According to Ayurveda the asanas (yoga poses) have a particular effect relative to the three doshas. Just as certain foods will keep vata, pitta and kapha in or out of balance, different physical poses will pacify or disturb a dosha. However, each asana can have its effect altered by modifying the accompanying breathing. Knowing your dominant dosha will help maximize the benefits of your yoga practice. For example, knowing that you are a flighty vata and therefore focusing on grounding poses will bring harmony to both the physical and mental body. Doing backbends too quickly or forcefully can cause major vata aggravation, but performing partial backbends gently and with long, smooth breaths will help decrease excess vata that may have accumulated in the upper back and shoulders. Similarly, recognizing that a pitta constitution has shorter bones and cannot do some of the more exotic poses that a vata excels at, will allow your focus to shift to other poses where it is more needed. As a general rule, choosing those asanas from each group that are beneficial to your dosha will give a more rounded and complete practice. Follow these guidelines:
Vata: Keep the body calm, centered and relaxed, avoiding any abrupt movements. Perform each asana slowly and gently, with deep, calm breathing. Emphasize inhalation. Hold the pose without stress to develop stability.
Pitta: Focus on keeping the body cool and relaxed, surrendering into the asana to relieve tension. Exhale through the mouth if necessary to release heat. Hold the pose without overexertion and only as long as there is no strain or heat involved.
Kapha: Warm up before beginning asanas and perform them with effort, speed and focus. Take deep, rapid breaths if necessary to maintain energy. Hold the pose a little longer than is comfortable.
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