Yoga Asanas for Ayurvedic Constitutions
Field report submitted by:
YICC (Yoga Instructor Certificate Course)
Yoga Bharati, SF Bay Area chapter
Vivekananda Yoga AnusandhanaSamasthana (VYASA)
Table of Contents
Yoga Asanas for AyurvedicConstitutions
Introduction Yoga and Ayurveda are two interrelated branches of the same Vedic knowledge. Yoga and Ayurveda are not two separate but related healing disciplines originated in India.
Ayurveda is one of the four Upavedas or secondary Vedic teachings, along with Gandharva Veda (music), Sthapatya Veda (directional science), and Dhanur Veda (martial arts). Ayurveda is important because it addresses all aspects of healing and well-being for body and mind.
Yogasas described early in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – is one of the six systems of Vedic philosophy (shad darshanas). The other Vedic system include Nyaya (Logic), Vaisheshika (Categorization),Samkhya (Enumeration of Cosmic Principles), PurvaMimamsa (Ritual) and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta or Metaphysics).
The objective of both Yoga and Ayurveda is to achieve the four goals of life also known as” purushastras”. These are Dharma (righteous duty), Artha (wealth and material comfort), Kama (fulfillment of desires) and moksha (spiritual renunciation).
Without good health, these four pillars cannot be achieved. Ifour body is not fit and healthy, we will spend most of the time in taking care of body, what to talk about these four pillars specially Moksha. Similarly, if mind is not sound, it will not sit quiet and peace will not dawn upon us.
Thus both yoga and ayurveda are important and complement each other nicely.
Ayurveda is the Vedic system developed specifically for healing purposes. Yoga is the Vedic system of spiritual practice or sadhana.
There are thousands of postures or asanas in the system of yoga. Ancient’s texts suggest 840,000. It is so rich. But we need to learn to learn all of them. Only lord Shiva, lord of Yoga can do all of them. For us it is sufficient to learn and practice only eight to twelve postures that are most beneficial for one’s health and spiritual development.
The word asana is derived from the root word “asa” which means existence or stability. Practice of asana develops physical and mental calmness. The stability of physical body is closely connected to the stability of mind and body.
Most of us see Yoga as mere a system of physical exercise. It is helpful in toning the muscles, promoting the flexibility and improving the cardiovascular function. Actually yoga is more than that. The yoga influences the seven dhatus. It is highly beneficial to mind and it offers the opportunity to sharpen one’sconcentration and awareness to one’s turbulent mind. The seven dhatus are the seven tissues of the body. They are plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscle (mamsa), fat(meda), bone(asthi), marrow/nerve(majja) and reproductive tissue(shukra).
The accumulation of toxins in the subtle and gross levels of the body is the primary cause of diseases according to Ayurveda. Either they are originating in negative thoughts or emotions or eating unhealthy or excess food. Thetoxic build up can be prevented by using right diet, healthy lifestyle and daily routine that includes yogaasanas, meditation etc.Further, we can take specific ayruvedic treatments to eliminate the access toxic build up. Panchakarma can be done during spring and fall to remove excess doshas build up in that seasons. Marmachikitsa can be done to the whole body or specific part of the body to get nadis or energy points flowing.
Emotions and breathing are correlated. Emotions cause changes in breath e.g. while we are angry, our breathing is shallow. Thus we should be able to maneuver the breathing to take control on these negative emotions. Spending some time in observing the breath consciously and performing pranayama balances the breath.
Vedic Chikitsa or Therapy Therapy is called Chikitsa” in Sanskrit.Ayurvedic textbooks like Charak, Sushruta and Vagbhatta all contain sections called ChikitsaSthana, or ‘section relating to chikitsa or treatment’. They have complementary sections like NidanaSthana, ‘section relating to diagnosis’, and ShariraSthana, ‘section relating to the soul and includes the anatomy and physiology of the physical body. The Ayurvedic view of our embodied nature (body, mind and soul) and how it works, the causes of disease and the treatment of disease are all connected together in a beautiful, clear and wonderful system of optimal health and total well-being.
Ayurveda addresses all aspects of medicine including diet, herbs, drugs, surgery, bodywork and its own special clinical procedures like Pancha karma. It brings in ritual, mantra and meditation for healing the mind. In addition, it provides life-style recommendations for health, longevity and disease prevention as well as special methods for rejuvenation of body and mind.
We do not find any Chikitsa Padas or therapy sections in the usual Yoga texts. The term Chikitsa does not occur in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and is not a major topic of concern in Yoga philosophy. This is because the concern of classical Yoga is Sadhana, not Chikitsa, which was regarded as the field of Ayurveda. We do not find in Yoga texts a discussion of disease, pathology, diagnosis or treatment strategies apart from the approach of Ayurveda. There is no Yoga system of medicine in terms of diagnosis, pathology and treatment, apart from Ayurveda.
A Complete Healing System – Yoga & Ayurveda
For a full application of the methods of Yoga for healing purposes, we need a complete medical system that follows the philosophy, principles and practices of Yoga, and that can employ not only asana as a therapy but also pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, and which follows a yogic life style.
We need a yogic system of medicine not simply in terms of asana or physical therapy, but also in regards to internal medicine or diet, herbs and drugs. We need a yogic system of medicine not simply for treating the physical body but also for treating the mind, emotions and psychological disorders.
Ayurveda provides us a complete mind-body system of medicine in terms of all aspects of diagnosis and treatment that reflects a Vedic and Yogic approach, values and wisdom.
Integrating Yoga and Ayurveda
The term Yoga itself means to unite, combine, harmonize or integrate. A truly yogic approach is inherently an integrative approach, harmonizing body, prana, senses, mind and consciousness. It cannot be reduced to the body alone.
A real Yoga therapy must consider all eight limbs of Yoga. It cannot just isolate the physical aspects of Yoga like asana.
The first two of the eight limbs of Yoga, the yamas and niyamas, the yogic principles and practices of right living, provide the foundation necessary to sustain any spiritual or healing practice. They also provide an ideal code of conduct for doctors, therapists and Yoga teachers.
We can call asana the ‘external medicine’ of Yoga. It primarily treats musculo-skeletal disorders, but indirectly can benefit many other conditions and can provide an ideal form of exercise for everyone. Yet without the proper diet, its healing potentials are limited, as bodily activity is going to reflect the nutrition the body receives. Asana works best in the context of Ayurvedic dietary and life-style recommendations.
Basic Concepts of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is the ancient art and science of keeping the body and mind healthy so that individuals can pursue the goals in life that they have set for themselves.
Ayurveda can be seen as the science of understanding how we interact with our environment and how to alter our environment in such a way that it is harmonious with our deepest nature. Ayurveda addresses our entire lifestyle including exercise and Yoga. Ayurveda sees each individual's path toward perfect health as a unique path, hence Ayurveda can help us to understand which Yoga asanas are best for each individual as well as understand how the different forms of Pranayama affect us.
Three Doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha Ayurveda is based on the idea that there exists three forms of the life force called Doshas. They are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We are all made up of a unique combination of these three forces. This unique combination, determined at the moment of conception, is our constitution or Prakruti. These forces constantly fluctuate according to our environment which includes our diet, the seasons, the climate, our age and many more factors. The current state of these three doshas most commonly defines our imbalance or our Vikruti. Since we all have a unique constitution, and unique imbalances, it makes sense that each person's path toward health will likewise be unique. This is a major principal of Ayurveda. In addition, what will keep each of us healthy is also unique. Understanding our prakruti and our vikruti offers each of us the potential to make correct choices for ourselves along our paths.
To understand these forces and how they interact with our environment it is necessary to understand the five elements. The five elements of the Ayurvedic system are: earth, air, fire, water and ether.
Whether we are talking about diet, the weather or yoga, all things can be described in terms of these five elements and this includes the three doshas. Vata is said to be made up of air and ether. It is compared to the wind and is said to be light, drying, cooling and capable of movement. Pitta is said to be made up of fire and water. Considered to be mostly fire, it is said to be hot, light and neither too dry or moist and is immobile, though it can be easily moved by the wind (Vata). Kapha is said to be made up of water and earth, which combine like mud. Kapha is heavy, moist, cool and stable.
The importance in understanding the Doshas is that like increases and like opposites balance each other. Hence, that which has similar characteristics as the Dosha will increase it and that which has opposite characteristics will decrease it. Knowing this we can adjust our Yoga practice, diets and other factors from our environment to affect these forces in ways that help us to create greater balance and harmony.
The three Doshas fluctuate constantly. As they move out of balance they affect certain areas of our bodies in certain ways. When Vata is out of balance, typically in excess, we are prone to diseases of the large intestine like constipation and gas along with disease of the nervous system, immune system and joints. When Pitta is in excess we are prone to diseases of the small intestine like diarrhea along with diseases of the liver, spleen, thyroid, blood, skin and eyes. When Kapha is in excess we are prone to diseases of the stomach and lungs, most notably mucous conditions along with diseases of water metabolism such as swelling.
Understanding Doshas There are many signs and symptoms associated with doshas being out of balance:
· Vata dryness, coldness, constipation, insomnia, nervousness/anxiety/fear
· Pitta inflammation, acid indigestion/heartburn, skin problems, loose stools, anger/agitation/short temper
· Kapha weight gain, mucus build-up, lethargy, depression/lack of motivation.
Balancing Doshas Once you have successfully recognized the culprit, you can begin the appropriate "pacifying" routine:
· Vata warmth, moisture, daily oil massage, vata-balancing diet, establishing supportive routines, calming/quiet environment
· Pitta cool down, pitta-balancing diet, calming routines, daily introspection, cooling herbs and spices
· Kapha stimulation, exercise, vary routine, avoid napping, kapha-balancing diet, wake at sunrise.
Three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas, Tamas Another pillar in the construct of Ayurveda is the understanding of the three Gunas, or qualities of nature. This is the science of Ayurveda applied to the emotional and spiritual aspects of an individual. The three Gunas are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.That which is sattvic, is said to be light, clear and stable. Sattva is the state of being which comes from an awareness of our connectedness to God or Purusha and in which we manifest our highest expression and most virtuous qualities. The pure state of sattva can be said to be that of enlightenment.
That which is rajasic is said to be active, agitated, turbulent or motivated. Rajas is the state of being which comes from a distraction from our truest essence. In this state we are unaware of our connectedness to our spirit and as such manifest the emotions we've come to label as "challenging". These emotions include fear, worry, anger, jealousy, attachment and depression. Rajasic action is the cause of pain and suffering.
That which is tamasic is said to be heavy, dull, dark and inert. In this state we are expressing our darker nature and become harmful to others or ourselves. The actions include violent or vindictive behavior toward others along with self-destructive behaviors such as addiction, depression and suicide.
The importance in understanding the gunas is that, like the doshas, like increases like. When we live a lifestyle that is tamasic, we increase the influence of tamas within ourselves and bring about destruction. When we live a lifestyle, which is sattvic, we increase the influence of sattva within us and enhance our spiritual growth and evolution. Cultivating sattva brings freedom from disease while the manifestation of rajasic and tamasic behaviors causes disease. Understanding these principals allows us to structure our environment, diet and yoga practice in ways that support our spiritual growth as well as our well-being.
Understanding the principles of Ayurveda allows us to apply these principles to many aspects of our lives. Let’s take a look at the implications of Ayurveda on the practice of Yoga.
In order to understand how the principles of Ayurveda affect our practice of Hatha Yoga we must first understand the energetics of movement. All movement/activity is by nature rajasic and heating to the body. Yet, some movements are more heating and others are less so. Likewise, some movements are more rajasic and others are less so. Those, which are less so can also be said to encourage greater sattva. Generally speaking the slower the movement the less rajasic and the less warming to the body and mind. The faster the movement the more rajasic and the more heating. In this context Hatha Yoga along with other disciplines like tai-chi are inherently less rajasic than say, jogging or aerobics. It can also be said that any form of movement practiced with great awareness is more sattvic. Those that are practiced with distraction or less attentiveness are more rajasic. Thus one way to enhance our experience of Yoga is to practice slowly and with greater awareness of how we are feeling and what our breath is like. To practice yoga without awareness is to invite injury; to practice with awareness is what our aim should be.
Taking the principles of movement into account we can begin to see that people of vata constitution or imbalance are most supported by a yoga practice which is calming, quieting and yet warming. People of pitta nature or imbalance are most supported by a yoga practice, which is calming, quieting and less heating. And, people of kapha nature are most supported by a yoga practice, which is stimulating and warming. Each individual has different needs.
Various Factors that Influence Health In developing a healthy yoga practice students must not only take into consideration their constitution and imbalance but also their age, the season of the year and the times of day they practice. These influences affect the balance of energies in our bodies and hence this must be reflected in a healthy yoga practice.
When designing a yoga practice for yourself the influence of the season, your age and the time of day are not as important as your overall vikruti or imbalance. These should be seen as the factors that modify your practice but not the factors that create it. Your vikruti is, in fact, the single most important determinant of your entire lifestyle regime. It is even more important than your constitution! When you are in near perfect balance you can create a program based almost entirely on your constitution, the seasons and time of day as the most important determinants. This program will help you to stay in balance.
In Ayurveda it is understood that at different times of our lives different doshas play a greater role. This is a part of the natural fluctuation of these forces. It is said that when we are born our bodies and minds are more affected by kapha and that this is true until puberty. During this time our bodies are growing at a rapid rate requiring a greater influence of the earth element. Hence during this time in our lives, regardless of our constitution, kapha is likely to be increased unless we take measures to balance it. From puberty until around our retirement years the influence of pitta increases. This is because these are our years of greatest productivity requiring a greater influence of fire. The later years, post - retirement are the time of our lives most dominated by Vata. This is a time of reflection and the influence of ether increases. During each of these periods we must pay attention to the effect our age has on us and modify our practice appropriately. In this sense, when we are young, our bodies can better tolerate the more aggressive styles of yoga. As we age we need to practice more calming asanas.
The seasons also affect a healthy practice. Remember that like increases like. Hence the season of cold dampness increases kapha. The season of warm weather increases pitta and the season of cool dryness increases vata, as does the windy season. In different parts of the country these take place at different times and hence placing the names of traditional seasons upon them can be confusing.
During the kapha season it is best to alter your Yoga practice to help balance its influence. Hence, a practice, which is more stimulating and warming, is better at this time. In the pitta season a practice which is not as warming is best. In the vata season a calming practice supports greater health.
Finally, the time of day we practice will affect the balance of the doshas. Kapha naturally increases within us during the hours of 6:00 until 10:00 in the morning and evening. This is the time when we are moving slowly in the morning and slowing down toward the end of the day. Pitta naturally increases between the hours of 10:00 and 2:00 a.m. and p.m. This is the time the digestive fire is at its height, and in the day times parallels the movement of the sun to its peak. Vata naturally increases within us between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. and p.m. This is a time of transition from night to day and back again.
Most people practice yoga in the early morning. This is the most sattvic time of day when there is greater stillness and quiet and the energy of our environment is most sedate. The time of vata is closely related to sunrise and sunset. Before 6:00, during the time of vata a quieter and gentler practice is recommended. During the sunrise and sunset, vata is most stimulated and so calming asanas at these times are best. After 6:00 in the morning, the time of kapha, a more stimulating practice is appropriate.
Putting this into examples: Let's say you are of a vata nature or imbalance (vata is the most common imbalance), it is the cool dry or windy season, and you are 65 years old practicing Yoga at 5:00 a.m. Your health would be best served practicing a routine to balance vata (vata routine described later). Suppose you are of pitta nature and of vata imbalance. Practice a regimen that will balance vata first. Then modify it later so that it does not aggravate Pitta. As you are balancing Vata you may modify your program so that is it warm but not extremely heating. With this in mind let's take a look at some yoga asanas.
Yoga Practices for Three Ayurvedic Doshas
There are different Yogic Postures for different body types. If you have not found your body type as yet then find your Body Type. More often than not, when out of balance, we will naturally gravitate to what we think makes us feel better—but this can actually feed our imbalances.
All postures should be performed while inhaling deeply in backbends and exhaling in forward bends. Exhale deeply in side twists and inhale deeply while releasing the twists. Inhale deeply when chest expands and exhale when chest contracts.
Meaning "that which blows," vata is related to the elements of air and ether. It provides the motion necessary for our physical, mental, and emotional processes. Vata types are mentally quick, alert, flexible, and creative. When out of balance, vatas feel over-amped and ungrounded, and may suffer from mental and physical restlessness, insomnia, or anxiety. They’re the ones who eat while talking on their cell phone while on a treadmill. Vata energy can be very uneven, marked by spurts of activity followed by exhaustion. This dosha can get aggravated by dry, cold, and windy weather; overstimulating environments; travel; lack of routine; and a lot of change.
You can ground (earth) and soothe (water) excess vata by bringing the Mother principle into your life—learning how to calm and nurture yourself. Slowing and quieting down. Keeping warm and moist. Establishing self-care boundaries and a supportive routine.
General Guidelines The asanas which are most suitable for vata are those which are calming and grounding by nature. This will balance the tendency for those with a vata imbalance to be "spacey" and agitated or nervous. These asanas will help allay fear, worry and anxiety on the emotional level and also improve vata physical imbalances such as constipation, lower back pain and joint pains. These asanas compress the lower abdomen or cause the lower abdomen to become taut. The lower abdomen, pelvis and large intestine are the main residence of vata in the body. In addition, asanas that strengthen the lower back help alleviate vata. In general most yoga asanas are good for bringing greater balance to Vata since most asanas are calming to the mind. Poses that work on the colon (the bodily seat of vata), intestines, pelvis, lumbar spine, and sacroiliac balance vata by bringing energy back down into the base of the torso.
A yoga practice for a vata individual should be one creating warmth, serenity and nourishment. Vatas can cultivate this by following some basic guidelines:
· Practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace.
· Explore fluidity in your poses. Use gentle movements such as spinal and pelvic undulation, rotation in the joints, counter-poses, and flexion and extension.
· Hold each posture for a short amount of time, but do multiple repetitions.
· Focus on the foundation of the pose to create stability.
· Internally rotate the femurs and press into the outer edges of your legs.
· As you move, imagine you are moving through a substance like warm water or warm mud.
· Focus on lengthening your inhalation.
· Stay connected to the earth. Ground down through your big toes.
· Fix your gaze below or at the horizon.
· Engage your entire body by hugging your muscles to the bones.
· Do not over extend or deplete yourself. Your practice should be strengthening, not draining. Vatas easily exhaust themselves and when the vata imbalance becomes severe, a restorative practice is best.
· Be present in your practice.
· Stay warm.
· Conclude your practice with a long relaxation.
Asanas 1. Uttanasana(forward flexion from a standing position) - Let gravity assist the lengthening of your spine. All standing asanas tend to be grounding if awareness is placed on the feet honoring the connection between your body and the earth. It is important to note that this asana can put quite a strain on an injured lower back, so care should be used and there are many modifications that may be made by an alert Yoga instructor. If the lower back is simply tight, a condition related to imbalanced vata, this is an excellent asana.
2. Paschimotanasana (seated forward bend) will have similar value and may be easier if your back is sore.This helps to compress lower back and stretches whole spine where Vata person may suffer most.
3. Vajrasana with forward bending, (child's pose) is another excellent asana for bringing compression to the pelvis and Vata region. To perform this asana, sit upright with your knees flexed and placed underneath your buttocks. Keeping your arms to your side, bend forward from the hips until your head is resting on the floor in front of you. If you do not have the flexibility to place your head on the ground, place a folded blanket or a pillow on the floor in front of you for your head to rest upon. Compression asanas are excellent for constipation and for chronic gas.
4. BaddhaYoga Mudra (The bound Yogic Seal.)- Another very good compression asana aiding the lower back and helps in constipation. It is an advanced psoture.
5. SuptaVirasana (supine backward bend) – It is another exceptional asana for vata. While this stretch does not compress the pelvis, it creates a mild extension of the lower abdominal muscles and lower back. This action increases the pressure in the pelvis again alleviating vata. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, this asana is particularly useful as a part of treatment for Vata type asthma conditions.
6. Dhanurasana (bow pose) - It extends the lower back and places pressure on the pelvis. To perform this asana, lay on your stomach with your arms to your side. Lift the head, shoulders and chest off of the mat and bend both knees. Reach back and take hold of the ankles. Let your legs draw your chest further into the air so that your body weight rests on the pelvic region. This is essential for the maximum relief of Vata.
7. Sitting asanas like Virasana, Siddhasana and Padmasana are very calming poses which sedate vata's agitated nature. These meditative poses are excellent for calming the nervous system, a common site for vata imbalance. Calming the nervous system aids in the healing of anxiety, nervousness, sciatica and muscle spasm.
8. Padmasana (lotus pose), while calming and sedating, also moves energy upward toward the head. This is not very grounding but can be helpful in alleviating vata type depression. Placing attention on the tailbone during this pose helps make this a more grounding asana for vata.
9. Sun salutations - Do sun salutations S-L-O-W-L-Y.
10. Savasana(corpse pose) - The most calming pose is savasana. It should be at least done at the end of the practice. Vata person can do it for longer time e.g. ~ 20–30 minutes.
11. Spinal twists and inversions of all kinds soothe this dosha.
12. Sitting and standing forward bends are choice poses, particularly for insomnia; boat, plank, staff, and plow are also powerful vata-reducers. To support grounding, work with standing poses such as mountain, triangle, warrior, and tree.
Asanas to be Carefully Observed Vata people should avoid certain asanas. They should particularly avoid those which are overly stimulating to the nervous system such as repetitive Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) and those which place excessive pressure on sensitive joints in the body.
The cervico-thoracic junction is one of these areas. This is the bony region where the neck meets the shoulders. Here, large vertebrae stick out like "sore thumbs". People of vata nature and imbalance tend to have weaker bones, less fatty padding, looser ligaments and are more susceptible to pain. For these reasons SalambaSarvangasana (shoulder stand) and Halasana (plow) should be avoided or modified by placing a blanket under the shoulders for extra padding. This also decreases the extreme flexion the neck is placed in. People of vata nature or imbalance should not hold these poses for very long or they will risk injury.
Avoid back bends, such as bow, cobra, pigeon, and arch, which increase vata, or hold them briefly.
1. Alternate-Nostril Breathing – it is integrating and deeply relaxing. It should be done on regular basis.
2. Bhramari (bee) Breath – It is named after its high-pitched resonating sound. It calms vata.
Yoga Asanas for Specific Ailments for Vata People All postures should be performed withdeep and quiet breathing.
Backward Bend, Plough, Knee to Chest, Corpse
Knee to Chest, Plough, Half Wheel, Backward Bend
Backward Bend, Yoga Mudra, Knee to Chest, Shoulder Stand, Corpse. Belly should be drawn in while doing these postures.
Yoga Mudra, Plough, Corpse, Palm Tree, Lotus
Knee to Chest, Backward Bend, Plough, Yoga Mudra, Half Wheel
- Varicose Veins
Yoga Mudra, Backward, Bend, Head Stand, Plough
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Plough, Yoga Mudra, Head Stand
Corpse, Cobra, Backward Bend
- Menstrual Disorders
Associated with the elements of fire and water, Pitta is pure vitality, enthusiasm, and intensity. Meaning of Pitta is "that which cooks," it regulates our digestion, metabolism, appetite, and vision and forms the basis of our intellect and capacity for discernment. Solidly built, strong and passionate pittas sunburn easily, lose hair early. Embodying the ennobling characteristics of warrior ship, Pittas are known for their willpower, focus, courage, goal-orientation, decisiveness, self-discipline, and mental acuity. When out of balance, they may become competitive, fast, quarrelsome, dominating, impatient, resentful, intolerant, and fanatical.
The bodily seats of this dosha are the small intestine, eyes, and blood. The liver also plays an important role in pitta-related bodily functions. Excess pitta manifests through inflammation, infection, and irritation.
General Guidelines The best asanas for pitta are those, which are calming, and not overly heating. People of pitta nature or imbalance tend to be more assertive and intense individuals. Calming poses help sedate their intensity and their sattvic nature helps these people to transcend the emotions of anger and resentment that they are more prone to. By alleviating pitta, these asanas are good as part of the treatment for such conditions as ulcers and hyperacidity, liver disease and acne.
Asanas which help balance pitta are those which place pressure on the naval and solar plexus region. This region is the residence of Pitta, which resides in the small intestine and directly affects the liver and spleen and helps regulate the strength of the digestive fire.
A yoga practice for a pitta individual should encourage compassion, acceptance, relaxed effort and be cooling in nature. Pittas can cultivate this by following some basic guidelines:
· Have fun in your poses. Do not take yourself or your pose too seriously.
· Enjoy movement in your poses.
· Soften your gaze downward, at the horizon or even practice with your eyes closed.
· Allow freedom and creativity in your practice. Change it up. Avoid sticking to one style or series of poses.
· Practice in a moderately cool space. You do not want to get cold, but pittas should avoid practicing in extremely heated spaces.
· Focus on the yoga experience in your body, not your brain.
· Work at 80% effort.
· Avoid being judgmental and critical of yourself.
· Make sure you have plenty of practice space.
· Remind yourself that yoga is not a competition.
· Focus on your exhalation.
· Use the exhalation to let go and release any built up anger, frustration, stress, etc.
· Be aware of your breath in your back body.
· Practice plenty of twists and side body openers.
· Notice the position of your ribs; draw them back into your body.
· Benefit from practicing at a moderate pace.
· Remind yourself that less is more!
Asanas Good postures for balancing Pitta dosha:
1. Ustrasana (camel pose) -This asana brings balance to Pitta. It opens up the abdomen, solar plexus and chest allowing for freer movement of energy through these regions.
2. Bhujangasana- It is an excellent solar plexus extension pose for pitta. It can be perform whilelying face down with your feet together and ankles extended.This asana help in reducing Pitta.
3. Navasana(Boat asana) -In this asana, stomach is compressed which strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine.It helps relieve stress and improves digestion.
4. Janusirasana-It is a seated forward bends which compress the abdomen and balances Pitta.Both compression and extension are important to keeping the pitta in balance.
5. Paschimottanasana- Along with compressing the solar plexus and pelvic regions, it stretch the lower back and hamstring muscles.
6. Sitting poses such as cobbler, hero pose, and yoga mudrasana, and sitting forward bends such as head-to-toe, half- and full-lotus forward bend, and tortoise are also recommended.
7. Maricyasana- This asana work with the abdominal area with twists.
8. Moon salutations- Experiment with moon salutation; while sun salutation heats, this vinyasa has a cooling effect.
9. Standing poses especially which open the hips like Tree pose, Trikonasana, ArdhaChandrasana (Half moon) and standing forward bend with legs apart are good asanas too.
10. Twists eg: seated spinal twist to clear the liver and detoxify Pitta.
11. Savasana and Yoga mudra (yogic seal)
12. Standing forward bends and inversions of all forms reduce pitta.
Asanas to be Carefully Observed
Headstands heat the body, and much of this heat accumulates in the head and the eyes. The eyes are organs controlled mainly by pitta as they are involved in metabolism of light and visual impressions. For this reason, headstands can contribute to the onset or make worse diseases of the eyes. Individuals with diabetes should avoid all inversions as a complication of this condition causes hardening of the small blood vessels in the eyes.. Headstands are heating to the body and much of susceptible to damage from the increase in blood pressure in the head. People with glaucoma should avoid inversions as well, due to the increase in intraocular pressure. If a person of pitta constitution chooses to do headstands, perhaps because they have no serious imbalance, then the headstand should be held for a very short period of time. Warrior, chair pose, headstands, arm stands, and lion increase pitta; and therefore should be held briefly.
Backbends in moderation: Bhujangasana (Cobra), Dhanurasana (Bow), Ustrasana (Camel) dissipate excess heat and open up the abdomen, solar plexus and chest allowing for freer movement of energy through these regions. These asanas can play a role in the treatment of ulcers and hepatitis. Must be balanced with forward bends.
Keep your breath cool, relaxed, and diffuse, exhaling through your mouth periodically to release heat.
1. Ujjayi breathing is heating, consider simply using the yogic three-part breath.
2. Sheetali, Sitkari and Sidant is designed to cool off Pitta.
3. Alternate-nostril breathingspecially lunar one,is also recommended.
Yoga Asanas for Pitta
All postures should be performed while doing deep, quiet breathing
- Peptic Ulcer
Shoulder Stand, Ear Knee
Knee to Chest, Fish, Locust
Shoulder Stand, Cobra, Half Bow, Quiet breathing
- Anger or Hate
- Migraine Headache
Fish, Ear Knee, Boat, Bow
- Liver Disorder
Fish, Shoulder Stand, Bow
- Stomatitis (Inflammation of the Tongue)
Kapha Constitution Meaning "that which sticks," kapha is related to the elements of earth and water. Physiologically, kapha binds the structure of the body, lubricates the joints and skin, and promotes tissue-building, immunity, and healing. It also provides stability, stamina, and strength. Kapha types tend to have a slow metabolism; heavy yet sturdy body; large, soft eyes; and thick, oily hair and skin. When in balance, they are the best friend a person could have—calm, devoted, consistent, tolerant, and patient. However, out of balance, they are their own worst enemy, being prone to mental sluggishness, procrastination, lethargy, weight gain, excessive sleep, and problems letting go.
General Guidelines Asanas which are most suitable for kapha are those which are more stimulating and heating to the body. These help to balance the heavy, slow cold and sedated nature of kapha. Asanas best suited to individuals of kapha nature or imbalance are those which open up the chest. The stomach and chest are the areas where kapha accumulates. In the chest, kapha takes on the form of mucous. These asanas are excellent for the prevention and treatment of congestive conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia as well as constrictive conditions such as asthma and emphysema.
A yoga practice for a kapha individual should be one creating space, stimulation, warmth and buoyancy. Kaphas can cultivate this by following some basic guidelines:
· Practice at a vigorous pace and intensity.
· Focus on the subtlety of the pose and how it creates an expansive presence in the body and energy field.
· Practice in a warm space.
· Use a strong forceful breath during practice.
· When you are ready to release the pose, take one more breath.
· Keep your chest and shoulders open and lifted as you practice.
· Have a sharp upward gaze.
· Feel a sense of lightness in your poses.
· Pause for a moment between your inhalations and exhalations.
· Challenge yourself.
· Keep moving. Have short resting periods between poses.
· Enjoy a restorative pose for final relaxation.
· Be precise in your poses.
· Pay close attention to your alignment.
· Don’t give up!
1. Ustrasana (camel pose) – This asana helps kapha by opening the chest allowing for greater circulation of energy through this region.
2. Setu-Bandhasana (bridge pose). It does an excellent job opening the chest allowing for greater circulation of energy through this region.
1. These asanas also affect the flow of energy through the heart chakra aiding the development of compassion and unconditional love.
2. Twisting Chair pose. This pose builds heat in the legs while simultaneously pushing out the stagnation that can build up in the chest and lungs from excess kapha. Moving from side to side with the breath, as well as longer holds, can be beneficial.
3. Half Moon pose. Stimulating the side waist is a good way to ward off mandagni, or slow digestion, because it moves and awakens the digestive organs and stretches the entire abdomen. The side-to-side motion also offers spaciousness to the lungs, where excess mucus can build up from excess kapha.
4. Warrior II. This is the perfect pose for a long, heat-building hold to burn kapha. Keeping arms wide open brings space into the front body where the kapha dosha lives.
5. Triangle pose. The lateral flexion in Triangle, much like in Half Moon, aids in sluggish digestion and opens the lungs and chest space to get things moving. This pose is also great to challenge and strengthen the legs, back, and core.
6. Tree pose. Standing on one leg means that all the other limbs are off the earth, balancing the earth element of kapha. Turning the gaze up while in Tree can invite even more spaciousness and lightness into the posture, to counteract the dense heaviness of kapha.
7. Bow pose. This supine backbend massages all the digestive organs and stimulates agni, our internal digestive fire.
8. Upward Plank pose. Upward plank is a great heat-building challenge for the arms, back and legs, and also opens the chest.
9. Headstand. When you reverse the blood flow in the body, accumulated fluid in the ankles and legs (which can be caused by too much kapha) gets the chance to move and drain.
Headstand also shifts the tendency of kapha to get stuck in the same old routines, by offering a whole new perspective on the world.
10. Back bends such as cobra, pigeon, camel, and locust will greatly serve your lungs.
11. Standing poses such as forward bend, triangle, revolved triangle, the warrior series, tree, and half-moon can be hold a long time, and can be done repeatedly.It builds endurance.
12. Other effective postures include shoulder stand, plow, lion, and spinal twists. Jumping to transition between poses will give you a better workout.
13. Savasana, use a shorter Savasana (5–15 minutes) to conclude your practice.
14. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is a very good aerobic exercise for kapha. When done repetitively it helps in the treatment of obesity and depression, two common kapha conditions. This group of movements can perhaps be said to be the ideal asana for Kapha as it is very active, creates heat, and opens the chest.
People of kapha nature can best handle strength poses as their joints and muscles tend to be strong and stable. Increasing flexibility is extremely important for those of kapha nature, as it is the tendency of kapha to become overly stiff or rigid. The sun salutation is the ideal asana for Kapha as it is very active, creates heat, and opens the chest. People of Kapha nature should do the most repetitions and they should be performed with greater speed. Sun salutations are excellent for anyone during the Kapha hours of the day. The bodily seats of kapha are the lungs and the stomach/diaphragm area.
Asanas to be Carefully Observed Few asanas are harmful to kapha as their nature allows them to benefit from all forms of stretching and movement. However, two weak areas of the body for kapha individuals are the lungs and the kidneys. Asanas, which place excessive pressure on the lower abdomen, if held for too long, may aggravate the kidneys. Asanas like Dhanurasana (bow pose) is one such pose.
Awareness of breath while practicing yoga is very important as it is an aid to the awareness of the body. If a pose is creating pain or if a person is stretching too far, most often, the body will react with an alteration of breathing prior to an injury taking place. This alteration may be a shortening of the breath or an increased rate of breathing. In this way, awareness of breath leads to awareness of the body. Practicing with awareness increases the sattvic nature of one's practice of yoga and as such enhances ones spiritual development.
Bhastrika-Kaphas need to open your lungs, they can benefit from the vigorous breathing practices.
Ujjayi breathDuring asana practice, use the full yogic breath in conjunction with the heating ujjayi breath.
Kapalabhatiis cleansing, energizing, and warming for kaphas.
Right-nostril breathing is cleansing, energizing, and warming.
Yoga Asanas for Kapha
All postures should be performed while doing, deep, quiet breathing.
Head Stand, Plough, Forward Bend, Backward Bend, Half Wheel, Fish
Half Wheel, Shoulder Stand
· Sinus Congestion
Fish, Boat, Plough, Bow, Breath of Fire (Bhasrika)
· Sinus Headache
Lion, Head Knee, Fish
Boat, Fish, Half Wheel, Backward Bend, Forward Bend
· Chronic Gastro
Intestinal Disorders - Fish, Locust, Cobra
· Sore Throat
Lion, Shoulder Stand, Locust, Fish
Half Wheel, Bow, Boat, Shoulder Stand, Palm Tree, Fish, Cobra
Pranayama and Ayurveda
Pranayama, the art of yogic breathing, is an art shared within the tradition of Ayurveda. Ayurveda compliments this knowledge by describing how the different forms of pranayama affect the three doshas and how pranayama can be used in practical ways as a part of the healing process. Like all things of nature, the different forms of pranayama can be understood as heating or cooling and sedating or stimulating.
Lunar pranayama, the act of inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right nostril, has a cooling and calming effect upon the mind and hence the body. Thus this form of yogic breathing helps bring balance to pitta and its subtler mental counterpart, tejas.
Solar pranayama, the act of inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left nostril, has a heating and stimulating effect on the body and mind. Thus this form of yogic breathing brings greater balance to kapha and its subtler mental counterpart, Ojas.
Vata, and its subtle mental counterpart Prana, are balanced by alternating the two breathing techniques or by inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils simultaneously with attention and awareness. This action is calming and is neither too warming nor too cooling.
These forms of pranayama mentioned are a good general practice along with one's Hatha Yoga practice. It is generally recommended, however, that a person practicing pranyama be of strong body and mind. This is a person who has prepared themselves with years of Hatha Yoga practice and has been trained by an experienced pranyama teacher. These basic forms of pranyama can be practiced by anyone with minimal instruction who understands their Ayurvedic constitution and Vikruti, and is willing to begin slowly and practice on a regular basis. The first time they are practiced, however, should be with a trained practitioner who can teach the finer points.
While recommended as a general practice, pranyama is especially important for those suffering from respiratory ailments. These breathing techniques can be very useful as part of an overall program for allergies, asthma, sinus conditions and chronic colds.
Bhastrika, the breath of fire, by its very name tells us of its energetic properties. This form of yogic breathing involves forced exhalation through the nose with natural inhalation. This action is very heating and stimulating. It is best performed by those of kapha constitution and avoided by those of vata and pitta. According to Dr. Versant Lad, "This exercise is the equivalent of running two miles." It is a good part of a complete program for the treatment of obesity as it stimulates metabolism and the breakdown of fat.
Sheetali, a form of pranyama where one inhales and exhales through a rolled up tongue, is a form of pranyama which is cooling and hence a natural part of the process of bringing pitta into balance.
Both Bhastrika and Sheetali circulate the pranic energies more aggressively and require greater instruction.They should be practiced under the guidance of a trained practitioner.
It is important to reintegrate Yoga and Ayurveda in order to bring out the full healing and spiritual potential of each. Ayurveda provides a diagnosis and treatment in harmony with Yoga philosophy, as well as a diet and herbal treatment that follows the spiritual approach of Yoga. Bringing Yoga into Ayurveda adds a spiritual and psychological dimension to Ayurvedic treatment without which Ayurveda tends to get reduced to a physical model in which its full Vedic healing powers cannot be realized.
For a truly holistic and spiritual approach to medicine and healing, we need both Yoga and Ayurveda. Ayurveda provides the medical foundation and Yoga brings the spiritual goal and practices. This is the original Vedic scheme. The key to a comprehensive Yoga therapy and Yoga system of medicine lies in restoring Yoga’s connection with Ayurveda. This reconnection of Yoga and Ayurveda will also provide the basis for a real dialogue with modern medicine addressing not only specific therapies but also the real causes of disease and how to maintain health and well-being in society.
At the same time, we should examine Yoga’s connection with other Vedic sciences including not only Ayurveda but Vedic astrology (Jyotisha), Vastu (Sthapatya Veda), and Gandharva Veda (music). We should explore the healing potentials not only of Hatha and Raja Yoga but also of Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Jnana Yoga (knowledge) and Karma Yoga (ritual and service).
Combining Yoga and Ayurveda in their full applications and in the greater context of Vedic science offers a complete system of well-being for body, mind and consciousness, such as perhaps has no parallel anywhere else in the world. It can become the prime force of planetary healing that is so desperately needed today. It can add a spiritual and preventative dimension to modern medicine as well as adding important new keys for the understanding of disease and for applying natural therapies that can reduce the growing cost of high tech medicine.
When we practice yoga, we are attempting to balance the physical, emotional and mental bodies. These efforts could be enhanced if we take into account yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda. The Ayurvedic recommendations will bring a balanced state for an individual person, based on his body type (prakruti), imbalanced state (vikruti), and current state of mind (manasprakruti).
Yoga is designed to bring balance. Not every yoga practice, every meditation, every kriya (cleansing technique), every pranayama (breathing exercise) is good for every person. If we are not aware of the factors that determine suitable practices for us, we may cause unintentional harm. There are specific guidelines that Ayurveda has outlined for each individual body and each mind. Knowing how to use Ayurveda in your yoga practice is a valuable tool. Ayurveda is never a one size fits all.
Ayurveda has specific recommendations for each person for yoga practice, meditation, pranayama, diet, herbs, and so on. Yoga practice should also be combined with the Ayurvedic wisdom by selectingasanas based on one’s constitution.Certain postures either pacify or stimulate specific doshas, according to the nature of asana and also how it is practiced.It is therefore important that each person’s yoga practice be unique to their doshic constitution and their present imbalances.Even change of weather, seasons can influence the mind and body and therefore the balance of doshas. Asanas practice should also vary with seasons.For example postures that increase heat would be avoided in summer and favored in winter.
Specific asanasare reported that pacify Vata, Pitta and Kapha. An unbalanced Vata mind cannot sit still. They naturally gravitate to practices that feed this anxious state. They will choose a diet, yoga practice, meditation, etc. that further exasperate their imbalanced state. A Kapha will naturally avoid practices that will help to balanceKapha. Therefore it is so important for all serious yogis to understand their dosha (their imbalances) as well as Ayurvedic principles that will bring balance..Simply knowing Prakruti (original state) is not enough. In order to receive the benefits of an Ayurvedic lifestyle one must know and understand how to apply the concepts of dosha, dhatu, rasa, prakruti, vikruti, ama, andgunas. A yoga practice cannot be complete without at least basic understanding of Ayurveda.
1. CarakaSamhita: Translated by R.K. Sharma and Bhagwan Dash. Chowkhamba, 1972
2. Ayurvedic Healing: By Dr. David Frawley. Passage Press, 1989
3. Ayurveda; The Science of Self Healing: By Dr. Vasant Lad Lotus press, 1984
4. Living Yoga; A comprehensive Guide for Daily Living: Edited by Georg Feuerstein, Stephan Bodian with the staff of the Yoga Journal. Yoga Journal, 1993
5. Yoga; TheIyengar Way; By Silva, Mira and ShyamMetha. Knopf, 1992
6. Ayurveda Home Study Coarse: By Dr. David Frawley, 1992
7. Yoga and Ayurveda Workshop Notes: Margo Gal.
8. Integral Yoga Hatha: Yogiraj Sri Swami Satchidananda, 1970
9. Deborah Knox, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
10. Marma points of Ayurveda by Vasant D. Lad and AnishaDurve
"Yoga is the practical side of the Vedic teachings while Ayurveda is the healing side." In practice, both of these paths overlap a great deal.” -Dr. David Frawley, a Vedic scholar
“It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” - Mahatma Gandhi
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” -Hippocrates.
““Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.” -Krishnamacharya
“Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.” -Patanjali
One becomes firmly established in practice only after attending to it for a long time, without interruption and with an attitude of devotion. Yoga Sutra I.14
”The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.” - Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Gandhi
When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath. -Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny. -Upanishads
Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace. Bhagavad Gita
“Thinking of disease constantly will intensify it. Feel always 'I am healthily in body and mind.” -Swami Sivananda
“A tree can be used either for building a house or for making charcoal by means of fire. So also the mind can either be utilized tor spiritual evolution or reduced into ignorance by the fire of five passions.”-Sri Swami Sivananda-ji
“Desire nothing, give up all desires and be happy.” -Swami Sivananda
“Crave for a thing, you will get it. Renounce the craving, the object will follow you by itself.” -Swami Sivananda
“Desire is poverty. Desire is the greatest impurity of the mind. Desire is the motive force for action. Desire in the mind is the real impurity. Even a spark of desire is a very great evil.” -Swami Sivananda
“Meditation is painful in the beginning but it bestows immortal Bliss and supreme joy in the end.” -Swami Sivananda
“The consumed food(solid) will be divided into three parts. The grossest ingredient becomes feces; the middle ingredient becomes flesh, the subtlest ingredient becomes mind.”
“When pure food is nourished, our understanding becomes absolutely discriminative in the right path. Because of the higher understanding, mental reflections will be pure. Memory will be very strong when one has a proper understanding; due to the strong memory power one will be released from all the worldly bondages”. || Ch. Up. 6.5.1||
Acknowledgement First of all I would like to thank my teachers for giving me an opportunity to take the course and complete a project that integrates both my passions – Yoga and Ayurveda. I learnt so many important and practical knowledge that I can apply to my Ayurvedic practice and daily life in general.
I will like to dedicate this thesis to my husband Pankaj Khandelwal, who has supported me throughout his patience and knowledge. I feel that my son and daughter missed me a lot while I was taking the course. I will be grateful forever for their love.I would also like to thank my parents for encouraging me to pursue my passions. Last, but not the least, I would like to thank Krishna, who made all the things possible.
My profound gratitude and deep regards to Dr. Raghuramaji and SVYASA for exemplary guidance, teachings and support. Raghuramaji’s blessing and guidance during his retreat and spiritual discourses started so many sparksand I shall carry his teachings.