“For a really effective Yoga practice, it is not enough to mechanically follow a series of set prescriptions” says David Frawley in my favorite section from his book, Yoga for Your Type. This is a useful guide for helping your yoga practice be balanced to your ayurvedic dosha (type), current imbalances, seasons and also to your life stage, sex, cycle, pregnancy, and weather. A great yoga resource for anyone interested in yoga and Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is one of the few diet and health systems that I have found to be beneficial in a deep way. I weigh less, have less anger, better manage stress, and have found a way to eat closer to the earth. To find out your dosha, use this quiz from Banyan Botanicals. Some of my favorite books on Ayurveda are by John Douillard and Vasant Lad.
Excess Vata is common right now in fall with drier, cooler weather, and shorter days. To reduce it practice in a quiet, grounded, and systematic way. Think of building core strength in the body while maintaining flexibility. These qualities are found in standing poses, especially hip closed poses like Warrior I and III, and standing forward bends like Padangustasana. Also floor poses and all sitting forward bends are Vata pacifying. On the other hand backbends increase Vata if done excessively or unconsciously. The balance between strength and flexibility is critical for a positive experience of the Vata dosha. Remember that it is best to work the poses with the breath and hold the standing, sitting, all forward bends, and twists longer than you are inclined to do. Remaining still will be the Vata challenge as well as the reward. Vata types also want to flex to their maximum and flex often. In time, this can create too much flexibility.
Excess Pitta is often found in the summer months when it’s warm and we keep ourselves too busy with the long days. Remember the Pitta energy presses forward in an impulsive manner. Excess Pitta is reduced by practicing in an effortless, non-goal oriented way, working at about 75% of our capacity. Rest assured that when a Pitta person practiced effortlessly they will still be working harder than everyone else. Use the breath to monitor the level of work intensity. Forward bends and twists are very effective in both reducing excess Pitta and in bringing up low Pitta. Hold postures for longer periods. Pitta types need to remain flexible and soft throughout their lives because if excess Pitta is not softened, it can become stiff, hot, and too tight. It may help Pittas to realize that they can use their powerful will to maintain a soft and gentle approach. This will be their greatest challenge and also yield their greatest reward. Easy closing postures, gentle backbends with breath awareness, and all forward bends and twists are most effective for reducing excess Pitta. Hip opening (Warrior II) are less pitta provoking than hip closed (Warrior I). Standing forward folds are good but sitting are even better. Pitta types should limit the time in headstand and armstand positions. Shoulderstands are good especially with support. Calming, centering, relaxing, sitting floor poses stimulate a parasympathetic response in the body and mind. Practicing Savasana for 20-30 minutes can help pacify Pitta if practiced in a relaxed way.
The Kapha time of year is winter and is marked by cold, wet, slow qualities. Kapha type individuals are most challenged by getting started, but with perseverance they can establish a disciplined practice that will transform their life experience. During this time of year we should practice in an energetic way. Start small and stay committed. When a Kapha practices energetically they are usually not exceeding their capacity. This is the time of year to benefit from building strength slowly but steadily with standing poses, headstands, all inverted poses, and backbends. Vigorous activity reduces excess Kapha or lethargy. Headstands and handstands are especially good for reducing Kapha and should be practiced carefully when excess weight is involved. When there is excess body weight, first strengthen the shoulders, arms and legs, then master the armstands and shoulderstands. Avoid putting excess weight on the head in the headstands until the upper body has been strengthened. Since forward bends increase Kapha, hold these postures for a shorter time.
I find it useful to think about what practices and poses are most beneficial during a particular season or energetic effect that is happening in the body. Each dosha tends to seek its own energy rather than moving toward balance. So if you’re Kapha by nature, you don’t like to exercise. If your Pitta, you are likely addicted to the ass-kicking workout. If you’re vata, you can’t hold still, in your practice or life.
Good Yoga Book.