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Considered the sister science to yoga, Ayurveda focuses on the well-being of the entire body. It’s a full-spectrum alternative medicine founded in India over 5,000 years ago which ascribes every person as having a specific constitution.

Ayurveda looks at body, mind and spirit together with each of us having our own sets of strengths and weaknesses. A person’s constitution reflects their unique combination of physical, mental and emotional qualities. A person’s constitution is determined at conception and remains the same throughout one’s life, but various factors can disrupt the desired flow of energy and bring a person out of balance. 

When followed correctly, the principles of Ayurveda help to restore one to balance, bringing a person back to the harmonious way in which they were divinely designed to flow.

A Deeper Understanding Of Ayurveda & The Three Doshas

There are three unique constitutions, which are more commonly known as Doshas.

The word dosha is a Sanskrit term used to describe the different energy types that people possess.

Everyone is tri-dosha, meaning they have elements of each dosha, and at the same time, they have a dominant dosha or pairing of doshas which describes their unique being.

Vata

Vata is the air element, light and floaty. Vata controls many movements in the body, like breathing, muscle movement, heartbeat. To balance Vata, exercises like slow and even breathwork, easy walking and low-key yoga are best.

Since Vata is usually fast moving, we want to downshift our efforts and allow more ease.

Because when it’s in balance, Vata is flexible, creative and inspired. But when it is rocked out of balance, Vata shows up in the body and psyche as anxiety and fear.

Pitta 

Pitta is the fire element, spicy and strong. Like the fire in the belly, Pitta controls the digestive fire or “agni”, and also regulates metabolism and body temperature. When in balance, Pitta is conscious awareness, the ability to understand.

When the balance is rocked, that imbalance shows up as being quick to anger and feel jealousy.

Because Pitta is the fire, exercises to release the heat are best. Balance Pitta with aerobic exercise and yoga, as well as cooling breathwork like sitali breathing - where you curl your tongue and breathe through it like a straw.

If your tongue doesn’t curl, just make an “o” with your lips like you’re blowing out a candle and breathe in and out.

Kapha

Kapha is the earth element. Slower to react and more deliberate in their thoughts, Kapha controls the bones, muscles, tendons as well as provides the means to hydrate and lubricate the body.

Kapha constitutions respond well to balancing breath work like alternate nostril breathing (inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other), cardiovascular exercise and lots of sleep.

In balance, Kapha is expressed as metta or loving awareness. When out of balance, it can show up as greedy, lazy or hard to motivate.

The goal in knowing about the doshas is to keep ourselves in balance. The first step to discern your unique dosha and explore pathways back to balance. For a fiery pitta, that might mean slowing down and eating cooling foods. For a lounging Kapha, it could be getting up early and doing a strong workout.  For more help in figuring out your dosha, take this Free Dosha Quiz.

Free Dosha Quiz

How Does Ayurveda And The Doshas Tie Into Your Yoga Practice? 

As a yogi, it’s great to explore Ayurveda as it relates to our personal rituals and routines. Being aware of your dosha can help influence which foods you take in and which poses you add to your flow. It can signal which oils to choose and gives a baseline for how you move on your mat depending on which energy needs to be balanced out. 

Helpful Practices For Vata, Pitta, Kapha

If you have predominantly vata energy, grounding poses will help put you back in balance - think mountain pose with both feet on the ground, any one of the warrior series and seated poses like paschimottasana - with your body firmly rooted on the earth. You can also weigh down the airy side with grounding foods like warm, nourishing seasonal stews and fresh-ground nut butters. Similarly, earthy, grounding and sweet essential oils are best for vata energy. Some recommended oils to root down are classic favorites like lavender, vanilla, sweet orange and cinnamon.

For a pitta yogi, everything is about stoking the flames and cooling off the fire. The qualities of pitta dosha are hot and fast moving. Yoga poses to help reign in pitta would be twists and expansive openings - think all the shapes designed to open the heart and hips and release excess heat from the body. Some examples are seated spinal twists like ardha matsyendrasana, hip openers like single leg pigeon and backbends like dhanurasana or full wheel. Sweet and cooling foods like yogurt, fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are best to reduce fire. To bring pitta into harmony using essential oils, choose oils that are both calming and cooling. Cooling mint is a favorite, like peppermint or spearmint, and vetiver, sandalwood and rose are all good choices to reduce a pitta imbalance.

With kapha’s already heavy and solid energy, an uplifting yoga practice is best to bring excess Kapha back into check. Add lightness in the practice with lots of standing and balancing poses, backbends like cobra and even inversions if they work for you. For essential oils, choose scents that are stimulating and strong to wake up the system. A selection of kapha balancing oils would be grapefruit, bergamot, eucalyptus and the class yogi favorite, patchouli. When you’re looking to nourish on the food front, light and dry foods like greens and grains help to restore balance to a kapha constitution. A leafy green smoothie or grain bowl with lentils could be a great post-practice meal. For all of the doshas, drinking warm or room-temperature water throughout the day, having a gratitude practice and regular meditation are all great ways to stay balanced. 

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE DOSHAS EBOOK

Deepen your yoga practice and inspire your yoga classes with this e-book about the ancient healing system rooted in the concept of the doshas.


Deepen your yoga practice and inspire your yoga classes with this e-book about the ancient healing system rooted in the concept of the doshas.

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Amy Dannheim
Amy Dannheim
A creative leader in the Miami yoga community, Amy Dannheim is passionate about yoga, plant-based recipes and healthy living. With her degree in journalism from the University of Florida, Amy is a yoga writer and blogger as well as the co-host for Radio 1Om8, a weekly live yoga radio show. After years of working with lululemon, Amy established herself as the go-to person for yoga consulting in Miami, with her finger on the pulse of the yoga community. When she’s not strategizing or cooking, Amy teaches dynamic vinyasa yoga classes that are layered with hip-hop and spirituality, drawing inspiration from her frequent travels. Amy sits on the Green Monkey Yoga teacher training faculty and leads regular workshops and innovative events throughout South Florida. Amy is also a VitaCoco and Funky Yoga ambassador and has appeared on the pages of Wall Street Journal, on lululemon.com and shape.com. She lives in Miami Beach with her husband and fellow yogi, Mike, where they run their bike centric community & clothing company Purdy Ave. Follow her blog at www.miamyyoga.com or find her adventures on Instagram @miamy.