Yoga for your Dosha

I’ve been seeing a lot of ayur-yoga/ yoga for your dosha/other creative names as mainstream yoga culture attempts to incorporate ayurvedic awareness into yoga practice. Hmmm…I have conflicting feelings on this movement.

“Yoga for your dosha” doesn’t make sense to me because you are not just one dosha, or type. A lot of introductory ayurvedic texts make it seem like you can type yourself, or figure out which dosha you are, and live according to some guidelines for Pitta, for example. That’s not really how it works. This is a whole topic in itself and I’ll elaborate in another post. For now, let’s address the question:

How do I adjust my yoga practice according to ayurveda?

Step 1: Listen to your body and mind to see which house you are experiencing imbalance in. Step 2: Adjust the qualities of your yoga experience to balance whatever you are experiencing.

We can take any aspect of the yoga experience, and examine the qualities of the energies we are taking in through that particular aspect. For example, let’s look at temperature; a heated room (e.g. Bikram) will be balancing for thos in a vata or kapha imbalance, but will help to aggravate a pitta imbalance.

The temperature is an obvious quality, but there are several subtle ones as well. Is this a jam-packed class with people clambering for space? Are you practicing at home in the evening when the neighbors are loud?  I’m not suggesting there is a perfect yoga experience. Afterall, as yogis, we are cultivating pratyahara–withdrawal of the senses to the inward space. However, the energies surrounding your yoga experience are how you can begin to balance the doshas during your practice.

The list of features below is a good starting point to adjusting the qualities of your practice. I like these videos as well to learn more on a few of the features listed below.

  • Noise. This includes music. Intense tabla could stimulate pitta while serene tambour could ground vata. Silence has it’s own qualities as well.
  • Breath. What type of breathwork are you incorporating? Ujjai is very different from kapalabhati in quality.
  • Gaze. Keeping your eyes closed (grounding), focused upward (decreasing kapha), looking at a mirror (increases pitta) all affect the quality of energy cultivated through vision.
  • Lighting. Bright vs. Dim–well, we can all relate to how lighting makes us feel.
  • Pace. Vinyasa flow is very different from restorative…how you space your asana and transitions is a way to change the quality of the practice.
  • Temperature
  • Asana. Specific postures increase or decrease VPK. For example, forward folds decrease (balance) vata because they help to remove air in the abdomen, and on a subtle level encourage introspection (and withdrawal from external stimuli).
  • Aromas. These are fun to play with. For example, citrus and rosemary will help to stimulate agni and motivation for a kapha imbalanced person in the morning.
  • Public vs. Private. This one is relative. For some, their yoga community is a family and seeing them on a regular basis in a regular setting is grounding and balancing. For others, practicing yoga in a public class is anxiety provoking. You have to see how this affects you.

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