As a yoga teacher, your main goal is to help your students. If you truly want to teach them yoga that will benefit their well-being, you must incorporate the wisdom of Ayurveda. Without it, yoga can be more harmful than helpful and actually cause physical and mental imbalance. This becomes especially true if you ignore nature’s seasonal manifestations.
Ayurveda explains that whatever exists within nature also exists within each of us. Our minds and bodies are greatly affected by each season. Without adjusting our lifestyles accordingly, we can easily become imbalanced and disease can manifest.
This is where Ayurveda’s wisdom of the ritucharya, or seasonal routine, comes into play. Ayurveda teaches that like increases like, and the ritucharya brings balance to each season’s accumulated or aggravated dosha (energy principle) by using the principle of opposites.
You can apply ritucharya to your yoga classes to help students balance the effects of nature and feel their best. Below you’ll find seasonal yoga recommendations that will help to counteract any given season’s inherent qualities.
These recommendations are generalized, and they will likely vary with your local climate. Adopt an ongoing mindfulness of the nature around you so you can structure your classes accordingly.
Spring shares many traits of the kapha (water and earth) dosha: the atmosphere is moist, the air is cool, and the general energy is soft, heavy, and slow. Because like increases like, this is the time of year when kapha tends to get aggravated.
Be aware that although spring is generally a kapha season, it’s also a period of transition. Some days might take on more vata (air and space) or pitta (fire and water) qualities.
|Class Tone||Energetic, vigorous, challenging, playful, and expansive|
|Surya Namaskar||Energetic and fast-paced|
|Asanas||• Poses that focus on the abdomen, chest, and upper back
• Warrior series, chest openers, and backbends
• Bridge, Shoulderstand, Lion pose, Fish pose, Peacock pose, Cobra
• Less rest between poses
|Savasana||Shorter rest with a bolster under the upper torso to open the heart|
|Pranayama||Kapalabhati, surya bhedana, and bhastrika|
Summer and pitta, the fire dosha, share many of the same traits: heat, transformation, and moistness or humidity. Depending where you live, the pitta season might even continue through early fall. It’s important to keep the mind and body cool and calm in the summer so that pitta stays in balance.
|Class Tone||Cooling, light-hearted, focused on inner awareness rather than competition, less attention to perfection of alignment|
|Surya Namaskar||Moderate pace|
|Asanas||• Poses that focus on the navel region and solar plexus
• Spinal twists and forward bends
• Cobra pose, Half Lord of the Fishes, Seated Forward Bend, Shoulderstand, Plow pose, Child’s pose
• Shorter holds in headstand
|Pranayama||Sheetali or sheetkari|
During fall, the weather takes on distinctively vata qualities. The atmosphere is cool, dry, windy, erratic, and clear. Vata tends to be aggravated during fall and early winter, but the right yoga practice can help immensely to keep vata balanced.
|Class Tone||Calming, gentle, grounding, fluid, stable|
|Surya Namaskar||Slow, gentle, and relaxed|
|Asanas||• Poses that focus on the colon and pelvis
• Balancing and seated poses
• Tree pose, Mountain pose, Thunderbolt pose, Wind Releasing pose, Garland pose, Child’s pose
• Shorter holds in warrior poses
• Avoid jumping and big backbends
|Savasana||Longer rest, covered with a blanket to stay warm|
|Pranayama||Soft and gentle ujjayi, anuloma viloma, and nadi shodhana|
Winter generally takes on characteristics of kapha. The weather is cold and often moist with rain or snow. There’s a sense of heaviness which we feel in winter’s dark and cloudy days. Even the animals take on a kapha nature, as they slow their entire systems down and go into hibernation.
However, winter can also take on characteristics of the vata dosha. In some places, winters can be very cold, dry, and windy.
When teaching yoga during winter, be mindful of the weather, your own energy, and the energy of your students. Try to understand if it’s kapha or vata that needs to be brought back into balance.
|Class Tone||• Kapha: expansive and energetic
• Vata: calming and grounding
|Surya Namaskar||• Kapha: energetic and quick pace
• Vata: slow and gentle
|Asanas||Warrior series, Bridge pose, Cobra pose, Bow pose, Fish pose|
|Savasana||• Kapha: shorter rest with a bolster under the upper torso to open the heart
• Vata: a longer rest
|Pranayama||• Kapha: kapalabhati, surya bhedana or bhastrika
• Vata: anuloma viloma
Reference: Stiles, Mukunda. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2007.