Understanding Mind-Body Type – Importance for Yoga
Previously, we discussed about the importance of understanding mind-body type at home. For every person, there is a specific yoga practice that is suitable for their body type, whether it is food, lifestyle or exercise. For example, if you are not feeling light, flexible, and clear or calm after your morning yoga exercise, then you might be aggravating your doshas and bringing “imbalance” in your mind-body.
Each of us is unique, hence, what fits others may be different from us. Lifestyle, diet and nutrition and even exercise needs individualized attention. Knowing what our body type is and consequently what works for each of individually shows us what kind of Yoga we should practice for best results. It is the overall mind body experience we seek and it is the right mind body experience which maintains us in best condition.
Yoga and Ayurveda are both rooted in Vedic traditions.
- Ayurveda is science for healing and cleaning body and mind; used for better physical health to self-realization.
- Yoga depends on a well-functioning body and mind for self-realization.
Both are well developed sciences and those interested in one, will benefit from the knowledge and experience of the other.
Understanding Mind-Body Type – Asanas
Each asana has a particular effect defined relative to the three doshas.
We can look upon different yoga asanas according to their structural ability to increase or decrease the doshas.
We can change a particular asana toward a particular doshic result. By adjusting the pace and number of repetitions, same asana for different body type can be done differently with different results. For example, Sun Salute (Surya Namaskar), when done slowly and gently will provide grounding, and reduce vata. When sun salutation is gentle, aiming for slowness, awareness, and coolness and relaxation, it can reduce pitta, but when done quickly, with heat and effort, and increasing number of repetitions and vigour, it will help reduce kapha dosha.
For people with dominating Vata dosha in their bodies, their key issues are dryness, stiffness, lack of flexibility, fluctuations of the mind and lack of stillness in body. Because they usually suffer from stiffness, they are prone to injury and joint ailments, hence they need a very gentle way of doing Yoga.
For appropriate yoga postures, they need activities that are calm, slow, steady, grounding, strengthening, and consistent – consistent – thus creating / delivering the calm stillness and flexibility.
During yoga practice, doing gentle physical activity and no rushing are strongly recommended. They need a calm space and restful attitude. Sitting postures are good, so are spinal twists and forward bends and back bends. They also need to work more on their pelvis, colon, hips, and lumbar area as these are key Vata locations. Some yoga postures recommended for Vata are lotus pose (Siddhasan), vajrasana, matseyendrasana, cobra, locust, tree pose, shavasana. Vata people should restrict movement to counter vata’s tendency of too much activity.
For Pitta, their key issues are internal heat, liver, and aggression. Hence, their appropriate yoga postures should be cooling, relaxing, surrendering, forgiving, and gentle.
They need yoga postures that bring coolness and relaxation such as relaxing breath and quiet sitting between strong asanas. Strong workouts are not recommended for Pitta as this creates more heat to their body. For example, veerasana may not be a good one for pitta people or when pitta is aggravated. Consequently, shitali pranayama, shoulder stand and plough pose, spinal twists are excellent yoga postures for Pitta. Also, postures that release tension from mid-abdomen, liver and small intestine e.g cobra, bow, boat and fish pose are also great. Forward bends are good but back bends are heating. Seated twists help clear the liver.
Pittas need feel cool, relaxed and stress free, with no feeling of competition and aggression and sharpness with their yoga practice.
For people who have dominating Kapha Dosha, their key issues are stagnation. They are prone to overweight and they may likely have metabolism issues in their bodies. Hence, they must practice stimulating, moving, warming, lightening, releasing and energising Yoga Asana.
For energising and stimulating activities, they need activities that make them sweat. For example, virabhadrasana, backward bends, and bow pose are excellent yoga postures for them as these helps in stimulating and increasing their circulation. Sitting asanas and forward bends are not recommended for them. Kapha body types should feel invigorated, warm and light. Practicing correct yoga asana makes their circulation energized, sharp and clear, and all their emotional heaviness released.
A Balancing Act – Bi-doshic and Tridoshic People
As well as the yoga practice that best suits you, that ‘goes with the grain’ so to speak, you should also pay attention to keeping balance, avoiding the common pitfalls inherent for your dosha.
And if you are a “bi-doshic” (when people have two doshas which are more prominent) or “tridoshic” (all the three doshas are in almost equal proportion and they will show up in different circumstances, as required by life at that moment) rather than a “mono-doshic”, then how and what kind of yoga practice do we do so we don’t get too anxious or create a burn out or just don’t get out of the rut! This requires a good understanding of who we are innately and remaining aware of what is going on at the moment and adjusting practices accordingly. If you are a yoga teacher, you may want to be present to what is going on with your students – what is their mind-body type (prakruti) and, what is their current imbalance, and accordingly create practices for them as individual.
To achieve the best results of working with your body through Yoga is to understand the consciousness behind it. This means that we practice yoga poses with the awareness of what these yoga poses bring to our mental and emotional states they create within us. With Ayurveda, it views the body as a manifestation of the doshas as innate intelligence of the being, which covers not only the physical body, but its totality which includes the mental, emotional and psychological energies. We highly recommend to understand your doshic body type so that you could achieve the asana potential of your body. We can help you to know about your mind-body type (prakruti) so you could understand yourself better when it comes not only to exercise but to your diet, relationships, work, career and more.
We also run 5 day Ayurveda Learning retreats. These are an intensive which fast-track you to a clear understanding of the Doshas – the mind body type. During the retreats, we learn about four main practical areas where Ayurveda can be useful to you – 1. Managing stress, 2. Getting over tiredness and increasing vitality, 3. Improving Diet and Nutrition and 4. Enhancing Emotional Intelligence with Ayurveda. You can send us your expression of interest if you would be interested in coming to next retreat.
|Key Ayurvedic Terms:|
A thousands of years old system of healing with origins in the “Vedic” culture of ancient India. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda comes from the root words “ayu”, meaning “life” or “longevity,” and “veda”, meaning “science”. Ayurveda literally translates as, “the Science of Life.”
One of three functional energies in nature: vata, pitta, and kapha. In the body, it is the unique ratio of these three “doshas” that determines an individual’s “prakruti” (constitution / mind – body type). When the doshas are present in “appropriate” quantities, they support the health and integrity of the body; when they are out of balance, they can cause illness and disease.
Prakruti (or prakriti or mind-body type) Constitution; the unique ratio of “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha” doshas established at conception and resulting in a unique set of physical, emotional, and mental tendencies, strengths, and vulnerabilities.
Kapha. One of the three “doshas” (functional energies in nature); kapha constitutes earth and water elements and governs structure and cohesiveness.
One of the three “doshas” (functional energies in nature); pitta includes mainly fire and some air and water elements, and it governs transformation.
One of the three doshas (functional energies in nature); vata includes the space and air elements and governs movement and communication.