The Style of Vinyasa for Your Dosha
If you know me and have followed me for a while, you’ll know much of my passion lies whole heartedly in the magnificent world of Ayurveda. Much of my style for teaching Yoga will rely heavily on Ayurvedic principles for balancing the Doshas. Many people in the yogic community believe you can’t rely on one without the other - “Ayurveda is the Vedic science of healing for both body & mind. Yoga is the Vedic science of Self-Realization that depends upon a well-functioning body & mind.” - David Frawley.
On a broad level, knowing which style of Yoga that’s right for you is key. Have you ever had the experience of walking into a yoga class not really knowing what to expect and walked out even more revved up or agitated than when you entered? This can be the result of many factors - attitude, intention, instructor, what kind of day you’ve had, etc. But it can also be the result of an imbalanced Dosha and understanding what it is that you need in any given moment.
To understand and discover your Dosha, you must first take the Doshic quiz. I suggest one from an Ayurvedic textbook, they are much more detailed and will give you more elaborate information on Ayurveda and its many practices. For time purposes, you can perform the quiz online. If you’d like to know more about Ayurveda, check out the 31 Days of Ayurveda I did back in the month of January.
Now, of course, it is important to remember that you will most likely be predominant in one Dosha, and still likely include characteristics of the other two. For instance, I am Vata through & through, with Kapha to follow & Pitta a distant third. By adjusting your yogic program, diet & lifestyle to the ever changing flow of life, one can continually maintain balanced health. It is also important to remember that Yoga’s primary goal is of a more Spiritual nature, however it’s difficult to reach that level of Self-Realization without first having the proper base of physical and mental health rooted in Ayurveda.
So now we get to the good stuff - There are many different varieties of Yoga - Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Yin, Restorative, etc. However, the examples I will be walking through in the next few series of posts will be around what I'm learning about the styles of Vinyasa Yoga for the Doshas, and not necessarily specific postures - That’ll be for another series. I was inspired by a book I recently read called “Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy”. In this book, the author, Mukunda Stiles, chooses some really interesting Vinyasa sequences for each Dosha, developed by Krishnamacharya and passed down to his mentor Paul Copeland. (Remember that you will be predominant in one Dosha. It’s best to best to feel into your body and see if any of this makes sense for you):
Vata - When Vata is out of balance, they may experience much fear, anxiety, stress, insomnia, poor digestion and joint pain. They tend to rest a lot of weight in their thoughts and any form of grounding is highly recommended. To balance Vata with Vinyasa Yoga would be to emphasize a style that is slow, rhythmic and performed with a great amount of focus & concentration. Using soft, flowing movement, trying to minimize the effort and extend the space in between the joints. Specific flow Vinyasa postures which concentrate on connected rhythm of breath to movement. A focus on this slow, steady breath will do wonders to connect mind & body. We also want to concentrate on the seat & lower body areas of Vata students to create a feeling of groundedness, support & stability - helpful for the Vata who is constantly up in their head (ah, yeah that's me). This can also include balancing poses to achieve a deeper form of concentration. Longer sequences can also challenge concentration and help to develop the mental focus needed for long seated meditation. Lastly, it feels good for Vata to practice a sequence that helps build heat which circulates through the entire body & extremities.
Pitta - When Pittas are out of balance, they can show signs of anger, stress, frustration, judgement & criticism. Nothing is good enough and to be done right, has to be performed by them. Ego plays a great many roles in the life of a Pitta. These imbalances reveal themselves in the physical body as skin rashes, excessive sweating/overheating, acid reflux, irritation in the eyes, and more. To balance Pitta with Vinyasa Yoga would be to practice a creative series which stimulates Pitta but also creates some semblance of play, and less seriousness. Instead of being focused on the outcome of the practice, it’s best for Pittas to just try and experience it in the moment. Relaxing in between poses to really feel into the body the benefits of each posture. Stretching of the body without feeling the overheated. Cooling poses would be great to incorporate although in my research, I’ve found some inconsistencies on what would be considered ‘cooling’ to the body, so in good faith, I won’t share any until I’ve done more research. Less attention is placed on breath, as it can be allowed to add a little more room to play than a Vinyasa created for Vatas. Practiced first thing in the morning, a Pitta can perhaps redirect some of their frustrated, stressful, harsher energy into something more creative ;)
Kapha - Out of balance, Kaphas can feel lazy, sluggish, lethargic and lack motivation. They sleep in and become overtired. This leads to unhealthy behaviours such as excessive eating and really just not wanting to be physically active at all. This can amount to weight gain leading to a snowballing effect to an unbalanced Kapha. What they want to do with their Vinyasa practice is a few things - Strengthen their bodies with longer held postures & repetitive practice, and purification through creating heat within the body & perspiration. Incorporating heart opening postures such as backbends can lead to a Peak Pose and concentrate further on balancing Kapha being the heart is its seat. This will also start to build some heat within the body. Kaphas can then begin to enjoy a strong physique, more confidence in themselves and a stronger outlook in life.
Now that we have a slightly better idea on what style of Vinyasa Yoga works for each Dosha, I’ll begin to spend more time breaking down the Vinyasa sequences suggested by Stiles, and recording each for you to follow along and try.