Yoga is the ancient Indian science that springs from the Vedas. Both Yoga and Ayurveda are based on the simple principle of living in sync with nature. If Ayurveda emphasizes keeping the mind and body healthy, Yoga prepares the mind and body to attain the spiritual health. They complement each other and coexist in harmony with one another.
According to the Vedas, all living things are made up of five elements: Space (Akash), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal) and Earth (Dharti). Ayurveda states that the unique combination of these five natural life forces manifests itself as three different energies or “Dosha”: Vata (Space and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Water and Earth).
Each individual is born with the unique constitution of the three Doshas. Usually one or a combination of two Doshas predominates and determines the characteristics or “Prakriti” of the individual.
Specific yoga poses help calm aggravted or excess dosha. This article discusses the yoga asanas advisable for each Dosha type.
Yoga for Vata Dosha
Vata is characterized as cold, light, mobile, irregular, anxious, energetic and weak. The asanas that are warm, non-rigorous and have a soothing and grounding effect on the mind and body will pacify the Vata. Since the Vata resides in the lower part of the body, pelvic region, gastro-intestinal tract, joints, the brain and the nervous system; its imbalance causes insomnia, constipations, joints and back pain, nervousness, irregular heart beat and muscular cramps.
For Vata, it is advisable to perform asanas in a warm place. The focus should be on the lower part of the body. The abdomen and the back should be twisted and stretched, without putting much pressure on the bones. Meditating is extremely beneficial for the Vata people because it calms the mind.
Most asanas if done gently pacify the Vata but regular practice of a few or all of these asanas is particularly beneficial:
Virasana (Hero Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Balasana (Child's Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Vriksasana (Tree Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Pavanamuktasana (Wind Release), Crocodile Twist (lying Spinal Twist), Dandasana (Staff Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose), Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose), Gentle Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath), Nadi Shoddhana Pranayama, Siddhasana (Easy Pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose) and Savasana (Corpse Pose) keep the Vata in balance.
Avoid doing Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) repeatedly and in fast pace as it tends to aggravate the nervous system. Also avoid doing asanas like Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand) and Halasana (Plow Pose) as they put pressure on sensitive joints associated with the Vata dosha.
Yoga for Pitta Dosha
Pitta is characterized as hot, fierce, competitive, light and intense. It resides in the digestive system, controls the enzymes and endocrine system, and regulates body temperature. An imbalanced Pitta causes indigestion, ulcer, acidity, excessive body heat, irritation, aggression and jealousy.
Yogasanas to manage Pitta should be done in a cool environment. Choose postures that are cooling, gentle, relaxing, release anger and increase flexibility and circulation without sweating or overheating the body. The asanas advisable should be focused on the liver, middle abdomen and the small intestine where Pitta dominates.
Yoga postures that help manage and balance the Pitta are:
Moon salutation (Chandra Namaskar), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon), Pavanamuktasana (Wind Release), Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Shashangasana (Rabbit), Virabhadrasana (Warrior), Kurmasana (Tortoise), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), trikonasana ( Triangle Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (expanded leg forward stretch), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), halasana (Plow Pose), Gupta Padmasana ( Hidden lotus), Makarasana (Crocodile Pose), Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose), all kind of spinal twists, and Sheetali and Sheetkari Pranayam.
Avoid doing Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) and all kinds of head stands pose as they tend to aggravate the Pitta.
Yoga for Kapha Dosha
Heavy, cold, lazy, slow, and sedated nature characterizes Kapha. It resides in the chest, pancreas, stomach and sinuses; its imbalance leads to obesity, respiratory problem, lethargy, joint pain, indigestion, excess sleep and excessive food craving.
Kapha mostly accumulates in the chest and stomach. It shows an immense tendency of weight gain. Hence asanas which are fast paced, stimulating, generate heat and focus on opening up the chest and contracting, twisting and stretching of the stomach are advisable in managing aggravated Kapha.
Kapha can be managed well with the following:
Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) done at a fast pace, Virabhadrasana (Warrior pose), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon), Halasana (Plow Pose), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Bow handstand), Pinca Mayurasana (Peacock Feather pose), Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (Expanded Spread Foot), Tadasana (Palm Tree Pose), Singhasana ( Lion Pose), Gomukasana (Cow Pose), Bharadvajasana (Seated twist), Matsyasana (Fish Pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), Ujjayi Pranayama (Conqueror Breath) and Savasana (Corpse Pose).
It is important to practice yogasanas according to your predominant Dosha. A yoga asana that is restorative for one Dosha type might cause distress for the other. Understand your Dosha and practice asanas accordingly for a healthy life.