Ayurveda is a healing science related to yoga and was developed 5,000 - 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were seeking deeper health and support. It is based on holistic connection between the body and mind and uses diet, herbal treatment and yogic breathing to achieve balance. Because of it's focus on each individual, preventative care, diet and lifestyle, Ayurveda has become an extremely useful method of healing. (Similar to the way that Traditional Chinese Medicine functions)
Within the science of Ayurveda, each person is made up of 3 doshas. The doshas are mind/body types that can offer us information for our healing and our yoga practice. We all have a balance of the 3 doshas, but they are constantly fluctuating in the body based on mood, energy level, diet and the weather. Following the diet and lifestyle recommendations for your most predominant dosha will create more physical and mental balance.
Each dosha has physical and emotional characteristics that might help you quickly identify your predominant dosha. From there, based on the type of energy typical of that dosha, you can better inform your yoga practice.
Those with predominantly vata dosha are creative, impulsive, quick to learn and quick to forget. Typically slender, tall, large eyes, dry hair, fast-walking, excitable, lively and fun. With flexible and changeable moods just like the element that represents vata (wind), those who are ruled by the vata dosha tend to have an irregular routine and often thrive as entrepreneurs. Physically and mentally they have a tendency to overexert. When in balance, vata is full of joy and enthusiasm. When stressed, they are most likely to respond with fear. Vatas hate damp/humid weather and they need a warm, mushy diet to bring them back down to earth.
Vata Yoga Practice Tips: Since the vata energy is wind, most who are ruled by the vata dosha will benefit from yin, restorative or slower-paced asana with static holds and yoga practices that are grounding. Flowing, freestyle, fast-paced or energetic practices will increase the vata dosha.
- Stay rooted and connected to the ground (poses like childs, seated postures, supine, or sturdy and supported positions)
- Hold each posture for 3-5 minutes
- Practice at a slow and steady pace
- Focus on supporting the red root chakra (at the base of the spine)
- Offer yourself a long savasana or relaxation period
- Use 3 part yogic breathing
Those with predominantly pitta dosha are typically well-built, medium to average height with fair or reddish skin that sunburns easily. They are orderly, focused, ambitious, assertive and self-confident with a tendency toward being demanding, aggressive or pushy when imbalanced. Pitta have a fiery, passionate energy and tend to be competitive, romantic and sharp. They are most likely to respond with anger when stressed. Pittas dislike hot weather and typically thrive on cooling, light foods in their diet.
Pitta Yoga Practice Tips: Those with lots of pitta energy will benefit from any type of yoga practice that is cooling and calming. With the element of fire, watery, flowing and creative movement such as dance will help to balance excess pitta, while hot, rigid and organized movements will increase deficient pitta, such as karate.
- Practice sitali, the cooling breath
- Let your movement become creative, loose and free
- Be particularly aware of softening the eyes and the face
- Focus on supporting the orange sacral chakra (located at the navel)
- Include gentle hip openers
- Avoid holding postures that create heat, tension or cause exertion
- End with cooling inversions, such as legs up the wall
Kapha are physically strong with a sturdy, heavier build, often oily skin or hair. They are easy-going, undemanding, relaxed and slow-paced in movement and often in speech. Affectionate, loving, compassionate and non-judgemental in nature, kapha has a steady and enduring energy. They are slower to learn, but have an outstanding long-term memory. Imbalance or stress will lead to depression for kapha.
Kapha Yoga Practice Tips: Kapha will benefit from sun salutations, vinyasa flow practices and balance. Already typically grounded, those with excess kapha energy should focus on airy, creative and light types of practice. To increase kapha energy, practice slow, yin and grounding yoga. Foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes are most beneficial for pacifying kapha.
- Practice energizing sun salutations
- Focus on inhalations and upward movement
- Include back-bends to open up the chest and free the heart from congestion and stagnation
- Use plenty of standing postures with arms up to open the chest
- Practice bastrika pranayama
- Focus on supporting the solar yellow plexus chakra (at the center of the diaphragm)
Knowing where your imbalances lie can help you to create a more supportive yoga practice based on your dosha. Even a few postures or some intentional breathing can help to adjust and balance the doshas. Remembering that we all have a bit of each and that they change regularly, be attentive in your practice to accommodate those fluctuations.