How The Three Doshas Fit Into Your Yoga Practice
Ayurvedic medicine has its origins in the ancient Vedic texts of 4,000 years ago. Today, still, the Vedas guides the moral and philosophical basis of Hinduism and the practice of mainstream medicine in India. The Vedas say there are three essential natures, or characters, of humans. These are known as ‘doshas’: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are mind and body types, and each one expresses a particular mix of physical, emotional, and psychological traits.
We are all made up of a combination of these three vital energies. They can affect your health and mental well-being in innumerable ways. Ayurvedic medicine aims to keep the doshas balanced, thereby preventing illness. The balance of doshas can go awry. Most often, it is the dominant dosha that gives us trouble, but it can even be as minor as air pollution that upsets the balance. (A good way to fix this is with a high-quality ionic air purifier). Doshas may be activated or inhibited by different foods, by the change of seasons, by living in an unsuited home environment, or even by different yoga postures.
Here is how to align your type with your yoga practice.
Vata is the king of the doshas in that it supplies the energy to the other two. Vata types tend to be thin, and often lanky. When they are balanced, Vatas are flexible, have good imaginations, and are creative, original thinkers. When unbalanced, they can become overly anxious and lethargic, lacking commitment. The energy, appetite, and mood of the Vata type might fluctuate radically. Vata people often lack proper sleep and nutrition. One minute a Vata may be drinking coffee to stimulate them, the next eating food to ground them.
Insomnia is a common problem. Vata people benefit from routine in their lives as they are often “all over the place.” Predominantly Vata types need calming yoga postures. For example, the tree pose, the mountain, and any position where the feet are rooted to the ground. Fast-paced sequences can increase Vata. Move slowly, deliberately and mindful of the effect.
Pitta gives us heat and governs the breakdown and transformation of food into energy. Pitta types are fiery, making them intense, directed, sometimes impatient and irritable. They are ambitious and strong-willed and are often leaders. Pitta controls will, anger and intellect, too. A ‘hot-head’ is someone with excess Pitta. Pitta dominance can also lead to a person being overbearing and prone to rage.
Pitta types have rapid digestion and intense appetites. For balance, Pittas need to manage their “fiery” tendencies and channel their energy in productive ways. Pitta types should avoid yoga that causes a lot of sweating. They should concentrate on positions that help to release excess heat from the body. Those postures that compress the solar plexus or open the chest are especially beneficial, like pigeon, camel, cobra, bow, fish, and bridge. The best standing poses for Pitta are those that open the hips, like the tree, warrior, and half-moon.
Kapha types are physical beings, and naturally athletic. They are stable, grounded, and loyal. When unbalanced, they can become demotivated, stubborn, and complacent. The slow metabolism of Kapha gives the type less need for food, and they gain weight readily. Kapha people tend towards inertia, physical and mental, and are prone to depression. They must avoid comfort-eating and must avoid cold, damp climates.
For Kapha people, most of the standing postures are energizing. Up the pace; quicker transitions are ideal for countering excess Kapha. Your dominant dosha has subtle but profound effects on your life. For each dosha, the Vedic scripts prescribe fruits and vegetables, pulses and tubers to remain in balance. The guidance of the texts goes far beyond dietary advice, though, and gives the explorer an ancient philosophy of being, a means to spiritual growth and ultimately, pointers to a proven path of enlightenment.
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