If you didn’t already know, I’ve been doing a deep dive into Ayurvedic health practices as I move towards completing the Ayurvedic Health Practitioner program at the Yoga Veda Institute. Ayurveda is an ancient healing science that originated in India.
Each person has their own physical make-up, their constitution. A unique combination of physical, emotional and mental characteristics that make up the unique individual. In Ayurveda, there are three dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), and while each dosha is present in each person, we all have a dominant one or two. (to explore this more check out this brief video)
Everything we experience impacts our way of being and can bring us into balance or out of balance. When we are imbalanced, we experience illness. Ayurvedic practices work to balance the dosha for each individual. Ever been to a yoga class? Then you might already know that Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences. Different yoga poses can help correct any excess dosha. My primary dosha, my constitution, is vata. There are yoga practices that can help balance excess vata if I am experiencing imbalance. Vata qualities are airy, light, mobile and irregular. To balance vata, an asana practice should consist of poses that are stable, grounding, slow and warming. Standing poses, forward bends and routine practice will help balance vata.
Some people have two dominant dosha and this can impact the choice of yoga practice.
For example, my younger sisters constitution is Vata Pitta, a combination of two dosha. When choosing an asana practice to pacify an imbalance, she would need to pick a practice that pacifies the imbalance in both dosha – or doesn’t aggravate pitta while pacifying vata.
In contrast to vata, pitta is oily, hot, light and fluid. Pitta types need poses that are cooling and relaxing. Standing forward bends and heart opening poses are good for Pitta.
When working with two dominant dosha types we need to consider which of the two is out of balance before choosing an asana practice. This could change every couple days or so! One day it may be pitta that is out of balance, the next vata. Our bodies will tell us what needs balancing, but paying attention to the season can help too (natures cycles impact our bodies!). In winter, my sister would need to pay closer attention to balancing vata than she would in the summer.
Bringing balance to a dual dosha (this applies to a single dominant dosha too) requires paying attention to yourself, daily. When you understand the qualities of your own unique make up, you can make daily choices for your asana practice to balance your unique constitution. This is something I have found really valuable in my exploration of Ayurveda, that each body is unique and has its own unique needs for healing and balance. There is no one magic recipe that will work for each person. I am also appreciative of the attention needed to understand and be present with your own unique self.
In Ayurveda, there are also three gunas of nature (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas)
Awareness of the qualities of the gunas also helps you come to understand yourself on a deeper level, and how to bring more balance to the body and mind. describe how the qualities of sattva and rajas manifest in practice and life
Sattva is purity or goodness, peace and creativity. Living a peaceful and purpose driven life is a manifestation of sattva.
Rajas is a force that motivates, moves, agitates. Rajasic energy is what forms and drives attachments and desires. Rajas is motion and can manifest in agitation, quickly abandoning projects if the intention is weak or selfish. In the context of yoga practice, I see rajas manifest in hurrying through asana, rushing from task to task. Just like the dosha, these qualities of nature are not inherently bad or inherently good, they just exist. While sattva is the guna we aim to cultivate more of, we do not need to stand in judgement of where we are, physically or emotionally.
Understanding the qualities of the gunas and dosha helps us accept where we are and understand what to cultivate in our lives. When sattva is more active, rajas can support sattva in bringing more balance. Tamas can bring stability and foundation to sattva.
What I love about this is the freedom and self acceptance you can feel when you understand all the qualities that make up our physical and mental being – and how this can lead to inner insight, wisdom and balance.