Movement is essential for everyone, notwithstanding one’s makeup of doshas. Movement increases circulation, drains lymphatic congestion, helps us expel toxins, nourishes the heart and lungs, perks up our metabolism, and stabilizes moods by releasing happy chemicals. Did you know the same chemical cocktail found in antidepressants automatically surges through our body when we exercise?
The body is flooded with endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine as our heart beat and breath flows. The positive feeling of exercise is similar to morphine. If exercise is an unattractive word for you, don’t think of it as exercise. Think of it as an activity or a hobby. Exercising doesn’t have to be a laborious event that involves a gym membership or barbells. Basic movement such as walking, swimming, biking, and of course, yoga are good for all three doshas.
Various activities will affect the doshas in different ways. Just as food can be medicine for someone and poison for someone else, a certain activity can be conducive for someone, but potentially injurious for someone else. For example, cross-fit might be totally fine for a 28-year old Kapha, but completely ill-suited for a 52-year old Vata.
Activities/Exercises Based On Your Doshas
1. Activities For Vata Dosha
Vata body types should minimize activities that amplify speed or create a pounding effect of the joints. This is because Vatas are already quick and tend to have a more delicate frame. Vata types may gravitate towards running, but running can create an imbalance because quick plus quick, equals quicker. You recall that we encourage more of the opposite to create balance. Vata types do well with grounding activities such as yoga, hiking, tai chi, and lightweight lifting. Lightweight lifting is especially important for people with a Vata constitution in the Vata stage of life (50 years of age and older). We all lose bone density as we age, and the bone structure of Vata Dosha is already slight so they should strengthen their muscles. This is effective for bones to grow stronger to support stronger muscles. Vata types should take care not to overdo it. Something like cross-fit would not be advisable for a Vata body type because it is load-bearing and extreme for their slight frames.
2. Activities For Pitta Dosha
Pitta types will feel most attracted to competitive sports, but highly competitive sports will aggravate a Pitta person because the heat of the competition will exaggerate his natural tendency to push himself towards perfectionism and triumph. Most likely, if you are a Pitta, you are goal-oriented all day long. You thrive off productivity and perfectionism in your working life. Your form of exercise should balance out your magnetic tendencies towards hard work and acquiring accolades. Thrusting yourself into a competitive sport after a hard day’s work would be like drinking tabasco because you ate too many hot wings. We are looking for balance in order to feel our best. People with a Pitta constitution should do activities that are fun, lighthearted, cool, and calm. Yoga, kayaking, paddle boarding, skiing, surfing, and swimming are some of the best activities for Pittas. Why? Because what puts out fire better than water? The tranquility of nature and waterscapes will escort Pittas into a contented and refreshed state of mind.
3. Activities For Kapha Dosha
Kapha types are strong and have endurance. Picture an NFL quarterback – Kapha. Some Kaphas may be resistant towards exercise because their slow, heavy, and dull qualities can gravitate more towards a couch, but it is essential to move. Kaphas are strong; they do well with more demanding activities such as long-distance or high-intensity bike rides or runs. Kaphas can handle cross-fit and do well with feisty activities like wrestling, kickboxing, and martial arts. The emotional current of Kapha is sweet and calm, so the readiness and vigor required for contact sports illicit a balancing effect for Kapha Dosha.
Note: Spirited activities like bowling, horseback riding, golfing, and such are safe for everyone. Just make sure the environment is not too hot or too cold (extreme conditions provoke imbalances).
Yoga provides us with a wide variety of movements and poses that can be performed to immaculately compliment each of our unique blueprints. Yoga has been around for thousands of years – common in the US since the 1950s – and has gained enormous leaps in recognition and popularity in the past decade. Yoga is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. You and I both know yoga is absolutely more than an industry and could never be diluted to the notorious image of a woman in ‘downward facing dog’ or ‘lady in tree’ pose.
We know yoga is not something we do, yoga is a lifestyle. When we refer to yoga in a Western context, we are usually speaking of asanas or postures. These physical poses help to strengthen, tone, lengthen, fortify, and preserve the body. This is vital. Yoga may also bring you peace of mind, a sense of creativity, and connection.
Connection Between Yoga And Ayurveda
As you may recall, the word “yoga” means union. The essence is to unite with your “True Nature”. As you can see, the paramount theme of yoga at its core is the same as Ayurveda – to return to your true nature. Yoga and Ayurveda share themes and principles; Yoga is Ayurveda’s sister science. Yoga is fantastic for everyone because there are a variety of styles and poses that can be selected, adapted, and modified to compliment everyone’s mind-body constitution.
As a yoga teacher, people often ask, “How long did it take you to learn that?”, or “How did you get so flexible?” I must admit, much of my flexibility and aptitude for asanas came naturally to me. I was a dancer when I was young and both my parents are oddly flexible. However, being bendy in no way, shape, or form makes my practice better, stronger, or more advanced than anyone else’s. I went to a class this morning and the teacher Kelly said, “Now advance yogis only… Smile.” Her humor was spot on. Being able to make a particular shape does not make one “advanced”. Being able to listen to one’s body, respect one’s limitations, and have a strong willingness to grow – while staying as peaceful as possible – is far more impressive. Yoga and this journey through life are not about how impressive the container is. Whether it be the body, the house, the job, the car, the title, etc…, this journey is about the contents of the container. We use yoga and Ayurveda as tools to keep the body and mind healthy, and in doing so they are less likely to distract or detour us from our purpose. Ayurveda and yoga help us to keep our vessels capable so that we can move through the world with more agility and mastery.
If you are new to yoga, please note that yoga is not directly linked to any religious connotation. When I first started teaching, I taught in a gym where they told me, “Don’t chant ‘OM’ because it scares people and this isn’t a church or anything.” I found that slightly humorous. I respected their wishes and vowed to help educate them as time progressed.
Like Ayurveda, yoga was born in ancient India under the umbrella of Hinduism, but practicing yoga does not require you to accept or subscribe to any particular belief system. By keeping your doshas in balance and by being a yogini (a female yogi), you are not obligated to pray, step into a temple, learn about various Gods, chant songs, or do anything that you are no fully comfortable with. Ayurveda and yoga are tools we put into our tool boxes. Our toolbox is like a treasure chest of ideas, applications, and essentials that help us feel good and function from a place of reverberating wellness.
You may recall the moment you initially googled a yoga studio, checked out a yoga website, and walked into your first yoga class. You were introduced to foreign words like namaste, vinyasa, hatha, yin, and other terms that may have caused your brain to illuminate with question marks. As you invested more time into your practice, these terms became familiar and relevant.
I’m sure we share a fondness for the term ‘Namaste’. Namaste means “the light within me honors, respects, and supports the light in you”. How sweet is that? Essentially, it expresses that I see you, I respect you, and I appreciate you. If it makes you feel more comfortable, think of it as Aloha. Remember, the two autistic girls I mentioned earlier? I guide these sweet girls and their mother through yogic breathing, chants, and poses every-other week. One day – at the end of the practice – I brought my hands to prayer and said, “Namaste”. Alexa – the younger sister – immediately responded in complete reverence, “Aloha”, as she too, placed her hands over her heart. She gets it.
In case you are newer to the yoga practice – study primarily at home or in a studio that offers one specific style of yoga – you may be curious as to what else is out there. I’m providing a brief description of popular styles of yoga so that you can navigate your way into a studio or a class that promotes the experience you may be seeking.
8 Forms Of Yoga
1. Hatha Yoga
The original form of physical yoga (Asana) is called Hatha, meaning sun-moon. Hatha yoga balances our masculine and feminine qualities. This translates to making us both strong and active, yet also flexible and calm. Traditionally, Ayurveda speaks of hatha yoga as a “chikitsa” or treatment for many physical and mental imbalances. If you are new, or just want a ‘feel good class’, this is a great choice.
2. Vinyasa Yoga
It means “to place in a special way”. The sequencing takes hatha yoga postures and layers the breath and movement together to create a flow. This is a fun experience if you are in the mood to express yourself with your body. I find it to be a feel like a dance.
3. Gentle/Basic Yoga
This style is geared towards beginners. The classes are thorough, slow, and descriptive. Novice and veteran yogis benefit from gentle and basic classes. These classes provide a safe and supportive space for newbies to get their toes wet and a great environment for experienced practitioners to revisit and fortify their foundation.
4. Yin/Restorative Yoga
The postures are seated and held for longer durations of time (1–5 minutes). Props such as blocks, blankets, and straps are often utilized to provide support and comfort. The approach is therapeutic. As we touched on earlier, yin and yang are concepts from Chinese Medicine; Ayurveda shares the same thought process.
Yin is the perfect counterbalance to yang. Yin is feminine, lunar, and passive. Yang is masculine, solar, and active. Regardless of our gender and dosha, we all live yang lives because yang is the function of doing; as it seems modern times are times of doing. If you are on the go, you are in a yang state. If you are stressed, you are in a yang state. Almost all activities are yang. Yang is the ‘DO’ aspect of life, Yin is the ‘BE’ aspect of life. With that said, yin is suitable and medicinal for everyone. I’d recommend you to try it if you haven’t already. The benefits of yin yoga enlist a similar effect as a glass of wine (no joke). According to the Yin/Yang principle as applied to food and substances, wine is an expanding or yin substance. That is why drinking wine elicits relaxation.
5. Power/Hot Yoga
This style produces heat and vigor. Power builds strength and stamina. Theses classes tend to be relatively intense. If you are an athlete, you probably gravitate towards this style because you are wired to be up for the challenge. The heat helps loosen stiff muscles.
Note: Balance Power classes with Yin.
6. Ashtanga Yoga
The original Vinyasa. The primary sequence is designed to bring you endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. The sequencing is physically demanding; Ashtanga places a predominate emphasis on breath. Ashtanga is nice because it is the same sequence every time. Your muscles will start to memorize the sequences so you can keep your mind out of it and give attention to your breathing. This style can turn into a moving meditation.
7. Bikram Yoga
26 postures done in a heated room under strict direction is Bikram yoga. The sequencing opens the body and creates a balanced muscular-skeletal system. Bikram is unique that you can do it in NYC, LA, or Maui, and it will be the same exact 26 postures. All Bikram teachers are trained under uniform guidelines, so they all use similar language and cuing.
8. Kundalini Yoga
From the Tantra school of Yoga – Kundalini uses pose, breath, meditation, and chanting to awaken the “Kundalini” energy housed in the spine. The practice accesses the nerves system, glands, and chakras. Some practitioners call this style “the yoga of awareness”.
Within these styles, there is plenty of diversity. Yoga is not a one note song. Experiment. Try different studios and videos until you find what best suits you. You may notice that you gravitate towards a particular teacher more than a particular style. If your teacher is knowledgeable, he or she can make almost any style pleasant for you by offering modifications and adjustments. The intention and energy of the teacher will color your experience; finding someone you resonate with will favor your experience. If your interest for yoga has been peaked, search for a local studio, then stop in and scope out the vibe. Online yoga is available through various sites.
The Most Suitable Yoga Style For Your Dosha
1. Vata Dosha
The most suitable styles of yoga for vata types are hatha, yin, gentle, restorative, and Bikram. These classes offer a steady pace or slow rhythm. Bikram is good for vata because vata dosha is cold and Bikram is done in a heated room. This will create balance.
2. Pitta Dosha
Yoga styles that compliment pitta dosha are hatha, vinyasa flow (in AC, not hot), yin, restorative, and ashtanga. Yin and restorative will help pittas distress, while hatha, vinyasa, and ashtanga will appease pitta’s natural athletic traits. Pittas should take caution in taking too many hot classes, particularly in summers.
3. Kapha Dosha
The best yoga styles for kapha dosha are power, hot, Bikram, ashtanga, and vinyasa. These styles will incorporate sufficient movement and heat to break up the sedentary and cold qualities of kapha dosha.
Note: Kundalini Yoga would be good for anyone who feels compelled to practice it. Vata types will likely experience the waves of energy easily because they are sensitive. They should have a grounded and knowledgeable teacher there for support.