Whenever I pass a schoolyard or a playground I always play the Dosha Game. This is a made-up game where I try to spot the little Vatas, Pittas and Kaphas. It’s a perfect place to hone your Ayurveda skills because it’s easy to differentiate the doshas.
The children who are predominantly Vata are usually the busy bees–buzzing around joyfully, happy to be active no matter what their skill level is. But then they crash and burn. They’re all about movement and often don’t know when to stop. Vata children are frequently the ones labeled ADD. Their dosha is likely out of balance and some dietary and lifestyle changes can help significantly.
The Pitta children are the athletic ones and the organizers. They’re usually leading the pack and can sometimes appear a little bossy. They have good stamina, but look out when they get hungry–they need to eat right away or they get crabby. They’re the ones you’ll see with their coats flung open when the weather is cold–Pitta is the fire dosha and they easily become overheated.
The sweet Kapha child is often sitting on the sidelines, not too interested in running around, but the other kids are drawn to him/her because of his/her warm loving nature. Kapha children are strong and sturdy (earth and water are the elements of this dosha) and tend to gain weight easily. They have great stamina and tend to learn slowly, but remember forever! Change can be very hard for Kapha children.
When my own children were young I remember being fascinated by the Constitutional Psychology theory of William Sheldon. He described different physical types of children and named them Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. Now, having studied Ayurveda, I realize that in all likelihood, Sheldon must have been familiar with Ayurveda and the doshas. An Ectomorph he described as having a thin build and very little fat (Vata), a Mesomorph as someone muscular, with solid bones, low-fat, wide shoulders and narrow waist (Pitta) and an Endomorph as someone with large bones and a propensity to store fat (Kapha). I guess my fascination with Ayurveda began way back then and I didn’t even know it!
“Your constitution is determined at birth by the states of balance or imbalance of your parents’ rhythms during conception, as well as from the particular permutations of the five elements in the sperm and ovum at the time of conception.” Maya Tiwari from “The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing“
I find this fascinating! We all have the three doshas within us, but just like adults, children are usually a combination of two doshas, and rarely three. Whatever combination we are born with is called our Prakruti–a Sanskrit term that means “nature” or “first creation”. Our Prakruti never changes and so in order to maintain good health, we must pay special attention to the dosha or doshas which are dominant.
For example, if you have a child who is mostly Vata, he or she is probably often cold because they don’t store a lot of fat. It’s best to stay away from cold liquids and food, especially during Vata Season which is fall-early winter. Also, make sure they get lots of rest and down time. Gentle yoga is great for little Vatas! Vata children are the anxious ones and believe it or not, can really benefit from learning meditation and proper breathing techniques. They are also prone to constipation because of the dry nature of Vata. Triphala is an extremely safe Ayurvedic herbal formula that can help tremendously.
If your child is predominantly Pitta, you will want to focus on keeping them cool, especially during Pitta Season (late spring/summer). They build up heat very easily in their body. Feed them cooling foods and stay away from spicy food. Yoga, meditation and breathing are also great for Pittas. I know this may seem far-out, but if you begin teaching children these practices at an early enough age, problems such as anxiety and anger can be greatly minimized.
Kapha children are the ones that need to be encouraged every day to get outside and play. They may not be drawn to the same activities as Vata and Pitta children so it’s important to find an activity that they love. Their diets should be low in fat and especially sugar. Late winter/early spring is Kapha Season and kids with a lot of Kapha dosha tend to produce a lot of mucus and get lots of spring colds. Avoiding mucus-producing foods like dairy, sugar and fast foods can help significantly.
September is back-to-school month for most children and it’s a great time for parents and teachers to take a closer look at their children from an Ayurvedic point of view. I have studied Ayurveda with Dr. John Douillard and he is an excellent resource for parents (he has six children of his own!). Here’s a wonderful article and video that he recently posted called “Decode Your Child”. And one of the absolute best books that I can recommend to parents is his “Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know.” Read it, and then share it with your child’s teacher. Trust me, you will never look at your children the same again!