An image of a rock with the word "Ayurveda" painted on it in green paint is used to illustrate the concept of Ayurvedic-informed self-care.

There is the tendency for those of us in this helping profession to experience emotional and physical burnout if we don’t tend to our own needs. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressures of daily living. This is where understanding your Ayurvedic dosha can help bring balance.

Ayurveda is a system of holistic health that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Although it is ancient, it has gained popularity here in the Western world over just the past three decades, as interest in integrative healing practices has grown.

The beauty of Ayurveda is that it is not a one-size-fits-all type of medicine. Instead, it is based on elements that are found in the natural world, including ether, air, fire, water and earth.

These elements are within us and all things in an infinite variety of proportions, and all of us have our own nature that associates with the elements.

Each of these elements have specific qualities. For example, ether is very light and subtle, air is clear and dry and movable, fire, of course, is hot and relates to the power of change and transformation, water is cool and liquid, and earth is sticky and heavy.

In Ayurveda, these elements are further broken down into constitutional types, consisting of Vata (air and ether), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth).

Your Constitutional Type

According to Ayurveda, we can know more about ourselves by understanding our prakruti, which is loosely translated to mean the original creation, or our primary way of being in the world. A person’s prakruti is our original Ayurvedic dosha or combination of doshas, and our energetic mind-body-spirit persona that signifies our way of being and how we experience things around us.

According to Ayurveda, when we are feeling out of balance mentally, emotionally or physically, this is because we have moved away from our natural, original state due to external influences such as stressors and extremes in our environment. In Ayurveda, if this continues to happen, it will lead to illness.

Therefore, a solid understanding of our Ayurvedic dosha can help us gain more awareness and allow us to check in with ourselves in order to allow the time and space for self-care to bring us back to a balanced state.

Your Ayurvedic Dosha

There are several questionnaires and tools in books and through online sources that will help you find your primary dosha(s), although a good rule of thumb is to consider the associated elements and their qualities, as discussed previously.

The lists below show how these doshas will most commonly manifest in people. These are simple guidelines and most of us will relate to more than one, although usually one is predominant.

Ayurvedic Dosha: Vata Characteristics (air and ether)

• Very creative and imaginative

• Excitable and fun personality

• Skin – usually cold and dry

• Protruding joints

• Nervous system – very sensitive to outside influences

• Integrated with the natural world – Loves to be outdoors

Ayurvedic Dosha: Pitta Characteristics (fire and water)

• Usually good muscle tone, athletic body

• Strong appetite

• Skin: Reddish or yellowish tone, prone to sunburn or freckles

• Hair: premature graying/baldness; straight, reddish

• Feels comfortable in Autumn – cool temperatures.

• Eyes: penetrating – scleras sometimes bloodshot

Ayurvedic Dosha: Kapha Characteristics (water and earth)

• Strong and full body with larger hips and thighs

• Voice: sometimes overrun by mucous, soft, fluid

• Skin: cool to the touch

• Large dark or blue eyes

• Hair: lots of it; usually wavy

• Loves sleep: 8 to 10 hours per night

Your Ayurvedic Dosha and Self-Care

Understanding your primary Ayurvedic dosha is one way of gaining a fuller understanding of your natural self. Bearing this in mind, Ayurveda’s primary philosophies are based on preventive medicine that focus on ways we can easily adapt and incorporate good lifestyle practices to help fend off illness and disease and to promote overall well-being.

Ayurveda is rich with self-care techniques that can be easily incorporated into our daily routine. These are great practices to follow to create a sense of well-being, and to calm the nervous system to maintain a balance. Simplicity is key here. Sometimes the most subtle actions can have profound effects.

Once you have identified your Ayurvedic dosha, there are many resources available to you to determine your best course of nutrition, activity and other factors.

No matter what Ayurvedic dosha you have, the following four Ayurvedic self-care practices with help you achieve better balance and harmony. The key to incorporating these practices to your life is not to get overwhelmed and keep it simple. Be kind to yourself as you begin to integrate these ideas.

You may think you don’t have any extra time or space in the morning to do one more thing, but you may consider waking up a few minutes early to add a meditation practice or self-massage to your morning routine or allow yourself the time and space before bedtime to create a peaceful space.

Sleep Hygiene

Our busy lifestyles tend to add additional stressors to the natural circadian rhythms, leaving us feeling tired during the day or restless at night. According to Ayurveda, it is helpful to wake early in the morning, preferably with the sun, and go to bed before 10:00 p.m. each night.

As massage therapists, we’re quite familiar with creating a relaxing environment for our clients, but you may consider creating a quiet ambience for yourself at least an hour before bedtime. This can include turning off electronic devices, playing quiet music and creating a nice environment with relaxing essential oils and a cup of chamomile tea. This will tell your body it is time to prepare for a good night’s sleep. Once your body is accustomed to this natural rhythm, you will notice yourself feeling better throughout the day.


Abhyanga is a traditional form of Ayurvedic bodywork that utilizes herbal infused oils and long, rhythmic strokes to help calm the nervous system, improve blood and lymph circulation and strengthen the tissues. Daily self-abhyanga can be a great option for those of us who want to experience the benefits of this technique.

Fill a 2- to 3-ounce. travel bottle with organic sesame or olive oil, and place in a bowl of hot water to warm the oil.

Before showering, gently massage the oil onto your skin, starting at the neck and arms, and work down to the torso and legs.

Allow the oil to stay on for 10 to 20 minutes. This is especially helpful during stressful times, as the oils tend to help balance the nervous system.

Try Abhyanga for a few mornings and see for yourself how you feel.

Connecting with Nature

The principles of Ayurveda are based on a connection with the natural world. Whether or not you live in the middle of a city or a quiet, rural location, taking a moment to step outside and be present in the moment while looking at the trees, enjoying the sunshine or noticing the sky can be a wonderful form of self-care. Integrating a daily walk in a park or just around the neighborhood can help regulate your sleep patterns, boost your mood and perhaps even give you a lift during the midday slump.

Meditation Practice

The practice of meditation has deep roots in Ayurveda, yet there are as many types of meditation as there are people. The benefits of meditation are numerous and can help all of us as we navigate our busy lifestyles. You don’t need any special tools or supplies to start a meditation practice. The good news is that you can’t really do this wrong!

The challenge is to be consistent and to allow yourself a few minutes on a regular basis to quiet the mind. According to Ayurveda, it can be a great addition to your morning routine, although incorporating short meditations throughout a busy day or between clients can also be helpful.

A good way to begin is to start with five minutes in the morning for 10 days. You may notice that your stress levels are lowered and your sense of well-being has improved. Here are a few simple guidelines to help you get started.

1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. This can be anywhere, on the floor, on a chair – whatever feels good to you. You may also wish to set a timer.

2. Check in with your physical body. You can do a quick body scan, connecting with each part of your body, noticing if you are holding any tension in an area and allowing it to release.

3. Check in with your breath. Simply notice your breathing, as it goes in and out

4. Experience stillness and check-in with your mind. Notice when your mind has wandered and gently allow yourself to come back to noticing your breath. Try not to judge yourself as you do this. Thoughts will come and go but be kind to yourself as you bring your attention back to the breath.

5. Check in with the space around you as you finish. Before ending your meditation time, take a deep breath in and out, and slowly open your eyes (if they were closed). Notice how your body feels in the space around you and complete the meditation with an intention or a sense of gratitude.

Use Ayurveda to Avoid Burnout

Once you start opening yourself up to the wisdom of Ayurveda, you’ll find it can be beneficial to your overall well-being, and will help with self-compassion and understanding others.

Ayurveda is also a great tool to help us understand our client’s needs on a deeper level, allowing us to become a better practitioner and to have the ability to be more present to our clients without the burnout we sometimes experience.

Jeannie Faulkner

About the Author

Jeannie Faulkner, LMT, AyT, M.Ed., is a licensed massage therapist, experienced educator, herbalist, yoga teacher and certified Ayurveda therapist. She is an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider and offers continuing education classes including Ayurvedic bodywork training, spa therapies, ethics and archetypes and elemental stone massage.