AYURVEDA AND ASANA
Using yoga to heal body, mind and spirit based on your unique body constitution (dosha)
Written by Alan Finger and Mona Anand
Using Ishta Yoga, where we highly emphasise on the unique individuality of each person, their body constitution ("dosha"), mental patterns and imbalances in the body, we learn to individualise our yoga physical posture ("asana") practice, using our knowledge of Ayurveda to rebalance our bodies to the way that we are meant to be, thus healing and preventing it from sickness.
The asanas needed for each person vary based on our individual constitution ("dosha") and any temporal imbalances. When there is an imbalance and stress, the body and systems contract and tighten blocking the flow of nutrients and the elimination of toxins to and from the tissues and cells. These physical blocks combined with mental and emotional blocks, often lead to disease either in the short term or in the longer term.
By directing physical posture work towards a particular blocked area, we remove toxins, improve blood circulation and energy flow into that area. The healing takes place by using certain postures to direct energy ("prana") into certain parts of the body. As it is the prana that has the healing effect, and not the pose itself, we need to link the breath to the movement and direct our attention to the area we are working to balance as the healing energy follows our awareness with the control of our mind and movement.
Most importantly, our approach or intention toward our practice contributes to and has a much more powerful effect on dosha imbalances than the asanas themselves. On the mat and off the mat, we become much more aware of our patterns and how we can use our practice to bring us back into balance.
How to detect dosha imbalances ("vikriti")?
A. Breath awareness
Pitta (Fire) Imbalance - the breath is strong and pressing into the sides of the rib cage and upward. The inhale and exhale will be the same length and forceful. The breath presses into the sides of the rib cage because there is tension in the diaphragm which prevents it from descending into the abdomen, thus creating excess heat and a forced breathing pattern.
Remedy: soften the breath, add pauses at the top of the inhale and bottom of the exhale without farcing the pause, breathe in the side ribs with even pressure upwards and downwards
Vata (Adrenalin) Imbalance - the inhale is longer than the exhale, the breath is shallow to the chest, fast and more erratic
Remedy: lengthen the exhale so that it matches the inhale, deepen the breath into the belly/abdomen, slow the breath down, soften the belly (if you are sitting or standing, the 2 upper sets of abdominal muscles are to be softened; if you are lying down, soften the entire abdomen); lying down is easier
Kapha (Heaviness) Imbalance - the exhale is longer than the inhale, the breath is deep into the belly/abdomen and slow
Remedy: lengthen the inhale so that it matches the exhale, energise the breath by shortening the pauses at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale; firm the abdomen at the bottom of the exhale and keep it semi firm on the inhale
B. State of the Mind
Pitta Imbalance - trying too hard to focus; irritable and agitated easily; seeking perfection on and off the mat
Remedy using approach to yoga asana practice: need to use a gentle approach to practise, set intention to soften in the poses and not push yourself too much and excessively; constantly check in with yourself to see if your practice is leading you towards more balance/calmness and less irritation or more aggravation. Learn to let go of perfection and overemphasis on performance and posture accuracy and strength and not be too harsh on yourself on judging your performance of lack of performance for the day.
Vata Imbalance - feeling the need to move constantly, restlessness of the body and mind; cannot stay still; not feeling grounded; feeling anxious and fearful; mind is jumping from item to item rapidly, having trouble following through with execution of work and ideas; trouble focusing the mind
Remedy: slow movements with pauses in between; long deep slow breaths with movements in synchrony to slow down movements; more listening to the breaths, focusing the mind using the breath and body alignment as an anchor; deepening the breath into the abdomen; maintaining a slow and steady pace of flowing movements; more grounding exercises
Kapha Imbalance - feeling very comfortable staying still; not wanting to move; feeling inertia of action; not wanting change; lethargy; laziness; sloth; body feeling heavy and lumpy; not feeling motivated or inspired to do more; resistance to work and more stimulation; depressed; not wanting to be bothered to put in energy and effort into focusing the mind
Remedy: fast movements, more rigorous flow and action to create fire to burn excess Kapha; more pushy instructor/coach/teacher to motivate more effort and movement; group class setting; more rajasic practice with more vinyasa flow; more energising movements