Recently I have written a two part article for Beauty and Beyond Magazine all about stress, and while doing some research on stress reduction, I soon realized that Yoga is to stress management what low fat! was to dieting in the 80s. It was everywhere – like a catch phrase.
Group yoga in NYC’s Times Square
But is it any wonder? Yoga and meditation are the conscious art forms of being still and clearing your mind of clutter. I, myself, have said in previous blog posts that Yoga saved my life – what I really should have said was that Yoga saved me from losing all my hair. I’m a bit on the high-strung side. But while I think Yoga is an excellent way to relieve tension and calm overactive minds, I don’t know if many people know that you must tailor your practice to your constitution. Like everything in Ayurveda, it all comes down to balancing your Doshas. We have to be specific, and do the poses which will be therapeutic to what we as unique individuals need.
Are we experiencing Vata Excess? With too much air and movement in our bodies? Do we feel scattered and anxious? Perhaps some excess air in our digestive tract causing bloating or dehydrated roughness in our skin. Are we experiencing Pitta Excess? With too much fire and heat inflaming our bodies causing thoughts of self-pressure and demanding ambitions? Maybe we have acid stomach or pimples from all the stress or aggravation of rosacea. Or are we experiencing Kapha Excess? With too much earthy dampness making us lethargic and demotivated? Coupling water-retention and puffiness?
Whichever your Doshic dysfunction, when trying to pacify your mind and body, doing the proper poses is much more therapeutic than taking a generalist class.
Vata Yoga: Vata types or those with excess Vata must slow down their yogic practice. Transitions between poses must be gradual with calm concentration. Vata is easily ungrounded, so balancing poses are therapeutic. Tree pose and downward dog are good examples of Vata decreasing poses. But simpler poses like Mountain (which is simply standing upright and feeling your feet implant into the floor) and Savasana are also excellent. Savasana which is laying in an open rest position, is particularly good as it has the whole body on the floor feeling its own weight and grounding itself. When doing your sequence and balancing, setting your gaze downward is important, and many find that looking down helps with balance anyway. This is why downward dog is a great pose because it in a downward facing position.
: Pitta types or those with excess Pitta need to do poses with twisting involved. You can do many modifications of different poses to incorporate a twist or do something as simple as a seated twist. This breaks up the heat in the abdomen where the main site of Pitta is (in our jatharagni – digestive fire). Pittas also need to soften their hands during poses – and not have them made into strong spears. So if doing warrior poses, remember to make your wrists supple.
Kapha Yoga: Kaphas and those with Kapha excess need to open their chests. Because Kapha governs the lungs, there can be a protection of the lungs and a natural roll in of the shoulders and hunching over. To counter-act that accumulative tendency, poses such as Fish pose, Sleeping Hero pose and Wheel pose are ideal. Kapha also needs to be shaken out of the body by speeding up transitions in the yoga sequence. This can be done by doing one pose on the inhale and moving into the next on the exhale to keep your pace. Springing during Ashtanga classes are also good for stimulating blood flow for Kapha.
Changing your yogic style depending on how you feel is a great way to bring awareness into your practice. Also, becoming more body-aware and monitoring when you feel imbalanced is refined when you also treat your body with this type of physical therapy as you can actually feel the changes before and after asanas.