Using the wisdom of yoga’s sister science Ayurveda, you can teach classes that are harmonious with nature’s daily energetic ebbs and flows. This is knowledge that every yoga teacher needs to understand, not only for the benefit of their students, but for their own practice as well.
Ayurveda explains that nature profoundly influences our bodies and minds. Good health is only possible if we are in sync with nature.
Correspondingly, a yoga practice that is out of sync with nature’s daily rhythms can lead us to disharmony and disease. Make sure that you’re leading your students toward health and balance rather than the other way around.
To harmonize with nature’s daily ebbs and flows, you need to understand the basics of the doshas, or subtle energies. There are three doshas, each comprising two of the five elements.
The doshas reside within us and also exist in all of nature. They even influence the day, becoming dominant during two, four-hour periods:
|Time of Day||Hours||Dominant Dosha|
|Early morning||2 – 6 a.m.||Vata|
|Morning||6 – 10 a.m.||Kapha|
|Midday||10 a.m. – 2 p.m.||Pitta|
|Afternoon||2 – 6 p.m.||Vata|
|Evening||6 – 10 p.m.||Kapha|
|Night||10 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Pitta|
The doshas impose their subtle energies on the quality of the day during their period of domination. Using this knowledge, you can teach yoga classes that help balance the doshas’ inherent qualities.
Ideally, yoga would be taught on an individual basis according to each student’s dosha, their imbalances, the time of day, and the season. (Read What Every Yoga Teacher Needs to Know About Seasonal Yoga to learn how to balance yoga classes according to season.) But that’s rarely possible in modern yoga. Since we usually teach large group classes, we’ll have to make some generalizations.
Let’s begin with the morning hours: 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. During this time, kapha inflicts its slow and heavy qualities on the day and our bodies. This is the best time to teach a vigorous, energetic practice that mitigates kapha’s sluggish effects. Lead your students through energetic Sun Salutations and playful, challenging asanas.
Incorporate postures, like Bridge and Fish, that focus on the chest and upper torso—kapha’s main locations. End class with a shorter rest in Savasana, though never too short, and give students the option to place a bolster under their upper chest for a heart-opening experience. Pranayama practices like kapalabhati (skull-shining breath) and bhastrika (bellows breath) are excellent for invigorating mind and body, as well as balancing kapha.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we’re in pitta time. When this dosha is too high or out of balance, pitta tends to cause not only excess heat, but also aggressiveness, anger, and a competitive nature. Much of modern yoga is inherently pitta-aggravating, so teachers should be especially cautious during the pitta hours. Help students keep cool by turning the heat down or off. Teach a light-hearted, cooling class with less focus on precision of alignment, and more focus on inner awareness.
Incorporate poses that spotlight the navel like spinal twists and forward bends. Headstand is a particularly heating posture, so either skip it or keep the hold very short. End the practice with sheetali (cooling breath) or sheetkari (hissing breath) pranayama to cool down any acquired heat.
In the late afternoon, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., we enter vata time. In excess, vata can lead to anxiety, nervousness, and fear, so this dosha naturally benefits from calming, grounding practices. Pitta and kapha types can probably handle something more vigorous during these hours, but teachers must heed to all students. Slow down the normal class pace a few notches. Encourage students to flow through poses as if they’re moving through honey. Remind them not to fidget during or between asanas, as movement aggravates vata.
Incorporate balancing and seated postures that focus on the colon and pelvis. Lead students through a nice long Savasana and end class with soothing anuloma viloma or nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) pranayama.
From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., we again move into kapha time. However, this is also the time of day when we should be winding things down and preparing our minds and bodies for bed. A vigorous, energetic morning kapha practice would not be appropriate in the evening. Kapalabhati, for example, can prevent sleep. In general, follow the guidelines for a vata-balancing class. The later the time, the more calming and grounding the class should be.
End with a long rest in Savasana or even better, a relaxing yoga nidra (yogic sleep) session. Incorporate soft ujjayi, anuloma viloma, or nadi shodhana pranayama—all of which are great pre-bedtime practices.
By harmonizing yoga classes to the rhythms of each day, your students can literally practice yoga in sync with the universe. They will experience greater internal balance and a healthier body and mind.