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.
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).
- 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:
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
Hip openers (to release vata from the colon and hip area)
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)