We tend to see ourselves as introverts, ambiverts, or extroverts based on how comfortable we are around people. We typecast our bodies as endomorphs, mesomorphs, or ectomorphs based on how easily we gain or lose weight. We even add adjectives like creative, intelligent, and active based on what we enjoy or what others say we are.
We are familiar with these labels. They help us zoom in on specific aspects of ourselves, blurring out all other aspects. The body, however, cannot and does not create such divides. Your mind and body are one and, along with your lifestyle, determine your personality, preferences, and health.
If you were to tie back all of your labels, everything you are, to one single anchor – that would be your metabolic personality, also called your mind-body constitution, functional energy pool, or dosha mix. That’s all you need to know to understand yourself and your health.
Your Metabolic Personality
When you think of what you’re made of, you’re probably thinking cells, genes, and DNA, the building blocks that decide, say, how strong your muscles and bones are or what your state of mind is or which health conditions you are genetically predisposed to. You’re right, but that’s only one part of the story.
There’s this whole other part that explains why you’re YOU. What drives your natural tendencies like craving Chinese takeout or arranging your socks by color or sweating too much or feeling hungry all the time or waking up in the middle of the night, even which health conditions you are prone to beyond inheritance. This part goes beyond your basic DNA code and forms your essence. This is your metabolic personality.
1. It Makes You Unique
There are three types of functional energies (also called doshas), each one coming with their own predetermined set of tendencies. These are:
- Light and quick (vata) – energy of movement
- Slow and steady (kapha) – energy of accumulation
- Intense (pitta) – energy of transformation
All of us have all three functional energies, but most of us naturally gravitate toward one or two of them (in rare cases, all three). This mix is the metabolic personality you were born with, also called your prakruti.
- You could be predominantly vata, predominantly kapha, or predominanatly pitta
- Or, you could be vata-pitta/pitta-vata, pitta-kapha/kapha-pitta, or kapha-vata/vata-kapha (the dosha before the hyphen being slightly more predominant than the dosha after the hyphen)
- Or, you could have equal tendencies of all three doshas
Everything you have an inclination toward and the way your body chooses to function is a reflection of your unique energy mix. So, you will have certain quirks about you; you will like doing things in a certain way; you will have specific interests and pet peeves; you will react to happiness, sadness, and stress in a certain way; you will have your own thought processes. You will even be prone to certain health conditions; you will crave certain foods; you will have particular physical traits; and so on.
You may not know what your metabolic personality was at birth. So the easy thing to do is to think back to a time when you felt healthy and happy.
2. It Is Your Most Natural, Happy State
This is important: The metabolic personality you were born with is your happy, balanced state. Stay true to who you are and you’ll be your healthiest self (the “feels right” feeling). Fight or ignore your natural tendencies and the more imbalanced you will feel (the “not feeling great” feeling). The imbalances accumulate and eventually lead to disease.
Being in balance means being closest to your innate metabolic personality, your prakruti. It does not means having equal amounts of all three types of functional energies.
Thankfully, your metabolic personality is not as rigid as your DNA blueprint.
3. It Can Be Influenced And So Can Be Balanced
Here’s food for thought: You inherit certain traits from your parents, like their hair or predisposition to diabetes. If you look closer, you’ll also notice that you inherit certain likes and dislikes such as the taste for classical music or distaste for olives. If you look even closer, you’ll find that you develop some of these traits on your own, through your own experiences and habits. Like if you were to live a year in France, you’d probably eat a lot more bread than you did growing up and may even start craving it. Or say you were to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, you probably wouldn’t have any trouble falling asleep.
How you interact with your environment – your lifestyle – and, for that matter, your parents’ lifestyles before you were conceived, plays a role in determining who you are. We don’t mean only on an emotional, intellectual, or behavioral level. It’s a lot more physical than that, coming down to how your body functions and how healthy you feel.
The concept has only recently been called epigenetics by conventional science but has, in fact, been one of the key principles of Ayurveda for millennia now.
Even though you are inclined to do things that pacify your innate metabolic personality, when imbalanced, you may end up doing things that aggravate it instead. This amplifies your negative tendencies.
You can stay in balance through your diet, lifestyle, behaviour, and interactions with the environment. The basic tenet is to pacify your predominant functional energy/energies. So if you’re naturally intense and fiery, you’ll need more of cool slow and steady elements (more on that later).
Prakruti vs. Vikruti
It’s important to know the difference to see how far you’ve strayed from your balanced state.
Think of a brand new car: clean, shiny, efficient. From the moment you start driving the car around, it is exposed to the natural elements and your driving skills. If you take it out in stormy weather or drive rashly, it will start looking weathered and possibly not run as smoothly as before. If, however, you are careful to service it regularly and handle it with care, your car will run and look just as it was when you bought it. The body works in a similar way.
The metabolic personality you were born with is called your prakruti (innate metabolic personality). Your present metabolic personality, how you are now, is your vikruti (altered metabolic personality).
- When in balance, the two are the same. It means you’re doing all the right things to maintain your prakruti.
- When not in balance, your vikruti will be different from your prakruti. It means your lifestyle is interfering with your natural happy state and is changing it to something that makes you feel less it ease. You’ll need to balance your vikruti to feel your best again.
To figure out your prakruti, observe yourself. Notice how you behave in different situations. It may happen that a certain functional energy is more pronounced when you’re at work, another when you’re relaxing at home or with friends. It may even be that your mind gravitates to one functional energy, while your body gravitates to another. The point is to understand what feels most natural to you.
To Get Started, See Which of These You Can Identify With
First, keep an open mind. Don’t try to forcefully fit yourself into one type. Let it come naturally. The more honest you are with yourself, the better your understanding of your body.
As you make your way through the lists, keep score of the traits you can relate to the most, your most obvious tendencies. Don’t go on what you feel only today or how you’ve been behaving recently, instead think of how you usually are.
Then count the relatable traits under each type and see how much you gravitate to each functional energy and what your mix is.
Typically Light and Quick (vata)
Your usual response: Yes, no, maybe
Fictional characters like you: Spiderman from the Marvel Universe, Amélie Poulain from Amélie, Jack Dawson from Titanic
- You are creative and spontaneous
- Your hands and feet are almost always cold to touch
- You lose weight easily and have a tendency to be scrawny
- You walk fast and talk fast
- You toss and turn at night
- You are restless and find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time
- You keep busy so that you don’t overthink or get bored
- You tend to be self-critical and really appreciate it when you’re allowed to express yourself
- You take a long time to make a decision and still feel unsure after making it
- You are prone to pain, anxiety, constipation, colon-related disorders, and depression
Typically Slow and Steady (kapha)
Your usual response: Yes, but later
Fictional characters like you: Po from Kung Fu Panda, Varys from Game of Thrones, Sean Maguire from Good Will Hunting
- You are calm, easygoing, and caring
- You like doing things at your own pace
- You learn through repetition and have a good long-term memory
- You gain weight easily but find it difficult to lose weight
- You’re okay with skipping meals
- You like the idea of adventure but you need a big push to follow through with it (your stamina is great though)
- You tend to carry the weight of other people’s emotions and problems
- You don’t like to plan and prefer to follow others
- You make slow, calculated decisions
- You are prone to colds and coughs, allergies, congestion, sinus headaches, weight gain, and water retention
Typically Intense (pitta)
Your usual response: Yes, right now!
Fictional characters like you: Tintin from the comic series, Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible, Maximus from Gladiator
- You are organized, passionate, analytical, and have a good memory
- You never feel like you have enough time and are always trying not to waste time
- You are very active and easily turn red in the sun
- Your hands usually feel warm to touch
- You gain and lose weight easily
- You’re always hungry and get hangry if you don’t get to eat on time
- You like having things under control and get upset when things don’t go your way
- You are a list-maker, a planner
- You make decisions easily and stick to them
- You are prone to fever, diarrhea, skin infections, heartburn, inflammation, and hypertension
Once you become more self-aware, you’ll probably become more forgiving toward yourself. You’ll gain a maturity to act in the moment and control your negative tendencies. You will also be able to understand the people around you and your relationships better, and your world in general will start making a lot more sense.
Isn’t it comforting to know that you should truly be yourself to be healthy? Doesn’t it already feel right?