October 20, 2012

Taking Ayurveda Onto the Mat. ~ Amy Landry

Photo: Hari Prasad Nadig

“Yoga is the extraordinary spiritual science of self-development and self-realization. Its integrative approach brings deep harmony and unshakeable balance to body and mind, in order to awaken our latent capacity for a higher consciousness—our true purpose of human evolution.”

~ Dr. David Frawley

Ayurveda (Sanskrit: आयुर्वेद; Meaning, the knowledge of life) is the traditional medicine, or science, of India.

It’s certainly a more recent arrival on the Western scene of yoga, yet it is the world’s oldest continually practiced health care system, and has a depth parallel to the practice of yoga. Ayurveda is one of the few complimentary medicines that have been recognized by the World Health Organization.

Yoga and Ayurveda can be linked together as two complimentary systems of human development.

They have maintained a long history, enhancing one another right up to this present day. However, it is rare to see the application of Ayurveda to yoga postures being learned, or taught, in today’s society. And yet, it is invaluable to know one’s constitution (Prakriti) to make the yoga practice more relevant to our specific needs.

This is in alignment with the traditional method whereby yoga is taught one on one, teacher to student, in order to tailor the practice of asana, pranayama, lifestyle management and cleansing practices (kriyas) to the individual.

Just as in Ayurveda, or any medicine, we must look at yoga and apply it on an individual basis. And to do this, we must understand our constitution. The best way to do this is to seek out your local Ayurvedic consultant or practitioner for an assessment.

If this is not possible for you, the most thorough online assessment I’ve found is here. Note, you must answer the questions based on your general health and well being over the entire course of your life, rather than your current condition (Vikruti), to get a true result.

The three constitutions are Vata (space/air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (water/earth).

While we are all made up of all three, we are clearly dominant in one or two. Having this knowledge, you can learn about your constitution, and in turn let this guide your practice. Know that yoga is much more than an exercise system, for it holds healing potential for both body and mind. It addresses not only structural imbalances, but also hormonal and immune system disorders.

Just as one food may be good for one person, and not good for another, the same applies to the practice of yoga. Even meditation can require individual adjustment. So, you may now wonder what type, or kind, of yoga should you follow? What yoga asanas are best for you?

The following is a general idea as to the understanding of the union between yoga and Ayurveda according to the individual constitution:

Vata types are attracted to all types of practices, such as asana, pranayama, and mantra. They like to be actively doing things to change their lives consciously. They do not like the cold, tend to have a lower body weight and dry skin. They are restless, expressive and creative, yet emotionally sensitive and prone to anxiety and fear. When in balance, an array of practices from Ashtanga to Aerial yoga suit a Vata type. When imbalanced, a warm, calm or more static practice—such as Iyengar, Yin yoga, or even the more meditative practice of Kundalini—may be more appropriate.

Pitta types tend to be dynamic, determined and assertive. When out of balance, they tend to be competitive and stubborn. As a result, they’re more suited to a calming practice to work more on their minds. Pitta types have strong energy, warm and oily skin and a strong appetite. They suffer the most from exposure to heat, thus, Yin yoga and meditation work best for these athletic types.

Kapha types tend to be drawn towards bhakti yoga, and devotional practices, only taking up asanas if necessary for health. They’re emotional types with strong, steady feelings. Kaphas are calm, loyal and find it difficult to let go. They tend to hold weight and water onto their frames, with thick damp skin and supple joints. Despite possessing the strongest build and reserve of vital energy, Kapha types can need flowing practices to stimulate tapas (drive) to get them up and going. They often lack the motivation to maintain a continual practice.

Generally, our constitution remains the same throughout life.

However, exceptional factors such as on going illness can change it—particularly if you are a dual type. Sometimes, our constitution changes with the stages of life, which is different to experiencing another dosha during a change of season. The change in seasons most certainly should guide your practice also.

However, this opens up a whole other realm of Ayurveda and it’s relationship to Yoga.

Still interested? Here is some recommended reading:

Prakriti – Dr. Robert Svoboda

Ayurvedic Healing – Dr David Frawley

Yoga For Your Type – Dr David Frawley


 Amy Landry is a devoted Aussie Vinyasa and Purna yoga instructor, Lifestyle Coach, Personal Trainer, Philanthropist, Foodie, Blogger, Tea Drinker, Cat Lover and Ayurveda Dork.


Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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