Different bodies need different types of exercise—so look for activities that balance your prakriti (nature or constitution), and avoid those that aggravate it. Your prakriti is composed of three doshas (humors): vata, pitta, and kapha. In most of us one is dominant and needs to be brought back into balance.
If “light, limber, and quick” describe the qualities of your body and mind, your dominant dosha is vata. Restless and impulsive, you dive into enthusiastic exercise plans and quickly exhaust yourself. You’re attracted to high-action sports requiring bursts of energy (like racquetball), but you need just the opposite: activities that require slow, rhythmic motion. Vata-balancing exercise is low-impact (to protect your weak joints) and stabilizing (to offset your erratic nature). You need to pay particular attention to your breaking point and stop before you reach it. Swimming, rollerblading, hiking, and hatha yoga are great for you.
Are you hot by nature? Driven to accomplish? Naturally athletic, with a medium, muscular build? If so, your predominating dosha is pitta. You’re intoxicated by competitive sports like tennis, but they often feed your aggression. You’ll reap more benefits from activities that cool your fiery nature and encourage you to enjoy yourself. Water and snow sports are perfect, as are team sports (like basketball and baseball) and activities where you compete against yourself (like mountain biking). Remember, having fun and getting a good workout is more important than winning.
Do your friends describe you as steady and grounded? Do you tend to be heavyset and to procrastinate? If so, your main dosha is kapha. Strong and enduring, you are slow to begin a routine—but once you do, you maintain it. You gravitate toward laid-back sports like golf and baseball, but you’ll benefit most from hard, sustained exercise that makes you break a sweat. Martial arts, aerobics, running, and soccer are ideal—they will counter your couch-potato tendency and help you to feel more invigorated, vital, and alive.
Shannon Sexton if editor at large for Yoga+.