CoSozo Living

All articles

Yoga Woman at Sunset
Mon, August 17, 2015
Yoga, Ayurveda, and Your Dosha
Yoga’s Connection To Ayurveda And Your Dosha
 
You may be wondering what ‘Dosha’ means, and what it has to do with yoga!
 
The practice of yoga is part of a larger milieu of science and healing practices known as Ayurveda. The term Ayurveda translates as “knowledge of life.”
 
According to Ayurveda, at the time of conception each of us comes into the world with a unique combination of three manifestations of life force energy. These three expressions of energy are called Doshas: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata.
 
Your Dosha makeup is reflected in your personality, your body type, skin, hair or eye color as well as environmental factors such as tolerance of heat and cold. Usually two doshas are predominant and aspects of all three can be part of one’s constitution.
 
We enter life with a specific constitution or dosha balance called Prakriti, which does not change. However, the way our dosha shows up in present time often reflects a level of imbalance called Vikriti.
 
From a whole health perspective which Ayurveda and its sister science Yoga provide, we can become more sensitive to our life changes. Dosha imbalances sometimes occur when we shift our diet, move to a new location, or transition to a new season, etc.
 
How Yoga Can Affect Your Dosha – My Experience
 
In the early 2000’s after I’d been teaching and practicing a gentle to moderate hatha yoga style for several years, a fellow teacher invited me to take a “hot” yoga class. She was raving about how energized yet calm she felt after attending.
 
While I had little difficulty in the class, my overall experience of hot yoga was a feeling of exhaustion and energy depletion - a very different bodily response than my enthusiastic friend!
 
It wasn’t until a few years later, having worked with an Ayurvedic clinician that I deduced why that class took away energy instead of giving it back to me.
 
What I Learned
 
My dosha is primarily Pitta.  Some of Pitta’s qualities include: assertiveness, strong digestion, fair skin, sunburns easily, uncomfortable in hot weather, good public speakers, prone to irritability, impatience, skin rashes.
 
I also have Vata aspects to my constitution and a long standing Vata imbalance. Some of Vata’s qualities include: learning quickly, walks fast, lively personality, discomfort in cold climates, prone to worry and anxiety, dry skin.
 
And my constitution has very little Kapha.  Kapha’s often exhibit a strong and heavy build, slower speech and deliberate thought process, large soft eyes, calmness, a good immune system, and aversion to cold damp weather.
 
So a ‘hot’ yoga practice where the room temperature is 100+ degrees can be depleting to someone with predominantly Pitta dosha as they are already tending towards excessive heat in the body, emotions, and mental process.
 
It felt good to explore a new yoga possibility with my friend, and I learned a valuable lesson in doing so!
 
Lifestyle Choices, Ayurveda & Yoga
 
Honoring these Ayurvedic principles invites us to learn how to live in harmony with our environment and increase our body’s potential for healing.
 
Although what I’m sharing here is a simplified overview of Ayurvedic principles and the doshas, it can be informative and helpful to reference.
 
When speaking about the qualities of the doshas, Dr. Marc Halpern, Director of the California College of Ayurveda, says “…like increases like and opposites balance each other”.
 
For instance, if a predominantly Kapha individual who doesn’t acclimate to cold, damp climates well, happens to move to a colder, damper area he/she may develop frequent colds with lots of mucus. Too much of the same qualities creates disturbance. If that same person were to move to a warmer, dryer climate, the tendency towards colds may be reduced.

The lifestyle choices we make, the foods we eat, the climate where we live, and even the style of yoga we practice, can either move us more toward balance in our body mind or further away from balance.
 
Take A Dosha Quiz
 
If you are curious about your own dosha, you can take a quiz at a number of different sites on the internet. I like Banyan Botanicals website: www.banyanbotanicals.com, where you can take a quiz to help determine your dosha as well as a quiz to help identify imbalances.
 
Of course to receive an in depth study of your dosha balance and guidance for potential treatment, it would be best to consult an Ayurvedic clinician or practitioner.
 
How Yoga Helps With Dosha Balance
 
Here is a broad view of how imbalances can show up within each dosha and yoga postures that can invite rebalancing:
 
Kapha When Kapha dosha is out of balance what may manifest is sluggishness, weight gain, and low energy. 

Yoga to help balance Kapha: Multiple repetitions of Sun Salutation to increase internal heat and mobility; standing poses such as Half-Moon and Triangle stimulate the side body and improve digestive peristalsis; Warrior II builds heat to counteract the natural cold tendencies of Kapha dosha.
 
Pitta - When Pitta dosha is out of balance, there can be excess heat and inflammation, impatience, irritability and competitiveness.
 
Yoga to help balance Pitta: Practice in the cooler parts of the day (early morning or evening); include heart opening and rotational movement Bridge, Camel, Pigeon, Cobra, Seated Twists; practice slowly and with compassion for yourself.

Vata - When Vata dosha is out of balance, there can be excessive anxiety and stress.
 
Yoga to help balance Vata: Grounding poses such as Tree and Mountain help to root your body; Seated Forward Bends and other poses that stretch the lower back and thighs are calming; invite a long resting pose at the end of your practice.
 
What We’ve Learned
 
Staying mindful of subtle imbalances which show up daily, gives us clues into how to adjust one’s yoga practice. By slowing down enough to acknowledge the imbalance whether it’s anxiousness, impatience or sluggishness, we can allow our yoga practice to truly work on our behalf at deeper levels.
 
We are each blessed with a unique dosha constitution. Yoga and Ayurveda can help us stay better attuned to that uniqueness allowing us to be in our bodies more fully and happily.
 
Here’s to you and your unique dosha!

More articles

Featured Contributors

John Calipari is the head coach of the men's basketball team at the University of Kentucky. He is one of only two coaches (Rick Pitino) to direct thre...
John Bradshaw has combined his exceptional skills in the role of counselor, author, management consultant, theologian, philosopher, and public speaker...
Elizabeth Donnelly-Johnson, MBA and MSC, has served as the Program Coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, Michigan Great Lakes Chapter in its We...

Popular Articles

In psychology and psychiatry, the term ‘dissociation’ is seen as a detachment of the mind from the e...
Full Blue Moon over Water
Have you ever gone to the doctor and felt like they were speaking another language when they were de...
As we move from spring to summer, our minds are turning to the great outdoors after a winter of hibe...

Popular Blogs

The holidays are upon us, and usually brings out the best in people.  I ran across this on the last...
It has been quite some time since my last entry... too much, to even sum up the scope and breadth of...
OK so the move got away from me . . . I fired the moving company after a bait ‘n switch just the nig...