According to Sasang Constitutional Medicine, which is a facet of Traditional Korean medicine, humans fall into four distinct groups of body type based on their bio-psycho-social traits.
The category of body type can point out the strengths and weaknesses of our organs, as well as our personality traits, possible mineral deficiencies, and psychological status.
The Sasang Theory uses aspects of yin and yang, specifically “greater” or “lesser” yin and yang to classify humans by body type. This typology focuses on hereditary factors that we may have gained from our ancestors, which can play a role in the development of disease. While not taking modern scientific advancements like epigenetics into consideration.
The various body types are said to expose mineral deficiencies, personality traits, as well as the most favourable season for a person of that constitution.
While the classification system seems to work for a lot of body types, I'm not convinced that everyone fits into just one category. Perhaps with so much variation in the human race, the system looks like it could be expanded.
Check it out to see if you fit in any of the classifications. It's fascinating to study the Sasang and Chinese philosophies of body type, as it’s not how we typically view our constitutions here in the west.
The Sasang Classification System
Below you can see each of the four physical body types in detail. Starting with appearance, and then drilling down into more specific information about each body classification.
Yin and yang is a Chinese concept that describes how opposite forces can complement each other. While we go through each of the body types, bear in mind the meaning of Yin and Yang:
- Yin – Negative/passive/female
- Yang – Positive/active/male
While a body type may fall into a specific gender, each of the body types can be applied to both males and females. The Sasang Body Types are not gender specific.
Tae-yang/ Teyangin (Greater Yang)
BODY TYPE: Large head, developed upper body, weak lower body.
BEST SEASON: Autumn
A person with a Tae-yang constitution will be prone to sorrow, showing superiority in function, but having inner feelings of inferiority. Their body shape is a large head, think neck and well developed upper chest. They are said to have large lungs and a small liver.
When compared to the upper body, the lower part of the body is less developed with weaker legs. Teyangin people are more prone to gullet disease, indigestion, hip muscle weakness and female infertility.
The personality traits of the Tae-yang (Greater Yang) are: being decisive, creative, idealistic, progressive, impetuous, magniloquent and highly sociable.
According to the Sasang Classification System, Teyangin people may be deficient in Zinc (Zn), Selenium (Se), Molybdenum (Mo), Magnesium (Mg), Chromium (Cr), Iron (Fe), Phosphorus (P) and Sodium (Na).
So-yang/ Soyangin (Lesser Yang)
BODY TYPE: Wide chest, weak hips, and ankles. Pale skin, often skinny, with the appearance of an inverted triangle.
BEST SEASON: Summer
The Soyangin people are prone to anger. Their body type is usually a wide muscular chest, with weak ankles and hips. Their shape looks like an inverted triangle (the superman look).
They are said to have a large spleen and small kidneys. People with this constitution are prone to kidney disease, bladder infection, urethritis, premature ejaculation, infertility, backache, angina, high blood pressure and depression.
The personality traits of the So-yang (Lesser Yang) are being shrewd, impulsive, broad-minded, honest, righteous, compassionate, impatient, careless and neglectful.
According to the Sasang Classification System, people who have the So-yang body type may be deficient in Calcium (Ca), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Selenium (Se), Magnesium (Mg), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Molybdenum (Mo), and Chromium (Cr).
Tae-eum/ Teumin (Greater Yin)
BODY TYPE: Apple-shaped, heavy bones, thick waistline with a thin neck.
BEST SEASON: Spring
The basic nature of people with the Tae-eum constitution is joy. A Teumin person has a grand body with heavy bones (sometimes overweight). The middle of the body is thick and strong and their neck is comparatively thin. They are said to be: persistent, stable, impartial, careful, decent, cowardly, greedy and conservative.
People with a Tae-eum body type are said to be prone to high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis and respiratory disease. According to the Sasang Classification System, a Tae-eum person might be deficient in Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Potassium (K), Selenium (Se), Molybdenum (Mo), Zinc (Zn), Boron (B), Nickel (Ni).
So-eum/ Soumin (Lesser Yin)
BODY TYPE: Short balanced frame, often thin with a small tidy face
BEST SEASON: Winter
A person of the Soumin body type’s nature is pleasure. So-eum people are said to have large kidneys and a small spleen. They are short and often skinny with weak upper body strength.
They have a balanced body compared to other body types, and a small and tidy face. A person of the Soumin is meticulous, prudent, gentle, well-mannered, conscientious accurate, introverted, narrow-minded and sensitive.
People with the Soumin constitution are said to be prone to gastritis, hyperacidity, stomach ache, indigestion, anorexia, diarrhea, and excessive sweating.
According to the Sasang Classification System, a So-eum person could be deficient in Aluminium hydroxide, Magnesium (Mg), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Chlorine (Cl) Iron (Fe), Phosphorus (P).
Interestingly, a lot of the mineral deficiencies for each body type would be solved by consuming enough electrolytes, which include the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, sodium and chloride.
Both the Sasang Classification System and Traditional Chinese Medicine split people into “body types” to be able to quickly assess hereditary factors. There’s certainly a lot to this system as it has been developed over thousands of years.
Looking at the factors that underly our very constitution as human beings can uncover key information that will help us improve our overall health.
Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.
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According to Sasang Constitutional Medicine, a facet of Traditional Korean medicine, humans fall into 4 distinct body type groups based on their bio-psycho-social traits.