Yoga and Ayurveda – what to practice

Continuing with our brief exploration of Ayurveda, in this post I’d like to focus on my favourite bit – yoga for the doshas. In previous blogs we’ve discussed each of the doshas, how they effect us and how we can keep them in balance. Hopefully you are starting to build a picture of your constitution. We can also use our yoga to keep our doshic constitution in harmony.

Working with yoga and the doshas is a huge subject. In upcoming blogs I’m going to be discussing the elements and they interplay with the doshas and effect our yoga, but for now let’s just have a look at some yoga practices for each dosha.

VATA is dry, rough and cold, in the body this can present as cracking joints, insomnia, digestive bloating and anxiety. Yoga to help balance vata then needs to be grounding, bringing us back into our centre, focussing on building strength. Due to the erratic nature of vata it is important that the yoga we do is calming, coordinating breath with movement, slowly warming the body. If we practice the right yoga we can expect our digestive system to become settled, and our joints more flexible. Here are 5 great yoga moves for vata:

  1. The vata sun sequence needs to be slow and mindful, breathing deeply into each posture, up to 6 rounds.
  2. Work your joints through their full range of movements. If you are familiar with the wind releasing sequences, these are the perfect practices for vata.
  3. Balancing postures are great for helping vata people to feel more grounded and in control.
  4. The inverted postures (shoulder stand, tranquility pose, dog and supported shoulder stand) will help to balance vata.

    Balance vata

    Tranquility posture great for balancing vata

  5. Practice plenty of relaxation, and rest between each of your postures too.

PITTA is hot, fast and full of fire, so our yoga needs to be cooling and balancing. Inflammatory conditions, acid indigestion, along with anger and irritation tend to indicate that pitta may be running high. We can help clear pitta by practicing yoga which supports the digestive system and stretches the sides of the body. Try to avoid doing sequences too fast, keep a steady rhythm.

  1. Sun sequences can be practiced as long as they don’t make you too hot & bothered, or bring you out in a rash! Keep rounds steady with coordinated breath and movement. If you are a pitta person best to avoid too many rounds in the summer. Focus instead on moon sequence.
  2. Strong back bends massage the digestive system. Try Bow, Cobra or Fish (remember to counter with a forward bend).
  3. Work into the sides of the body with all the great triangle postures and side stretches such as The Beam. These are also beneficial to the liver, as is seated spinal twist.

    Side stretch

    Use Bhima to balance pitta dosha

  4. The cooling breaths and alternate nostril breathing are my favourite pitta calming pranayama.
  5. Meditation is the perfect complement to all the busy-ness and heat of pitta, bringing peace and calm to your whole body.

KAPHA people need to get the body moving with invigorating, dynamic yoga, to counter the cold, wet, heavy and unctuous properties of this dosha. Clear sluggishness by focusing on the lungs, abdomen and low back. Here are some kapha pointers:

  1. Your sun sequences need to be fast paced and dynamic to stimulate metabolism. Build up to 12 rounds if you can.
  2. Again back bends will be beneficial, tiger, locust, camel and wheel especially. Counter with a strong forward bend such as sitting forward bend.

    Chakrasana

    Practice Wheel to balance kapha

  3. Face of the Cow, and Chest Expansion will help you to clear the lungs.
  4. Regulate the function of an under active thyroid gland (the gland concerned with metabolism) with shoulder stand followed by fish.
  5. Whilst you need to do some relaxation, particularly at the end of your yoga session, I’m afraid kapha people need much less than the vata and pitta people (and sadly you’ll be the ones that really excel at relaxation!).

I hope this has given you an idea of some yoga to practice to balance each of the doshas.  know quite a lot of you have been inspired to have Ayurvedic consultations and have been asking me what yoga you need to be doing. Remember that this advice will also change seasonally, so keep an eye on my seasonal blogs, Facebook posts and the postures we are teaching in classes.

This post leads my nicely into yoga and the elements, which I’ll be exploring in Autumn blogs. Until then keep practicing Ix

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