In Ayurveda, we honor the unique elemental make-up of every person from physical traits to personality characteristics. Ayurveda is essentially a system of life-knowledge that gives us a framework to understand the varying tendencies we all have in mind, body and spirit (including all possible combinations of these tendencies). The three main categories are called ‘doshas’.
Learn more about the basics of doshas in Ayurveda: The Diamond of Wellness.
When it comes to Ayurveda, you can do all the prescribed yoga and eat all the expected food but, if it is done out of harmony from what your system needs, the benefits will escape you.
Bring balance to your Ayurvedic dosha, or mind/body type, by taking on a yoga practice that brings harmony to these energetic forces.
The key point to remember is that it’s more important to consider HOW you are practicing than WHAT you are practicing. That way you can show up to almost any yoga class and practice in a way that suits your doshic needs.
Here’s a little HOW for your yoga practice that will go a long way for your dosha:
This constitution is represented by the elements air & ether. When you are out of balance as a vata type you might be flighty, insecure, anxious and overly in your head. It’s important to invite grounding qualities to your movement and breath – slower, more methodical and with a sense of being deeply rooted into the earth. Vata doshas can benefit by bringing their focus to the foundation of each posture and inviting more stability rather than more depth. Be sure to take a nice, long savasana (final relaxation) at the end of each practice before transitioning back into your day. Think: CALM, SLOW and STEADY.
This constitution is represented by the elements fire & water. When a pitta is out of balance there may be an inclination towards aggressiveness, competition, and forcefulness. A tendency to push too hard can lead to taking on too much and building excess heat. Pitta doshas can benefit by cooling down their practice with slower, more gentle movement. Surrendering and relaxing into postures is key to taming the fire. In any posture, notice clenching in the jaw, the neck, and the shoulders. Allow the teeth to open and imagine those tense places loosening their grip. Work at 80% effort in your practice. Think: COOL, RELAXED and GENTLE.
The kapha constitution is represented by the elements earth & water. With a tendency toward stagnation and accumulation of fluids, Kapha dosha does well to fire it up, sweat it out and bring the heat. Kick that sluggish, heavy energy with quick light movements that are in a safe range of motion for your fitness level. We are all stronger than we think we are and Kapha dosha types need this reminder most of all. Dig deep into that well of strength that is inside you. Challenge yourself. Add more flow and movement to your practice. Work on those tougher postures. Stagnation in the blood, lymph and respiratory systems can begin to loosen and flow with more movement. Like a frozen river that begins to thaw as the warmth of the summer sun builds heat, so too can Kapha be filled again with energy and vitality by building heat in their practice. Think: ENERGY, WARMTH and FLOW.
That’s it! You don’t have to overthink your yoga practice. Just show up and consider how to integrate each of these qualities as you move and breathe. Notice how this changes the experience for you.
Remember: a dosha yoga practice is not the end all, be all answer. You may be dealing with sickness, injury or emotional turmoil. You may be a beginner or have different physical abilities. Honoring your doshic needs is excellent, but it doesn’t override other important factors that will also inform your practice.