Each person has a unique constitution (prakriti), which is determined at the time of conception. Your constitution reflects the proportion of each of the five elements present. In humans, the elements combine into "biological forces" (influences), known as dosa. There are three dosa - vata (air and space), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water).
The predominant dosa is manifested in the body as physical characteristics, which reflect the nature of the relevant element/s. For example, people with a vata dosa display characteristics related to the space and air elements - they are active, restless, mobile. Those with a kapha dosa (earth and water) are usually very solid, stable and slow.
There are seven main categories of dosa type - single (vata, pitta, kapha), dual (vata-pitta, vata-kapha, pitta-kapha) and equal (vata-pitta-kapha). It is very rare for a person to be a single dosa constitution, or to have all dosa present equally. That is, most people are of a dual-dosa type (all dosa are present, but two are predominant).
The value in knowing your constitution is that it enables you to live in balance. Once you know your constitution, you can select a complementary diet, lifestyle, daily routine and activities accordingly. This information is mentioned briefly below.
Long checklists of characteristics are commonly used to determine your constitution. But a quicker and easier way is to read the descriptions below and see which resembles you most closely. If you identify equally with two, it is likely you are of a dual constitution. A consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor is the only way to really confirm your dosa.
Description: Enthusiastic and vivacious, imaginative and creative, thin physique, bony, protruding joints and visible veins, dry skin, light sleep, erratic routine, variable appetite, learns quickly, dislikes cold, loner and non-conformist.
Diet and lifesyle advice: Eat warm, dense, heavy foods, use oil and butter, increase salty, sour and sweet tastes. Avoid light, dry and gas promoting foods, or raw foods. Establish a regular eating and sleeping routine. Avoid excessive traveling, watching TV, computer work, and stimulating activities.
Description: Organized, precise and active, sharp intellect, articulate speech, average build, fair skin (freckles or that flushes easily), red or fair hair, irritable, intense, strong appetites, dislikes heat, leader.
Diet and lifesyle advice: Eat cool or warm foods, but avoid very hot and spicy foods. Bitter, sweet and astringent tasting foods are good to include. Reduce use of oils, butters and fats. Exposure to the sun and heat, and excessive exercise should be avoided.
Description: Calm and slow, solid and stable, patient, larger build, very good endurance although often lethargic, romantic, regular routines, even disposition, like to belong to a group or community.
Diet and lifesyle advice: Eat warm, light, dry foods. Use a minimum amount of butter, oils and water. Pungent, bitter and astringent foods are good, but avoid sweet and salty foods. Dairy products and fried, heavy foods should be reduced. Avoid sleeping excessively (or during the day), overeating and inactivity.