Ayurveda and Yoga
Ayurveda is a ten thousand year old sister science of yoga. While yoga focuses on bringing together the body and spirit ayurveda works on maintaining the health and balance of both. The basis of ayurveda is the five-element theory which states that everything and everyone is the world is made up of a ration of the five elements: Space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements come together in pairs to form the Doshas which refers to our individual constitutions. That is when the true magic begins! Once you learn your constitution which can be easily acquired by consulting with an ayurvedic practitioner or in our fast paced modern age you can just google “ayurveda dosha quiz” and find an immediate response by answering a few questions about your personality, body type and health. It is important to note that during a consultation a lot more happens than just a quiz, physical examination, pulse taking and a number of other assessments are done prior to a definitive answer which is more accurate than a 5 minute quiz. Regardless of how your acquire your answers, knowing is the important part. Once you know your ratio of vata, pitta and kapha doshas you can create an individualized lifestyle that guarantees health,happiness and overall wellbeing.
Yoga is not left behind, ayurveda includes yoga in its daily routine regardless of your individual dosha. While an entire practice can be constructed based solely on your dosha, most of us have only a few minutes to spare in our daily routine. Because 10 minutes of daily yoga is always better than 2 hours of yoga once a week here is a quick guide to doshic sun salutations.
Vata is a mixture of Space and Air. Vata represents a constantly moving flow of energy. Represented by light, cold, clear qualities. A vata pacifying practice would provide grounding energy as well as heat.
Mantra- Grounding, earth, stable, heavy, I am fearless, I am at peace, I have faith.
When to use- Before during or after traveling. Use this sun salutation guide before any trips specially plane travels do a couple of rounds before getting on a place and after getting off. If you are going on a road trip or will be in a car for an extended period of time you can do a few rounds in a pit stop.
When to practice- Vata is change and movement. Weather good or bad change it is all vata increasing, which also increases dryness and coolness. Anytime vata qualities increase, in flight, long drives, winter, etc that is when a vata pacifying practice comes in handy.
How to practice- While these guides are beneficial to pacify vata, as with any yoga practice each individual can and should make adjustments to better suit their personal practice. Modify the movements as you connect into your breath and listen to your body. The practice should be done in room temperature and non-drafty space. Use comfortable clothes and have socks, blankets and bolsters available to modify and during savasana.
We start Vata Salutations in a thunderbolt variation grounding vata from the start, then go into a child’s pose where the student is instructed to find their breath and set an intention for the rest of the practice.
In thunderbolt inhale lifting the arms up, exhale step the right foot forward and press the palms to the floor framing the right foot to lunge.
Inhale tilt the hips back and straighten the right knee into a forward fold. (Use blocks if needed and pad the knees for joint support) Inhale back to lunge and repeat for 5 breaths slowly focusing on the knee joint during the flow.
Exhale step the right foot back and take a childs pose.
Inhale to thunderbolt arms up overhead, exhale step the left foot forward and repeat lunge to forward fold sequence for 5 breaths.
Exhale step the left foot back take a puppy stretch hold for 5 breaths.
Inhale lift onto a plank, exhale lower down, inhale to cobra.
Exhale downward facing dog for 5 breaths letting intuition guide weather you pedal the feet, or sway the neck or move the hips.
Inhale slowly walk the feet up to meet the hands one step at a time. Exhale soften the knees and breathe in your standing forward fold.
Pitta is the combination of fire and water elements. Pitta is represented in transformation, heat and digestion. A pitta pacifying practice will be cooling and soothing.
Mantra- Moon, stars, forgiveness, compassion, surrender, I love myself, I surrender to the flow of the universe.
When to practice- A Pitta pacifying practice will decrease heat. It can be beneficial to practice in the hotter months or hotter times of day. Practice Pitta salutations when feelings of frustration, anger and jealousy arise, or to maintain these emotions at bay before high pressure situations.
How to practice- Practice this pitta salutation in a well ventilated non heated room. Use cooling light layers that breathe easily. The goal of a Pitta practice is less physical and more mental. The series of postures remains very similar if not equal to the one we’ve been trained with, the focus is instead on keeping the ego calm and the mind steady. To release the feelings of ‘crossing the finish line’ of crossing barriers and achieving new personal bests and moving towards a compassionate self loving practice. To pacify pitta allow the practice to guide you instead of guiding the movements, feel each pose and allow the breath to flow in each pose while savoring the sensations. Move from one pose to the other without an agenda, enjoying the space in between the poses and focusing primarily on the breath.
Drishti- Forward with a soft gaze, maintain an inward focus avoid looking at other students for comparison or judgement.
Start in mountain pose. Actively engage the feet, legs, core and focus on establishing a calm pace of breath.
Inhale lift the arms up overhead, exhale fold forward and surrender the upper body over the legs in standing forward bend.
Inhale lengthen into flat back, engaging the soles of the feet and calves.
Exhale step the right foot back and drop the knee for lunge.
Inhale lift the chest, drop the hips forward and downward, keeping the drishti straight ahead.
Exhale step the left foot back, come into downward facing dog. Breathe for 5 deep breaths establishing a calm sense of peace and surrender.
Inhale, step the right foot forward drop the left knee down for lunge.
Exhale drop the hips find your gaze forward. Inhale open the chest and drop the shoulders away from the ears.
Exhale, step the left foot forward into standing forward bend. Focus back on keeping the breath steady.
Repeat the series 3-5 times maintaining the breath steady and the concentration on pitta pacifying mantras.
Kapha is the union of water and earth. Kapha is the ruler of structure and grounding. A kapha pacifying practice will increase heat and energy.
Mantra-Detachment, Creativity, flow, I am energy
When to practice- Kapha salutations are great mood lifters. Beneficial for slow morning starters to harness the energy of the sun and wake up the spirits. Can also be implemented to ease feelings of lethargy, depression, attachment, sluggishness.
How to practice- A kapha practice awakes all sensations and ignites the agnis. The practice should continuously flow from one movement to the next generating heat and energy.
Drishti- Upward or forward
Start in mountain pose. Inhale arms up overhead, exhale forward fold.
Inhale flat back, exhale step or jump both feet back, inhale to plank.
Exhale lower down, engaging the elbows in towards the rib cage.
Inhale cobra or updog. Exhale downward facing dog.
Inhale right foot lifts up and back into three legged dog. Exhale step the right foot up in between the hands to lunge.
Inhale press into the right foot and the ball of the left foot and rise to crescent lunge arms up overhead.
Exhale lower the palms to the floor, step the right foot back.
Inhale take your vinyasa (plank, lower down, cobra/updog, downward dog).
Inhale, left foot rises up and back into three legged dog repeat crescent lunge on opposite side.
Repeat the series 5-10 times alternating sides.
As with any other practice, it is important to maintain awareness, being mindful of past injuries, your practice should always feel safe and you should never feel pain or discomfort. Modify these practices to fit your lifestyle and your needs. For more detailed suggestions or to schedule a consult with an ayurvedic practitioner email firstname.lastname@example.org.