There is no doubt about it: Yoga is a national phenomenon, cited by exercise experts as one of the quickest-growing sectors in the fitness world with almost all health-and-wellness centers offering some form of Yoga classes and over 15 million Americans participating. At the same time, the traditional practice of Ayurveda (considered the oldest healing science) is experiencing a modern-day revival, recognized as an advanced and effective system of health care by the World Health Organization and as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The Ayurveda-Yoga Connection
Not only are they popular, but here are some more things Ayurveda and Yoga have in common:
- Both have their origins in India
- Both are described in the ancient Sanskrit texts
- Both are part of the Vedic tradition
- Both are natural, holistic forms of health maintenance, healing, and illness prevention
- Both share a similar goal: To provide effective tools and lifestyle protocols which promote balance in the mind-body-emotions and which elevate and enlighten the spirit
What makes the combination of Yoga and Ayurveda especially powerful, however, is the way in which they interact and interrelate. By bringing Ayurvedic principles in your Yoga practice, and by using Yoga exercises to promote Ayurvedic mind-body balance, what you get is an unmatched dynamic duo for ultimate health and wellness.
Yoga as the Ideal Ayurvedic Exercise
Did you know that Yoga has the ability to balance all three doshas (body types), making it a consummate form of Ayurvedic exercise for all individuals? The following is what Dr. Donn Brennan, founding President of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association in the UK has to say: "The knowledge of Maharishi Ayurveda provides tremendous support to yoga practice. Without a foundation in Ayurvedic knowledge, Hatha yoga runs the risk of becoming just pure physical exercise." In addition, tools such as Ayurvedic massage help remove toxins from the body, thereby relaxing and preparing the muscles for Yoga practice and meditation. On the flip side, Yoga exercises are invaluable to Ayurvedic success as they decrease stress, stimulate digestion, quiet the mind, and rejuvenate the body.
Yoga Postures for Your Dosha
If you haven't already done so, be sure to take the Dosha Quiz to determine whether your natural constitution falls under the category of Vata, Pitta, or Kapha.
Next, it's time to learn what kind of effect Yoga postures can have on your mind, body, and spirit and which poses or postures your dominant dosha type should embrace or avoid.
Here is a small excerpt of what the experts recommend:
Recommended Yoga Exercises for Vata
Yoga poses appropriate for Vata body types should relieve their naturally anxious state of being, calm their jittery nerves, strengthen their thin bones, relax their tight muscles, and help them feel more grounded.
Recommended Yoga exercises for Vata include:
- Bending movements (i.e. backwards and forward bends)
- Slow, controlled, deliberate movements
- Prolonged movements, i.e. holding the Corpse Pose for an extended period of time
- Asanas that engage the lower back and thighs
- Tree Pose
- Mountain Pose
- Warrior I
- Warrior II
- Movements which massage the muscles and joints
- Asanas which balance both sides of the body
Recommended Yoga Exercises for Pitta
Pitta type personalities are known for their naturally fiery temperament and competitive spirit. On the positive side, these attributes manifest in determination, consistency, and ability to focus - all ideal qualities for Yoga practice. On the other hand, Pitta doshas tend to get overheated and frustrated easily and may suffer from hypertension due to their burning desire to succeed or win. In the Yoga studio, this can manifest in a lack of patience, a tendency to quit when poses get too tough, a tendency to compare themselves to others, a stubbornness to stick with what they are good at as opposed to an openness for learning something new, and in an aggressive approach where postures are overdone and body tension remains high.
Hence to balance Pitta dosha, avoid "hot" forms of Yoga which induce sweating, as well as long-held and inverted asanas which send blood to the head. You may also want to attend Yoga classes offered early in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are cooler.
Recommended Yoga exercises for Pitta include:
- Calming moves
- Relaxing poses
- Asanas which cool the heart, head, and body
- Movements which boost circulation
- Postures that induce patience
- Movements that relieve tension
- Postures that open up the chest/constrict the solar plexus, i.e.
- Camel Pose, Cobra Pose, Bow Pose, Fish Pose, Bridge Pose
- Postures that open up the hips, i.e. Warrior Pose, Tree Pose, Half Moon
- Slow, focused breathing
Recommended Yoga Exercises for Kapha
Kapha doshas are strong, have a lot of stamina and endurance, and can practice for long periods of time - once they get going. On the other hand, they tend to be heavyset, complacent, lack inertia, have difficulty breathing due to lung congestion, and have shorter limbs and thicker bones than their counterparts - making them less flexible and less able to perform Yoga poses such as the Lotus.
Kapha types thus need positive, external stimulation to get started and to keep their efforts going. They can greatly benefit from having a Yoga buddy to help them stay motivated and require an energizing, rousing Yoga practice to balance their naturally lethargic state.
Recommended Yoga exercises for Kapha include:
- Standing poses
- Asanas held for a long period of time
- Movements that open up the chest
- Twists that stimulate digestion
- Exercises that boost circulation
- Movements that lighten the body
- Movements that heat/warm the body (to counterbalance feeling cold/sluggish)
- Cleansing and energizing Bellow breaths
- Yoga practice in the early morning hours, setting an energetic tone for the rest of the day
Include All Asanas in Your Ayurveda Yoga Practice
No matter what your dominant dosha or personal constitution is, the experts recommend including all types of movements in your daily Ayurveda Yoga routine - sitting/standing, ascending/descending, expanding/contracting, forwards/backwards, and more.
At the same time, however, in true Ayurveda lifestyle fashion, pay attention to and respect your individual structure, mental state, energy level, and ability level. This way you will tailor your Yoga practice to meet your individual needs, putting you directly on the path towards your healthiest, best self!
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