to Ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad, who is executive director of The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Set aside some time for meditation. Lengthen your exhalation to release tension and relax your system. Take long, leisurely walks in the evening. Water sports are especially cooling at any time of day. In any exercise you choose, concentrate less on precision and more on flowing with relaxed effort. Focus on being rather than doing.