Join us in March for the 2nd series of Yoga Groups at The Liberation Institute:
Cultivate a Yoga Practice for your own unique experience:
Knowledge of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science and philosophy of health, helps us design a yoga practice that really fits our needs. Awareness of the doshas (or constitutions) Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, can help us gauge the effects of our yoga practice on both our physical body as well as our state of mind. A practice may be suitable for one constitution, but may cause further imbalance for another. It does not make sense to do one practice for everyone. In these small yoga groups, we will get a sense of individual doshas and offer tools and modifications for individual needs.
More on Doshas Here:
The doshas are effected by both internal and external factors; rhythms of the seasons, of our livestyle, activities and diet (how we feed our mind, body and spirit). In order to learn more about the doshas and how they relate to you, you might take a quick assessment of those qualities in yourself. Doing your own research will help get a sense of which doshas make up your current constitution. Seeing a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner is however, the best way to really know your dosha.
An overview of Doshas Taken from mind/body/green:
1. Vata Dosha — Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat. Vatas tend to have a slim, small boned body type
- In balance: There is creativity and vitality.
- Out of balance: Can produce fear and anxiety.
2. Pitta Dosha — Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature. Pittas tend to have a medium body type.
- In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
- Out of balance: Can cause ulcers and anger.
3. Kapha Dosha — Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. Kaphas tend to have a larger, big boned body type.
- In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
- Out of balance: Can lead to insecurity and envy.
Yoga practice for each Dosha:
1. Vata Dosha
If your dosha is predominantly Vata, calming and grounding yoga poses are ideal. For example, tree pose (Vrksasana) and mountain pose (Tadasana) root your feet into the ground, reducing anxiety and stress. Warrior I and II are also beneficial, helping to ground you while also building strength.
Fast-paced vinyasas or flow sequences can aggravate Vata, which is prone to anxiety, overexertion, and fatigue. To make a vinyasa more Vata-pacifying, move deliberately and slowly, extending the length of time that you hold each pose. Also pay attention to the transitions between poses, performing them with conscious awareness rather than rushing on to the next pose.
Since Vata is prone to constipation, poses that compress the pelvis are healing, including all forward bends (standing or sitting). Also focus on poses that engage the lower back and thighs are major regions of the Vata dosha.
Finally, Vata types benefit from doing a long, deep Sivasana or corpse pose – at least 10 minutes.
2. Pitta Dosha
Pitta doshas benefit from cultivating a calm, relaxed attitude toward their practice, letting go of their competitive tendency. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others in your yoga class, and be gentle and patient with yourself.
Since Pittas have a tendency toward excess heat, avoid yoga forms that cause profuse sweating, favoring cooling, relaxing poses instead. Also avoid holding long inverted poses, which create a lot of heat in the head. You may want to schedule your yoga sessions during cooler times of day, such as dawn or dusk.
Focus on poses that help to release excess heat from the body, including those that compress the solar plexus or open the chest, especially the pigeon, camel, cobra, bow, fish and bridge poses. For standing poses, the best ones for Pitta are those that open the hips, including tree, warrior, and half moon.
When you enter Sivasana, quietly focus on your breath. This will calm your mind and center you in your body and heart.
3. Kapha Dosha
For Kapha, standing poses are invigorating, especially if you hold them for a longer time. Try maintaining your asanas for up to 20 breaths. Backbends are also heating, helping to open the chest and circulate the life-giving energy of prana throughout the body.
Kapha types have the most stamina and strength of all the doshas, but when out of balance, suffer from lethargy and excess weight. If you are predominantly Kapha, a stimulating, energizing yoga practice is ideal. It’s important to challenge yourself and create heat in your body, to counter Kapha’s natural tendency to feel cold and sluggish. Move through your flow sequences quickly (though always with conscious awareness) to lighten and warm your body.
Doing your yoga in the early morning hours of Kapha (6–10am) will help keep you more energized and motivated throughout the day. At the beginning or end of your practice, you can practice Kapalabhati or bellows breath, which cleanses the body and energizes the digestive system.
Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, explain the after-effects of our food and lifestyle on our state of mind and emotions. Translated as ‘qualities’ The Gunas are constantly changing. They are more subtle than the doshas, at least in their effects on the physical body, but ultimately affect our way of being and our consciousness very powerfully.
A yoga setting tends to be a sattvic environment—it is set up to welcome introspection and self-study, with few external distractions. There is intention put into creating a calm, clean, warm and welcoming environment. Sattva is our natural state of mind; this peacefulness, calm and clarity is what we are naturally drawn towards.
Our life outside the studio may be more Rajasic, as is much of our culture in the West. Rajas is the energy that is active; it is passionate and always moving. Tamas is stagnation, ignorance and inertia. Tamas is not bad and neither is Rajas. We need Tamas to be able to fall asleep for example. We need Rajas to transform our Tamas towards Sattva, or motivate ourselves towards change.
As our lives are usually full of Rajas, it is important to learn how to cultivate Sattva in our internal and external environments. One of the best ways we can do this is by practicing more stillness and silence, deep rest of accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, having good friends and company, and taking in natural, whole foods and water. Our yoga practice can help us reset to experience Sattva.