What's your dosha? If you're anything like I was before I learned about dosha, your response is likely to be "What's my what?" The word "dosha" refers to your ayurvedic mind and body type. "Ayur-who?" you may ask. Ayurveda is the ancient art of living in harmony with nature. It originated in India, and it encompasses health, medicine, diet and exercise. Yoga is part of an ayurvedic health regimen, as are meditation and massage.
Ayurvedic medicine is all about balance. If there's an imbalance in body or mind, illness can occur. Not only must you find balance in a general sense, you also must figure out what "type" of person you are - in other words, what your "dosha" is - and maintain its balance by exercising in specific ways and eating specific foods.
There are three doshas - vata, pitta and kapha. These doshas share qualities with the four elements astrological signs share (earth, fire, air and water); they're also similar to the "humors" theory of ancient Greek, Roman, Muslim and Western European medicine, which focuses on balancing four substances within the body. Hindu medicine also incorporates five natural elements: air, water, fire, earth and spirit.
The web site What's Your Dosha has an online quiz you can take to determine what your dosha is. If you're a vata (like me, according to the quiz), air is your element. You should eat chicken, turkey and other poultry, and avoid red meat. Your food should be warm and moderately spicy rather than cold, light, acidic and astringent. Vatas should avoid sweaty exercise, especially in winter, which could dry them out and aggravate the conditions they experience when they're out of balance, such as constipation and dry skin.
Pittas and kaphas have different diets and different exercise recommendations. It's an intriguing system, and one that could complement modern medicine in a very positive way, especially because its recommendations aren't extreme. Read more about it at What's Your Dosha or in articles like this one from Yoga Journal.