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Yoga For Your Dosha

Ayurvedic medicine as a practice in itself, can cure and support the recovery from a multitude of illnesses as well as helping us to gain a much deeper understanding of ourselves and equip us with the tools to find balance; thus living a more fulfilling and authentic life. Yoga is a branch of Ayurveda and therefore they are extremely complimentary when practised and understood together. In the West there is a tendency for yoga to be utilized simply as an exercise regime without a thorough understanding of the complexities of our unique constitutions and what is best for them. This type of practice can actually create imbalance in some individuals due to poses pushing a body out of its safe zone or even routines around the practice not being conducive of a healthy mind and body. The yoga might be practised at an incompatible time for that person’s constitution or the temperature of the room may provoke an imbalance in someone. I recently ran a webinar on this topic and the recording is available via contacting glow studio but in this blog piece I will outline some key considerations. Before we begin if you would like a quick overview of the doshas please head to my blog post explaining these.

Yoga for the doshas

Below I will briefly outline how to personalise a yoga practice for a particular dosha, this can be for your own personal practice or if you are a teacher you can use this for one on one clients or even to tailor specific classes around a certain body type. It is important to bare in mind that although someone's birth prakruti/state may be one thing, we must focus on the current imbalance when practising yoga or any form of treatment. If you have a dual or tri dosha you can do a mix of the practices appropriate to your predominant doshas.

Yasmina from Glow Yoga Studio

Vata yoga:

Firstly let's talk about what a vata yoga student might behave like or in other words how you might spot them in a class:

  • This person is more likely to be late for class

  • They are chatty and excitable

  • They may ask questions and want some personal attention during or after class

  • They tend to have long limbs and a thin physique and are more likely to have hypertension and can be overly flexible or very stiff.

  • They do forget to breath so breath work is important

  • They tend to push themselves focusing on the amount they can stretch over the alignment of the posture

  • They can get obsessive if they follow one set routine such as ashtanga

What do they need before we start the postures:

  • Warm colours in the environment (even if it’s just an orange flower on their mat, this can really help their mind relax when they come into class)

  • Warm room temperature but not hot (they are cold people so need to be at a comfortable temperature so not to hurt their bodies)

  • Open space with no clutter (their minds are busy enough, they require a very clear and relaxed atmosphere to make the most out of the class without their mind wondering further)

  • They need to have water available all the time (vata is very dry so any physical activities require a lot of fluid intake as they expel sweat)

  • It is best if there is a no talking rule as talking can throw vata completely off focus and they will be able to think of little else. No talking means they are able to get in the right frame of mind and concentrate on their body and breath instead of worrying about others

Begin the practice:

  • A short meditation at the start of the practice can help this student focus and relax, leaving the worries of the day behind them

  • Breath work: try breathing exercises such as square breathing where you breath in for 4 breaths, hold for 4 breaths, out for 4 breaths and hold out for 4 breaths. This helps nourish and relax vata and focus the mind.

  • Include lots of variety, never do the same class twice, vata can get obsessive with routines, they get bored easily and they enjoy not knowing what’s coming next

  • They should be encouraged to take a short break in between each pose, vata can dry out very easily and therefore tires quickly, short breaks will help sustain the practice and keep vata hydrated

  • There should be a focus on breath throughout the whole class, with clear instructed breathing

  • There should be lots of clear instruction so vata don’t go off into their head. It’s important they stay in the room so the poses are done correctly (the vata body is a little weaker than the the other dosha so it’s extra important that poses are done carefully and correctly).

Vata meditations:

- Needs instruction, chakra meditation, visualisation, positive thoughts, self love

Times of day best for vata yoga:

- Towards evening before eating (when vata is high in the atmosphere), relaxing class to relax the vata, any active classes should be in the morning when kapha is high in the atmosphere.

Vata Yoga poses:

First it’s important to know the sites of vata in the body:

The sites of vata are:

Colon

Pelvis

Thighs

Bones

Ears

Skin

Vata elements/energy also reside in the heart and throat chakras

This is important to note because these are the areas that will require more attention as this is where excess vata is likely to build up. Through yoga to some extent we can assist with the releasing of this excess.

Vata yoga is all about grounding, softening and strengthening.

  • Sun salutations to warm the body up –these should be slow and steady with emphasis on the breath (you can do 4-8)

  • Lying on the ground for starting meditation

  • Grounding postures

  • Seated postures

  • Hip openers (to release vata from the colon and hip area)

  • Bridge/Cobra/Fish/Wheel/Cow/Pigeon/Saddle/Butterfly

  • Chest openers (to open this chakra and help release words and feeling that can be suppressed, out of all the dosha, effective communication is most important for vata and if this has not happened it can sit in their chest and throat causing imbalance)

  • Forward bend followed by back bends

  • Shoulder stand and plough (to nourish and release anything in the throat chakra)

  • Shavasana should be guided, it’s okay for vata to go into a near sleep state as they need to rest their mind whenever possible.

  • Not to many twisted postures- this can physically drain the body of fluid or heat, thus drying it out and cooling it down. Vata needs moisture and warmth so these postures can leave vata feeling very drained.

Pranayama for vata dosha after the class before relaxation

- Warming and relaxing breathing techniques

- Breath of fire, cleansing breath, right nostril breathing, alternate nostril breathing (only one of these)

Pitta yoga

The pitta dosha is predominant in fire, which means pitta dosha needs cooling and relaxing yoga to counteract the intensity and heat. However, when someone has an imbalance they tend to be attracted to things that are made of the element they have too much of. With pitta imbalance someone may sign up for intense exercise with heat such as hot yoga. This would aggravate the imbalance further, therefore this should be discouraged. It is important to note that someone with an imbalance will not necessarily know what is best for them. If you're working one on one with a student like this it might be good to start out with elements of the kind of yoga they want, then slowly introduce a more balancing style, this works with any imbalance and should stop people becoming put off.

Let's talk about what a Pitta yoga student might behave like or in other words how you might spot them in a class.

  • This student likes organisation; is likely to be on time to class and expects everything in the class to run on time and in an organised manner.

  • This student likes to know what is going to happen and the reasons behind it before and during the class.

  • They enjoy having goals and things to work towards so it’s great to give these students an idea of what they can expect to achieve by a certain point or let them know what you are working towards (if you are using this info for your own practice and you’re a pitta dominant individual, set your own goals and try your best to stick to them).

  • They have high expectations of the class, the teacher and themselves. This means that sometimes they will push themselves too hard. It can be useful to practice a set routine multiple times with gentle and easily attainable goals to work towards in order to manage the expectations and stop this person from injuring themselves, but so they also feel like they have achieved something.

  • Pitta likes to learn and accumulate knowledge; so moving through a set routine and slowly advancing the postures can be very rewarding for them, especially if they can get to a point where they remember this and can work through it independently (like mysore). Leave them space to share their own experiences, knowledge and theory on the practice, this will enhance their motivation.

What do they need before we start the postures:

  • A cool environment

  • Cool natural, light colours such as pastel blues/greens/greys

  • Windows open

  • Bright tidy and clear space

  • Water available

  • All equipment set up and ready

  • Pitta is dominant in the eyes so these students do care about what things look like. Small nice touches go a long way.

Pitta meditations

- Tratak meditation - candle light - focus on the flame trying not to think for 30 seconds, then close eyes and just focus on that image – on and off.

Times of day best for pitta yoga

- Afternoon time, midday is best of all for a cooling class. If not possible, late afternoon is good (4-5pm), this is good for pitta to help them switch off after the work day and transition to the evening.

Pitta yoga poses:

The sites in the body governed predominantly by pitta are:

Umbilicus

Stomach

Sweat

Lymph

Blood

Taste buds

Eyes

The pitta related chakras are in the navel center (solar plexus), the third eye and the head (crown chakra)

  • Start with seated breathing exercises

  • Moon salutations (4-6). These are cooling and so much better for pitta than sun salutations

  • Avoid too many inverted postures (head stands, hand stands, downward dog etc.) as these make the blood rush to the head and eyes creating an excess of pitta in an already pitta dominant area.

  • Twisted postures are great for getting red of excess heat (rovolved triangle, marichi’s pose, revolved abdamom pose, twisted chair)

  • Focused postures to help with staying in the moment and removing stress

  • Seated postures are better than standing as they are less heating (forward bend, cat-cow/half moon)

  • They should be encouraged to meditate/relax at the end

  • They should take lots of breaks in order to keep the body temperature down

Pitta pranayama for after the class before relaxation

- Mouth breathing with curled tongue, left nostril breathing, alternate nostril breathing (only one)

Kapha yoga

Kapha dosha is slow and steady and so introduction to yoga should be gentle, they shouldn’t be pushed too hard at the beginning and they should leave feeling energised but not exhausted. Poses should start off simple and be explained clearly. Shorter classes are also advised at the beginning as kapha can be put off very easily if they find something too challenging. Yoga can be a fantastic cardio activity for kapha, increasing their energy, circulation and disrupting and releasing blockages without making them feel out of their comfort zone like other cardio exercises can. Active and flowing yoga is the best for this dosha to counteract their stagnant, soft and slow nature coming from the earth and water characteristics.

Let's talk about what a Pitta yoga student might behave like or in other words how you might spot them in a class.

  • These individuals will be more patient and stable

  • They are very loyal so if they like your class they are likely to come back every week, however if their routine gets disrupted they need reminding to come back as they easily get out of exercise routines.

  • Not often late / don’t like to upset anyone

  • Quiet /not talkative

  • One thing at a time/ slow and steady

  • They don’t have much water or need it

  • They need to not feel too much pressure

  • They need to work up to faster poses gradually

  • They can be put off easily with too much at once

What do they need before we start the postures:

  • Warm stimulating colours

  • A nice organised place to put their belongings

  • No breaks

  • No starting relaxation – warming up is essential

  • They like peace and quiet and so don’t need lots of chat before the session

Times that Kapha should do yoga

- Morning time, excess kapha can cause drowsiness so yoga stimulates the body and helps them feel energised for the day.

Kapha sites- where more kapha can accumulate

Lungs

Stomach

Pancreas

White matter of brain

Cerebrospinal fluid

Plasma/Lymph

Joints

Sinuses

Nose

Tongue

Trachea

Throat

Fat tissue

Heart

Reproductive organs

Kapha yoga poses:

  • There is a natural heaviness in the body so they need more active postures to loosen them up

  • Sun salutations slower then fast (6-12)

  • Jump threw in between postures to keep the body warm

  • Dynamic, mobile, inverted postures (shoulder stand, head stand, downward dog, handstand)- kapha tends towards water retention and poor circulation so the poses help encourage a proper flow around the body.

  • Standing poses are great – warrior, dancers, tree pose, triangle pose

  • Twisted postures help to get rid of excess water

  • Always use counter poses and opposites

  • No need for guided relaxation- can do seated mantra

Kapha pranayama (warming and invigorating)

Breath of fire, right nostril breathing, alternate nostril breathing (can do all)

Kapha meditation

Sound meditation, mantra, water and earth vibrations

Nice smells like lavender

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