Which fasting type are you?

For many people, spring is also a time of fasting, which often starts on Ash Wednesday about six weeks before Easter. This tradition is consistent with Ayurvedic knowledge, according to which the cold and damp period from the end of February onwards is very suitable for fasting. The body's self-purifying powers are kindled when the power of the sun starts to increase. By following a suitable diet at this time, one can effectively enhance the removal of fat tissue and the elemination of metabolic residues that have accumulated during winter. Fasting in this Ayurvedic sense does not mean going without food; rather it means following a light to very light but type-specific diet in reduced quantity.

Fasting according to one's body type means fasting according to the doshas

Are you already familiar with the principle of the three doshas, i.e. Vata, Pitta and Kapha? If so, you can safely skip this section. On the other hand, it is useful to remind yourself of the different characteristics of the dosha types. This is because every Ayurvedic measure should be matched to your individual constitution.

According to Ayurveda, your physiology is pervaded by three universal and holistic fundamental forces, the doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These govern all physical, mental and psychic processes. Your personal characteristics, physical features and talents indicate a predominance of one or two doshas. This fundamental individual balance determines your dosha type.

Almost everyone is a 'mixed type'

If you had one dosha in a much higher proportion than the other two, for example a lot of Vata but not very much Pitta and Kapha, then you would be a Vata type. If, for example, you had approximately the same amount of Pitta and Kapha, but not much Vata, then you would be a Pitta-Kapha type. Each person has his or her completely individual proportions of the three doshas, as characterised by the following properties.

Those of dominant Vata-Type have a light bone structure and low weight. Vata types have difficulty putting on weight and have an irregular appetite. Vata people feel cold easily, feel comfortable in warm temperatures and prefer hot food and drink. They are flexible, enthusiastic, imaginative and talkative. If a Vata type gets out of balance, this often results in nervousness, anxiety, worrying and sleeping disturbances. Dry skin, constipation as well as cold hands and feet can also indicate a disturbed Vata dosha.

People with Pitta dominance have a medium physique. They tend to eat a lot and can usually tolerate any food. They become easily irritated if their meal times are disrupted. Pitta people are good speakers, are good at organising, they are neat and inventive as well as ambitious and decisive. In case of Pitta disturbance, they are prone to perfectionism, angry outbursts, irritability, skin rashes and inflammations.

The Kapha type has a strong physique, prominent muscles and a tendency towards overweight. They have a good immune system and rarely become ill. Kapha people have good stamina; they benefit from physical work and exercise. They are characterised by patience, fortitude and gentleness.

If Kapha gets out of balance, the person is prone to obesity, dullness or depression, as well as nausea, abdominal fullness and colds.

Which dosha type are you? Take our free online dosha test to get an initial assessment of your personal dosha type. In addition, you will find Maharishi Ayurveda products for Vata, Pitta and Kapha, designed to help you maintain your personal dosha balance.

Fasting to suit your dosha type

When fasting, the body should eliminate metabolic residues, waste products and body fats. Clearly therefore this process is always accompanied by a loss of body matter. Thus Dr. med. Mathias Kossatz, Ayurvedic doctor in Frankfurt, comments: 'People with Kapha dominance generally tolerate fasting quite well, because they possess physical matter to get rid of. On the other hand, Ayurveda would not recommend fasting to Vata types or strong Vata-Pitta types, unless they happen to be overweight. These people naturally cannot afford to reduce their body mass. They would lose weight very quickly and would afterwards have the greatest difficulty in regaining what little weight they had before.'

Ideally therefore, one should only fast under the supervision of an experienced Ayurvedic therapist or take advice beforehand from an Ayurvedic doctor or an Ayurveda clinic. The German Ayurveda Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ayurveda) will be pleased to provide you with relevant addresses. Even though zero fasting (taking no food at all) is not recommended in Ayurveda because it would overstrain the power of agni (digestive fire), the possibilities of medical recommendations for your individual fasting plan are nevertheless varied and wide-ranging. While for one person a light, vegetarian lunch and hot ginger tea over several weeks is sufficient, another person may need three meals a day, put together to provide optimum support for his or her purification. For sensitive types, it may even be best to just have one soup day per week.

Don't allow stress to arise

One Ayurvedic insight, which can be followed not only during fasting but even in every other life situation, is true for all dosha types: 'Our inner nature is directed towards happiness', says Dr. med. Mathias Kossatz. 'If we do something right, then we should feel better or even happier as a result. Especially when fasting or detoxing, it can sometimes happen that this is not the case, at least temporarily. However, when one fasts for longer, then one should start feeling steadily better or at least good. If this is not the case, then it is time to visit an experienced Ayurvedic doctor – or end the fast.'

Another word on weight reduction

From the Ayurvedic perspective, weight problems are not just a question of eating too much. Especially extreme obesity is mainly a question of metabolism. In order to achieve long-lasting results, the metabolism must be returned to its habitual, normal functioning. Short-term results achieved by reducing the food supply will not generally solve the problem, because the fasting further weakens the metabolism. This is why people who fast, even if initially they succeed in losing weight, almost always put it on again, in many cases going even beyond their original starting weight (yo-yo effect).

Maharishi Ayurveda doctors will therefore recommend a variety of methods to you that all affect the overall metabolism positively, and in combination should lead to successfully maintaining the achieved metabolic balance and weight reduction. In addition, appropriate Maharishi Ayurveda food supplements are available to support one's personal dosha constitution. Additionally Maharishi Ayurveda clinics or health centres offer further special and customised spa treatments from the programme of classical Panchakarma therapy.