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Yoga is a practice of centering your mind, body, and heart. Yoga awakens our self-awareness and restores a sense of balance in our lives. Yoga has incredible benefits, but to achieve the most it should be attuned to your unique dosha (mind-body constitution). Yoga is much more than physical asana (postures), but for many of us this is a place for us to begin. A regular asana practice is one of the best ways to balance our dosha. Through using prana (breathing) we can access our autonomic nervous system and relieve stress, anxiety, and trauma.
In Ayurveda, our dosha is built off of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. The three doshas Vata, Pitta, and Kapha make up our phsycial, emotional, mental, and spiritual characteristics. Vata is made up of ether and air, Pitta is made up of fire and water, and Kapha is made up of water and earth. When we harness the power of prank, it can remove excess Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (water) to feel more balanced.
An asana practice activates muscle and nerve tone, improves cardiovascular health, and enhances strength, vitality, and flexibility.
Yoga works best by dropping dogma. Listen to your body and how each pose works for your individual body. Trust your body to guide you to see what asanas work best for you, where you have weakness, and let your inner self explore.
“Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness.”- Yogic Sage Patanjali
To Achieve Overall Balance To work on overall balance it can help to practice a series of combined postures where the whole body movies in a few directions with regulated breathing and a focused mind. Flow series help by using each asana as a counter pose to flow the energy throughout the body. These can be a great way to start a practice.
Surya Namaskar A & B (Sun Salutation series)
Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutations series).
Vata Dosha If you are predominantly Vata, you want to have a grounding and calming practice. Vatas tend to not have prominent muscles, so they should strive to build core strength while maintaining their flexibility. Remaining still, grounded, and keeping with a strong pranayama practice will be hard a challenge at first. They should try to stay in poses a little bit longer to calm their mind.Fast-paced Vinyasa classes or flow sequences can aggravate Vatas, as they can be prone to anxiety and overexertion. To make your asana practice more Vata-pacifying, move more slowly and deliberately. Try to slow down and pay attention to transitions and to not rush into the next posture. Vata people often suffer from insomnia, digestive issues such as constipation, stress, fatigue, and headaches. A yoga practice can help keep Vatas grounded and relieve excess air from their bodies.Some Recommended Postures Vrksasana (tree pose) and Tadasana (mountain pose) where your feet are firmly planted can help you feel grounded and relieve stress. Virabhadrasana 1 and Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior I and II) are beneficial to build strength as they help you to feel grounded.All forward folds sitting and standing, such as Uttanasana (standing forward fold), are beneficial when dealing with constipation as it helps compresses the pelvis. These can also help with insomnia.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) can help with head colds. Bhandrasana (Nobility Pose) can help with any issues with the urinary system. Upaveshasana (Squat) and Pavana Muktasana (Wind Releasing Pose) can help with the digestive tract and reproduction system.
A long Savasana is also highly recommended to reduce stress and fatigue.
Pitta Dosha If you are predominantly Pitta, you can benefit from a calm, and relaxed practice. You will want to work on dealing with your competitive tendencies and drop comparison of your practice to those around you.
Excess Pitta is reduced from an effortless, non-goal oriented practice. A pitta even practicing effortlessly will still be working harder than most. Pitta individuals tend to have anger, stress, ulcers, and skin issues. Deep pranayama breathing, cooling postures, and sweating can help clear up aggravated Pitta in the body.
Pittas have a tendency towards excess heat, so avoid yoga forms like hot yoga that can cause profuse sweating and skin aggravation. Instead try more cooling and relaxing poses especially when feeling aggravated by Pitta. Inversions if held for a long period of time can be too heating in the head, so you will want to moderate how long you hold them.
Some Recommended Postures Focus on poses that open your heart and release excess heat from the body. Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Bhujangasana(Cobra Pose), and Matsyasana (Fish Pose) are great poses to open the chest.
Uttasana (Standing Forward Fold) can be great to reduce insomnia. Prasarita Padottanasana (Spread-leg Forward Bend), Janushirasana (Head to Knee Pose), and Pashimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) can be good for back pain and even depression. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal twist) tones the digestive organs.
Kapha Dosha If you are predominantly Kapha, you should practice in an energetic way as you need to ignite your fire. The challenge for Kaphas is to keep up a high level of energy and effort to reduce the lethargic tendencies of Kapha. Kapha individuals have the most stamina and strength of all the doshas, but out of balance they can carry excess weight and deal with lethargy. A stimulating and energizing practice is best for Kapha people. It is important to create heat to combat the tendency of feeling cold and slow. Kapha individuals out of balance suffer from colds, flus, and tiredness, To combat this go for more energetic, Vinyasa based classes. Flow sequences are highly recommended!
Doing your practice early in the morning (between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.) can help you feel energized for your day.
Some Recommended Postures: Kaphas benefits from the standing poses as they can be invigorating, especially if held for long periods of time. Back bends are also heating and can help open up the chest to move Prana throughout the body. Kaphas also benefit from headstands and all inverted postures. If there is excess weight, build the shoulder, arm, and leg strength to get into inversions. Avoid inversions unless you have the strength in the body, as they can weight bear on weak body parts. As forward folds increase Kapha, hold these for a shorter amount of time.
Setuasana (Bridge Pose) Matsyasana (Fish Pose) Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)
Resources: Frawley & Kozak, “Yoga for Your Type”. Lotus Press 2001.