According to Ayurvedic principles, the entire universe is an interplay of the five elements—ether, air, fire, water and earth.
Ayurveda further categorizes the five elements into three basic types of energy called vata, pitta, and kapha doshas. The doshas represent cellular organization, when that cellular organization is disturbed, the body and mind are out-of-balance. Knowing our dosha can help us understand what food we need to eat, the type of yoga we need to practice, and the sort of lifestyle that is best suited for our constitution.
Each dosha is governed by your prakruti and vikruti. Prakruti is an ayurvedic term used to describe a person’s genetic composition. Vikruti is a term used in ayurveda to describe a persons current physical and mental state. Your vikruti is influenced by your current lifestyle and can change depending on your diet, your yoga practice and surroundings. Knowing your prakruti (doshic makeup at birth) and your vikruti (current doshic makeup) can help guide you in your personal journey towards health and wellness.
So how does your personal dosha govern the type of yoga you practice?
If you are a vata type, then you are governed by ether and air. You will be prone to constantly move and shift gears, can have a hard time sitting still and focusing. They are sensitive to judgement and can feel inadequate if they are wrongly judged by others.
An out-of-balance vata can be filled with worry and anxiety, their constitution is plagued by intestinal problems and they may experience poor digestion and elimination.
Yoga grounded in stillness and focus is perfect for vata imbalances. Vata yogis should try a Yin practice or Kundalini yoga, where long holds and deep pranic vibration help settle the mind and body. They should carry rose and geranium essential oil to accompany them during shavasana (corpse pose). The scent will help ground the body and mind and further pacify the body’s vata imbalance.
If you are a pitta type, then you are comprised of fire and water elements. Your physical body will be typically muscular and lean.
On the up side, pitta types are perfectionists and natural leaders but when pitta dosha is out of-balance, look out! Metabolically, you will be prone to extreme ups and downs, you will be filled with judgement of others and negative fiery responses will rule your day.
In order to stabilize and restore balance, a pitta yogi may need an Ashtanga practice where flow (Sun Salutations) combined with grounded postures make up this rigorous discipline that will pacify your pitta imbalance. The pitta yogi should use the the principles of Ashtanga yoga to balance the physical and spiritual warrior within. Pittas should carry lavender and neroli essential oil to pacify any lingering imbalances during shavasana.
If you are a kapha type, you are governed by earth and water. Kapha lives in all the set structures of the body.
In a balanced state, kapha yogis are strong and calm, the body is solid but not overweight, the metabolism is balanced and stable, and prana flows freely. The out-of-balance kapha dosha is plagued by weight issues, the metabolism is sluggish, there is an over attachment to heavy fatty foods and the congestion and headaches can occur often.
For the kapha yogi, I recommend taking Vinyasa flow classes as a way to increase movement and bring increased prana to the body. Through movement and flow, the kapha individual will release the stagnant energy in the body and mind. Kapha yogis should carry eucalyptus with them to class. Pepper your mat with the essence of eucalyptus and take in the scent during shavasana in order to pacify any lingering stagnation.
As a side note, when you do not have the luxury of picking and choosing a yoga practice specific to your doshic needs, just move and breathe. Get on your mat daily, and I promise you alignment and balance will follow. It is that simple.
Author: Ramona Bessinger
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr