Yoga and ayurveda are two inter-related practices that originated in India thousands of years ago. Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit and ayurveda means “the wisdom of life”. When practiced together, these complementary practices help us to achieve better health and vitality. Yoga and ayurveda are two paths interconnected in a close relationship. Ayurveda is the ancient art and science of keeping the body and mind healthy and balanced. Yoga is the ancient practice of preparing the body and mind for the eventual liberation and enlightenment of the soul.
Ayurveda enables us to be in harmony with nature. Its lifestyle-based and diet-based prescriptions are meant to help us sync with our true nature. Ayurveda offers specific lifestyle, dietary, herbal, and yogic solutions that eliminate tension and helps build a foundation for peace of mind.
What Are Doshas?
According to ayurveda, the universal life force manifests itself as three different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Each dosha commands a specific force in the body and is associated with certain sensory qualities. The five elements – earth, fire, water, air, and space (ether) – condense to constitute the three doshas, or energy forces of the body. The three doshas and their associated elements, which exist within all of us are:
- Vata (space and air)
- Pitta (fire and water)
- Kapha (water and earth)
“Doshas” in ayurveda refer to our unique physical and mental constitution, which influence your personal well-being. Each person has their own dominant dosha or combination of two or three of these elemental forces. Knowing yours can help you maintain balance through seasonal changes for health and peace of mind.
A person with excessive vata is usually an insomniac, restless, or anxious. Vata imbalance can also manifest as low-back and hip tension, gas or constipation, and a cold feeling. Vata energy complexity is ruled by the elements air and space. It is the principle of kinetic energy in the body that mainly concerns the nervous system, and controls all body movement. At the cellular level, vata moves nutrients into the cells and wastes out of the cells.
Vata is the most likely of the doshas to slip out of balance in any season. It is especially prone to aggravation during late fall and early winter. This the time when Nature delivers an abundance of vata-like qualities in the form of gusty winds, cool temperatures, and dry air.
Yoga To Balance Vata Dosha
By practicing yoga, persons with vata dosha will greatly benefit and balance from a grounding, calm, and contemplative practice. As vatas are likely to be unpredictable with daily activities, it is best if they include Yoga in their routine. It must be practiced at a specific time of the day at certain days of the week.
Yoga poses that focus on the colon (the bodily seat of vata), intestines, pelvis, lumbar spine, and sacroiliac balance vata by channeling energy back down into the base of the torso. Surya namaskar (sun salutations) should be performed slowly. It is also balancing to include twists, forward bends, and calming inversions. Since grounding is important for vata types, one must practice standing poses like tadasana (mountain pose), virabhadrasanas (warrior poses), and vrikshasana (tree pose). Because of vata’s hyperactivity, it is most balancing to practice savasana (corpse pose) for more than 15 minutes.
Diet To Balance Vata Dosha
To maintain the vata dosha, consume foods that are sweet, sour and salty. Avoid bitter, pungent, and astringent foods. All dairy products help pacify vata. Ensure that you consume only boiled milk and drink it warm with a pinch of cardamom or dry ginger in it.
Consume sweet and sour fruits such as oranges, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapples, mangos, and papayas. Eat vegetables that are cooked and reduce raw salads. Beets, carrots, asparagus, and sweet potatoes are some vegetables that help balance vata dosha. Spices that pacifying vata include cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, and black pepper.
A pitta imbalance manifests as acid indigestion, acne, bloodshot eyes, agitation, or a short temper. Persons with pitta imbalance may feel hot, jealous, and obsessed with perfection. This dosha is ruled by the elements fire and water. Pitta is mainly associated with digestion, the enzymatic and endocrine systems. Its function is the digestion of nutrients being transformed into energy for cellular function. Though is more closely related to the fire element, the liquid nature of the substances it transfers and metabolizes makes up the water element.
During summer, as the heat increases, we become prone to accumulating excess pitta. If we already have a pitta prakriti (nature), we’re at an even higher risk of imbalance.
Yoga To Balance Pitta Dosha
As pitta types are overly heated and drawn mostly to physically demanding postures, they benefit the most by practicing a cooling, heart-opening, and a non-competitive class. As the focus should be on the abdominal area, yoga poses like ardha matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose) is quite balancing. All standing forward bends and heart opening poses, such as dhanurasana (bow pose) and bhujangasana (cobra pose) help reduce pitta.
Diet To Balance Pitta Dosha
Dairy products such as milk, butter, and ghee are good for pacifying pitta dosha. But, reduce the intake of yogurt, cheese, sour cream and cultured buttermilk as their sour taste can aggravate the pitta dosha. All sweeteners can be consumed, except honey and molasses. Consider using olive oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil. Sesame, almond, and corn oil must be avoided as they increase pitta.
Eat sweet fruits like grapes, cherries, melons, avocados, pomegranates, mangos, pineapples, and plums. Avoid sour fruits such as grapefruits, olives, papayas, and unripe oranges, pineapples, and plums. Eating asparagus, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, green beans, and zucchini can help balance pitta dosha. But, avoid eating hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, radishes, and spinach. Spices such as cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, and fennel are good when consumed in moderate quantities. Spices such as ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, clove, celery seed, salt, and mustard seed must be consumed in small quantities. Avoid chili peppers and cayenne.
Excessive kapha leads to congestion, weight gain, water retention, lack of motivation, clouded thoughts, lethargy, possessiveness, and stubbornness. Kapha dosha is ruled by the elements earth and water. The energy of building and lubrication provides the body with physical form, structure, and the smooth functioning of all its organs. Kapha can be thought of as the glue that binds the body together. At the cellular level, it is the force that governs the cell’s structure.
Excessive kapha in the body occurs due to a heavy diet, lack of exercise, and excess sleep throughout the long winter, as the energy in nature begins to shift and lighten.
Yoga To Balance Kapha Dosha
Yoga poses that are challenging, warming and vigorous are the most beneficial for those who want to balance an overstimulated kapha dosha. Such persons should focus on the abdominal region and practice asanas, which open the chest area. Most back bends like shalabhasana (locust pose) and ustrasana (camel pose) are helpful asanas that balance kapha dosha. Poses such as handstand, headstand, shoulder stand and dhanurasana (bow pose) are main kapha reducers. Surya namaskar (sun salutations) should also be regularly practiced. Jumping during transitions is recommended to develop stamina for a lethargic kapha. Shavasana (corpse pose) must be of shorter duration.
Diet To Balance Kapha Dosha
To maintain the kapha dosha, consume only low-fat milk and always drink boiled warm milk. Adding a pinch of turmeric or ginger to whole milk before boiling it helps reduce its kapha-increasing qualities. Consume fruits such as apples and pears, but avoid heavy or sour fruits like oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocados, coconuts and melons. For sweeteners, use honey instead of sugar.
Most grains are good to balance kapha, especially barley and millet. Avoid too much wheat or rice, as they increase kapha. Almost all spices are fine, except salt as it increases kapha. Consume all vegetables except tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and zucchini.