Ayurveda for Kids: How Your Child’s Brain-Body Type Affects Your Parenting Choices

In this interview, Dr. Robert Keith Wallace and Dr. Fred Travis – authors of Dharma Parenting –  discuss how Ayurvedic mind-body type relates to parenting. Discovering your child’s brain-body type, they explain, can help you understand your child better and affect your parenting choices in numerous ways.

1.  What inspired you to write Dharma Parenting?

We were fortunate that knowledge about Ayurveda body types was coming to light when our children were born.  We had both been studying the brain and learned how the brain is completely transformed from birth to adulthood.  These two streams of information were extremely helpful for us in understanding our children. We teamed up to share this knowledge with other parents. 

 2.  What are the different “Brain/Body Types” and how were they established?

Dharma Parenting draws on the time-tested knowledge of Ayurveda’s mind/body types and combines it with the latest understanding of how the brain is shaped by its natural maturation and by experience. These two factors— natural patterns of response and ongoing brain changes—contribute to what we call brain/body types, which are enormously useful for understanding your child’s behavior. The three main types from Ayurveda are:

  • Vata body type— sensitive, always changing, and creative.

  • The Pitta body type—dynamic, strong willed, and inquisitive.

  • The Kapha body type— is calm, steady, and kind.

The brain/body types also take into consideration the transformation in brain circuits occurring during development. For instance, the frontal connections are the last to mature, and are not yet fully developed in teenagers, which helps explain their sometimes erratic behavior.

3.  Is there science behind the Brain/Body Types?

The science of body types from Ayurveda has been investigated in terms of cardiovascular functioning and DNA expression.  We have published a paper that predicts patterns in brain functioning that characterize each state.  We are currently conducting research to test these predictions.

4.  How can understanding their child’s Brain/Body Type help parents connect better with their children?

Knowing your child’s brain/body type allows you to understand why one child quickly gets their clothes on, while the other seems to just stand around.  It allows you to understand how one of your children is academically brilliant in school and the other can barely keep up.   Knowing your children’s brain/body type—their natural tendencies and changing brain connections—allows you to better understand what your child needs to be happy and successful.

5.  How can understanding their own Brain/Body Types allow parents to improve their parenting skills?

Dharma Parenting incorporates six parenting tools to help you refine your parenting skills, and they apply to children of all ages. They’re easy to remember using the word “dharma” as an acronym:

  1. Discover your child’s, and your own, brain/body type

  2. Heal yourself

  3. Attention and appreciation

  4. Routines to improve family dynamics

  5. Manage meltdowns and cultivate better behavior

  6. Anticipate and adapt

Knowing your child’s brain/body type is the first tool of Dharma Parenting. Heal Yourself is the second.  You need to get as much sleep as you can, eat nourishing food, and practice meditation so that you can be more effective as a parent.  If you are balanced, you will be the best parent you can be.  This is key, and it’s often overlooked in parenting books.

6.  Why should parents offer children of different Brain/Body Types different afternoon snacks?

Each of the Brain/Body types reacts differently to food. 

Vata Types – Need easy-to-digest snacks like fruit, yogurt, and most toasted nuts and seeds. Avoid crisp dried food like potato chips and popcorn because they aggravate Vata and cause imbalance. Vatas do best with warm foods like warm muffins or cookies, and hot liquids like cocoa and soup. 

Pitta Types – Have a strong digestion and need sizeable snacks. But avoid hot and spicy. Go for yogurt and granola, muffins and milk, and a sandwich with juice.  

Kapha Types – Have a slower digestion and don’t need a large snack. Stay away from cold heavy foods such as yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. Offer a crunchy apple, crisp carrot sticks, or a muffin and fruit juice.  

Don’t worry, Dharma Parenting gives you charts to easily keep track of what’s best for each type of child!

Study with YogaUOnline and Sue Elkind: Prenatal Yoga Essentials for a Healthy Pregnancy & Birth.

More on Dharma Parenting from YogaUOnline and Supriya Venkatesan-What is your Child’s Brain/Body Type? 

Plus Ayurvedic Tips and Tricks to Manage Meltdowns.

YogaUOnline course The Art of Self-Care with Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar

YogaUOnline contributor Supriya Venkatesan

Supriya Venkatesan is a freelance writer based in Princeton, NJ. She has written for Forbes, The Washington Post, TIME, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She holds a MS in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and a BA in Media & Communications from Maharishi University. When not wiring articles, or writing for her memoir based on her military deployment to Iraq, you can find her engrossed in meditation or chasing her toddler. You can learn more about her at www.supriya.ink or follow her on Facebook where she posts inspirational articles. 

Dr Keith Wallace

Dr. Robert Keith Wallace received his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of California at Los Angeles and did his postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School. His seminal papers published Dharma Parentingin Science, the American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American, showed that Transcendental Meditation technique, produced a fourth major state of consciousness different than waking, sleeping, or dreaming. Dr. Wallace was the founding President of Maharishi University of Management and established the first Maharishi AyurVeda Clinics in the United States.

Dr Fred TravisDr. Frederick Travis is Professor of Maharishi Vedic Science, Chair of the Department of Maharishi Vedic Science, Dean of the Graduate School, and Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition. He earned an MS and PhD in Psychology from Maharishi University of Management, and a BS in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University.


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