Yoga & Ayurveda

Ayurveda, which means “knowledge of life”, is one of the sister traditions of yoga in ancient indian healing. It’s based on the belief that keeping the body and mind balanced requires a unique way of eating and practicing yoga which is in tune with your “dosha” or body type.

There are three doshas wich are vata, pitta, and kapha and according to the traditions of Ayurveda we are all made up of some combination of these. Because each person is a unique combination of the doshas and in a unique stage of their life (the dosha combinations are also affected by the environment, your age, seasons, diet etc) the diet and style of yoga best suited for each person is different.

The three doshas are usually described in terms of the qualities they possess and the elements of earth to which they relate. Vata is all about air and ether and wind. It’s supposed to be light and dry and cool. Pitta is fire and water and it’s hot and light. Kapha is earth and water which make it heavy and cool and moist. The doshas all change and fluctuate constantly and whenever they are out of balance (either in lack or excess) is when disease begins to show up in the body.

For example if there is an excess of vata it usually leads to diseases of the nervous system, immune system, or joints. An out of balance pitta will show up as problems with the thyroid, blood, skin, and eyes. Kapha in excess will usually be an issue with the stomach or lungs and possibly a metabolism or swelling condition.

Each of the doshas have specific types of foods and a certain type of yoga that will “pacify” them. Vata is meant to eat foods that calm their anxiety and overactivity such as warm foods, dairy, and fats and oils. Sweet, sour, and salty foods are best for vata. Vata is also supposed to do yoga poses that are really grounding and help balance a vata dosha. Also any poses that help with lower back pain are particularly good for vata. Lotus pose, Corpse pose, and Hero pose are recommended for vata.

Pitta is meant to eat foods that are sweet, pungent, and bitter. Food should be served at cool temperatures (but not ice cold) and the fats and oils in them should be limited along with the salt. The best poses for pitta are poses that are calming and relaxing as well as those that are focused on the naval or solar plexus region. Camel pose, Cobra post, and Bow pose are very helpful here.

Kapha is best served by foods that are astringent, bitter, and pungent as well as foods that are dry and warm and have a minimal amount of fats and oils. Kapha does best with poses that open up the chest and create balance. Poses such as Bridge Pose, Sun Salutation, and Downward Facing Dog do particularly well for this dosha.

The idea with the doshas is to “satisfy” them by creating balance with foods, environments, and lifestyle conditions that ease the excess of that dosha. This practice moves into many areas such as interior design, color clothing choices, cities you might live in, music you listen to, and so forth. It’s certainly not limited simply to yoga and dietary choice but these are the two that commonly go hand in hand with each other - as they are part of the Eight Limbs of the Yoga tradition.

All the doshas benefit from yoga and mediation however, as well as from basic healthy lifestyle practices such as drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep. When studied and correctly applied the art and science of Ayurveda can be extremely beneficial as a way to deepen your yoga practice and improve your overall health.