Ayurveda (Sanskrit: आयुर्वेद; Meaning, “the knowledge of life”) is the traditional medicine, or science, of India. It’s certainly a more recent arrival on the Western scene of yoga, yet it is the world’s oldest continually practiced health care system, and has a depth parallel to the practice of Yoga. Ayurveda is one of the few complimentary medicines that has been recognised by the World Health Organisation.
Yoga and Ayurveda can be linked together as two complimentary systems of human development. They have maintained a long history, enhancing one another right up to this present day. However, it is rare to see the application of Ayurveda to yoga postures being learnt, or taught, in today’s society. And yet, it is invaluable to know one’s constitution (Prakriti), to make the yoga practice more relevant to our specific needs. This is in alignment with traditional idea that yoga is taught one on one, teacher to student, to tailor the practice using a variety of asana, pranayama, lifestyle management, and cleansing practices (kriyas).
Just like in Ayurveda, or any medicine, we must look at yoga and apply it on an individual basis. And to do this, we must understand our true constitution. The best way to do this is to seek out your local Ayurvedic Consultant or practitioner for an assessment. If this is not possible for you, the best online assessment I’ve found to be thorough is here. [Note, you must answer the questions based on your general health and well being over the entire course of your life, rather than your current condition (Vikruti), to get a true result.]
The three constitutions are Vata (Space/Air), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Water/Earth).
Whilst we are made up of all three, we are clearly dominant in one or two. (For example, I’m Vata/Pitta.) Having this knowledge, you can learn about your constitution, and in turn let this guide your practice. Know that Yoga is much more than an exercise system, for it holds healing potential for both body and mind. It addresses not only structural imbalances, but also hormonal and immune system disorders.
Just as one food may be good for one person, and not good for another, the same applies to the practice of yoga. Even meditation can require individual adjustment. So, you may now wonder what type, or kind, of yoga should you follow? What yoga postures (asanas) are best for you?
The following is a general idea as to the understanding of the union between Yoga and Ayurveda according to the individual constitutions:
★ Vata types are attracted to all types of practices, such as asana, pranayama, and mantra. They like to be actively doing things to change their lives consciously. They do not like the cold, tend to have a lower body weight and dry skin. They are restless, expressive and creative, yet emotionally sensitive prone to anxiety and fear. When in balance Vata type suit an array of practices from Ashtanga Yoga to Aerial yoga. When imbalanced, a warm, calm or more static practice may suit – such as Iyengar, Yin Yoga, or even the more meditative practices of Kundalini Yoga.
★ Pitta types tend to be dynamic, determined, and assertive. And when out of balance they tend to be very competitive and stubborn. As a result, they’re more suited to a calming practice to work on their mind, such as meditation. Pitta types have strong energy, warm and oily skin, and a strong appetite. They suffer the most from exposure to heat. Yin Yoga, and meditation work best for these athletic types.
★ Kapha types tend to be drawn towards Bhakti yoga, and devotional practices, only taking up asanas if necessary for health. They’re emotional types with strong steady feelings. Kapha’s are calm, loyal and find it difficult to let go. They tend to hold weight and water onto their build, with thick, damp skin. Despite possessing the strongest build and reserve of vital energy, flowing practices tend to assist Kapha’s stimulate tapas, or drive, to get them up and going. They can lack in motivation to maintain a continual practice.
Generally, our constitution remains the same throughout life. However, exceptional factors such as lengthy illness can change it – particularly if you are a dual type. Sometimes the constitution changes with the stages of life, which is different to experiencing another dosha during a change of season. The change in seasons most certainly should guide your practice also… This opens up a whole other realm of Ayurveda and it’s relationship to Yoga!
Still interested? Here is some recommended reading:
~ Prakriti – Dr. Robert Svoboda
~ Ayurvedic Healing – Dr David Frawley
~ Yoga For Your Type – Dr David Frawley