When I created my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program, I infused Ayurvedic teachings and principles throughout the course. One unique element was incorporating how the doshas are impacted by various yoga poses. (Don’t know what the doshas are or need a refresher? Check out this post I wrote for a simple overview.)
The practice of AyurYoga is not a new one, yet it’s one that is rarely taught. It’s a way to completely customize your own personal yoga asana practice on a seasonal or even daily basis. This methodology creates the right type of practice for our individual needs, giving us the understanding of how to adjust the practice to cultivate harmony within our bodies.
There are many poses and breathing techniques that will increase or decrease the elements of each dosha. While this post is specific to yoga and pranayama (breathing) practices, the principles, in theory, can be applied to other movement modalities.
Being made up of air and ether, when Vata dosha gets out of balance, we feel spacey, have a hard time concentrating, move from one shiny object to another, and feel dry (whether it’s our skin or our poops). Applying AyurYogic principles will help keep us tethered and feel more settled.
Ways to restore a state of groundedness and pacify Vata include:
*moving through the yoga poses in a slower way
*holding each pose for several seconds/breaths
*doing more twists, especially seated or lying down
*build more heat in your practice, while still moving slowly
*switch to a more gentle and/or restorative yoga practice
*seated or supine meditation
*keep your eyes focused on the ground rather than looking upward
*slower breathing techniques (think: belly breathing)
*forward folds, either standing or seated
*balancing poses (this helps with concentration)
*use blankets for support your body and to cover up during Savasana
*place an eye pillow over your eyes during Savasana
*remain in Savasana for 10-15 minutes
Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water. Don’t let the water part confuse you – it’s there to make sure the internal fire doesn’t rage within. Because the fire element is primary here, when Pitta dosha is out of balance, you’ll find yourself more irritable, competitive, and overall feisty.
Ways to restore calm and peace while pacifying Pitta include:
*grounding and cooling poses (closer to the floor)
*all twists, whether upright, seated, or laying down
*keeping your focal point on the horizon or towards the floor (and not at what others are doing)
*avoiding competitive poses
*meditation (seated or lying down)
*avoid hot yoga (you’ll just fan the Pitta flames)
*practicing at no more than 70% intensity
*choose the softer variations of each pose, even if you can go to the max levels
*slow to moderately-paced yoga class
*outstretched Savasana (no blankets, with the arms and legs outstretched a bit to promote cooling)
*8-10 minute Savasana
Wrapping up the doshas, Kapha is comprised of water and earth. This means when Kapha is out of balance, you’ll feel sluggish, unmotivated, lethargic, and maybe depressed.
Ways to pacify Kapha and feel more energetic include:
*choose a faster-paced class like a flow or Vinyasa class (rather than, say, restorative)
*choose physically-appropriate challenging poses (meaning don’t push it to the point of injury, obviously, but go to your appropriate edge)
*focal point is more upward toward the sky when possible
*keep the room temperature on the warmer side (no one should practice in a cold room, but Kaphas will benefit from warmer temps)
*heart opening poses and backbends, when appropriate
*seated or moving meditation
*upward, physical poses that are away from the ground
*shorter Savasana, more in the 6-8 minute range
In all of these customizations, it’s absolutely vital to not push it to the point of injury. For example, if you feel your Kapha is out of whack and you’re taking a heat-building yoga class and you have a cranky knee, you need to modify for your knee rather than up the intensity to try to balance out your Kapha. Kindness to your body is first and foremost.
Take a moment to check in with your body each day, and then experiment with modifying your movements. Before you know it, you’ll feel more centered and clear-headed.