Yoga for balancing Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha

Namita ChandraThursday, October 4, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Yoga is an ancient science that has found wide acceptance across the globe today. Ayurveda gained popularity much later but is strongly connected to Yoga as both sciences come from the same root. Even the medieval yogic text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, talks about the Ayurvedic Doshas and highlights that some of its cleansing practices are only relevant if doshas are out of balance. It is categorical when it states that these should not be practiced by those who do not have the specific doshic imbalances. Thus, it is important to understand Asanas in the context of Ayurveda.
Usually asanas are practiced either for general good health or to treat certain diseases or to progress on the spiritual path. Ayurveda can be helpful in identifying the right asanas to practice for the first two as it is a healing science and prescribes postures as per the specific individual constitution. The constitution is derived basis the dominance of the three qualities or doshas known as Vata (~air), Pitta (~fire) and Kapha (~earth). When in balance doshas give us good health, but when out of balance they create disease, degeneration and loss of life energy.
Vata, being influenced by the air element creates movement and propulsion. It is also known as the ‘carrier’. Pitta is made of water and fire elements and brings transformation like converting food into energy. It gives warmth, energy and light which results in clarity and higher perception. Earth and water form Kapha which stands for stability and nourishment. It is responsible for development of our tissues, giving bulk to the body and lubricating the joints as well as maintaining our mucous membranes. Vata creates activity, pitta brings change and kapha gives stability. All three are essential to sustain life and should be in perfect balance – excess vata would derange us, excess pitta would destroy us and excess kapha would stagnate us. All of these are managed in Ayurveda through diet, lifestyle, herbs and also various asanas.

Asanas for Vata Dosha
n    Vata represents the wind element and its reflects its properties of mobility and coldness. To counter that, Asanas which bring grounding and stability like Vrikshasana (Tree Pose), Tadasana (Palm Tree Pose) and Utkatasana (Chair Pose) are very beneficial.
n    Since Vata tends to accumulate in the intestines, poses that work on the colon are very effective. Pavanmuktasana (Wind Releasing Pose) and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing Dog Pose) are particularly helpful in releasing excess vata.
n    Inversions like Shirshasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) also alleviate excess vata as they improve
focus and alertness. This helps address the ‘spaced out’ feeling or lack of focus that vata types often complain of.
n    Sitting forward folds with one leg bent like Janu Shirshasana (Head to Knee Pose), Triangamukha Ekapada Paschimottanasana (One Leg Folded Forward Bend) and Ardha Padma Paschimottanasana (Half Lotus Forward Bend) are also very effective in grounding and reducing excess vata.

Asanas for Pitta Dosha
n    Pitta represents fire (primary) and water (secondary) and generates heat in the body. Since pitta types have a tendency towards excess sweating and overheating they should not do vigorous practices. They should hold poses for lesser duration and must take restful breaks after intense postures to cool down.
n    Mild backbends like Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) can alleviate pitta as they are very cooling when we release the posture.

     However, they should only be held for short durations else they can increase pitta.
n    Most seated poses like Baddhakonasana (Bound Angle Pose) and Virasana (Hero’s Pose) are cooling in nature and should be practised regularly by Pitta types. Breath should be long and easy in these postures.
n    Almost all forward bends like Uttanasana (Standing forward bend) or Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend) are also very cooling.
n    However, Pitta types should minimize inversions like Shirshasana (Headstand) as they are already very hot headed!

Asanas for Kapha Dosha
n    Kapha represents Earth and Water elements – Earth gives it stability and strength and water aspect ensure it remains mobile to facilitate life. Since Kapha has a tendency towards inertia it is very important for them to warm up before practice. Joint movements are highly recommended for them.
n    While Kapha is strong, they tend to lack stamina and mobility which is what they should try and introduce in their practice. Hence strong Vinyasas or energetic practices are beneficial for them. Though they should progress gradually and build capacity over time with consistent practice.
n    Since Kapha tends to accumulate in the stomach poses that activate this area help reduce its influence. These are Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) and Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III).
n    Most inversions like Shirshasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand) are highly recommended for kapha types. However, they should be careful about alignment and proper positioning as their excess weight should not put unnecessary load on their neck joint.
n    All back bends are also very beneficial in case of excess Kapha and unlike the Pitta types, they can hold them for longer duration. These would include asanas like Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose).

While Yoga and Ayurveda complement each other very well and are far more effective together, they are generally practised separately. This is mostly because it is not commercially viable or practically feasible to run a group class with everyone practising differently. Besides, the spirit and energy of group practice with everyone moving in rhythm is what motivates most people to keep coming back to the class.
Hence, I would say in the early days of our practice what matters is consistency and the ability to come to practice regularly. As we evolve and go deeper in our yoga journey ,we can introduce Ayurvedic concepts to derive even greater benefits. Even in a group class we can be mindful of our own nature – pitta types should take breaks when they start sweating profusely and should allow themselves a few sips of water to ensure they’re not dehydrated. Vata types should try and hold positions for longer and can choose to maintain their posture by skipping a few Vinyasas. Kapha types would generally do well in most modern yoga classes as the current trend in yoga is very energetic and ‘anti kapha’.
By including the study of Ayurvedic concepts , we can make our practice more meaningful and customize for our specific needs. Because the goal of both Yoga and Ayurveda, is to accept our true nature and live our life in harmony with it.   

(The author is a wellness guide and founder of